It’s Okay to Be a Poet

Five men of a certain age. Five poets with sundry personalities diverse experiences. Five funny, creative, philosophical writers, chefs philanthropists.

Meet these local guys on the pages of their poetry books: Bendites Larry Jacobs, Don Kunz, John Kvapil, Peter Lovering John Martin.

The poets recently unveiled their new body of work, The Guys’ Home Relationship Maintenance & Improvement Poetry Manual, which followed their first volume of poetry, The Guys’ Big Book of Poetry, published in 2009.

The release announcement portrayed this volume of poetry as stimulating thoughtful conversation about the nature of family, home intimate relationships.  They insist their poems do not editorialize for a single point of view but explore complexities through invented characters fictional voices. 

The authors have determined they will donate all of their profits from the book’s sales to Saving Grace, the local nonprofit that works to promote life free from violence. The humble (but occasionally proud) poets explained collectively that they believe the issue of domestic violence sexual assault is a community issue – we need to take a st together.

Lovering, who possesses the longest running experience of writing is a retired homebuilder/carpenter, former biology instructor recovering tavern owner, explained that a few years ago, “we just got together because we were all writing wanted to meet with a writers group just for men… set one meeting just to read our work over dinner drinks quickly formed this bond of critiquing each others’ work.”

“We didn’t really know each other at all before,” added Kvapil an architect trained in Rome, Italy who was the designer for such projects as the gallantly refurbished Tower Theatre. “We mentioned to one person who mentioned someone else, until we had our core group of five.” Kvapil, dubbed the group ‘comedian,’ alleges he was a waiter at Seehotel Konigsbad, Austria the summer Soviet tanks occupied Prague is now learning Argentine closed-embrace tango.

As the meetings evolved they began rotating to each person’s home, making a meal, having some libations. “So while we are not competing in our writing, we are very competitive in terms of the food we cook,” Lovering reported.

Kvapil said that as he wrote more more poetry he found is rather meaningful learned to throw away the rules. “I think we originally thought that we had to follow complicated rules of poetry we couldn’t compete, but we write what we feel help each other get it to a publishing point.”

Kunz, a retired English professor volunteer for Bend Area Habitat for Humanity, says that the group is very supportive of one another. “This doesn’t mean we’re not critical but this format has great possibilities….I’ve been able to get other things published after their critique. This is an unusual group because guys don’t typically share their feelings, but we trust each other we’re willing to share our thoughts.

“I had fairly low expectations this has become the highlight of my retirement.”

They reiterated that the primary focus is poetry, but Kunz said, “It is helpful to talk to other men reassuring to talk with a group of men who you trust.”

Martin, a l scape contractor who claims he found a translucent arrowhead in the Sierra has a very good recipe for spamburgers, added that they don’t directly discuss something personal, but it comes out in their poetry.

“It’s not a self help group,” clarifies Lovering, “personal experiences more often come out in my writing, not a topic for the night or what I should do, men aren’t used to discussing their personal problems.”

Kavpil says that in any creative enterprise discussions can be very emotional. “An artist knows that the creative is therapeutic you’re in a zone that is healing, poetry is so free, a form that is more creative than most other outlets.”

Kunz inserts, “some of the stuff is pretty raw in the process you have to take it to a place someone wants to read it eventually you’re able to turn it into a work of art.”

The quiet member of the group is Jacobs who doesn’t have much to say, even for a real estate broker, but does add that he “spends too little time fly fishing.” However, in his poetry he seems to have a lot to say, “Since you left me, my tears flow like wine; the cheap red wine, I drink every night.”

You can tell by talking to these accomplished poets that they’re serious about their work, but they like to have fun particularly like to read their work out loud. The group shares their poetry by doing readings at public events around the region recently read at a benefit for Saving Grace (from this author’s view they belong on the David Letterman show, since they missed Oprah!)

“Poetry requires some concentration,” notes Kunz. “You zone out after hearing one voice for a length of time we all have short attention spans. But with five different voices styles we change about every four minutes as we go around each read a poem.”

Kvapil reminisced that four years ago they began joking about doing a book thought their work was getting pretty good so began planning topics. In putting the poetry books together Martin said they try to see how a poem fits within a particular chapter. “Once we hash that out it’s up to the individual poet to provide the final piece.”

They all realized that poetry about important issues can seem deadly serious, so they have tried to make the book playful fun to read.

Lovering sums up the work: “it’s about the poetry I love being able to present it in a relatively non threatening atmosphere…we express ourselves with poetry want everyone to know it’s okay for men to do that.”

“You might not see someone in the construction industry writing poetry, in fact it’s usually gone to a few educated elite, like the poems in the New Yorker that you can’t underst are not accessible,” ads Kvapil. “Our stuff is fun you don’t have to work to comprehend it.”

Fun, absolutely. Underst able, definitely. Warm touching, without a doubt. And accessible via their published volumes of work! pha

The Guys’ Home Relationship Maintenance & Improvement Poetry Manual may be purchased at Between the Covers, Camalli Book Company, Dudley’s Book Store Paulina Springs Books.

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