Poet draws inspiration from his kids

BY ALYSSA M. HARN | JANUARY 27, 2011 7:10 AM

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Poet Aaron Belz often finds inspiration for his writing in day-to-day encounters, such as playing silly games with his children. The title of his third book, Lovely, Raspberry, came from the label of his daughter’s shoe box.

“I thought it was a good name for a book,” he said.

The poet will read from that book at 7 p.m. Friday at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St. Admission is free.

Lovely, Raspberry is a compilation of more than 50 poems that focus on the interactions among people in daily conversation. Many of Belz’s poems were derived from conversations he has had with his three children. One poem, “Thirty Illegal Moves in the Cloud-Shape Game,” was written after he and his daughter made a list of shapes they were forbidden to guess when they played a game in which they named the shapes of clouds.

Belz, who was born in Iowa City, encourages discussion of language and poetry with his children at his home in Arcadia, Calif. He often plays Scrabble, Boggle, and Ticket to Ride with his kids, and he reads The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to them.

Gabriel Fried, his editor, said the poet’s love for his children is evident in his poetry.

“You can see and hear in the poems a lot of focus on how children see things by how literal-minded the poems are,” Fried said.

Many of the poems in Lovely, Raspberry are written playfully but have a serious undertone.

“On the one hand, his poems feel very light, but at the same time, they get at more serious elements of how we interact on a daily basis … they have something very profound going on beneath the surface,” Fried said. “You rarely get the combination of lightness and darkness that you do with [Belz’s] poetry; it’s unique.”

Belz often uses slang and pop-culture references in his poetry to present material about current cultural issues and hint at their deeper meanings.

“We live in this deluge of names and proper nouns, and I think that they are not to be ignored,” he said. “I think that they are important to us, and if not celebrated, they need to at least be considered.”

The juxtaposition between the intimate language and the pop-culture references give a comedic tone to the book.

“[Belz] finds things about the ways people interact, and he focuses on them to the point of absurdity,” Fried said. “The result of that is people see the kind of silliness in the kinds of ways people interact in their relationships in a very offbeat way.”

Belz hopes Lovely, Raspberry lets readers find a new appreciation for language.

“I really just want to entertain people and want to have people delight in language and thought,” he said. “I kind of use choplogic and absent-minded openness to help people appreciate language more.”

The poet writes continually, and he usually keeps two or three poem ideas in his mind, then writes them down when he gets the time. He is often busy teaching at Providece Christian College in Pasadena, Calif., or spending time with his children.

“My poetry is a little bit distracted,” Belz said. “I like distractions, and I allow distractions.”

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