Dodge Poet Spotlight: Kenneth Hart

Welcome to our continuing blog series here on Poetry Fridays, Dodge Poet Spotlight. We are turning the focus over to the individuals who make our programming what it is in the schools, with teachers in Spring & Fountain, and on the ground at the Dodge Poetry Festival — the Dodge Poets.

Each week, a Dodge Poet answers some questions about themselves and provides a selected poem of their own work. We hope that this will be a way for you to get to know the Dodge Poets a little better, and you can get an idea of why we love working with them so much.

We are first featuring leaders of our Spring & Fountain sessions.

Without further ado, today’s Dodge Poet is Kenneth Hart.

Photo Credit: Karen Mancinelli

What are you reading?
Two excellent poetry books– one new, one I’ve read many times:

1. The Needle, by Jennifer Grotz (2011)
2. The Widening Spell of the Leaves, by Larry Levis (1991)

With all the other demands and distractions in life, how do you make time for poetry?
Once a year I go away to an artist’s residency for two weeks, and write, revise, and read mornings and nights (afternoons, when my energy dips, I do other things, like go for a run and take a nap). I get more writing done at a 2-week residency than two months when not at a residency. During the rest of the year, my writing time ebbs and flows. Sometimes I’ll get up an hour earlier and write every day before work.

What are your favorite writing tools? Paper or computer? Are there special brands, papers, pens, etc. that are important to you?
I always write with a pen (I prefer Uni-ball micro) in my notebooks. Often I fill pages and don’t look at them for months. Anything goes in there: a “first draft” to what might become a poem, quotes, an image, a single sentence I overheard, a dream. Then I go back an read through it, looking for things that sound like they might have potential for becoming an actual poem. When I find something, I type it out (tinkering with it as I type), then I print it out. I read it aloud, scribble on it, cross things out, etc, over several days. Then I type a new version out, scribble on it, etc, go through the same process. At some point, when I think it’s pretty good, or I’m stuck, I may show it to a writer friend or two, who will offer edits, and I’ll see the piece in a new light. After several weeks, or months (or years!), I’ll have typed out many revisions, and finally settle on one to send out for publication. The process may sound arduous, but it’s very fun and rewarding to me. I think someone once called it “the rapture of revision.”

Tell us about any personal habits, rituals, ceremonies, superstitions that are part of your writing practice.
Mornings are usually the best writing times for me, but occasionally late at night. I like to put drafts up on a wall, so I can look at them from time to time, walk up and scribble on them when I stop to read as I’m cooking, walking by, or doing something un-writerly. I also like to write in diners, where there are things going on around me, people chatting, and where the demands of home are left back at home.

What is your favorite place to read?
In a chair.
Indoors, outdoors, away from home, on a train, in my living room, doesn’t matter.
As long as I’m comfortable, and no one bothers me.

The Way Things Look

Some things are easier than they look
and some things are harder than they look.
Riding a bike, for example, is easier than it looks,
unless you are 5 and your feet don’t reach the pedals.
Playing guitar is harder than it looks, as is milking a cow.
Fall down when you are skiing,
forget someone’s phone number, be used by others as a bad example—
failing is easier than it looks.
Certainly some things are just as easy as they look: pouring milk into a glass.
And things you may not think are as easy as they look
turn out to be just as easy as they look:
deciphering why the bedsprings are squeaking
in the hotel room next to yours;
assuming the governor is lying about his affair.
(Assuming is as easy as it looks).
Once you get the hang of things they may become easier than they look,
though soon enough things get wise to how they look,
and they do things to make them harder than they look:
The entrance to sorrow is easier than it looks;
the exit is harder than it looks.
Reverse that for joy.
Telling a worker to turn off his jackhammer
when you are trying to read is easier than it looks,
though getting him to stop, that’s going to be harder than it looks.
That’s when you may decide it isn’t worth keeping up
with how easy something looks, or it may cause you to work harder
to make a thing as easy as it looks.
Living a life where things are harder then they look,
easier than they look, and equal to how they look
is easier than it looks.
You do it every day.
You just were not aware of it.
But awareness, you don’t need me to tell you,
is harder than it looks.

-Kenneth Hart

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