Please sign my guest book

Hi everyone,

I have a favor to ask. If you haven’t signed my guest book, I would love to have you add your name. I don’t know how many visitors to my blog think to check out my website but I’m pretty proud of the job that Kathy Temean did to create it.

Here’s the link you need. Once you’re there, click on GUEST BOOK and leave a note. It’s easy.

Don’t forget that time is running out for posting your poem this month. I’ll cut off submissions at noon CST on July 25.

I’m glad you are enjoying the Featured Guest spots so far of the poets who attended my workshop in Honesdale last month. My thanks to Jeanne Poland, Joy Acey, and Ken Slesarik. We still have five to go so stay tuned.


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!

Ken Slesarik tomorrow

Hi everyone,

Many of you are already fans and friends of my Featured Guest, Ken Slesarik. When he’s not teaching, you can often find him writing poetry for young people. His poems have been used in fundraisers, cookbooks, and school functions. Once in a while Ken performs at a coffee shop or bookstore, and his principal also turns to him to do mini-workshps on poetry and creative writing. He’s an active member of SCBWI and belongs to two critique groups. He’s at work on a humorous collection of desert wildlife poems as well as a collection of Yeti-Big Foot poems.

I’ve featured Ken twice before. It was a pleasure to have him join our Founders poetry workshop in Honesdale last month to meet in person. His post from July 2010 attracted a lot of comments from readers so I’m reposting that article today. Tomorrow you’ll read his latest remarks. Now, here’s Ken.

Why I Write Poetry
July 7, 2010
By Ken Slesarik

It was the day after my 40th birthday and what should have been a peaceful transition into middle age for me began a five month ordeal. I woke just after 6am with a tremendous pain and ringing in my left ear. Scared and confused I did what most grown men would have done and called my mother. Mom suggested I take something for the pain and get myself to the emergency room.

After an almost seven hour wait the doctor examined my ear, said the drum was completely shattered and asked if I listen to extremely loud music or have been on the receiving end of any blows to the ear. I explained that I went to bed in slight discomfort and woke in extreme pain. Leaving the hospital I was optimistic. With prescriptions for pain and infection in hand I promptly scheduled a follow up visit with a specialist.

The medications I took faithfully and it’s true much of the pain was gone but there was one thing that the meds couldn’t touch. Have you ever heard the sweet sound of a teapot whistling? It’s quite pleasant for about the first twenty minutes. You see, I had a constant, often loud ringing in my ear, never ceasing, twenty four hours of every day, every moment, and every second.

Within a week of my emergency room visit I noticed a slight pimple on the left side of my face, near my ear. In a few short hours it grew to the size of a small egg and protruded from my face. This resulted in another hospital visit where the doctor enquired if I had been taking my antibiotic as prescribed.

The next four months were the worst in my life as several new and reoccurring infections popped up in various places on my body and gradually the pain meds did not work as well. It seemed as if I was on an endless cycle of doctor visits and stronger antibiotics. as the doctors agreed that they could not even think about reconstructing my eardrum until the infections were under control.

I became depressed; sleep deprived, and lost weight. For the first time in my life I could empathize with the person who might consider taking their own life. Before this time I would think such a person was weak and if I wasn’t raising a son who had already lost his mother to suicide I would have seriously considered that option.

The ringing was simply dreadful and I was slowly losing hope as I tried to function in my new job as a special education teacher. Most of my sixth grade students had behavior issues to begin with and took full advantage of the fact that I could not hear out of my left side. It was pure torture.

After a few months my mother came down from San Diego to care for me and I would often cry, curse or lose my temper. I remember being constantly agitated and looking for a fight.

The thing that transpired next literally changed my life. During a particularly painful weekend of anger and self pity my sister handed me some paper and a pen and asked me to write a poem about our dad as I would occasionally write family poems and other silly rhymes before my ear woes.

After snapping at her I decided to try. The next forty minutes went by fast as I wrote three of the most crappy poems you can imagine as well as several short rhymes. Tears of joy streamed down my face as I realized I had been so engrossed in the creative process that I was completely detached from the ringing, that awful, awful ringing. I remember thanking God as it was truly a beautiful moment and a short reprieve in over four months of suffering and chaos. It gave me hope, something to cling to and a little joy amongst the pain.

Within days of this one of the specialists recommended more tests and blood work and a few days later I got the call with my results. It seemed I had contracted an extremely rare staph infection quite likely during my first ER visit. This infection was fast spreading and non-responsive to any known antibiotics but it did respond to one type of medication. So I took that round of meds, all the infections went away and they reconstructed my eardrum with skin from my canal.

It’s been over four years since that defining moment and the best I can describe it is that my brain associates so much pleasure and the absence of pain to writing rhyming poetry. I set a goal that weekend to always improve, write at least one respectable poem a week and at least one a month that would make Shel Silverstein proud.

By K. Thomas Slesarik

Ted the cannibalistic tick
is not so good at arithmetic.
He eats those ticks, yes quite a few,
then loses count before he’s through.
It’s so uncouth to eat your kind,
but don’t tell Ted, he doesn’t mind.
Dear Ted, my pleading don’t ignore,
it’s fine to be a carnivore
but this advice it should suffice,
learn to count and switch to lice.

Thanks, Ken.

Joy Acey tomorrow

ANNOUNCEMENT: Yesterday morning I did a one-hour Skype session with students in School #24 in Paterson, New Jersey. I’ve been working with three schools in that district to enhance literacy levels through poetry and this is the first of three planned follow-up Skype sessions to my personal visits there this past December. Sitting still in front of my computer for an hour while presenting ideas and answering questions is a bit of a challenge, but I think we made it through in good shape and the kids were delightful. If any of you students, librarian Dorothy Natale, or teachers, Warchol, Caraballo, or Perez are reading this, let me know how you think it went.

Hi everyone,

Joy Acey was a member of my Highlights Foundation poetry workshop in June. I knew Joy from a previous session at Chautauqua in New York so I was glad to see that Joy was coming to Honesdale. Recently you met another member of our group, Jeanne Poland, and tomorrow you’ll hear from Joy. Next up, Ken Slesarik. For now, here’s a bio provided by Joy.

JOY ACEY, The Princess of Poetry, has consistently won prizes for her poetry from the North Carolina Poetry Society and the Poetry Council of North Carolina. She’s published in Footsteps, Main Street Rag, New Review, Kaleidoscope, Urban Hiker, Bay Leaves, Award Winning Poems, Pockets, Ladies Home Journal, Poets for Peace Anthology, Always on Friday and Kids News. She has sold poems to Highlights for Children, High Five. She was on the TV game show Joker’s Wild and won enough to pay for a trip to Australia. She has lived in England and Japan. She has walked across a volcano in Hawaii and a glacier in New Zealand. She has gone swimming with iguanas in the Galapagos and was in Ecuador during a recent revolution. She was a performance artist with the Durham Arts Council, Creative Arts in the Public/Private Schools. She teaches workshops in poetry for people of all ages and abilities. She lives in Tucson, AZ with her husband, and a Welsh Springer Spaniel named Spot. She has two grown sons.

Thanks again to recent guests

Hi everyone,

Sometimes in my rush forward I forget to pause to really thank those who have done me the favor of appearing on my blog. Over the past couple of months I’ve had notable guests who have shared their wit and wisdom here and today feels like a good time to say once more that I’m grateful. To revisit their appearances, click on the links with their names and pictures.