Todd Davis, a poet and college professor, visited Seton Hill University on Wednesday to recite a few of his poems and discuss his life as a writer.
The English Club brought Davis to campus in honor of National Poetry Month, which is recognized every April. Along with being a writer, Davis is also a professor of creative writing, American literature and environmental studies at Pennsylvania State University’s Altoona College.
“I love to come to places like Seton Hill and share my love of poetry, and hopefully get people involved knowing that poetry can do a lot of things that they shouldn’t be scared of,” Davis said.
A few of the poems Davis read were from his latest collection, “Winterkill,” which was inspired by the death of his father and death in the natural world. Along with answering questions about his life as a poet, Davis discussed his love of nature and his family, which many of his poems are inspired by. Davis’ two sons, Noah and Nathan, are both current students at SHU, and the last poem Davis read was dedicated to them.
“His poems were full of profound insights and personal experiences that made the poems uniquely his,” said sophomore creative writing major Marisa Valotta. “Even when he wasn’t reading one of his poems, he spoke passionately about his life and his work, which is always inspiring, especially for younger poets like myself.”
Davis’ sixth book, “Native Species,” has been accepted for publication, which he will work on until February 2018. Alluding to the title, he said the book takes a look at where humans belong as a native species.
“Certainly humans were native to the Earth at one time, but now, with population growth, it seems that we’re doing more harm than good, so the book addresses that,” Davis said. “At the same time, it also addresses if there are ways we could live in better harmony with other creatures. There are some of these poems of either human to animal transformation or human-animal relationships.”
Corey Niles, a senior creative writing major and president of the English Club, said Davis visited SHU about two years ago to read his poetry. The club decided to invite Davis back since many people enjoyed his work, and Davis said he is “thankful” for the opportunity to visit SHU again.
“We not only had faculty members and aspiring poets and writers in attendance, but we also had students outside of the English major stop by to enjoy the reading,” Niles said. “It was great to see all these different people at Seton Hill come together to enjoy poetry.”
In recognition of National Poetry Month, the English Club also held its annual Poetry Bucket on April 11, where students pull prompts and write poems for an hour. The club is hosting its annual Senior English Reading on April 25 at 7 p.m. in the parlors, where graduating English majors will present their favorite work. Niles said National Poetry Month is important because it can “bring people together” to celebrate reading and writing poetry.
“A lot of the time, as Todd Davis touched on in his reading, we tend to associate poetry as this inaccessible, highbrow art form,” Niles said. “Poetry isn’t something to be intimidated by. It is something to be enjoyed, whether through writing or reading it.”
Davis said one of the reasons he recites his poems is because not as many people read poetry as they used to, and he wants to “get people involved.” While poetry was more popular in past centuries, Davis said he has heard many students say they don’t enjoy poetry because they can never understand its meaning.
“[National Poetry Month] is significant because we do have this odd relationship with poetry now,” Davis said. “I’m glad there’s a month to celebrate it, and I hope with each passing year in that month, you get a few more converts to poetry. If you think you don’t like poetry, it’s because you haven’t found the poet for you.”
Davis recommends visiting the websites Poetry Daily, Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac every day. He said if people visit these sites to read three poems every day for a year, people will most likely find at least one poet they enjoy.
“You don’t have to understand a poem to enjoy it,” Valotta said. “Feeling is what matters. It’s okay to just enjoy the beauty of the language without worrying about what it means.”