Every day at approximately 1:15 p.m., Worthy Evans goes on lunch break from his job as a Medicare contractor in Columbia. His truck, sitting in the parking lot, becomes his office. His computer is replaced with stacks of notebooks, and his focus turns to poetry. He eats his multi-grain wraps, listens to the radio, reads some poetry, then writes some of his own until it's time to return to the real world.
At 38 years old, Evans is being viewed as a new poet. His debut collection, Green Revolver, won the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize, awarded by the S.C. Poetry Initiative at the University of South Carolina. His original, imaginative poems are inspired by everyday life in his cubicle — and everything that came before that.
Evans discovered poetry as a teenager growing up on James Island. Later, as a history major at the College of Charleston, he dabbled in poetry classes and received positive feedback from professor Paul Allen. After college, Evans went into the Army, where he worked as a combat engineer. Poetry took the backseat, but his writing didn't — he kept a journal to document all of his experiences.
In 1996, Evans became a journalist, working for a decade at various South Carolina newspapers. "I used what I learned in poetry writing for newspaper writing," he says. "There was a point in my little newspaper career where I really didn't know what I was doing, and I used a few principles as far as making my writing clear and concise and showing instead of telling ... I didn't know I used them at the time, but I used them."
Burnt out on the cut-throat world of journalism, Evans started his current job in 2006. Ironically, working in a traditional office setting is what inspired him to finally start writing poetry.
"I spent about a year doing my job here, and I carried this empty notebook, because it was such a pretty notebook ... It was empty for an awful long time, and I didn't know what to do with it," he says. "I think what held me back from writing a lot of poems is they had to be a certain way this, or be a certain way that. But in 2006, I had time on my hands, so I just said, 'Screw it, I'm going to start writing. I'm not going to have long to live so I might as well go ahead and do it.'"
And so began his productive parking lot ritual. After a few months, he'd filled several notebooks with his musings. He typed them up, and on a whim, entered the manuscript in the S.C. Poetry Initiative Contest. He forgot to give the book a title, and eventually forgot he'd even entered the contest. But when he showed up at the awards ceremony, it was just in time to hear David Baker (poetry editor at the Kenyon Review, who went on to write the book's foreword) expound on the rich characters in Evans' poems.
"That's pretty much when I felt like I had really done something," Evans says. "What this was was an incredible pat on the back, because when you do something long enough, no matter how well you think you do it or you try to do it, you get discouraged at it because no one's going to be around to pat you on the back. This is the one time in my life where someone actually stood up and patted me on the back for actually doing something. That pays huge dividends."
But while he can add award-winning poet to his resume, not much has changed for Worthy Evans.
"The Monday after I won the thing I was back in the truck," he says. "Since I was named as the awardee, I think I have seven more notebooks of poems, or whatever you call them. I still consider them germinating ... They're just things. They're things I need to work out later."