A Christmas Light: Carroll, Steele read poems by Alan Harris for CDWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Longtime local radio hosts Suzanne Carroll and Harvey Steele both contributed readings of Christmas-themed poems to “Holiday Wishes 3.”
“A Christmas Light,” read by Carroll of 101.5 The River’s recently ended “The Jazz Brunch,” and “Listening to Christmas,” read by Steele of K100’s “Shores and Steele,” were both written by 70-year-old poet Alan Harris of Tucson, Ariz.
In more than 50 years of writing poetry, Harris has deliberately never pursued publishing his poems. He prefers to post them on his website where they are free to be read by all.
That’s exactly where Toledo Free Press Editor in Chief Michael S. Miller stumbled across Harris’ work and approached him about using two of his poems for 2013’s Make-A-Wish Foundation benefit CD.
Harris said he was happy to give permission.
“That’s a very worthy cause and I think at Christmastime especially it’s a good time to share like this, so I’m glad to be donating my poems for the CD,” he said.
Harris said he enjoys writing about spiritual topics and also likes to inject humor in his poems. He said he tends to write about commonplace scenes and objects, but looks at them from “an unusual view.”
“I like to see what’s behind things,” he said.
Harris grew up in Illinois and discovered poetry while attending Illinois State University.
“I just liked the intense thought behind some of the poems I read,” Harris said. “I just really enjoyed seeing words that meant a lot packed into small places like poems.”
About 10 years ago, Harris retired from a career in computers and moved from Chicago to Tucson to be closer to family.
‘Listening To Christmas’
Harris said he wrote “Listening to Christmas” about 30 years ago after walking in the woods near his Wisconsin cabin.
“It was just a snowy night. You could hear snow falling on snow and I decided to write a poem about it,” Harris said.
“I put it in spiritual terms that one could really appreciate Christmas if they are silent and meditative. That’s when the meaning of Christmas seems to really come through.”
Steele recorded the track at his radio station booth, but said the process was much different than hosting “Shores and Steele.”
“The challenge with that particular poem was to get quiet at certain times and use inflection in your voice. It’s not just a poem you can read in a monotone, especially when there’s so much imagery there. You can’t just use your regular voice to read it,” Steele said. “You have to really use the best vocal skills to convey the quietness, something I don’t normally do. I’m not very quiet, unfortunately.”
Steele said the poem prompts inner reflection.
“You’re not thinking of what kind of present you’re going to get or buy; you’re thinking of the quietness of the season, which is really how it should be,” Steele said. “The commercialization goes away real quick when you read something like that.”
Steele said his personal experience as a liver transplant recipient has made him particularly sensitive to helping those with health issues.
“[Make-A-Wish] is obviously a great organization and it was my pleasure to help out in my own small way,” Steele said.
‘A Christmas Light’
Harris said he wrote “A Christmas Light” while thinking about the moon.
“So often we think of the star [over Bethlehem] at Christmas time, but the moon is much more commonplace and accessible to people because we don’t see the star anymore, but the moon is with us all the time in one phase or another,” Harris said. “So I wanted to nominate the moon for a part in the Christmas story.”
Carroll said she loved the poem from her first read-through and never considered reading anything else.
“I felt after reading it the author was trying to say that many of us lose our way and are looking for answers. Sometimes those answers come from within,” Carroll said. “He reminds us that we are all gifts that shine upon the Earth, and the moon, with her gentle light, can be a reminder of that every single day.
“I chose to read it with the deep gentle meaning that I felt the writer was trying to portray. I tried to add as much warmth and strength to my read as possible, as I feel this type of poem can reach people’s hearts and souls.”
Carroll worked with longtime “The Jazz Brunch” contributor Mark McLaren to find and lay music under the reading and add a sound to represent the moon’s light.
Carroll said her own serious health issues, including complications from multiple sclerosis that recently forced her to retire from her 18-year career as host of “The Jazz Brunch,” have given her particular empathy for Make-A-Wish children and their families.
“Knowing how difficult it can be, my heart truly goes out to children who are facing down some of the toughest stuff life can throw at them,” Carroll said. “I wish for every child facing challenges — and their families — the ability to keep reaching for those wishes large and small because they really do come true.
“This has been such an honor to be involved in this project this year as I step away from my radio career. I have never been more aware of the preciousness of life, and the mission to help young children realize their sweet wishes while they can is simply heartwarming.
“I hope listeners of ‘A Christmas Light’ will understand how special each and every one of us is as we shine our own personal light upon the world.”
Tags: "Shores and Steele", 101.5 The River, 70-year-old poet Alan Harris of Tucson, Arizona, Christmas-themed poems, Harvey Steele, Holiday Wishes 3, Illinois, Illinois State University, K100, Make-A-Wish, Suzanne Carroll, The Jazz Brunch, Toledo Free Press Editor-in-Chief Michael S. Miller, Wisconsin