Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Gospel of Poetry

Over at Jeannine's blog, she's talking about "poetry evangelism" by going to cons to show there is poetry in the world which has an out of poetry community appeal.  It reminds me of a few friends.  First is long-running topi, friend, and mentor, Dave Lee.  Dave, for as long as I have known him has been an evangelical for the gospel of poetry.  For those of you unfamiliar with the meaning of the word "gospel," it literally means the "good news."  I think all poets should be traveling evangelical ministers for the gospel of poetry.  And if one cannot travel, then one should build a pulpit in the front yard and preach to those who walk or drive by.  Dave has spent his life going anywhere he was asked (even to a few of my classes) to talk abut the wonderment and beauty of poetry.

Years ago, literally a few days before 9/11 happened, Dave was being considered for the U.S. Poet Laureate position.  This was when Billy Collins was selected, and Dave was in Washington D.C., where he and Billy, and another poet had breakfast with the President.  I think Dave would have made a wonderful Laureate because it would have opened up to him a much larger platform to talk about what he already believed about poetry.  Still, when Collins was selected, and we spoke on the phone (I had called to track him down to make sure he was okay because of the attacks) we talked poetry.  He read and re-read a new poem to me.  We talked about poetry, and Dave told me I had to go out and get Billy's book of selected poems.  You see, he wasn't bummed about not having a larger platform.  He was excited because he had discovered a new poet to read, support, and mention in his sermons.  

The other person is William "Bill" Kloefkorn.  Not by coincidence he was a dear friend of Dave's and so willing to help with anyone who showed even the smallest spark of interest in poetry.  Bill was quite famous for being a champion of the writer, and went to considerable lengths to make each writer he worked with feel worthy of the task at hand and very capable of creating poetry which was both well written and true to the voice of the poet.

I have said before how Bill was instrumental in my getting my first chapbook into shape.  He helped pare it down into a real chapbook, something with real meat and bone in its structure.  He spent a considerable amount of time with me, which is what he did with anyone who asked him for help.  We began to bond on another level when we both talked about having been in the military, though that was never a focal point for us.  Instead, we chose to make fun of Dave's girlish penmanship.  It was Bill, I believe to this day, who opened up the door to my first chapbook being published.  I think he was the one who told me about Mark Sanders, who ended up awarding my book with the Main-Traveled Roads Chapbook Award.  Bill continued to respond to my letters over the years, sending me poems and encouragement.  For him, it was always the next poem which mattered most, and that made him an endless fountain of guidance and inspiration.

Right now, I am putting the finishing touches on the next issue of Hobble Creek Review.  It's a special issue, featuring quite a few writers from Nebraska and other places who knew Bill Kloefkorn, Dave Lee included.  I may not be able to travel around much and preach the gospel of poetry as much as I would like, but I have built my own pulpit, and with it, I am going to preach a sermon or two for Bill.  He certainly deserves more than what I can give him, but I am going to give him what I can.  In the next week or so I will be announcing the release of Hobble Creek Review.  I hope you will all come by and take a look, as this is my contribution to the gospel of poetry.

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