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Andrew Oerke: Outside the Box

By Claire Moncla

Andrew Oerke values thinking outside the box. The man who is striving to make a difference in Haiti (his team is pictured at right) said poetry is an area where forward thinking is possible. “Poets don’t have to live in their paradigm,” he said. “The world’s become too prosy. There’s not enough poetry to dream and imagine.”

To test out Oerke’s theory, let’s step outside the box; let’s step outside the parameters of “Poetry in Motion” to explore what Oerke dreams and what he imagines— to explore what makes Oerke who he is.

“I grew up in the blizzards of South Dakota.”

“I started out at St. Olaf College, where I had a scholarship, and then I was given a full scholarship at large from the Navy. I picked the University of Texas. During that time, I met a professor named W. D. White from Baylor, and he introduced me to people at Baylor. I liked the professors I met there, so I transferred to Baylor.”

“Title of my next book of poetry: Never Seek to Tell Thy Love.”

“The favorite place I worked in was Malawi, Kenya. And Togo. The culture there is so fascinating.”

“Now I write very intensely on the first draft. Sometimes it comes out, but more likely it’s like Jacob wrestling the angel. I thank God I have my limp to show for it.”

“One was at the UN because I received a reward of distinction. The other poetry reading was at the University of Maine in Portland. One of my best friends, Kenneth Rosen, was the poet in residence and it was fun to see him again. I started reading, and time went by and Ken came up and said, ‘You read for four hours.’ And not a person had left.”

“My background is Lutheran and I am Christian, but I think it’s silly not to value the good things in other religions.”

For more insight into Oerke, take a look at exerpts from his latest books of poetry: San Miguel de Allende and African Stiltdancer.

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