Harshman Presents New Poems

West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman of Wheeling shared some of his newest poems — which still seem “new” to the poet himself — with an audience at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling Tuesday.

Harshman returned to his home library to present a Lunch With Books program on his new collection of poems, “Woman in Red Anorak.” Prior to reading some of the selections, he remarked, “These poems are so very new to me.”

He opened the program, though, by reading another new poem that has been published in a new collection for children, “The Poetry of US,” published by National Geographic. Harshman’s selection was chosen among 200-plus poems “that celebrate the people, places and passions of the United States,” according to the publisher.

Harshman said he was thinking of Wheeling and Moundsville when he composed this poem, set in springtime, “one minute till sunrise.”

He also offered a recently-written poem titled “Traffic Stop with DUI,” a humorous, albeit bittersweet, account of friends who were stopped for suspicious driving patterns which, as it turned out, were caused by the driver swerving as a passenger tried to balance a serving of panna cotta, a delicate Italian dessert, on her lap.

Turning to the new book, Harshman told the audience, “You’ll have to trust me with these new poems.” He then read a piece, titled appropriately “Trust,” which is a word that “is patient, and waits for you, when all the other words are gone.”

Discussing his process of writing, he said “certain poets get under my skin for certain periods of weeks or months” and he finds that “a portion of their energy is driving my own work.” For this volume, his influence was Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer and, as a result, many of the poems have an apocalyptic feel.

Harshman read a prose poem, “Leavened,” from the new collection. He noted that the volume contains fewer prose poems than his earlier books.

His poem, “Restless,” makes reference to Apple Valley, located near his wife Cheryl Ryan Harshman’s family home in Knox County, Ohio. He read two poems set in World War II, titled “D-Day Plus One” and “Viele Kinder,” which means “many children” in German.

In homage to an ancient poetic form, he wrote “Some Other Time,” composed in a series of 13-word stanzas. Harshman explained that Afghan women wrote subversive poems, using only 13 words to express their dissatisfaction.

Before reading the title poem, the poet laureate acknowledged that “Woman in Red Anorak” wasn’t his first choice for the title of this volume.

Local sights continue to inspire Harshman’s work. He said he was thinking of Moundsville when he wrote “Small Town, West Virginia.” The poem, “Violets,” evokes a memory of spring flowers growing on the hillside behind his Wheeling home.

“Woman in Red Anorak,” published by Lynx House Press, is being distributed by the University of Washington Press in Seattle. The volume is the winner of the 20th annual Blue Lynx Prize, “a major American prize for poetry,” according to Harshman.

“I was absolutely thrilled,” he said, adding, “I never imagined I’d win it.”

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If a holiday vacation trip to Pittsburgh is on the horizon, area families might want to add a stop at Carnegie Science Center to see the world’s largest Lego art exhibition, “The Art of the Brick,” before it departs on Jan. 7.

Created by artist Nathan Sawaya, the plastic brick sculptures include a Lego rendition of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” a 20-foot-long T-Rex dinosaur skeleton and Yellow, a life-size sculpture “of a man ripping his chest open with thousands of yellow Lego bricks cascading from it.”

Also on display is “Perspective on Three Sisters Bridges,” Sawaya’s Pittsburgh-inspired sculpture, created specifically for the science center’s exhibition. Officials said Sawaya used 12,380 Lego bricks to pay tribute to the bridges named for Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol and Rachel Carson.

Center visitors can explore “The Science of the Brick,” an area with 17 activity tables. Guests also can build their own masterpieces or try out eight different Lego building challenges.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer.net

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