The Pig Poet: David Lee and his Poetry

About David Lee

David Lee is not what you would expect in a poet. No ivory tower background for him. Instead, he has studied in the seminary for the ministry, was a boxer, is a decorated Army veteran, played semiprofessional baseball as the only white player to ever play for the Negro League Post Texas Blue Stars and was a knuckleball pitcher for the South Plains Texas League Hubbers; he has raised hogs, worked as a laborer in a cotton mill, earned a Ph.D. with a specialty in the poetry of John Milton, and retired as the Chairman of the Department of Language and Literature at Southern Utah University.

David Lee served as Utah’s first Poet Laureate from January 1997 to December 2002, and has been honored with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has received both the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award in Poetry and the Western States Book Award in Poetry. He is the recipient of the Utah Governor’s Award for lifetime achievement in the arts and has also been honored as one of Utah’s top twelve writers of all time by the Utah Endowment for the Humanities.

Come explore the world of David Lee. In this documentary David Lee reads selected poems, discusses his motivations and feelings about poetry, and most importantly of all, answers the question, why pigs? SUU Professor Jon Smith visits with Lee’s contemporaries, critics, and fellow poets in a journey to understand what makes him “The Pig Poet.”

shapeimage_1.png“I’m often quoted for saying, ‘I write for people who think they don’t like poetry.’ While I may not have said that, I don’t disagree with it.”

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Loading a Boar

We were loading a boar, a goddam mean big sonofabitch and he jumped out of the pickup four times and tore out my stockracks and rooted me in the stomach and I fell down and he bit John on the knee and he thought it was broken and so did I and the boar stood over in the far corner of the pen and watched us and John and I just sat there tired and Jan laughed and brought us a beer and I said, “John it aint worth it, nothing’s going right and I’m feeling half dead and haven’t wrote a poem in ages and I’m ready to quit it all,” and John said, “shit, young feller, you aint got started yet and the reason’s cause you trying to do it outside yourself and aint looking in and if you wanna by god write pomes you gotta write pomes about what you know and not about the rest and you can write about pigs and that boar and Jan and you and me and the rest and there aint no way you’re gonna quit,” and we drank beer and smoked, all three of us, and finally loaded that mean bastard and drove home and unloaded him and he bit me again and I went in the house and got out my paper and pencils and started writing and found out John he was right.

from “The Porcine Canticles” by David Lee


You can’t go home again

That’s shit
Bill Holm

Who sed that ?
Did somebody say that
or was it in one of them dam books you read ?

It don’t matter
it’s a pile of crap
I go home ever day
don’t matter where I am
I’m the prodigal son coming back
I don’t even need a Greyhound bus
I can go to my town right now
right here talking to you
because this
is everywhere
I’ve ever been

from “My Town” by David Lee

Books by David Lee

So Quietly the Earth (Copper Canyon Press, 2004)

Incident at Thompson Slough (Wood Works Press, 2002)

News from Down to the Cafe: New Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1999)

A Legacy of Shadows: Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1999)

David Lee: A Listener’s Guide (Copper Canyon Press, 1999)

Twenty-one Gun Salute (Grey Spider Press, 1999)

The Fish (Wood Works Press, 1997)

Wayburne Pig (Brooding Heron Press, 1997)

Covenants (with William Kloefkorn) (Spoon River Poetry Press, 1996)

My Town (Copper Canyon Press, 1995)

Paragonah Canyon (Brooding Heron Press, 1990)

Day’s Work (Copper Canyon Press, 1990)

The Porcine Canticles (Copper Canyon Press, 1984, reprint 2004)

Shadow Weaver (Brooding Heron Press, 1984)

Driving and Drinking (Copper Canyon Press, 1979)

Porcine Legacy (Copper Canyon Press, 1974)

David Lee on promoting poetry

Quoted from an interview in the: Library Journal, 6/15/2004

What recommendations do you have for public librarians who want to promote poetry in their libraries?

“My first suggestion is invite a poet to your library. Most poets, certainly this one, would scuttle to have the opportunity to read/book talk/Q&A on a new or recent book.

Second, librarians could follow the lead of many good book stores and have a display section of “Staff Picks” from new and recently ordered poetry books.

Third, poems or sections of poems could be displayed in discreet and indiscreet locations throughout the library (e.g., “Dear John” broadsides in bathroom stalls, as well as poetry on bare walls or between paintings, announcements, and yard sale ads).

By allowing readers to meet a coherent, lucid, beautiful, witty, serious, and even funny, poem, librarians—the custodians of culture—revitalize art and humanity.”

Now, how about some advice for patrons?

“Please clip out and post these instructions above the drinking fountain.

Ten Easy Steps To Fall In Love With Poetry

1.Move slowly down the poetry aisles (the 800 section) with your fingertips lightly trailing along the spines.

2. Imagine millions of words all waiting to speak, sing, whisper, and cry to you.

3. Stop.

4. Look at the spine of the book that you are touching for no particular reason.

5. Pull that book off the shelf.

6. Open it randomly.

7. Use whatever light there is in the poetry section and read a poem.

8. If you like the poem, check the book out.

9. If not, try again tomorrow.

10. No matter what, try again tomorrow.”