ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
A few months ago, a poet from Wyoming appeared on NPR member station KQED in San Francisco.
Professor CRAIG ARNOLD (University of Wyoming): Hi, my name is Craig Arnold. I'm a poet and essayist, also a professor and teach at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. I'm stopping into San Francisco today on my way to Japan, where I'll spend five months wandering on the trail of master poet and pilgrim Matsuo Basho, and writing about the experience.
SIEGEL: Three days ago, Craig Arnold went missing on a Japanese island where he had gone to see a local volcano. He's visited many volcanoes around the world, and written poems and essays about them.
Craig Arnold also writes poetry about mythology. This is from his poem "Hymn to Persephone" from the collection "Made Flesh."
Prof. ARNOLD: Help me remember this, how once the dead were locked out of the ground and wandered sleepless and sun-blinded. She was the one who took them each by the hand, helped them lay their bodies back in the dark sweet decay gladly, as onto a lover's bed. They call her Kore the Maiden, a dark queen with a crown of blood-colored poppies. Her fingers lift the cool coins from a dead girl's eyelids. Her breath in a man's mouth releases him from memory.
SIEGEL: A recording of Craig Arnold reading from his own work.
Professor Peter Parolin is chair of the English Department at the University of Wyoming.
Welcome to the program, Professor Parolin.
Professor PETER PAROLIN (English Department, University of Wyoming): Hello, Robert. Nice to be with you.
SIEGEL: First, what news is there of this search in Japan for Craig Arnold?
Prof. PAROLIN: Well, they searched for him for three days, which I understand is the legally mandated amount of time that they do a search, and they have not found him. The search has been extended now for three more days. There are U.S. helicopters involved, there's police, there's dogs, and I think upwards of about 80 actual searchers on the ground.
SIEGEL: He was there to see the volcano. I wonder if you can describe for us his connection to volcanoes, how they figured in his view of life and his work.
Prof. PAROLIN: Craig's attracted to extreme places. For Craig, poets go and should go where most of the rest of us don't. He'll go to the top of a volcano, and come back and tell us what he's seen. Craig will look at volcanoes and he'll see a hellish state. Or he also sees volcanoes as a metaphor for great, productive powers. So, yeah, he's attracted to extreme places, I think both as an individual and as a poet.
SIEGEL: In the less extreme environment of Laramie, Wyoming...
Prof. PAROLIN: Yeah.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIEGEL: …what did he do - apart from teaching at the university?
Prof. PAROLIN: Well, he's a brilliant and award-winning poet. He's a dynamic teacher. He teaches creative writing. He's a brilliant cook and connoisseur of great food. So he has taught food-culture courses for us. He's taught courses on the graphic novel. He's just a multitalented person who's interested in all facets of the world.
Also, when he first arrived in Laramie, one of the first things he did was he set up poetry slams at a local coffee shop that brought students from the university, and students and adults from the community together. He's a really enlivening presence.
SIEGEL: Well, I can only imagine what his absence, at this moment, means to the English Department at the university and to the university community at large.
Prof. PAROLIN: We're really, really worried about him. We're hoping so hard for his safe return. He read from the Persephone poems. He's really attracted to that figure who's somebody who lives in the underworld and connects us to death yet returns to the Earth as, you know, the goddess of fruitfulness and fertility. What I'm holding on to, and I thing a lot of us are right now, is that that story about Persephone that meant so much to him, is also a story of joyous and beneficent return to the world. And that's what we're really hoping will happen for Craig.
SIEGEL: Well, please stay in touch if you hear any news of him from Japan.
Prof. PAROLIN: Thank you very much for your interest. It's a pleasure to talk to you.
SIEGEL: That's professor Peter Parolin, who is chair of the English Department at the University of Wyoming. We're talking about assistant professor and poet Craig Arnold, who is lost in Japan.