For one day at least, Tom Everingham was the school hero. He wasn't the star quarterback or anything like that. He was a poet.
An assembly had been called for a special announcement. Young Tom had three verses selected for a national poetry anthology. Lackadaisical applause followed. And then the principal announced that in honor of this achievement, the whole school would be given the afternoon off.
The crowd went wild. For the first time in school history perhaps, a poet was carried out of a gym on the shoulders of adoring fans.
Since then, the 82-year-old Pittsburgh native has been writing poetry as a hobby. He recently published his work in the lighthearted "Out of the Blue Thoughts in Rhyme." A second volume of his religious work, "A Book of Praise and Prayer Verse" is coming shortly.
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Everingham, a Bluffton resident, reflects on his life as a poet.
Question. You've been writing poetry since high school?
Answer. Yes. I wasn't distinguished in any particular way. I wasn't a star athlete. But all of a sudden there I was, hero of the school, and I thought, "Hey isn't this great?" My art teacher wanted me to go into art. She was upset when I told her I was going to college for writing, that I'd become a teacher or a writer. I got my teaching degree, and I went into the Army. When I came out, I went into advertising.
Q. The book is a collection of your work after all these years?
A. During my work years, my relaxation was two things: I refinished furniture or I'd sit and write.
Q. You've saved everything through the years?
A. I'd take it and put it away. I had different papers in different drawers. Somehow I saved them. No real formal process. The poems go all the way back. "Twilight is falling/The sky is growing dark/In a nest of broken twigs/There rests a meadow lark." That was one of the ones that was published in high school. I can still remember it.
Q. How did you first get into writing poetry?
A. I think it might have been the English teacher back in high school. She told the class that she got an invitation to submit poems for a proposed national anthology. That was what I was later published in. It was an assignment. I think that was it. Just an assignment. It was fun.
Q. Why did you decide to publish your work?
A. I don't care if they sell. I just want to see what they looked like in print. They can live on a bit. When I go, I wouldn't want someone to just come along and pitch all my files in a furnace. Now, there's a chance of someone reading them. I just hope someone enjoys it.