Bringing music to poetry

Steve Reese

Steve Reese, an English professor at YSU, teaches one of his classes on Monday. At the McDonough Museum of Art on Thursday, Reese will read a collection of his poems.. He’s reading from his new book, “American Dervish.” Photo by Marissa McIntyre/The Jambar.

Ten years ago, Steve Reese, an English professor at Youngstown State University, set forth on a journey to visit a place associated with America’s beginnings — Plymouth Rock.

This started what would be a decade-long project for his recently released book of poetry, “American Dervish.”

He said the theme throughout the book is movement and motion.

He will be doing a reading of some of the poems at the McDonough Museum of Art on Thursday at 7 p.m.

He said poems are meant to be heard.

“Poetry has always drawn on the music of language in a way that prose does not,” Reese said.

He said there is a long historical connection between the two arts — music and poetry.

“It used to be that poetry was recited to musical instruments,” Reese said.

Alanna McBride, a senior professional writing and editing major, agrees.

“It’s always exciting to listen to poetry through the voice of the author through the emotion and intent they meant,” McBride said.

Another one of his students, Bridgette Lewis, said he has the voice for reading poetry.

“Dr. Reese has a unique and talented style that translates exceptionally well from page to voice,” Lewis said.

He said collecting these poems has been a nostalgic journey, since many were written after his visit to Plymouth Rock.

“It carries you back to that mindset or event. Hopefully, the meaning of the poem continues to live and to be relevant,” Reese said.

The term “dervish” means a “feverish dance.” Reese took this idea to make it a theme within the book of poetry to emphasize how the American culture is to always be on the move.

“American life as we know it continues to always be moving around. It’s who we are,” Reese said. “ Even the founders couldn’t stay in one spot; there was the rest of America to discover.”

He said his visit to Plymouth Rock was inspiring and humbling, and that he admires the story of how this country came together.

“The epic of America really starts there,” Reese said.

The book of poems starts historically, and gradually gets more into Reese’s personal life. He said putting himself out there in published form doesn’t trouble him anymore, as it did when he first started publishing his poems.

Christina Turner said Reese is a great teacher.

“Aside from being a great teacher he gives good feedback — he’s honest,” Turner said. Varley O’Connor, a professor of English at Kent State University, will also be reading segments of her novel “Master’s Muse,” which is based on a real-life ballerina. Additional reporting by Cassandra Twoey.