Eddie Wilcoxen is a longtime radio broadcaster with radio station KWHW serving southwest Oklahoma and north Texas, a published author, recognized landscape artist, a celebrated martial artist and a renowned storyteller. The Altus, Okla., resident is also the state’s Poet Laureate, traveling around Oklahoma to share his poetry and serve as an ambassador for the Oklahoma Humanities Council.
I like the process of playing with words. I started writing poetry when I was very young. I still have a little collection of poems I wrote in second grade for my mother for Valentine’s Day. I’m a public person, but my poetry was very private. It was something I did for me. I would write a poem and keep it around, re-read and re-work it until I liked it, and then I would throw it away. I never saved them, but (my wife) Joan saved them.
The Jackson County Retired Educators Association was the first place I ever shared my poetry publicly. The reception was so warm and encouraging that I started doing more and coming out of my shell. It was a hard step, initially.
I became State Poet Laureate after Altus’ local humanities organization and library sent in an application and letters of recommendation on my behalf. I am really fortunate to be able to represent the state. It’s one of the more fun duties that anyone could undertake. I consider this my service work to the state.
I half-kiddingly say that my platform is poetry for the people. Somewhere along the line, poetry got hijacked by people who thought that in order for it to be poetry, it had to be obviating. Approachable, accessible, everyday is how I would describe my poetry. I still believe in poetry that rhymes, myself, but I enjoy other’s poetry that doesn’t. There really is a thirst and genuine appreciation among people for poetry; it still has the ability to touch people.
The perception of Oklahoma is not necessarily one of great artistic depth, but, my gosh, if you just travel around the state and look at the natural outpouring of what people are doing, there’s a lot of art happening without a lot of attempt to become that. It’s part of what they do. I’ve met people that are writing poetry, and they don’t know they’re writing poetry. People are writing music and painting without doing it with the intent to impress people. It’s part of what they do. Art is everywhere. Any expression of the human spirit is art, and it is everywhere in Oklahoma.