During his tenure as poet laureate of Tampa, James Tokley has provided inauguration poems for two Tampa mayors, Dick Greco and Pam Iorio, and for Gov. Charlie Crist. His poem Song of the Hillsborough, part of a permanent exhibit on the walls of the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library in Tampa, was selected for the White House Millennium exhibit. We caught up with the 60-year-old before his annual appearance at the African-American Heritage Celebration at Heritage Village in Largo recently.
What is on your nightstand?
I went over to Haslam's the other day and I found a copy of a book, Billy Sunday: Major League Evangelist by Rachael M. Phillips. I've also got Roark Bradford's play John Henry; The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly Hall; Something About the Blues by Al Young, which is a collection of poems; and Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.
How many times do you think you've read Leaves of Grass?
I've read it about 200 times. I also recommend Book of Americans by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét. It is a gorgeous book. It was first published in 1933.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer