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Poetry in motion: English prof to write 30 poems in 30 days

Every day during July, English professor Joe Heithaus will write a poem for The 30/30 Project, an undertaking by Tupelo Press.

Each poem, starting with his inaugural endeavor, “Questions on the First Morning of July,” will appear on the Tupelo Press’s website along with the work of seven other poets who are volunteering their time and talent to raise money for the nonprofit literary press.

“These are raw things, drafts really,” Heithaus wrote in a letter to the DePauw community, and thus he was unsure how widely he wanted the work distributed. But by late Wednesday, after DePauw’s new president, Lori S. White, had held an online question-and-answer session on her first day in office, “I thought it might be a fitting poem to share with the DePauw community as it speaks, I think, to beginnings, to waking from sleep and to asking ourselves, again, just who we are.

English professor Joe Heithaus
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Heithaus poetry book
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“While the first of July marked the beginning of my little poetry marathon, it also marked far more momentous beginnings – retirement for many friends and colleagues, and new chapters of lives for some amazing staff and employees who ended their DePauw careers on June 30. And, of course, the first day of work for President White. Let my poem be a celebration of these new beginnings.”

Dos Madres Press recently published “Library of My Hands,” a collection of Heithaus’s poetry. His inaugural offering for The 30/30 Project follows; you may read his other poems each day on the Tupelo Press website.  

Questions on the First Morning of July

by Joe Heithaus 

What happens when the eye opens
from sleep and the haze of darkness lifts
and night’s curtains sway and the clouds
behind them pink? What does the eye
swallow on its way to the sink
and the mirror above it? More eyes?
More light? What does the eye weave
into the convoluted history
of dreams as they dissolve into tap water
splashed onto a face? Who is there
to grieve what’s lost or praise
the casual miracles of the light switch
or the coffee machine as the inverse eye
of a measuring spoon wavers
in the dim air? Outside the tomato plants
yawn, the black walnut mopes
its drooping branches as the sun
conjures the ponderous shadows
of fences and houses and trees.
What does the eye whisper as light sharpens
each leaf of grass or shimmers the wing
of a robin that flutters down to meet
its blue gray shade? Who am I?
the bird must wonder. Who am I?

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