May 12, 2022

Celebrate Iowa’s 175th Birthday at an Old Capitol Poetry Reading Event

On December 28, 1846, the territory of Iowa became the 29th state of the Union.

Exactly 175 years later, Iowa will celebrate the anniversary of its statehood with a commemorative event in Iowa City.

John David Thompson will read excerpts from his latest Iowa-themed poetry book at the Old Capitol in the Senate Chamber at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Inside the Great Chamber, Thompson will recite poems on topics ranging from Iowa inventions to the 31st President of the United States, his native son Herbert Hoover, accompanied by live music from pianist Lyle Stirling.

The in-person event is free, and the Iowa Library Association will also send out a live stream for those who want to experience it virtual, according to Thompson.

Following:Distinguished Iowians reflect on 175th anniversary of independence

John David Thompson will read selections of poetry in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol on December 28 to celebrate Iowa's 175th birthday.

Thompson said he was excited for the opportunity to do this performance at the Old Capitol, noting the importance of the setting in the history of the state.

“It will just be an energy just to be in this building and walk with other Iowans and celebrate the state with poems and music,” he said.

In honor of Iowa being the 29th state admitted to the Union, Thompson will read 29 poems, beginning with a title “December 28, 1846”.

Stirling will perform music written by composers in Iowa, including “76 Trombones” by Meredith Wilson.

“It’s so great to be right there and play that piano,” he said. “It will be an event to be remembered forever.”

Following:“Gratitude with Dogs Under Stars,” by Iowa Poet Laureate Debra Marquart as State Celebrates 175th Anniversary

Stirling grew up in Waterloo with a piano in his family home. He said his mother would play and sing while his family stood around. He learned to play on his own and pursued music in college.

Thompson and Stirling have been friends for years, and he asked Stirling to perform while reading poetry.

“It’s really wonderful to hear him read,” said Stirling, who now lives in Bloomfield. “The best part of what’s going to happen is that he’s reading his poetry.”

A long-standing love for Iowa in the form of poems

Lyle Stirling poses for a photo inside the Old Capitol on December 11.  Stirling is a pianist who will perform live music to accompany John David Thompson's poetry readings on December 28.

“Iowa Poems 175: Poetry to Observe Iowa’s 175th Birthday” is Thompson’s third book of poetry on the state.

It all started years ago when Thompson toured Iowa’s 99 counties.

He then wrote a poem for each county and published it in “99 Voices, 99 Lives: County Poems of Iowa”.

Thompson said his academic passions as an adult were history and poetry. This realization came to him while he was taking an Iowa history class. He wrote a few poems and included them in the appendix of a research paper.

His professor, at Des Moines Area Community College, John Liepa, encouraged Thompson to continue writing and merging Iowa history into poems.

Thompson had always wanted to travel around the state, and when he graduated from graduate school, the time was right.

So he set out on his journey across the state.

Thompson, who considers himself a scholarly poet, worked with librarians to learn more about each county, especially helpful when he was stuck or had no idea what to write.

He also used the Iowa newspapers for his ideas, often obtaining more contemporary ideas, he said.

The project lasted about two years.

Following:Iowa is about to turn 175. What do you know about the history of our state? Test yourself with our quiz.

Thompson grew up in southern Iowa, so seeing the difference in scenery in northeastern Iowa was a “breathtaking” experience for him, with poems from that region influenced by these views. But Thompson also loved the cities of Iowa, from Davenport to Des Moines to Sioux City.

In determining which previous works to include in “Iowa Poems 175,” which is a mix of old and new verses, Thompson relied on feedback from families, friends, and the audience.

But Thompson made the conscious decision to diversify its content, writing poems about the people, places or things in Iowa.

“I like the idea of ​​my readers turning the pages and wanting to read one and flip and read the next without necessarily knowing, except that it will be Iowa themed, exactly what will be on the next page,” did he declare. .

In “Iowa Poems 175” there is a section titled 10 Iowa Inventions that Changed the World, based on an article in Iowan Magazine.

Thompson wrote a poem for each.

“It really gave me confidence as the founding base of this ‘Iowa Poems 175’,” said Thompson. “It was one of the first new projects … that I did for the book.”

In 2019, Thompson had 10 new poems for “Iowa Poems 175” and a deadline in two years.

He wrote poems for every historic home in Des Moines, from Jordan House to Salisbury House.

There’s also the poem that Thompson wrote on the wave – where Hawkeye football fans at Kinnick Stadium look to the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital to greet patients – which will be read at Old Capitol Tuesday.

Lyle Stirling and John David Thompson pose for a photo with Thompson's book of poems,

Thompson, who lives in Pella, said that even as a child, being an Iowan meant a lot to him.

He was brought up on a farm but said he was not much of a farmer. So he is grateful to have the opportunity to do something permanent for Iowa, like writing poems.

“I just feel like the purpose of my life as a professional, other than teaching, is to write these books about Iowa in the form of poetry,” Thompson said.

Paris Barraza covers entertainment, lifestyle, and the arts at the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Contact her at [email protected] or (319) 519-9731. Follow her on Twitter @ParisBarraza.


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