Centenary professor publishes new poetry/essay collection

SHREVEPORT, LA — Dr. David Havird’s new collection of poetry and essays, Weathering: Poems and Recollections, is described by its publisher as “a memoir of places and relationships,” fitting subject matter as Havird prepares to officially retire in May 2020 after a thirty-year teaching career at Centenary. Havird will highlight the book, now available from Mercer University Press, at two campus events on Thursday, February 13.

He will discuss Weathering at the English Department Colloquium in the Centenary Room in Bynum Commons at 11:00 a.m. and also give a reading at the College’s Meadows Museum of Art that evening at 5:30 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public, and copies of Weathering will be available for purchase and signing at the Meadows reading.

Weathering is an autobiographical collection of poetry and prose that moves through both time and place, bringing together some of Havird’s earliest poems with more recent work. In settings ranging from the Louvre to a Byzantine church to an ancient pueblo, Havird illuminates the human relationships, intellectual inquiries, and cultural artifacts that populate both his past and his present, what he describes as “an epic transmigration of echoes.” The book includes three retrospective essays that highlight the influence of some of his earliest literary inspirations – the poets Robert Lowell, Archibald MacLeish, and his mentor, James Dickey.

“In the Acknowledgements, I thank my Centenary colleagues for a sabbatical during which the best of the poems and the longest of the essays were written,” says Havird. “But really, Centenary made possible in a much larger way the writing of lots of the poems. A disproportionate number are set in Greece, where I traveled with students in May for almost ten years, and there are several poems about experiences in Paris, where I pioneered the Centenary in Paris program.”

Reviewer Willard Spiegelman calls Weathering “a delight,” and especially praises Havird’s latest poems that “…show us the wisdom he has gained from books, travel, culture, history, and nature,” proving, “…as if proof were necessary – that the literary life remains a noble achievement, one always making and re-making itself.” Another reviewer, David Yezzi, calls the book “…an indispensable collection, whose tonic chord is memory – a poet’s accounting of what’s been weathered.”

One of the specific experiences of this “weathering” is something that Havird explores in the retrospective essays, as he looks back on his undergraduate days when he had what he calls the “transformative experience” of hosting campus visits from some famous poets. The poets, including Lowell and MacLeish, were on campus to receive a literary award that later inspired Havird to spearhead the creation of Centenary’s John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in the fall of 2019. At the 30th awards ceremony, the College presented Havird with a special Corrington Award for Services to Literature, in recognition of his work as the “founder, architect, and organizer” of the award.

“Here I am 45 years later still marveling at that undergraduate experience,” says Havird. “I hope that the Corrington Award might come to mean as much for at least some of our students.”

Havird was recently announced as one of three recipients of the Shreveport Regional Arts Council’s Artist Fellowships for 2019. The $2,500 fellowship award will allow him to continue his work in both poetry and creative non-fiction. Havird is the author of two previous poetry collections, Map Home (2013) and Penelope’s Design (2010), the latter of which won the Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize. Havird joined Centenary’s Department of English in 1988 after earning a Ph.D. at the University of Virginia.

Weathering is available now through the Mercer University Press and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.com. Amazon copies will be available March 2.