Ken Slesarik today

Hi everyone,

Today I bring you an old acquaintance, Ken Slesarik. You’ve met Ken before as a Guest Reader. Today I’m proud to bring him on as a Featured Guest and recent member of the cast in Honesdale at the Founders Poetry Workshop. Ken is known among friends and readers for his great ear for rhyme and wry humor. I’ll let Ken speak for himself.

1. How and when did you know you were a poet?

It was the summer of 2006 and I needed to give voice to my “imaginary friends.” Ha! That was a joke but in all sincerity, five and a half years ago I rediscovered poetry to deal with the constant pain and suffering after my ear drum shattered. I knew from that moment on I was a poet. See the July 7th 2010 post below under Ken Slesarik.

2. Describe your journey as a writer.

Early on I developed a real joy in the act of creating. The simple pleasure of coming up with something new and seeing it take shape is a reward in itself and has sustained me during the journey. I’ve also consistently taken steps toward improvement and remain very committed to reaching publication. I do fear the hazing and initiation process though. Nursing the welts from the towels of a David Harrison or a J. Patrick Lewis is something I approach with much trepidation.

3. Why are some people afraid of writing poetry?

With so many different poetic forms it can be difficult knowing where to start. The best way to overcome that fear is to dive in and write whatever is on your mind. That act will in turn beget other poems and as you begin to make distinctions in form and substance you become a better poet. I’m a special education teacher at an elementary school and I see that teachers are faced with curriculum and standardized testing pressures that leave writing poetry relegated to the back burner. I think it’s up to teachers to demystify the writing experience to make it accessible, less fearful and fun for the average student.

4. How can an emerging poet gain experience and confidence when it’s so hard to find publishers of poetry?

The magazine market works for some, but for me it distracts from the goal of being published in the book market. I’m realistic yet wildly passionate in this pursuit and it has lead to experience as well as confidence. Having a trusted peer group of writer friends is important as you share experiences and gain confidence together. Confidence also comes when you can look back and have enough references of writing something that worked. This makes it easier to take chances and try things such as reading your work publicly, perhaps even falling flat on your face. It’s important to keep learning and be humble but also to roar or at least meow on occasion because confidence is self generated.

5. What do you think is easier to write, verse or free verse?

I used to think if it’s free and they’re giving it away it must not have value and therefore be easy to write. I was wrong and I’m learning to appreciate free verse more. I still feel verse presents a more difficult challenge and is more difficult to do well. Interestingly enough, I think many people view free verse as more difficult to write as it’s more readily associated with academia whereas verse, especially humorous verse is often taken lightly and undervalued.

6. Why poetry? Why not stick with fiction or nonfiction? What attracts some writers to poetry?

Concise writing and finding the perfect words and cadence are very appealing to me, like solving a puzzle. Even though new ideas are sometimes few and far between I live for those moments when a crisp, original idea for a poem begins to form. I don’t sleep or eat and obsess over the smallest detail, perhaps reading the new poem aloud hundreds of times. It’s that feeling of exhilaration that attracts me to poetry.

7. How much does a children’s poet need to learn about the ground rules of poetry?

To become a better writer you definitely need to know the rules and to recognize when you break them, however, I think it’s a learning process and on one hand you need that structure but on the other I don’t ever let a rule get in the way of a good poem. By that I mean occasionally a poem will have an obvious strength that will justify a deviation from the rules. Besides don’t we all have poetic license? That reminds me mine expires on the 5th.

8. Why do you believe that children’s poetry is important?

It is important to language development as things like repetition, rhyming and rhythm are irresistible to a child. Good poetry can inspire, stir emotion, and make us laugh or cry and pause to reflect on life and all its facets. For younger children it can lay the foundation for reading and older children learn how complex thoughts and ideas can be expressed in relatively few words.

Thank you, Ken.

Comments are always welcome!
David

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26 comments on “Ken Slesarik today

  1. Great interview, Ken (and David)! Your passion for poetry comes through a clouded ear (um…loud and clear).

    (By the way, I’ve been rhyming without a license for years; you’ll be fine. If a cop pulls you over for clocking 90 in the verse lane and asks “Late for a poetry slam, are we?,” you can simply reply, “Iamb.” You’ll still get a ticket, but brevity’s a prize beyond measure!)

    Seriously, though, it’s wonderful to see how many different paths poets choose to take — always in our own time, on our own terms. It’s a freedom (and a privilege) I haven’t found anywhere else. Glad to find you’ve found it, too.

