Governor’s School instructor releases book of poetry

By Melissa Rollins, Editor,

Dr. Adam Houle wants to teach his students to find ways to say something significant. Earlier this year, Houle himself reached an important milestone with his writing when his book, Stray, was released by Lithic Press.

Born in Wisconsin, and raised in Pennsylvania, Houle and his wife Landon came to Darlington County when he got a job at The South Carolina Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics (GSSM).

“They flew us out here for the interview and hooked Landon up with a realtor,” Houle said. “She got to know the people I’d work with and we just really fell in love with the area, its rural, its warm. It was a pretty ideal situation. Landon finished her dissertation our first year here and is now on a tenure track at FMU.”

As an English and creative writing instructor Houle said that he wants his students to see the value of writing, poetry in particular.

“I think for me, it really boiled down to wanting to memorialize or wanting to pay homage to the world and the experiences we might have in the world,” Houle said. “Poetry really allows for that distillation, that compression, of language to make it meaningful, memorable; other forms do other things well. I’m very attracted to that compression.”

For Houle, his love of poetry started many years ago.

“In middle school I went to a library sale and I got this 1970’s, maybe a little bit earlier, ELA high school textbook and there was a little poem in there by Leonard Cohen,” Houle said. “He became a singer-songwriter but before he broke into the New York folk scene he was a really well-respected poet in Canada. So there was little poem in there called For Anne, a tiny six line poem I think, and I memorized it. It was just so elegant, so simplistic, so clear and crisp. It always stuck with me, that in conjunction with wanting to get experience and language to reflect one another in a significant way, to maybe agree even; to try to reflect something of significance and pay homage to the world.”

Stray is a collection of poems that Houle wrote and labored over for around a decade.

“The book is essentially ten years worth of poems,” Houle said. “I basically took a couple hundred poems and that first pass-through was pretty easy: this is crap, this is crap, bad poem, bad poem. Then it was sort of compressing that to see what seemed to be the structure of these poems, how are they speaking to one another, without trying to tell a narrative.”

Though the poems are very different in their content, the book has a tie that binds them all together.

“The book explores the different ways in which we stray,” Houle said. “We stray from our values, we stray from our youth. We stray from our families and go out into the world. We stray from belief, from faith, and anyone who tells you that they don’t is a liar; life is complex and we wrestle with these things. For me, that was sort of the overarching thematic concern.”

Houle said that Lithic Press released some books that he really respected and he was pleased that they decided to release his as well.

To order Stray, visit:

Author: mrollins

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