Kenneth P. Gurney, author of Writers' Block
I forget exactly how I met Kenneth. I submitted work to his online publication, Tamafyhr Mountain Poetry, via an announcement through another poetry zine. I have enjoyed Kenneth's poetry over the years, and I am constantly surprised at the depth that lurks beneath his mild mannered exterior. His poetry is straight-forward, clear, consise, profound, and packs as much of a metaphorical wallop as an old-school Batman punch (KAPOW, CRASH!). Inevitably, a person like me grows more curious about the person behind the poetry, so Kenneth very kindly agreed to an interview. And for those of you who haven't read his books, you can find them on Amazon.com.
ml: What led you to publish a second collection of poetry, and what would you say is the biggest difference—stylistically speaking—between your new book, Writers' Block, and your previous collection, Greeting Card and Other Poems?
kpg: I published the second collection because I thought I had enough quality work written up and ready to go. Basically, I wanted to get the poetry out there into the public sphere. The creation of print-on-demand and digital technologies make it possible, and easy, for any writer who believes in their work to make a book available. And print-on-demand turns out to be an economical vehicle for producing your own book. I equate it to a local band burning CDs of their music, then going out and selling the CD where they perform at local and nearby venues. Hopefully, the popularity of the collections grows with exposure.
Greeting Card contains work written between 1993 to 2000 (I switched from creating visual art to poetry in 1993) and the book’s origin is traced to poet Robert Arthur Reeves reading through my many chapbooks from those years and picking out his favorites. Writers' Block collects published poems, with a couple exceptions, written between 2001-2007.
I am afraid I am not educated enough in literary styles to answer the second part of the question. I was in remedial English all through high school and barely escaped the mandatory minimum college English courses while in pursuit of my BA in Drawing & Printmaking. Mostly, I use my art training and paint with a palette of words. With each passing year, I become more intimate and comfortable with language as an artistic tool.
ml: Your poems, as a whole, appear to be a fusion of modern romanticism with Taoist axioms told in a simple, elegant, narrative style. Would you agree/disagree with this statement, and why/why not?
kpg: I agree. I am a romantic, a dreamer, a surrealist. I've never studied Taoism, though I happen to be a believer in “The Three Jewels” of Taoism: compassion, moderation, and humility (thank you Wikipedia). On my own, I examine the real world, the natural world, and write discoveries that I make. Some of the examinations take place through reading (poetry in particular), some through direct observation, though most of the discoveries are garnered from participation.
I have been in the process of creating a personal mythos. It was subconscious at first. The Bible, Jesus and the saints never satisfied or nourished me spiritually.
ml: What mental/emotional/creative process do you utilize to write poetry?
kpg: I wake between four and five in the morning. At that hour my mind is the most clear and accepting of both the dream and the deep, vibratory voice inside. Crisp images run easily from my mind onto the page. This process goes on until seven or eight in the morning. Also, at these hours, I am most open to typos not being typos, but strokes of small genius or inspiration.
Emotionally. Any emotion could be present and affect the direction of that morning’s writing. Sadness and wonderment co-mingle regularly. Long ago, I use to walk my dogs through a meadow under first light and enjoy its twisting, changing colors and the awakening, unfolding of the wildflowers, how the pollen would streak my dogs’ fur as they trotted through the wildflowers and so on. Beautiful. Simultaneously, the dogs regularly found meadow mice or marmots then killed and ate them. Then there was the morning the dogs happened upon a porcupine and one of the dogs nearly killed herself attacking it repeatedly. The count of quills in my arms and chest rose from her thrashing body as I carried her back to the house, her feet too full of quills to stand. Life is at once brutal and glorious no matter how much humanity tries to hide both facts.
ml: Readers WANT to know: Who are Larka and Delphi? Are they based on actual persons or are they facets of your personality/imagination, and why are they both so prominant in your poetry?
kpg: Larka & Delphi are both mythic characters I created or accepted. They might be labeled muses or angels. I feel them near me in a tangible way from time to time.
The name Larka came from an email communication I had with poet Karla Huston where letters in her first name were transposed. Larka is a wonderfully lyrical name with the freedom of the flight and songs of larks in it. (Karla’s license plate now reads LARKA). That is only where the name came from. Larka in the poems is not Karla. The poems about Larka (the muse) are imaged, felt, empathized from my experiences. For instance in the poem “Near the Middlekauf Farm” (which resides outside of Sharpsburg, MD) is about a past life experience related to the American Civil War and the battle of Antietam. My personal past life experience was at the Mule Shoe of the Spottsylvania battlefield—very spooky when the smell of the sulphurous spent gunpowder invaded my nose and the din of battle shook my body with its percussion and concussion, then seeing the musket point and flame shoot from the muzzle that left me on the ground, prone, in the wet grass as I returned from the vision.
Delphi. Delphi just appeared one day many years ago as a sense of someone there in the room. Whole poems about her form instantaneously and flow from my typing fingers. In some ways she is a vehicle or surrogate for self-healing and envisioning a future beyond old hurts. In other ways Delphi is, for me, a ready combination of the divine and human and the struggles between the two in everyday life.
ml: With your "retirement" from publishing (TMP and Origami Condom), and with two collections under your belt, what are your future plans, poetically speaking?
kpg: To keep writing. My habit is to write as I described earlier nearly every day for a two to three month period then break for one to three weeks. Writing sessions usually produce between three and five pieces. What has changed now that I am not publishing others is that I have time to submit work to small and large press venues, print and Internet, but mostly Internet.
I thought I would pursue more readings, but my energy is not what it once was. Time and injuries have taken their toll. So, as much as I would like a reading tour around the country or a section of it, I have not expended the energy to lay the ground work to pull the idea from dream to reality.
Since I find reading and sharing my poetry very satisfying, I host a poetry salon twice a month where five to ten Albuquerque poets come over to the house and we read our work to each other in a round robin fashion. There is something about the vibration in the chest and throat when voicing one’s work that liberates the spirit. Also, I attend a couple open mics.
One of my latest project is “real mail poetry postcards”. Twice a month I take one of my short poems, create suitable art and use these do-it-yourself postcard packs from Staples. I post them out to twenty friends.
I am working on a Delphi manuscript. Turns out there are about 175 poems about her. I am whittling that down this summer to a good collection of narrative pieces. Probably between 90 and 120 poems.
I will probably write until I have nothing left to express, when my personal mythos is complete in its own ken (pun intended) and all the possible juxtapositions are explored.
Bio: Kenneth P. Gurney lives in Albuquerque, NM where he practices the craft of poetry and takes long hikes on the foot hill trails and about the heights.
Over the years he’s published 17 chapbooks that are now out of print. Go to his website (http://www.kpgurney.me/Poet/Welcome.html) for his books in print.
He edited & produced three poetry publications: Hodge Podge Poetry (1995-1998), Tamafyhr Mountain Poetry (1998-2007) and Origami Condom (2007-2008).
Kenneth has been featured in readings from coast to coast. His work appears mostly on the web as he tends to spend reading fee & SASE money on flowers for his lover or a bar of dark belgian chocolate.
After 20 years as a painter/designer, Kenneth switched to poetry in 1993 and has not looked back. Occasionally, he produces artwork to go with the poetry. His current artsy project is “real mail poetry post cards” that he sends out to a group of friends.
Kenneth has hosted open mics in many of the locations he has lived: Milwaukee, WI; Taos, NM; Frederick, MD; Port Angeles, WA and Albuquerque.
Currently he participates in an Arts in Medicine program with the UNM hospital and volunteers occasionally for the North 4th Street Art Center, hosts a poetry salon and reads his work at open mics.