Scott Beal Visits Community High’s Poetry Class


Scott Beal as depicted by Eleanor Quist Costello Olson. Beal has written a chapbook of poems from the point of view of an octopus.

On March 1, Pushcart Prize winning author Scott Beal joined Community High’s poetry class for a morning of reading, writing and Q&A. The topics he covered ranged from his high school crush on classmate Lisa Phillips — which prompted his interest in poetry — to his first attempts at writing. “At the time I was interested in writing amazing heavy metal lyrics, so I thought [poetry] might help me do that,” Beal said. “It didn’t… My heavy metal lyrics were still bad.”

Shortly after CHS poetry teacher Ellen Stone introduced Beal to the class, he began reciting long poems from memory. With broad, sweeping hand gestures and a deep, earnest voice, he entranced the class. He recounted the various poetic challenges he has encountered in his career as a writer, referring to them as dares. By reframing his roadblocks as challenges, he was able to achieve all he had hoped to and more. After seeing friend and acclaimed poet Patricia Smith write a crown of sonnets in a single day, Beal wrote his first crown of sonnets, a collection of fifteen interrelated sonnets connected by the final line of each being the first line of the following one. Beal seems propelled forward by his dazzling, amiably competitive nature.

Beal shared a prompt that originated from one of his most popular poems, “Things to Think About.” The poem was written about his oldest child’s fear of fire. Before bed every night, Beal would come up with three things that his child could think about instead of fire as they fell asleep. Beal offered a structure to the class of writing a list of ten comforting things, a list of three people they care about and three things they wish to protect them from, and subsequently interweaving these things in a poem. He believes that prompts can help shatter writer’s block and allow one’s ideas to flow freely.

Beal does not think it is necessary to write all the time in order to be a good writer. “There are just a couple of times a year where I really have time to focus on writing,” Beal said. “I do this thing called 30/30 —  you might even do this, or if you haven’t yet, maybe this is a challenge to you — in April to write a poem every day. So I started in 2007, kind of on a dare from friends, and it’s become my most productive period of the year with writing.” Beal encourages all young writers to continue to engage with their craft and push themselves out of their comfort zones in order to pursue poetry as a lifelong interest.