Silvestri expands his silver thread

Yue Li

Charles Anthony “Tony” Silvestri is a poet, lyricist and lecturer of the history department. He has been teaching at Washburn University for 12 years.

His book, A Silver Thread, released on Sept. 2, is a collection of about a hundred poems that he has written for composers over 20 years. It is arranged chronologically from his very first poems to the poems that he wrote a few weeks before the book was published. Most of the them are choir songs. The publisher is GIA, predominantly a music publisher.

Silvestri is inspired by different things. “Each poem is inspired differently by something different. A composer will contact me, and they’ll want a particular kind of poem, a poem about a lamp or a poem about a computer… Then I’ll create what they need. So each of these poems has been commissioned by someone and written for their specific needs,” said Silvestri. “If I were to say that if there was [an inspiration], it would be music, that all the poetry that I write is meant to be sung.”

Silvestri enjoys sitting in the concert hall and listening to the music that composers have written for his poems. His poems have been sung in numerous places such as the Vatican, Westminster Abbey and Carnegie Hall in New York.

“I’ve often been at the premiere of some of these pieces and so to be in a beautiful space with a magnificent choir that has prepared for months. And then, I’m sitting in the audience, and I hear this music that a composer has written for my word. So I get to hear my poem bouncing around in a beautiful cathedral… I’ve had so many moments like that, where I’ve been present at the premiere of one of my works, where a company has taken my poem and found all the music in it and created music. It’s really been quite amazing,” said Silvestri.

Stephan Simmons, a senior history major student, has Silvestri as his mentor in the history department and is taking an ancient Greece course with Silvestri.

“It (Silvestri’s class) is phenomenal. He is an eloquent, articulate speaker. He is intrinsically interested in what he teaches about. I think that is represented in multiple different facets of, not just how he teaches the course, but the outside content that he’ll bring in. It’s very hands on, and he keeps his class engaged at all times,” said Simmons.

Simmons expressed a profound sense of admiration for Silvestri and his teaching abilities. 

“Professor Silvestri teaches with the goal in mind, to find the students that are really motivated so that he can capitalize and make those students the best that they can be. He’s really actually a teacher. He’s not going through the motions and really invested in the people that are invested in his class,” said Simmons.

The book signing event at Barnes & Noble on Sept. 7 was successful. Silvestri read and sang selections from the book. He talked about how they came about and what they mean, and answered questions from the audience, sold books and signed copies.

Silvestri had another poetry reading at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 at the Lawrence Public Library. Silvestri will talk at noon, Sept. 24, in the Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center. It’s called The Distinguished Faculty Lecture, which is about why he writes poetry rather than the poem itself. He will also have another book signing on Oct. 12 at Prospero’s Books in Kansas City.

Silvestri also writes children’s books. He has an artist who illustrates his poem and publishes it as a children’s book. The next book he is planning to publish is about Leonardo da Vinci. It is expected to come out this November.

Silvestri suggests students start writing without having many negative concerns and pressure.

“If someone asked me about how they get started writing and publishing a book, my advice was to just start, just write. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s going to be published, just get out the paper and start writing, start typing. Whether it’s writing a novel, or writing poetry, or writing music, or whatever, just do it. Once you do it, then you’ll have experience of doing it and then it’ll be easier to write again,” said Silvestri.

To learn more about Silvestri visit

Edited by Jessica Galvin, Adam White, Jason Morrison