Blending poetry and architecture has become part of life for South Dakota Poet Laureate Christine Stewart—she combines these distinct creative processes in her new book, “The Poet and the Architect.” The South Dakota State University English professor has been married to associate professor Brian T. Rex, head of SDSU’s Department of Architecture in the School of Design, since 2013.
“The title speaks to our relationship, but also to these two different ways of looking at art and places,” explained Stewart, who publishes her work as Christine Stewart-Nuňez. She will unveil her new poetry book virtually June 24 at 6:30 p.m. The event can viewed via Zoom. The Brookings Public Library is having a showing in its Cooper Room. The event is sponsored by the South Dakota Department of Tourism and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Stewart will have a book signing on July 10 at the Brookings Farmers Market and will read poems from her new book July 13 at 6:30 p.m. at McCrory Gardens in Brookings, July 14 at 7 p.m. at DDR Books in Watertown and July 15, 7:30 p.m. at Full Circle Book Co-op in Sioux Falls.
The book is available for pre-order on the Terrapin website or on Amazon.com. She is also posting four short videos on YouTube in which she discusses and then reads poems from the book.
“Being married to Brian has been a long, slow course in architecture,” Stewart said. As she learned about his discipline, she began comparing the processes they use to create their art forms. “We use different words and emphasize different time frames,” she pointed out. “And we work very differently—he likes hard deadlines and the pressure of those deadlines and I am not like that at all.”
The book has four rings that spiral out from what Stewart describes as “really intimate love poems to family building and place building, but architecture is the thread through it all. Even the love poems have architectural metaphors and language.”
Family building refers to her sons, 6-year-old Xavier and 15-year-old Holden. Place building is about architectural spaces and places she and Rex have seen together. The cover of the book is a composite image of the first floor of their home.
She describes “The Poet and the Architect” as the most structured of the six poetry books she has published because “architecture is very structured. I can tell you the exact reason for every poem’s form.” Moving even one word down a line, which her editor suggested, can change a poem’s entire structure.
After becoming South Dakota Poet Laureate in 2019, Stewart compiled and edited “South Dakota in Poems: An Anthology,” published last year. The anthology, which she uses to promote poetry and connect writers, features 100 poems about the state and its culture written by people who have lived in South Dakota.
Stewart has published five other volumes of poetry: “Untrussed” and “Bluewords Greening” in 2016, “Snow, Salt, Honey” in 2012, “Keeping Them Alive” in 2011 and “Postcard on Parchment” in 2008. She won the 2018 Whirling Prize in Poetry from Etching Press for “Bluewords Greening.”
At SDSU, she received the Dr. April Brooks Woman of Distinction Award in 2020 and the Outstanding Experiential Learning Educator Award in 2019. She also founded the Women Poets Collective, a regional group focused on advancing their writing through peer critique and support.