Walter Bargen & Chuck Sweetman: Soulful & Funny at the Focal Point

Last night I was among the appreciative audience for a grand poetry reading by Charles Sweetman and Walter Bargen. Funny and soulful they alternated in 15 minute sets keeping me by turns howling and riveted with the play of their minds. I confess this is not always so. Often, I’m just waiting for the brownies at intermission as my mind takes a snooze after the first two lines.

I’d heard Walter Bargen read at a St. Louis Writers Guild workshop shortly after he’d been appointed the first Poet Laureate of Missouri. It was love at first sound. His poetry is both accessible and thought-provoking.

The sensibilities of the two poets were nicely paired. Walter came second in each set playing off Chuck’s work. The riffs in-between the poems setting up the next piece were natural and relaxed. Chuck also read from his newest book “Enterprise, Inc.”

It was a cozy evening that filled my heart–giving me hope for the future of poetry readings.



Chuck Sweetman’s first book of poems, Enterprise, Inc. was published by Dream Horse Press in 2008, after a sequence from it, Incorporated, won the Dream Horse Press Chapbook prize. His poems, stories, and reviews have appeared in such places as River Styx, Black Warrior Review, Poet Lore, Delmar, and others. He lives in Kirkwood with his family and teaches at Washington University where he is currently Director of Writing Courses.

Walter Bargen has published thirteen books and two chapbooks of poems, most recently, The Feast (BkMk Press-UMKC, 2004), Remedies for Veritgo (WordTech Press, 2006), West of West (Timberline Press, 2007), Theban Traffic (Cherry Grove Collections, 2009), and Days Like this are Necessary (BkMk Press, UMKC, 2010). His poems and fictions have appeared in over one hundred magazines and journals. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship (1991); winner of the Quarter After Eight Prose Prize (1995), the Hanks Prize (1996), and the Chester H. Jones Foundation Poetry Prize (1997), and the William Rockhill Nelson Award (2005). In January 2009, he was appointed to be the first Poet Laureate of Missouri.

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