Westminster Poet Series Welcomes Tim Seibles

Racial tension, class conflict and intimacy are recurring themes in the poetry of Tim Seibles. The visiting poet read a selection of his work in an all-school assembly and participated in class discussions Feb. 26-27.
This year marks the 25th year that the school has welcomed an acclaimed poet for a two-day visit as part of the Westminster Poet Series, which began in 1999.

Seibles is “a wizard of words, ideas and images,” said former English teacher Michael Cervas, who initiated the Westminster Poet Series and the Friday Nights at Westminster reading series.
Born and raised in Philadelphia. Seibles earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including his “Voodoo Libretto” (2022). He has said that “poetry, if it’s going to be really engaging and engaging, has to be able to come at the issues of our lives from all kinds of angles and all kinds of ways: loudly and quietly, angrily and soothingly, with comedy and with dead seriousness.”
Seibles poems include cartoon imagery as in “What Bugs Bunny Said to Little Red Riding Hood,” a parody on the children’s story in which the cartoon character warns Little Red Riding Hood about the dangers of sticking out in wild places. It’s a cautionary tale in which Bugs is, in fact, villainous as suggested in the excerpt below:
“I mean, what’s up, doc?
Didn’t anybody ever tell you it ain’t smart
to stick out in wild places?
Friendly? You want friendly you better
try Detroit. I mean
you’re safe wit me, sweetcakes,
but I ain’t a meat-eater.”
In life, Seibles reminds us, moments of clarity come at any time even during a peaceful interlude. In his poem “From Darkness,” the concept of violence strikes like a lightning bolt during a gentle and beautiful description of daybreak.
“Sunrise runs
a fresh wind through the leaves,
and night turns back into shadows.
Waking up, the songbirds tell
first light
everything they know.
Why do we keep killing each other?”
While in an excerpt from, “First Kiss,”  Seibles lets his description softly unwind and linger, exploring the concept of intimacy through a wonderous, luscious first kiss.
“Her mouth
fell into my mouth
like a summer snow, like a
5th season, like a fresh Eden,
like Eden when Eve made God
whimper with the liquid
tilt of her hips—
her kiss hurt like that—
I mean, it was as if she’d mixed
the sweat of an angel
with the taste of a tangerine,
I swear.”

Seibles’ honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, as well as an Open Voice Award from the National Writers Voice Project. In 2013 he received the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for poetry. He has taught at Old Dominion University, the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program and at Cave Canem.

Seibles lives in Norfolk, Va., where from 2016 to 2018 he was the state’s poet laureate.

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