Notes | 18 March 2017

Poetry and literary websites that are new to me:

Please take time to read and then follow all submission guidelines. Some publications have demographic or geographic limitations. Some charge submission fees.

When I started Watermelon Isotope, I worked to have 1 man, 1 woman per week.  It did not take very long for that ideal pairing to fall away from the real practice. The simple reason is more women respond to and follow through with the Watermelon Isotope invitation than the men. Oh well.

My latest book is Stump Speech, self-published 2015. If you have a poetry book of your own and want to trade, contact me, so we may swap addresses and make the trade happen.

Continuing the interview questions. #8.

What reoccurring themes or personal experience have you noticed in your poetry over the years?

Let’s start with Death, because it is a topic so many poets cover. For me it was the death of my brother, Richard, when we were both children and how our family and home changed for the worse with his loss.  Next is the death of my daughter, Tamafyhr Lynn, on the day she was born. This includes the death of the dream of who my daughter would grow into and our relationship that never developed. I find it odd that I never write how her death destroyed my marriage or the terrible year it took for the marriage to fall totally apart. Suicide shows up in many of my poems, not my suicide, but the suicide of 7 friends and acquaintances. Several of the suicides were people taking their lives after their partners died of AIDs, since we were part of the generation that got hammered by the medical world’s and government’s slow response to the outbreak. Some of the suicides were PTSD related by adult survivors of child abuse and childhood trauma.

Another topic that shows up in my poetry is mental health in general, my two stays in the psych ward for a total of 2 & 1/2 months in 1991 in particular, and the years of therapy thereafter. My writing includes my own experience, the experience of people I met on the ward, some of what goes on in the ward, the care by professionals (both good and bad), as well as abandonment and betrayal by the system.

I think my love of surrealism, which started young, came from envisioning new worlds to live in or substitute worlds to use as protection when the real world was too much. I love a good juxtaposition or impossibility, like my dog snatching up the state line and carrying it many miles as if it was a stick she carried home from one of our walks.

Spirituality is a theme I cover. I was brought up with the First Congregational Church of my home town. Christianity and I never bonded, because it did not hold the answers I needed or I was unable to understand the answers in the manner they were presented. So I have borrowed from many mythologies and merged them with my observations of life and with the mysteries as I perceive them. If I started a religion today, it would be very simple—a four page text: an artfully designed cover, a copyright credits page, the text that would contain the Golden Rule in its two forms, and a back cover that would be left blank so a person could write notes or doodle as needed.  The service would be similar to the Society of Friends meetings where people take turns saying what they need to say or asking what they need to ask.

Persona poems are what I will call the next theme. It is not that I adopt a persona, but observe the persona as a character, muse, angel, whatever those beings are that show up in my life and relate their stories. Those of you who have read my Delphi, Dora or Leon poems know about these. There are others.

Speaking in general, say 2/3 of all artists, it is my view that artists of all types tend to be people who have something to express that is not easy to express. Hopefully the artwork is the process of something deep within working its way upward and out of the heart. Otherwise it is an effort by the individual’s creativity to keep the deep issue down and hidden out of sight. I think those are reasons why so many of literary, visual and performing artists have one or more tragedies at the core of our art. Genius and madness have never been far apart and often overlap in a lifetime.

— Kenneth P. Gurney




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