With eyes twinkling Barry Spacks said, “[Poets] share so much intensity – like a vibrant string … Poets live dangerously, especially when young. They get in trouble with the opposite sex, and that they [reach] maturity is a wonder.” In the beauty of our current season, where everything under the Santa Barbara sun casts a sensual glow, the “superfluous of feeling” that Spacks discloses is the gift of poets seems to come alive more than ever, not just for writers, but for everyone. Perhaps this is why April, the start of spring, marks the celebration of National Poetry Month. All month a series of festivities dedicated to poetry have been held in Santa Barbara, headed by the illustrious Spacks. As we reach the halfway point, these events will continue parading words until the end of this month. There is surely not a more honored individual to host the events than Spacks. He was declared, the “Poet Laureate” of Santa Barbara last year and has taught highly coveted classes at UCSB for 24 years as a creative writing and literature professor. Prior to UCSB, Spacks taught at MIT for 21 years. “It keeps me totally stimulated, a teacher never stops learning. I think of writing as an educational ideal. … If you can get a person to write more you can get a person to make more decisions,” Spacks said about his career as a writing enthusiast.
Besides teaching, Spacks is an award-winning poet, singer-songwriter, painter, and lifelong freelance editor. He has published two novels, numerous stories and nine poetry collections – the most recent being Regarding Women and The Hope of Air. Spacks’s poetry is as attentive as he is – it is highly personal, with dashes of wit and playfulness. A master of words, Spacks said he is influenced by a wide variety of poets, but recalls being deeply effected by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. He remembers in his youth being captivated by W.C. Williams after he read poetry at a Phi Beta Kappa ceremony at the University of Pennsylvania. The event led Spacks to send him some of his poems, without even keeping copies for himself. He hoped perhaps Williams would respond to him with the words Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote to Walt Whitman, welcoming him to the great “fraternity of poets,” but he never heard a reply. His poetry, now refined with experience, has been replied to warmly within the academic community. He has held Fulbright and N.E.A. grants. He was also the eighth recipient of the prestigious St. Botolph’s Arts Award, which has been given to such notables as Elizabeth Bishop.
What better way to let the romance of spring stick to your senses than by attending a poetry event? Spacks recommends coming to “Shakespeare’s Birthday Bash” on April 23 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, which will sparkle with poets reading from works inspired by Shakespeare. Admission to the event is free. To see Spacks read his own work is to be enlightened with inspiration. Don’t miss the chance to hear Spacks’ poems at the Old Little Theater on May 17 at 4 p.m. For more information on Poetry Month events, go to www.sbpoetry.net.