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April 4, 2013
Single Show Tickets
Northwest Student Tickets: Free
Northwest Faculty/Staff Discount
Group Discount (groups of 10 or more)
Tickets may be purchased at the Student Services Center, which is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday on the first floor of the Administration Building, or online.
For 27 years, Dr. William Trowbridge was a familiar face in Northwest Missouri State University’s English department, teaching a gamut of undergraduate and graduate courses until retiring in 1998 as a distinguished university professor. Since then, however, Trowbridge hasn’t strayed far from sharing his passion for poetry and prose with others.
Trowbridge, who now resides in Lee’s Summit, was appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon last year as Missouri’s third poet laureate. Now halfway through his two-year term, Trowbridge is working his way throughout the state, appearing at numerous writers groups and universities for a mixture of talks, readings and workshops.
“I’m enjoying it,” he said. “I was worried it would take up a lot of time and I wouldn’t be able to write, but that hasn’t been the case. I enjoy visiting various parts of the state and parts of the country, and I have a good time giving readings and workshops.”
Trowbridge will soon appear at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City in addition to making a stop Thursday, April 11, at Northwest to perform with one of his former students, 1979 Northwest alumnus and lead singer of the Rainmakers Bob Walkenhorst, for the final event of the University’s 2012-2013 Encore performance series.
The performance features Trowbridge reading selected poems from his 2011 collection “Ship of Fool,” which consists of poems about “The Fool,” a literary arctype that dates back to the beginning of storytelling and is embodied in the characters of Keaton, Chaplin, Woody Allan and Steve Martin.
Walkenhorst orchestrates the “musical” with snippets of a strange assortment of sound effects, original songs and covers. It comes off as a sort of joyful radio-play, with Trowbridge and Walkenhorst volleying poems and songs to illustrate the Grand Cosmic Joke.
“Bob’s a great musician,” Trowbridge said. “He’s sort of riffing in the background while I’m reading and then he comes in with a relevant song.”
The act developed spontaneously, although the two have known each other for the decades since Walkenhorst was a student in one of Trowbridge’s freshman composition classes. After Walkenhorst graduated from Northwest, he joined the Rainmakers, who eventually scored a recording contract with Polygram and found success with the release of five studio albums during the 1980s and 1990s.
When the band broke up, Walkenhorst returned to the Kansas City area, and, coincidentally, he and Trowbridge reunited at a church where Walkenhorst was playing. Walkenhorst, who had read Trowbridge’s latest book and picked up on song references in the poetry, suggested the two collaborate. They performed together at the church and it went over so well they recorded a CD, “Ship of Fool: The Musical.”
The CD is a fine addition to Trowbridge’s long list of work, which includes more than 340 published or forthcoming poems. He has published eight collections of poems, and his work has been reprinted in more than 30 anthologies and textbooks. His poetry has earned several honors and awards.
“Professor Trowbridge is one of the country’s outstanding poets, and we are honored to have him as Missouri’s poet laureate,” Nixon said upon appointing him.
Trowbridge almost didn’t become a poet. While working on his doctoral degree at Vanderbilt University, Trowbridge planned to become a fiction scholar. Northwest hired him to teach in 1971 and he taught himself to write poetry.
Decades later, Trowbridge says he finds the greatest reward in the process of writing poetry – not the recognition he receives for his work.
“I just love to do it,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed making things since I’ve been a little kid. Writing poetry is a way of making things with language.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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