February 21, 2024

Creston grad publishes poetry book

Roger Powell, a 2007 Creston High School graduate, released his debut novel, a collection of poems about masculinity and identity called "Dandelions Aren't Weeds."

Not everyone fits into the same mold, something professor and author Roger Powell knows well.

A Creston graduate, Powell released his first book, “Dandelions Aren’t Weeds: Poems on Masculinity, Identity, and Life,” on Jan. 22. This collection of poems focuses on his relationship with masculinity and the “toxic societal expectations placed on men to be and do things in certain ways.”

Powell, now an English professor at Crowder College in Missouri, explained that his love for writing started with high school teacher Lois Rose.

“I had some excellent educators way back when I was at Creston High School. One I can particularly think of off the top of my head, her name was Lois Rose,” Powell said. “Just a phenomenal example of what a good teacher should be. She always was very encouraging.”

Powell was also close with her husband, CHS teacher and football coach John Rose.

“John cultivated my love of football,” Powell said. “An audience of Creston folks would probably not remember me for things that related to writing and English. They would probably remember me as an athlete.”

Powell played football and wrestled while at CHS, graduating in 2007. He continued his football career at Graceland University in Lamoni. Powell said his love for football, accompanied by his larger stature, beard and taste in vehicles, made him look like the stereotypical man.

“I was supposed to do certain things and go in a particular career field. The people I’ve interacted with, there’s sort of expectations with them,” Powell said. “I’ve had relationships with women that they were expecting me to be a certain kind of person because that’s how the men always were in their lives. I wasn’t exactly that, and it didn’t work out as well until I met my wife now.”

Breaking stereotypes

While Powell’s love of the writing and the humanities might have gone against the typical masculine stereotypes, it certainly is an important part of his life.

“I didn’t really touch [poetry] when I was getting my bachelor’s degree or my master’s degree. I had kind of just gone away from poetry for a long time until I was working on my PhD,” Powell said. “I had experienced a lot of stressful situations. I was kind of thinking about maybe even different career options even though my whole life I’d wanted to be a teacher.”

Powell turned to poetry to help him through his struggles.

“What ended up happening is I would write poems to process all the emotions I was feeling simultaneously, things about education, about how teachers are treated, about how students are judged by their test score and not by their being, all those kinds of things,” Powell said. “As I was processing all that stuff the first time, that’s kind of how I got into it. It helped me heal a little bit.”

He ended up publishing some of these works in a few magazines, but then turned his focus to academic writing and research for a few years. Powell only recently returned to poetry.

“Last year I was going through some things personally as well. I was having an obstacle in my life, not doing the best mentally, so this was a great outlet for me, a creative work to write these poems,” Powell said. “Also just to reconcile the ways in which, because I do present very masculine, that I was treated even though I’m complex like everybody.”

Powell was motivated to publish his work in part due to encouragement from his wife Meghan and other friends.

“Meghan thought I was writing some good stuff that could be useful to others,” Powell said. “I would share some things with some people close to me. They were like, you really should put this out into the world.”

The poetry collection was published by his wife’s publishing house, the Power Within Her Publishing.

Powell also said he wanted to help combat the stigma against men’s mental health.

“Men’s mental health is not talked about probably enough because for some weird reason we’ve decided that men don’t always have emotions? I’m grossly over-generalizing, but that it’s a sign of weakness to have these things,” Powell said. “I felt compelled to share my own journey with that and how I’ve reached out and gotten help.”

Advice

As an English professor, Powell has plenty of experience in reviewing the work of others. However, he explained that it’s a little bit harder when it’s your own work.

“I’ve helped so many students get through that perspective of, ‘I don’t even want to turn my essay in because it’s not good enough,’” Powell said. “I will tell you that it was a very difficult thing for me to do. A lot of times, I was like, I don’t know, maybe nobody will want to read this, maybe this isn’t good enough yet.”

This is part of the advice Powell said he’d give to aspiring writers: continue showing your work to other people for feedback. Along with this, he said his favorite author explains it best.

“If you want to write, you have to do two things. I’m quoting one of my favorite authors, Stephen King, and that’s that you have to read a lot and write a lot,” Powell said. “That would be the same advice I would give, with another caveat. Writing is a skill you can get better at with more practice. The more you write, the more you read and see how others write and their style and moves they make as writers, as well as the content, all those kinds of things, you learn more about how you can write and you can apply that to your craft.”

Those interested in purchasing Powell’s collection can find it on Amazon.

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.