SoCo Reading Series wraps up with visit from Robert King

Robert King | Photo courtesy of
Robert King | Photo courtesy of

Robert King’s poetry performance on April 6 marked the end of the CSU-Pueblo’s Southern Colorado Reading Series events for the spring semester.

King is a native of Colorado. Born in Denver in 1937, he graduated from Fort Collins High School in 1955. He went on to receive his bachelor’s in English from Iowa State University, master’s in American Literature from Colorado State University and a doctorate in English from Iowa State University.

King started teaching at the University Of North Dakota in 1968. There, he received the Outstanding Teacher Award, worked with the school’s poetry program and eventually retired as professor emeritus.

King has also lectured at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, where he currently acts as the director of the Colorado Poet Center. According to their online profile, the Colorado Poet Center “is a directory of writers who have published poetry and who live and work in Colorado or have strong ties to the state.”

King is also the editor of newsletters “The Colorado Poet,” The Riverbank Report” and “The Poudre River Current.” He is also the author of several poetry books including “Old Man Laughing,” “Stepping Twice into the River” and “Some of these Days.”

His poetry reflects themes, scenes, and memories that have impacted his life or pieces that explore the everyday, focusing on the otherwise unnoticeable.

King delivered a unique style of reading during Monday night’s events. Combining readings with performance, he explained that his poetry falls into two different categories: the single shot poem, which focuses on a single theme, experience or situation and the jazz poem, which focuses on the beauty and structure of the poem itself.

He also explained to his audience that some of his poetry was started at a young age, but remained unfinished until many years later. These gaps in time were largely due to not having the right words needed to finish the piece at the time of its production.

Before reading, King would explain both his mindset and the inspiration behind the poem to provide context for the piece. The themes ranged from the ideologies of war, to questioning the rhythmic pattern of a cricket’s chirp.

Throughout the night, powerful messages ideologies were expressed. In a poem about his toy soldiers as a child growing up in WWII, “Why I Invented War” King wrote, “Why I invented war, only because I had soldiers. Given a set of lead cows, I would have invented agriculture.”

Other powerful messages that were influenced by life events included in his poetry involved seeing his father’s skull during an x-ray, his previous battle with lung cancer and theological musings sitting outside of a hotel.

Some of his poetry touched on lighter topics, such as exploring the real meaning behind a planter’s wart.

“When I write poetry, I write it how I think it will be read. It’s not until afterwards that I start adding the performance element to it,” King said.

The SoCo reading series is sponsored by CSU-Pueblo’s English department, the foreign language department and the Diversity Resource Center. For the last 10 years, the program has brought famous poets from throughout the country to CSU-Pueblo, giving students the opportunity to experience the performed word.