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Alum Jim Spurr Named Shawnee Poet Laureate

July 7, 2011

OBU alum and Shawnee native Jim Spurr has been honored with the title of "poet laureate" for the City of Shawnee.

A 1964 OBU graduate, Spurr received the title during the Shawnee City Commission meeting on June 6. He is a nationally published poet, and his book "Open Mike/Thursday Night" was a finalist for the 2008 Oklahoma Book Award. He follows the former poet laureate of Shawnee, Ernestine Gravely.

Spurr traced his first thoughts for writing to his service as an Army paratrooper in the 11th Airborne and 82nd Airborne. As he neared his first jump, Spurr thought he should write about that experience some day.

"Call it 'my glorious instant,'" Spurr said. "A lot of inspiration came after that because the chute opened."

He said he also found inspiration during his days on Bison Hill, particularly under the tutelage of Doris Simpson, who taught speech from 1963-66. During an oral interpretation class, the professor asked Spurr to stand and read "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot. He said she liked the way he read it, and he was hooked on poetry.

Spurr said he also learned from Pat Snider at Shawnee Little Theatre. He learned to project while speaking during productions at the theatre. Two or three years later he decided to try to write poetry to share.

Among Spurr's many favorite poets today are nationally known writers such as Ellen Bass, Stephen Dunn, Kay Ryan, Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel and B.H. Fairchild, who wrote his all-time favorite poem, "Body and Soul," about Oklahoma in the 1940s.

"In all seriousness I believe that one of the really brilliant poets is right here at OBU: Ben Myers," Spurr said. "A couple of others right here in Oklahoma are Carl Sennhenn and Carol Hamilton, both former Oklahoma poet laureates."

Spurr said he sees his role as poet laureate of Shawnee as an opportunity to bring more poetry to the city, and he has discussed his mission with OBU professors Dr. Bill Hagen and Dr. Ben Myers.

Two of Spurr's poetry chapbooks are available for purchase directly from him. E-mail or call (405) 919-6155 to purchase "Open Mike Night/Thursday Night" or "Hail Mary, On Two."