Visit Michael S. Glaser in his small office at St. Mary's College of Maryland and he'll talk about politics. He'll relive history. He'll laugh. He'll tell stories.

And he'll keep reaching up to the bookshelves that line the wall, flipping through to find the poem he wants.

"When you get language just right, something magical happens," he said. "It speaks to you in an intuitive, spiritual way."

Glaser, who has spent the past 30 years as an English professor and writer at St. Mary's, was appointed Maryland's new poet laureate last week.

"I don't think you could find a better ambassador for poetry in the state of Maryland than Michael Glaser," said Edgar Silex, another member of the English faculty at St. Mary's. "He's everything that a poet should be. He's just in love with language -- just in love with it."

At the start of his courses, Glaser hands out a written explanation of his teaching philosophy, encouraging students to take intellectual and creative risks and reminding them that Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living.

And he has spent his life doing just that in his poems, examining everything from fog to lawn mowers to fatherhood.

"Writing is a way of discovering how we think and feel," he said. "It helps me know who I am."

Glaser grew up in Illinois, with a childhood that he looks back on as privileged and sheltered.

Then came the '60s.

"Folk music is what started waking me up," he said. He sang, learned about politics and civil rights, and began writing and questioning more.

Glaser went to graduate school at Kent State University, where at a protest against the Vietnam War one spring day in 1970 he watched National Guardsmen with tear-gas masks march, turn and fire on students.

"I thought they were blanks," he said. "Even as I ran around the corner of the building I was saying, 'Oh, Michael, they're blanks.' I could not believe our government could shoot -- I was very naive."

And then he went to St. Mary's to teach.

"I came here and felt like I knew a lot and that I knew nothing, all at the same time," Glaser said.

He had always known he wanted to teach.

Glaser wants to help students avoid going through the world on automatic pilot, said Wayne Karlin, a novelist who teaches at the College of Southern Maryland. "He sees poetry as a way of doing that. . . . Poetry he sees as language that allows us to break the routine and explore."

Glaser started the college's Literary Festival 25 years ago. He reads poetry to young children and has published books of his poems and anthologies. As poet laureate, he said, he hopes to reach people across the state, show them how powerful words can be and perhaps inspire them to write.

Glaser, now 60, loves to spend time with his family, which includes five children and a baby granddaughter. He makes jams from his garden in St. Mary's City, travels, cooks, and picks at a banjo and guitar.

And writes and writes and writes.

And after this year?

"I think part of what's great fun about writing," Glaser said, is that "as T.S. Eliot said, we've only got the better of words for things we no longer have to say."

"As soon as I feel a poem's done, I'm happy with it, I'm on to the next. It's ongoing."

As Maryland's poet laureate, Michael S. Glaser says, he hopes to show people how powerful words can be and perhaps inspire them to write.A message hangs in the office of Michael Glaser, who encourages students to take intellectual risks.