Richard Garey often portrays Mark Twain on stage, but as he has researched Hannibal’s people, history and its most famous resident during the last year and a half, he has been left with more creative inspiration.
“I’ve always been interested in poetry, but I’ve mainly written plays,” Garey said.
Through his research and while working on the Robards Mansion — built by a friend of Twain’s and purchased by Garey — Garey would pull out a notebook from his back pocket and jot down a few lines of poetry whenever creative inspiration struck. He eventually accumulated more than 100 poems, which he initially just read to his wife, Patricia.
“She encouraged me to publish them,” Garey said.
The result is “Hannibal at the Door: A Poetic Journey Through Mark Twain’s Hometown,” published in late July. In it, Garey shows readers Twain’s hometown through the series of poems, each of which showcases a small aspect of Hannibal as a whole through its river and residents.
“I’m excited to have my first book of poetry out,” Garey said. “The poems are kind of little vignettes.”
To go with the poems, Garey’s wife, an artist, painted illustrations for the book, and Garey’s son helped with the cover’s layout.
“This was truly a family project,” he said. “So far, I’ve gotten good feedback about it, and I’ve had to order more books because I’ve sold so many.”
Several people reviewed Garey’s book before it was released and praised it.
Garey “has captured that essence, that uniqueness, that Americanness, that very humanity and universality of Hannibal,” Vicky Crane, a retired lecturer at the University of Wisconsin, wrote of “Hannibal at the Door.” “Stabco” author Joe Schwartz wrote that he found Garey’s written voice similar to that of Twain’s.
“The Hannibal inspiration continues,” Garey said, adding that he’s also written a few more poems based on the historic city.
“Hannibal was always very important to Sam Clemens,” Garey said. “I am so lucky that each day I get to pursue my three great loves: history, theater and creative writing.”
Books may be purchased at the Planter’s Barn Theater, 319 N. Main St., and elsewhere around Hannibal.
— By Ashley Szatala