Features Summer 2015

Oklahoma’s Poet

Dr. Benjamin Myers, OBU’s Crouch-Mathis professor of literature, has long been respected as a poet. His gift for wielding words to paint portraits of emotion has taken his career to great heights.

He is the author of two books of poetry, “Lapse Americana” (New York Quarterly Books, 2013) and “Elegy for Trains” (Village Books Press, 2010). His works have been set to music and his poems may be read in “The Yale Review,” “The New York Quarterly,” “Nimrod” and other journals.

Yet, he received his highest honor to date this year, being appointed to serve as the 2015-2016 Poet Laureate for the State of Oklahoma by Governor Mary Fallin.

“Through his poetry, Dr. Myers demonstrates a deep love and kinship to Oklahoma,” Fallin said. “His poetry about our state offers a nuanced view of our people, our land and the values that we hold dear.”

A native of central Oklahoma, Myers’ poetry is deeply influenced by his life experiences growing up in Oklahoma and in his community in particular, as well as by his faith. He believes poetry is something to be experienced, something that is so much a part of everyday life it cannot be separated.

“Oklahoma is more to me than just the place I live; it is my home, my homeland,” he said. “The opportunity to combine my love for this land with my love for poetry is an opportunity I am very thankful for. I’ve always belonged to Oklahoma, and now I am honored to be its poet.”

Myers assumed the post in January and will serve a two-year term through December 2016. Through the Poet Laureate program, he gives readings, makes appearances at schools, universities and community groups, talks about his poetry, and presents workshops in communities throughout Oklahoma. He is excited to promote poetry in the state and hopes to inspire more Oklahomans to read and write poetry.

“I’ve actually been a little surprised how open to poetry most Oklahomans are,” he said. “I think we have a God-given need for art, a desire for expression and beauty put there by our Creator. I’ve been delightfully surprised at how many people are willing to feed this part of their soul, when they get a little help and encouragement.”

Myers spends a good portion of most days teaching creative writing and literature to OBU students. He believes students should be taught how to enjoy poetry and how to find pleasure in the language, sound, imagery and emotion of a poem.

“A lot of times people encounter a small amount of poetry in school and then decide they don’t like it, which is a little like hearing one or two songs on the radio and dismissing all of music because you didn’t like them,” he said. “There is a great amount of variety in poetry, and, if you spend a little time looking around, it’s not hard to find something you like.”

Myers believes poetry is art made from words and like other art forms has inherent value in its beauty, ingenuity and creativity. “Poetry is good for the soul,” he said. “Without poetry, and without art in general, the soul lacks an essential part of its necessary diet.”

Myers’ events and appearances related to the poet laureate program are coordinated through the Oklahoma Arts Council. To request a visit or reading, email Myers at ben.myers@okbu.edu. For additional information about the poet laureate program, visit arts.ok.gov.


Toward evening the clouds began
circling each other like dogs.
A light like the golden skin
of the sun itself fell
steady as rain before the rain
and puddled between round bales
uncollected in the pasture.

Then the utility poles
were a row of broken teeth
up the highway to town,

and once again
the ordinary light.

From Lapse Americana
(New York Quarterly Books, 2013)

A Family

is a fence line
through tall grass,

each post
by a slightly different

From Lapse Americana
(New York Quarterly Books, 2013)


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,

and here
am I
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.

From Elegy for Trains (Village Books Press, 2010)