Springfieldians know Bob Stephens as a former mayor, but he is also an enthusiastic poetry writer.
April is National Poetry Month, and Stephens is part of a group helping poets to speak their rhymes and make their words heard. This marks the second year the Ozarks Literacy Council sponsored a series of poetry readings to honor poetry month. The council received a grant from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks to help fund these events.
The former mayor was tasked with arranging the readings at venues throughout Springfield while the Ozarks Literacy Council provides sign-up opportunities for performers to recite their poetry.
Stephens recounted how he learned while listening to the radio in 2022 that April was National Poetry Month. He went to the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and asked to speak to President Brian Fogle. Stephens felt the need to do something in Springfield to celebrate poetry month, and Fogle was on board with Stephens’ idea.
“Brian looked around and found $2,000 and said, ‘We can donate this, but you need to find a not-for-profit because I can’t give it to an individual,’” Stephens said.
Stephens agreed. He recalled doing some strategic planning for the literacy council’s board roughly 25 years ago. Stephens contacted the library mentioning how he had found a donor willing to give money for National Poetry Month.
It turns out the board members of the Ozarks Literacy Council were in the process of setting up a poetry writing contest. The council handled the poetry writing contest and Stephens volunteered to find locations where the readings could happen.
“I knew of a couple of people in town that wrote poetry and got a hold of them,” Stephens said. ”We had five poets last year who would go around to different locations and read, and then we’ve got that moved up to about 11 this year.”
One of the people Stephens managed to get in contact with was Karen Craigo, who Missouri Gov. Mike Parson selected to be the state’s poet laureate from 2019-2021.
“You know, it just kind of grew bit-by-bit over a period of time,” Stephens said.
On April 20, the Ozarks Literacy Council will host an open mic event at Hold Fast Brewery, where members of the public who did not get a chance to sign up in advance will have the opportunity to get on stage and perform. The event will start at 6 p.m.
The deadline to enter the poetry contest is Friday, April 21.
National Poetry Month readings in Springfield
April 19, at 7 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church
April 22, at 10 a.m. at Lit Fest at Farmer’s Market
April 23, at 1:30 p.m. at Q-Enoteca—C-ART
April 25, at 6:30 p.m. at Library Center
April 27, at 6 p.m. at Bookmarx
April 27, at 7 p.m. at Lindberg’s Tavern
April 30, at 6 p.m. at Brentwood Christian Church