“Poetry is civically important for a healthy and happy society,” said three-time UD alumnus Matt Mehan, BA ’00 MA ’09 PhD ’14. “In other words, a healthy politics requires a healthy poetics.”
On Sept. 27 on UD’s Irving campus, Mehan discussed these ideas in a lecture titled “Christian Humanism for the 21st Century: The Poetic Arts of Liberty,” sponsored by the English Department and the Center for Thomas More Studies. He explored how in mythology and poetry, images of the good form character and teach us to be more loving and to govern our passions; if, he said, we do not learn to deal with beauty in communion and love with others, then “we end up shouting at each other on Twitter.”
Mehan’s commentary on these same topics appeared in the Wall Street Journal and also relates to his recently published book of poetry, Mr. Mehan’s Mildly Amusing Mythical Mammals, intended ostensibly for readers ages 8-12, but really meant, Mehan says, “as a Family Book” with something “for all ages: littles, middles and adults.” In Mehan’s Mammals, Mehan presents two mythical creatures, the Dally and the Blug. These friends travel through an alphabet of paintings, poems and puzzles, fending off forces of sadness through friendship, wit and wisdom and learning to govern their spirits and love their fellow mammals.
The book includes 26 mythical mammals, with one poem for each letter of the alphabet; 26 oil paintings that complement the story; 26 full-color block illustrations that feature many details and puns for each letter A-Z; a glossary in the back for the discovery of mysteries of nature and natural history; a treasure hunt guide for finding threatened, endangered and extinct species hidden throughout the illustrations; and a “Las Vaquitas Lullaby.”
Mehan is a poet, teacher, musician and, of course, mammal. He is dear friends with the book’s illustrator, John Folley. He teaches at The Heights School and at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center in Washington, D.C., where he lives with his wife, Molly, and their own not-so-mythical mammals, seven children who love nature and their dad’s bedtime stories.