From hobbyist to UMSL’s 2015 poet laureate

Christopher Alex Chablé, MFA student and 2015 UMSL poet laureate, reads to high school juniors at the annual Distinguished Achievement Awards for Science Excellence.

Christopher Alex Chablé, MFA student and 2015 UMSL poet laureate, reads to high school juniors at UMSL’s annual Distinguished Achievement Awards for Excellence in Science. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Even though Christopher Alex Chablé knew he’d been nominated to be the 2015 University of Missouri–St. Louis poet laureate, it was still a total surprise when Steve Schreiner, the director of the MFA in Creative Writing program, called him with the good news.

“It symbolized for me that there is a community that values me,” Chablé said. “It was a very special feeling and a surprise.”

The Columbia, Mo., native’s love of the written word began in elementary school when he first read Brian Jacques’ fantasy series “Redwall.” That led to Edgar Allan Poe in middle school and to Chablé trying his hand at poetry.

It wasn’t until much later that he became more disciplined with his creative writing. He studied romance languages and literature as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri–Columbia, then went on to pursue two master’s degrees in those areas from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Chablé turned to writing poetry at least an hour a day as relief from all of the academic writing he was doing at the time.

“I’d get up in the morning and go to the library and read a book from the master’s list and take notes,” Chablé said. “I’d do that for about six hours, take a lunch, then go back to it until evening. During all of that, it kept me sane to spend a little bit of time each day crafting a story or a poem.”

Eventually, creative writing became more than just a therapeutic hobby. Chablé relished being able to say what he wanted to say however he wanted to say it, free from the constraints of scholarly writing. It was at this time he started to think about writing as craft. After completing both master’s degrees, he came to UMSL for his MFA degree and to hone his poetry.

Chablé’s poems are interested in politics, people, nature and forms. He mostly writes about other people, whether strangers or friends, and doesn’t write about himself much. Still, he said that a “mild-mannered family man” like himself has a “thing or two about him” others might find intriguing.

Chablé is the fourth poet laureate of UMSL. He has several sets of storied footsteps to follow in. 2014 Poet Laureate Marisol Ramirez will finish her MFA degree in December. Jennifer Goldring, who held the title in 2013, is the new managing editor of the literary magazine december. Jennifer Tappenden, the first UMSL poet laureate, celebrated the eighth release by her independent poetry press, Architrave, earlier this year.

This story was written by alumnus Ryan Krull, MFA 2014, a student support specialist and adviser to The Current student newspaper, who also teaches writing courses at UMSL.

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