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True to his words

Award-winning poet separates work side and writing side to tap into a creative connection for new book

Award-winning poet separates work side and writing side to tap into a creative connection for new book

December 21, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Jeff Curtis keeps a tape recorder in his jacket pocket beside his desk in Martinsburg's City Hall.

It's not there to record ideas about revitalizing the city's downtown commercial district through historic preservation - the crux of Curtis' job as executive director of Main Street Martinsburg, a not-for-profit program that also promotes the downtown area and raises funds for renovation projects through events, including concerts, classic car shows and holiday celebrations.

Curtis keeps the tape recorder handy to capture the inspiration he might find in the rain falling outside his office window, the laughter down the hall, a kind word, a crescent moon. The poet in Curtis finds wonder and beauty in such simple things.

"I love my poetry, but I don't take credit for it because it's an inspirational thing," said Curtis, 50, who finds himself most inspired during his late-night walks outside his Shepherdstown, W.Va., home. "I can really withdraw into myself and try to make some kind of connection."

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Watermark Press published Curtis' first book of poetry, "An American Poet," shortly after the International Society of Poets named him the 2001 Poet of the Year from a field of about 800 poets from 26 countries. Curtis recently released his second book, "A Place to Sit" (PublishAmerica, $14.95). The book boasts 60 poems about topics as diverse as doughnuts and the quest for spiritual understanding.

The author said he shelves his administrator hat to assume his more creative poet persona - a role that helps keep him balanced in life.

"It's two different personalities. Jeff the administrator is very organized, very goal-oriented, disciplined," Curtis said. "Jeff the poet is the person who's reading about world religions, looking into the spiritual realm, trying to figure out what's happening on the other side."

Curtis' curiosity about what lies beneath the surface of things, his thankfulness for the blessings in his life, his belief in miracles, and his longing for acceptance and placement in the world - a place to sit - color his writing. In "I Lost My Place," Curtis metaphorically expressed the loss he felt when he left a successful career as director of a growing chamber of commerce in Texas so his pilot-wife would be closer to her airline's Baltimore hub, his trust in the eventual rewards for answering "a call of greater things down the hall," and, above all, his realization that "my place/was my place/as long as I remained grateful in grace."

"A Place to Sit" is available at Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown and R. Lewis Clothier in Martinsburg, online at www.publishamerica.com, and through Curtis via e-mail at aplacetosit@beyondallthis.com.

Christmastime poem


Snowy Shepherdstown, W.Va., decked out in holiday lights and greenery, inspired resident Jeff Curtis to pen "Christmas in the Village."

The lampposts now are adorned with red
ribbons and wreaths of green
'tis the beginning of a winter's night
the prettiest you've ever seen.

Windows reflect neighbors walking by
the shops with candles bright
and smell the pine scent in the air
the town sparkles with color and light.

What is this? what can it be?
but perfect bells do ring!
as all rejoice and gather near
to hear the angels sing.

It's Christmas eve in our village home
It's Christmas throughout the earth
with tomorrow in our thoughts and prayers
the day of the sacred birth.

And down each darkened street from town
in windows with a frosted glow
trees dressed in red and green and white
with angels high and presents below.

This feeling, this knowing in the air
deep inside us all,
we long for those away from us,
it is the Christmas call.

And oh! the thrill that carries us on
may not be the wind nor snow
but knowing this sacred time of year
is His great gift from years ago.

It's Christmas in our village home
where the feeling is divine
to bow our heads and humbly ask

a blessing on yours and mine.

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