NC author strives to change public’s view on poetry

Published 6:17 pm Monday, September 12, 2016

An award-winning poet is bringing his talent home to the Turnage Theatre on Tuesday.

Arts of the Pamlico and Pamlico Writers Group are welcoming John Hoppenthaler to the theater gallery for a reading and book-signing event.

Hoppenthaler, a Washington resident, is an East Carolina University professor, whose work is featured in dozens of publications, as well as three books of his own: “Lives of Water,” “Anticipate the Coming Reservoir” and last year’s “Domestic Garden.”

With so much from which to choose, Hoppenthaler said he likes to wait to choose a reading selection and adjust what he reads to a particular audience.

“The performance of poetry in a reading is a different thing than the writing of it; it requires a different skill set,” he said. “I present readings in all sorts of situations, from universities to junior high classrooms to public events like the one at the Turnage — and then I decide what poems seem right on this day.”

As for Tuesday night, the schedule is still open, although he plans to read a lot from “Domestic Garden.” As Hoppenthaler puts it: “Who knows?”

Hoppenthaler said he hopes to give audiences a new view of poetry with his readings, pulling away from the cut-and-dry teaching in grade school and presenting it more as an avenue for change and depth.

“In this country, people tend to think of poetry as some flowery, cuddly greeting card thing that has no real cultural currency,” he said. “One thing I always strive for in my public appearances is to change the opinion the majority of Americans seem to have about what poetry is and what it can do.”

Drawing inspiration from his ordinary, daily life, Hoppenthaler strives for audiences to see the depth of his work, and how the ordinary can transition to extraordinary with a little bit of thought behind it.

It’s that depth that made him fall in love with poetry in the first place.

“The best poems are those that work both on the surface and below the surface, and because they are usually not cut and dried, but leave us to consider life’s ambiguity,” Hoppenthaler said. “What I love about poetry, and why I choose it, is that it makes me think when I write it, and it makes me think when I read it.”

He said he hopes to continue writing, carving out as much time for it as possible, despite a hectic schedule. Poetry is part of his nature.

“If my readings can do anything, it’s my hope that they can make people see that poetry is one of the many ways humans have communicated with one another from days that predate literacy to now. That is, we are story-telling creatures,” Hoppenthaler said.

The poetry reading and book-signing event will be Tuesday from 7-9 p.m. at the Turnage Theatre Gallery, 150 W. Main St., Washington. Event is free and open to the public.