Midwest Poets Series: Robert Stewart

Date(s) - 10/25/2018
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Arrupe Hall Auditorium


Bob Stewart will open the 36th season of the Midwest Poets Series. Those acquainted with Midwest Poets may remark that Stewart has opened every season, and every reading, of the series, insightfully introducing the talented poets he selected and brought to Kansas City, each time landing the critical triple axel of telling us not only what makes that poet good, but what makes her unique, and finally, and most challengingly, how her work sheds light on the project of poetry more broadly.

Stewart’s newest book, Working Class, which was published by Stephen F. Austin in 2018, draws its title less from the thematic concerns of the poems than their philosophical approach. Stewart notes “I do believe that sometimes you have to ‘get up in the morning and go.’ And it’s sometimes hard. And you just put in a day’s work. And coming from a blue-collar working class background, it’s putting in a day’s work that has always meant something to me.” Stewart’s father and grandfather were plumbers, and he began in that profession as well. The hard and sometimes dirty work of insuring that people have clean water connects to Stewart’s poetry:  it wants to give the reader something salutary, necessary. “What you’re really wanting is that moment of intensity that people feel something deeply,” Stewart says. “And that’s a poem.” For example, “Understanding” takes barrooms and divorce, those iconic staples of country songs, and makes them seem utterly fresh, not only with lovely and economical characterizations such as bartenders who “comb their hair between draws,” but by ending where the song would begin, the male speaker talking to his divorce attorney, “Listen, I say, listen to this,” representing instead the less certain and more interesting wandering that precedes the story we’re used to hearing.

A book signing and a reception follow the 7 p.m. free reading on Thursday, Oct. 25, in Arrupe Hall Auditorium.  The Midwest Poets Series is sponsored by Rockhurst’s Center for Arts & Letters and the College of Arts and Sciences with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency. Admission is free. For information about the series or other Rockhurst University cultural events, call The Center for Arts and Letters at 816-501-4607.

Parking is available in the north parking garage (52nd St. and Troost Ave.) and in lots accessed through the campus entrance (54th and Troost Ave., Rockhurst.edu/map).