Ben St. Clair

Photo by Bea Ahbeck Casson at the Merced Sunstar (click to see the full story)

The artistic endeavors of Ph.D. student Ben St. Clair were recently featured in a story by the Merced Sunstar. The piece focuses on his poetry, and the publication Ben has created called “Tree,” which features local poets, including some of his own work. There is a growing synergy between local artists and the UC Merced community, and Ben is one among several helping to facilitate local activities. In fact, some of his recent work is inspired by his research on polychronous neuronal groups. With his advisor Prof. Dave Noelle, Ben is exploring a new way of understanding how the brain “represents” information, which challenges traditional notions (see our description of his work here). Here is an excerpt from the Sunstar’s story, which you can read here:

William Benjamin St. Clair is the creator of a publication called Tree, a collection of poetry by local artists about topics related to Merced.

St. Clair called the free poetry magazine a labor of love, an outlet for the community and the brainchild of Coffee Bandits. Owned by St. Clair’s wife, the local coffee shop in downtown Merced held poetry nights every month, which inspired the magazine.

St. Clair sat inside Coffee Bandits on Friday afternoon, working on the next issue, Tree 6. “Tree is poetry by people in Merced for people in Merced,” he said. “We want it to grow, but the goal is to motivate people to write. It’s about serving what the community wants.”

The 26-year-old came to Merced from the Bay Area eight years ago to be part of UC Merced’s growing opportunities, especially in research. He remembers the speech by first lady Michelle Obama, urging students to make the university part of the community.

St. Clair said Tree does exactly that by allowing anyone, residents or students, to publish his or her poems. “I do believe it’s a craft of experience,” he said. “What makes a good poet is creating experiences that are distinct to you but communicates with others in different ways.”