I read the latest book by Thomas T. Kemp this morning and knew again why he had become my favorite author. You asked how I can say this when I compiled and edited the book for him and was also fortunate to help him on his first book, The Road From Here to Where You Stay? Well, poetry has always been somewhat of a mystery to me. I read some and wonder what it means. I read others and each word speaks to me.
And so it was with Your-Poet IS: Poetry and You. No matter how many times I skimmed or read the poems by Thomas over the years, I was amazed and awed this morning to read them afresh, new–together in this book. That is just why Thomas is my favorite author and his book of poetry explains it clearly.
Thomas speaks directly to the readers. No matter who you are, you feel that he is sitting with you, speaking the words. No matter how many times you open this book, what you read will be fresh, new, waiting to “talk” to you. Kemp is a natural born storyteller. As I had compiled the poetry, I worried about format, punctuation, and capitalization, misspelled words. How foolish I was to try to ensure consistency when life is not consistent and Thomas speaks of life…love! I realized that the final copy I had submitted to him had not been used–thank goodness! For it was stiff, consistent, and absolutely totally correct.
The galley presented to me; however, immediately began speaking to me…had I read this poem before? Why did it seem to speak to me differently? Ah…I see. Thomas has added the magic–the poetry of his words and now, finally, I understand. His changes brought forth meaning to the words, and in doing so, he made each an individual message for us to receive and embrace.
Thomas’ poetry presents his love to the readers. He presents his words, his feelings…for all to see and receive and explore. All of his poetry is about love. He speaks of the first little girl that caught his attention when he was just five. But he also speaks of sitting alone, wanting to be loved as he feels his life passing away. Thomas is real and you are introduced to him and come to know him through his poetry. He does not hide in his sharing. “Plastic Flowers” tells the pain of a woman in his life, perhaps his wife, as he leaves her waiting at home, waiting for him to come and enjoy dinner, perhaps bringing her a few flowers. “Golden and Seventeen” shares that his time in Vietnam was a time when innocence was lost…in many ways. In fact, there are several excerpts from his book that are those that first attracted me to his novel. Those supposedly written by Jewelko shows a sensitivity about a woman’s feelings that perhaps you would never know or hear in a man, yet you see it in the words.
There is a spiritual awareness in many of his poems, mostly expressed through his words about the seasons. “Summer Time” brings us the heat of the year, while “Slippery Snowy Sidewalks” brings a smile to our face as we picture a father with his young daughter, perhaps laughingly, pulling him along on “damn, slippery snowy sidewalks.”
Your Poet IS: Poetry and You is not a book of poems. It is a biography in poetic form, a man’s life, his love, his shame, his fears, his awareness. If you are interested in words that come together to present a life…this book is “must reading.” Perhaps Thomas T. Kemp will become your favorite author as well.
A sample of Kemp’s poetry:
Tell Me It Is So
So, you want to see
And hear the poet in me?
Can you stand the sight
Of my nakedness?
Will you understand my love then?
Do you know how much
I wanted to weld my passion
to your flesh?
And Tattoo my words
And life from your wrist
to your shoulder tops.
I wonder if you will gather up
both my shadow and my soul to your lips
When the ages speed us off.
As I have carried you each night. . .
forever into my green garden
to sit on the white swing
Kissing you in my hopefulness.
Come tell me
Is this what you want?