HCOM professor Daniel Summerhill reflects on his poetry

Poetry has made an influential impact on California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) Humanities and Communication Professor Daniel Summerhill’s life. His older sister, Tenesha Smith, sparked his curiosity and interest in poetry, after stumbling upon her poetry collection during his middle school years. 

In addition to his initial intrigue with poetry, Summerhill’s ninth grade teacher Justin Ross aided in Summerhill’s poetic progression. 

“We did a unit on poetry in class, I shared my poetry and he pulled me aside after class and told me to keep writing,” Summerhill said. “The next day, he bought me a novel called ‘The White Boy Shuffle’ by novelist Paul Beatty along with a pretty nice notebook. Till this day I have that notebook and novel. That small gesture was monumental and I’m not sure I’d be a poet without it. I probably was already a poet, but he helped me realize it.”

When it comes to writing poetry, Summerhill doesn’t find the process to be an easy one. Poetry and the specific diction used forces a poet to realize alternative perspectives and hidden truths. 

“The act of writing is one thing, but being a poet is more of an embodiment, a way of operating and looking at the world, then asking questions and excavating in a way that becomes emotionally and spiritually taxing,” Summerhill said. 

Summerhill’s circle of proofreaders is small, often utilizing his graduate school friend Quintin Collins for feedback and advice. Formulating inspiration for poems, Summerhill keeps notebooks and his phone full of images, songs, hyperlinks, movie timestamps and more to draw upon later and make sense of. 

Summerhill performed at Old Capitol Books Monterey Poetry Festival on Oct. 2. Reading from his first book “Divine, Divine, Divine,” and his upcoming book “Mausoleum of Flowers,” Summerhill’s poems focused on social justice and connecting communities. 

“The only theme is to tell the truth,” Summerhill said.

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