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BHS/BSU alumnus publishes first book

Ben Westlie, a 2001 Bemidji High School alumnus and 2006 Bemidji State University graduate, has published a collection of his poems titled "Sometimes Out of Turn," to be published by Finishing Line Press. Submitted Photo

Ben Westlie, 28, a 2001 Bemidji High School alumnus and 2006 Bemidji State University graduate, has published a collection of his poems he said many readers will be able to relate to or learn from.

His book, titled "Sometimes Out of Turn," is being published by Finishing Line Press.

It can be preordered online at

The cover of the book was created by 2006 BSU alumna Carly Swenson.

"The poems are very much a 'coming of age' poetry collection about family, identity and dealing with surgeries," Westlie said in a phone interview. "It's all about personal experiences, ideas and things that happened to me."

One of the poems featured in Westlie's collection is about Lake Bemidji.

Westlie said he began writing poetry in seventh grade at Bemidji Middle School.

"It just stuck from there," he said. "Every English class, any time we had to write novels or short stories, I liked to write. I thought 'This is my life.'"

Interestingly, Westlie said, he feels inspired to write when he is traveling, such as in a car or bus, in order to "create the metaphor of travel."

After graduating from BSU, Westlie received his master's degree from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, Vt. Currently Westlie lives in St. Cloud, Minn., and is an adjunct instructor at Rasmussen College.

Westlie said he had many poems to choose from in creating his book. He said he chose to publish the poems he did was because he felt they dealt with important issues.

"My experiences I think will create commonality with people," he said. "People will be moved by a metaphor or find something that makes them think, 'That's a lot like me.'"

Poetry is now his life, Westlie said, and he hopes to continue to publish more poems in the future.

"I think poetry is an essential literary art that can be overlooked," he said. "I want people be inspired. I think I'll continue to work on that art and make a life goal out of it. I would say I am choosing to be a writer."

In giving advice to students interested in writing poetry, Westlie offered these suggestions:

"If you want to be a writer, practice daily and write what you know," he said. "Poetry is not something to be intimidated by. Poetry is personal. Literature is about human experience and about living. If you were to find anything in it that moves or inspires you, it's done its job."