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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Birthplace of poetry and voice

" I grew up in this town, my poetry was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests. " ~ Pablo Neruda

Where was my poetry born and from where did my voice originate? This is something I have not really openly explored. I don't believe the answer is an easy one to either question. I could easily dodge it, or dismiss it with a simple answer that fails to do the question justice. Still, I think Neruda asks that which every poet ought to consider within their own personal context.

As to the birth place of my poetry, I have lived my whole life in the same state. Most of it in an urban setting. I suppose that I could argue that my poetry was born in at the shadow of a downtown city that has over the years been in decay. Declining in prominence. I big city, with big city problem, but one in which the migration of it's citizens has been away from, at least until recently.

I have traveled to other cities and states, but this has been my home since a very small child. I have moved within the last few years to a more suburban setting, but one that is not far from all the commercial amenities you normally have being in a big city.

My poetry voice has come from several places. I don't really write so much of regional "place" - for example, Kansas City is known as the city of fountains. I don't recall ever going there with a poem. Nor poetry about the Oregon and Santa Fe trails. Rarely have I mentioned the might Missouri river which has a bend here in the KC area.

What I have found is that my poetry often has been a voice of despair like the urban core. The violence of war perhaps has come from the inner-city violence that never seemed very far away. Hopelessness and despair have often been a part of my work and that perhaps has had some origin in my job with deals daily with mental illness. My voice perhaps also has been drawn from my own personal life, growing up was not easy and although in many respects I had it so much better than some, it was at times painful none the less.

There is an under current of relationship impact upon my writing. Some of it from my family of origin. And I see and feel a tug of influence in relationship poems that are rooted in nearly 32 year of marriage. Love poetry is not something that comes easy for me. There is the ever present fear of writing stuff that is too sappy. But when I can, I do enjoy capturing that moment that says something about love.

The 32 years of marriage have not been without their share of problems and downhill runs, but they are in fact the most significant aspect of my life and for all the mistakes I have made along the way, it is in that relationship with my wife that I have the greatest value of life at all.

I do so often write from a dark perspective. Death is not particularly a fascination with me as perhaps it is of some, but rather a fact of our being and it is at the opposite end of the spectrum of life, I suppose that contrast and the desire to live as opposed to die that pulls me to the subject. It is something I cannot ignore.

So there you are. My poetry was born in a city that knows adversity. Gleaned its voice from everyday trials, from a fight for survival and a search for hope, all the while recognizing the pain and suffering of street people, victims of drive-by shootings, families that try to cling together in these difficult times and that one thing that is so precious that money cannot buy.
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