NORMAN — If it was important, or at least seemed that way, chances are Jim Chastain wrote it down. Likely, it can be found in the many journals of poetry he’s been writing since he was 15 years old.
"Some go all the way back to high school, some were written as late as 2006 in my journals,” Chastain said of the poems in "Like Some First Human Being,” a collection of his poetry released this week.
The Norman author, film critic and Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals attorney will celebrate the book and his birthday Sunday at the Performing Arts Studio’s Second Sunday Poetry Reading. The event will begin at 2 p.m. at the Norman Depot, 200 S Jones Ave.
Chastain said he decided to compile some of his favorite poems into a single volume because "the time was right.” He had been asked to be on the state poet laureate selection committee, and he had read his poems at the Oklahoma Arts Festival and the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival.
"I know most of the poets in Oklahoma, and I was getting more offers to do more poetry things and getting more and more poems published,” he said. "It seemed like the right thing to do, and when I started looking through my poems and categorizing them, four topics kept popping up.”
The book is divided into those four categories — look, life, love and loss.
Chastain said he was struggling to find a way to tie all the poems together until he went on an artists’ retreat to Austin, Texas. "I actually went there with hopes that I needed to find an overall topic for my poetry book,” he said.
Instead of going out with his journal during free time one day, he decided to go to a local library to drink coffee and read.
"Out of all the books they had there, I picked up this slim volume called ‘Letters to a Young Poet’ by Ranier Maria Rilke, a famous German poet,” he said. "It’s not poetry at all, he’s writing letters to a poet who’s asking his advice.”
What Rilke told the young poet on page 2 of the book became Chastain’s theme and title for his book.
"I swear, on the second page he’s asking this guy, ‘Ask yourself, must you write.