There is an isolated suit of two rooms—known as Morgan 400---nestled beneath the clock in the tower of Morgan Building on the Washburn campus. When I first saw it, one room served as a workroom; the other contained two desks separated by a floor-to-ceiling bookcase. From 1963 to 1976, the two desks were occupied by two members of the Washburn English faculty—Bob Woodley and Bob Lawson. Although they shared given names, office space, and a common discipline, their primary bond of friendship derived from their perpetual debate about the merits of prose (Woodley) and poetry, especially sonnets (Lawson).
Following Bob Woodley’s death in 1976, a memorial fund was established in his name at Washburn, and from time to time some of the funds provided small stipends to winners of writers; contests sponsored by Headwaters, the writers’ club founded by Woodley. Lawson, however, aspired to a more permanent memorial to his friend, and thus was born the Woodley Press.
This sonnet pays tribute to Bob Lawson’s dedication to fulfill his dream of an appropriate memorial to his close friend, Bob Woodley.
The Great Debate
Dedicated to Robert N. Lawson, Ph.D.
They shared a common name, a common space
and both extolled communications arts
yet thirteen years’ debate across the case
formed the eternal bond between their hearts.
Midsummer respite muted Washburn’s halls.
The advocate for prose ceased to appear
and only echoes from 300’s walls
communicated with the poet’s ear.
He heard a dream, responded to its voice—
when others failed, assumed another part.
He gave us all the chance to make our choice
by serving all expressions of the art.
He made the Woodley Press reality—
And to his friend gave immortality.
I was fortunate to have been exposed to poetry in early childhood. Nevertheless, I was only vaguely aware of sonnets, and it didn’t occur to me—before I came to Topeka in the mid-1970s—that I could write one. After all, didn’t the sonnet form belong to the bard?
As a stranger in town, I looked for people to connect with, and fortuitously, I found Headwaters, the Washburn student/community writers’ group. There I met both Bobs, and it wasn’t long before I became intrigued with Lawson’s proficiency and prolificity in the sonnet genre. Eventually I accepted the perceived challenge to try my hand at it, with some modest success. But for me, writing a sonnet is a long, ardous task, and inspiration to write one comes only occasionally. I marvel at Bob’s talent to produce this excellent collection.
If you like poetry, if you enjoy the creative use of language, you’ll find a feast for the heart and mind in these pages
8 1/2 x 5 1/2