Tuesday December 19, 2006

Inscribing His Name

Herbert Woodward Martin, the University of Dayton's prolific poet-in-residence, inscribes his name on his eighth volume of poetry.

Herbert Woodward Martin carries a notebook and often pulls off the road to capture a thought for a new poem. When the house is quiet at midnight, he pens prose.

The University of Dayton's prolific poet-in-residence will publish his eighth volume of poetry, Inscribing My Name: New, Used and Repossessed Poems, on Jan. 3.

The book will be available from Kent State University Press. Early reviews call the poetry "innovative" and "wide ranging" with pieces that capture life in the Midwest.

"Herbert Woodward Martin's body of poetry over the past five decades is, in many ways, matched by no one else," according to the publisher. "His many poetic voices range from quiet lyrics to angry protest poems, from groundbreaking counterpoint structures to prize-winning historical narratives."

About a quarter of the book is filled with new poetry, some experimental. The remainder are ones that "stood up over the last two or three decades. They had great power. So, I repossessed them," Martin said. "I hope this book represents the best of my work."

Martin, 73, takes new liberties in the book. "In the really new poems I take a lot more risks than I would have done in the beginning of my career. The poems are certainly freer and less constricted," he said. "A few are very experimental."

In his spare time, Martin continues to perform Paul Laurence Dunbar's poetry — despite efforts to step away from the spotlight after the recent centennial marking Dunbar's death. On New Year's Eve, he will narrate the third movement of William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1 "Afro-American" with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. He will read "An Ante-bellum Sermon." The entire symphony is based on four of Dunbar's poems.

Martin's popular Paul Laurence Dunbar one-man show is booked every weekend in February. He'll also teach a course in African American literature at UD winter semester and hints that he's ready to leave the classroom and devote his days to writing poetry.

"This is the swan song. I'm going to take myself home and sit at the typewriter and compose. I have lots of ideas," he said.

Martin's published works include poetry, drama, opera libretti and literary criticism. His writings have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals. His published collections of poetry include Galileo's Suns, The Forms of Silence and The Log of the Vigilante, a journal of slave captivity.

In 2004, Ronald Primeau, an English professor at Central Michigan University, chronicled Martin's writing and performing career in the book, Herbert Woodward Martin and the African American Tradition in Poetry. In 2002, Martin and Primeau co-edited In His Own Voice: The Dramatic and Other Uncollected Works of Paul Laurence Dunbar, a 305-page volume of Dunbar's previously unpublished and uncollected short stories, essays, poems and dramas.

Contact Herbert W. Martin at 937-229-3439.