By: Tony Davis
Even after teaching advanced writing courses for nearly 25 years, Richard Lemm still getsÂ excited when his students strike gold.
â€œI get excited. I feel the same excitement as if the Blue Jays have made the playoffs, orÂ the Raptors just hit a winning shot that takes them to the next round, or the thrill of goingÂ to hear a concert.â€
Lemm started teaching full-time at UPEI in 1988. His passion is creative writing.
â€œOne major highlight is teaching the creative writing courses.â€
Creative writing classes at UPEI are limited to 12 people; other universities will haveÂ fifteen to thirty students. The UPEI class is more intimate, Lemm said.
â€œIt is quite a spread of writers. Some of them are young undergraduates and some areÂ full-time or part-time mature students.â€
At least half of the class every year is people who already have careers or professions andÂ are writing things like memoirs, Lemm said.
â€œThe range of experience and backgrounds is really rich. It doesnâ€™t matter to me whetherÂ the people from the creative writing classes become published authors. We are proud andÂ excited to have people who do, but I know most of the people use what they learn inÂ creative writing in their lives. We jokingly say everyone should take creative writing.â€
Seeing the way people utilize and learn the things he teaches in their careers has alwaysÂ been a highlight for him, Lemm said.
One person who applied what they learned in Lemmâ€™s classroom is Chris Bailey.
He published his first book of poetry, What Your Hands Have Done on Sept. 8.
â€œRichard is great. He is arguably the most important person in the writing community onÂ the Island. Heâ€™s done so much for writers he encounters. I donâ€™t know how someone canÂ be so generous with their time.â€
Lemm helped Bailey with his writing and saw something in it he didnâ€™t see himself, Bailey said.
â€œThe stuff I turned into him compared to what I do now, yikes, but he saw something IÂ still donâ€™t really see. He has this understanding of people and writing, heâ€™s the best friendÂ my writing has had.â€
Lemm loves to see where his students like Bailey go. Last Thursday, current and former students filled Receiver Coffee on Victoria Row to the point where many were leftÂ standing. They fell silent as Lemm read from his fifth book of poetry, Jeopardy, released inÂ June.
His poems range from travel poetry to environmental issues on the Island to mythology,Â but sometimes Lemm writes about what he teaches and loves, writing.
â€œPoems should stain your tongue like pomegranates crimson hearts. Sacrifice to theÂ countless gods no one remembers. Sit in the back of MBA classes humming â€˜love forÂ saleâ€™. Show up stoned on magic mushrooms at scientific conferences on consciousness.Â Check into rehab for bleeding heart syndrome. Transfuse puritans with sensual passion.Â Poems should incubate forgiveness, inject it into the veins of the bitterâ€¦,â€ Lemm saidÂ reading an excerpt from his book.
Lemmâ€™s favorite poem depends on his mood, but Wednesday he said it was â€˜The dayÂ After they Abolished the Weaponsâ€™. Lemm says he made a conscious decision to end on a high noteÂ with this poem.
â€œIt is a upbeat, uplifting and positive visionary poem. There are a lot of poems in the lastÂ section about environmental destruction, but that poem is really helpful.â€
If you are looking for a copy of Lemmâ€™s book of poetry, Jeopardy, you can purchase it atÂ The Bookmark in downtown Charlottetown.