  2. There’s a poem in that…

    Driving Without a (Poetic) License
    By Steven Withrow

    The copper clocked me topping eighty
    In the sloth-slow lane.
    His strict demeanor radiated
    Obvious disdain.
    He sidled up and bridled at me:
    “Late for a poetry slam?”
    I stilled my breath and told him calmly,
    “In point of fact…
    Iamb.”

  3. And an instant revision…

    Rhyming Without a (Poetic) License
    By Steven Withrow

    The copper
    Clocked me
    Topping
    Eighty
    In the sloth-
    Slow lane.
    His strict
    Demeanor
    Radiated
    Obvious
    Disdain.
    He sidled up
    And bridled
    At me:
    “Late for
    A poetry
    Slam?”
    I stilled
    My breath
    And told him
    Calmly,
    “In point
    Of fact…
    Iamb.”

  4. Ken,
    I enjoy your poems, characters and sense of humor, I love your surprises and they have given me many smiles. Your talent shines! Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  5. Great interview Ken! Your silly, off-the-wall poems will definitely have a steadfast fan base and kids will love them, like the rest of us.:)

  6. Wonderful that you’ve integrated your joy of creating poetry with your teaching! Lucky kids. Keep it going!

  7. I love Ken’s humorous poetry and agree with him that such writing is often taken lightly, which is fine, but very, very sneaky. Humor shatters the boxes we’re used to thinking in and sets free imagination without fear, so we’re opened to new perspectives and realities before we even realize we’ve left old ones behind. Bravo, Ken. Keep challenging our world views.

  8. I have always been amazed at how “seemingly easy” you come up with your poems, and you know exactly what is going to amuse the kids. You are long past due for a book, and I am certain it will happen.

  9. You clearly have a passion for poetry! I love your clever, quirky style. You always mix your thoughts and words in the most amusing and rhymthic way. I wish you much success!

  10. Hey Ken,
    Glad to see you here and to enjoy the poetry your interview has generated. What delightful fun. Pure case of humor being contagious, especially children’s humorous poetry. Thank you. Well done, what magic.

  11. It is very apparent you are passionate about poetry/writing. Keep it up. I’m confident you’ll be a published author soon………..Mouse

  12. Hi Ken,

    I really enjoyed reading what you’ve shared as David’s featured guest today. Whether poetry or prose, you are a very able wordsmith. Add to that your cleverly askew brand of humor, good nature & dedication and you’re sure to be hearing about a book deal real soon!

    Lots of luck and keep the poems coming!

    Becca

  13. Hi Ken,

    I really enjoyed the interview and just read some of your work of the month poems. You are amazingly talented.

    Keep writing!
    Veronica

  14. Hi Ken, I really enjoyed rereading your life-changing experience yesterday and your interview today brought me back to Honesdale. Thank you.
    You have an amazing gift, Ken, a uniqueness that connects with young people of all ages, a rare talent for seeing,hearing,and feeling the poetry in everything. And with fun, humor, and cleverness. You are on your way!

    Cory

  15. Hi Ken. Loved your interview with David (Thanks for doing this, David.) Then I went back and found the July 7th post on David’s blog where you tell why you write poetry. A very moving story. And your poem “Ted — loved it!

    Guy

  16. Sorry Ken, I am a day late. Thank you for your post with David. It was encouraging how you discovered free verse and continued to work at being the best poet you can be. Mary Nida

  17. Ken, you’re a master with word play and character building, and it’s no easy task to develop a complete character profile in a poem with eight lines. As always, best wishes going forward.

  18. Nice interview Ken and congratulations!

    I’m probably the only person that has known you since we were both kids living in the same neighborhood, so it’s a unique and rewarding experience to see how far you’ve come.

    Congrat’s buddy!

  19. I just found your work online, Ken, and it was really interesting to gain some insight into your creative process. You have a playful, unique, wry style and I see that appealing to kids and adults alike. Good stuff, Ken. Keep it coming!

  20. Thank you David for having me on your blog and thank you everyone for all the supportive comments. You are the best!

    Ken

  21. Hi Ken,

    Your poems always make me smile and relieve the tension of working in public education in these times. You remind me to allow my students the pleasure of having fun with words! I am always surprised at the satisfaction students have when they have “solved” the puzzle of creating poetry! Thanks for the uplifting email poems at work and it’s a pleasure to learn more about your journey here in this forum!

  22. Hi Ken, Well, we have shared poetry back and forth now for several years. I love getting an e-mail from you when I’m all serious and stressed, and your wicked sense of humor always makes me smile. You do have a way with words and I know how much you love to write. Keep up the good work, Ken, and more people will be able to share your joy of writing. Bottom line is that you are a teacher and use your way with words to teach children how to read or to enjoy reading when they have hated it because of a reading disability. Go for it Ken, you are the best!

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