July 19, 2010
Dr. Benjamin Myers, associate professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University, recently published a volume of poetry titled "Elegy for Trains," through Village Books Press.
"The motivation came when I was approached by the publisher after I read at a local poetry reading," Myers said. "Given the opportunity to publish a collection, I wanted to bring together poems on the theme of loss and redemption, a theme I began exploring in poetry after the death of my father 11 years ago."
The book has been praised by, among others, Jim Barnes, who is the current Poet Laureate of Oklahoma and the former editor of the Chariton Review.
"Ben Myers takes us over the hills, through the skies and fields, and down to the bottom of Oklahoma's lakes - from space shuttles to noodling for catfish," said Nathan Brown, poet and winner of the Oklahoma Book Award. "He makes us ghosts in its graveyards and guests among the buffalo grass. And among it all, we can hear the coyotes, frogs and blue herons."
The volume includes poems such as "Ancestors":
Men long and thin like the late afternoon
shadows of the mountain pines,
they followed mules with plows bumping over
rock and red dirt,
listing to one shoulder,
lopsided on the slant of hard Oklahoma hill,
following this lawn mower,
over the easy green.
What would they say to the painless
hush of everyday, the low,
bookish hum of my morning in the office?
I imagine them coming in from the cold
of black and white
photographs, to sit sharply
angled on our leather furniture,
little china coffee cups in blue and white flowers balanced
above the worn places on their trouser knees.
They are silent and looking at me.
I want to explain to them
it is hard where I am
also, the struggle not with rock
nor earth but still to plant
one green thing in the minds of my students.
I, too, lie tired and wide-eyed in the darkness.
Myers earned his bachelor's degree from University of the Ozarks, and his master's degree and Ph.D. in English literature from Washington University in St. Louis. He has taught at OBU for the last six years.
His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals, including Ruminate, The Mid-America Poetry Review, Möbius, and Byline. His poem "A Small Town Mourns its First Casualty" was included in the illustrated anthology for children, "America at War," edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins and published by McElderry Books (NY, 2008).
Myers won the 1996 Byline Literary Award for Poetry for his poem, "For Jack Kerouac." He has studied in select poetry workshops under B.H. Fairchild, Ellen Kort, Michael Harper and Yusef Komunyakka. His essays on poetry have appeared in several highly prestigious academic journals, including English Literary History, Studies in Philology, English Literary Renaissance and The South-Central Review. He has made presentations on poetry at conferences ranging from the South West Conference on Christianity and Literature at Houston Baptist University to the Ninth International Symposium on John Milton at University College of London.
Myers lives with his wife, Mandy, and their three children in Chandler, Okla.
"Elegy for Trains" currently is available in paperback for $15 through the publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org. It will be available through Amazon.com in the near future.
Founded in 2002, Village Books Press is a small, independent publisher dedicated to publishing the best in Oklahoman poetry. The Village Books Press catalog includes several winners of the Oklahoma Book Award, such as Nathan Brown (Two Tables Over, 2009) and Carl Sennhenn (Travels Through Enchanted Woods, 2007). Their catalog also includes titles by Jim Spurr, Jane Taylor, the late Jim Chastain, Ken Hada, Terry Britton, Rockford Johnson, and many other Oklahoma poets.