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Larry Kimmel

A prolific Poet & Writer

The Wise Owl talks to Larry Kimmel, a prolific poet and a writer. Larry grew up in the rural area near Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and Pittsburgh University and has worked at everything from steel mills to libraries. He now lives quietly with his wife in the hills of Western Massachusetts. He has authored eleven collections of poetry and a novella.

The Interview : Larry Kimmel

(Neena Singh, Guest Editor, The Wise Owl talks to Larry Kimmel)

The Wise Owl talks to Larry Kimmel, a prolific poet and a writer. Larry grew up in the rural area near Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and Pittsburgh University and has worked at everything from steel mills to libraries. He now lives quietly with his wife in the hills of Western Massachusetts. He has authored eleven collections of poetry and a novella.


Thanks Larry for taking time out to talk to The Wise Owl.


And thank you for the opportunity to explain a little 'my craft or sullen art.'


NS: You have authored 11 collections of verse, mostly Japanese genres like tanka, Cherita, haiku, haibun etc. Please tell us what attracted you to these Japanese genres of poetry.


LK: In the 1960s I began writing short stories, expecting to eventually write novels, but it seemed one had to write to suit the magazines too much.  Poetry allowed me a bit more leeway to write in my own style and subject matter.


By the ‘70s I was experimenting with various forms of poetry, and that is when I first became aware of haiku.  I published a few in Dragonfly, but mostly went on writing western-styled poems until the mid-‘90s.  At that time, I had moved from Amherst to Colrain, Massachusetts, where I met Carol Purington, a neighbor, two miles down the road.  She was writing haiku and tanka and I helped her and a friend of hers set up a book for publication, as I had a greater computer capability at that time.  Of course, I got interested, again, in haiku.  Carol introduced me to the haiku world, and I was soon doing little else but writing haiku. 


At first, it was a delight to meet new people and to be published on a regular basis, and in time I came to love the aesthetic of the haikai forms, and they became, and remain, my main poetic outlets.


Haiku suited my imagistic and descriptive approach towards writing.  Tanka soon followed, and in a few years became my primary poetic form of expression. I was drawn to tanka because it allowed the use of metaphor in a way that the haiku did not.  Nowadays, I primarily write cherita. It gives me all that tanka gave, plus a greater freedom, and there are more places to publish cherita now than at its outset.


I might also add that when I found the haikai world, I also found a niche for myself that allowed me to write exactly as I wished, be published, and find an audience.


NS: Our October Edition is a Cherita Special. For the benefit of the readers, please tell us what are the characteristics of Cherita that you find most enchanting.


LK: Its unbounded brevity, its imagistic nature, and its Japanese aesthetic.  For me it has been a place to write, or perhaps I should say, suggest, stories, as well as a place where I can indulge the techniques of western lyricism.  That is what it is for me, though I should like to make it clear that it can be quite otherwise for other poets.  I like, too, that it is without the restrictive syllabic count of haiku and tanka. I like to work in set forms, as it makes me work harder and write better.  For me, the concision of the cherita is just the right amount of form.


NS: Of all the Japanese genres of poetry that you have dabbled in, which genre gives you the most creative satisfaction and why?


LK: Cherita and tanka. 


For a time, I wrote haibun and tanka-prose, and perhaps I will again.  It appeases an anecdotal need, though as time goes on, I found that I can do that with cherita. 


When you think about it, the anecdote, as an oral form of storytelling, is so common as to almost go unnoticed.  Everyone has stories to tell, whether they write or not.  Have you noticed, for example, how often talk-show guests have an anecdotal tale to tell, besides promoting a movie, or a book? 


NS: I have been browsing through your poetry (other than the Japanese genres). I especially loved your philosophical poem Seeking The Hermit-Sage, Of Destiny & Moonlight & There is a River Years from here. There is a quality of serenity and acceptance in these poems which really touched me. Please tell us what is the inspiration behind these poems?


LK: An almost impossible task. Two of the poems you mention above were given to me by my muse; the other, there is a river years from here, came from the heart, as childhood memories do.  Its voice, however, was given when it came in a flow. 


I find it hard to explain how a poem develops.  Many of my poems have been crafted, that is they don’t come in a rush, but how they begin is hard to say. It might grow from an image, or a thought that has been much on my mind.  But I would sooner the poem meant what it means to the reader and not damage a good reading of the poem with some wordy explanation of how I think I arrived at the work.  The more anecdotal poems are there to be written, though it may take a long time for them to find their voices.  The more lyrical poems more often grow out of images and other observations of the world around me, especially when it meets with some thought or idea from my inner world.  The best poems are about feelings or should create a feeling in the reader the way a song creates a mood or feeling.


As for Seeking The Hermit-sage I’m afraid that if I commented, the reader might find the poem better than the poet, who is no sage.   Received knowledge is readily available for all of us, but Knowing ... I don’t know Knowing.  Maybe, after all these years, a pinch of wisdom, but even that might be the mere shift of perspective that each new decade gives us.  Let’s just say that Seeking the Hermit-sage is about a man the poet desires to be.


I do thank you, Neena, for finding my other than Japanese genre work and reading so much of what I put in my selected poems 1968 - 2008, which is free to read on my website.  There is a selected poems 1968 - 2020 now in print, which includes much of my last two books, the colors of ash and the horizon waits, as well as all of my cherita collection, in an upstairs room, selected and edited by ai li.


NS: While going through these poems I also noted that there is strong imagery in them, which makes the poems so visually captivating. I am eager to know how you developed and honed this art of imagery .


LK: I think it came quite naturally to me, as I have always, to paraphrase myself:  loved the world with my eye no matter what.  By eye, I mean all my senses, but I think I am a visually oriented sort. I have a strong visual memory for landscapes and places I’ve lived.  This trait inspires stories.  I wonder that I am not a graphic artist, at times.  Probably because I can’t translate the simplest vision of my mind to a sketch pad.  Well, maybe a stickman. 


NS: You have authored so many books of poetry. What would be the advice you would give budding poets on how to hone their craft and imagery?


LK: Read, read, read.  Write, write, write.  Observe your surroundings.  Listen to what people say.


NS: Are you working on any book as we speak? Do share details about the book and when it is likely to be in the bookstores.


LK: I am always working on books in the sense that I am always writing poems that will in time be collected into books.  At the moment I am in no hurry to put out a new book. I’ve been more interested in collecting the work I have already published into selected and collected works.  I have some I’ve recently published that I have not yet unleashed on the public.  I just like knowing they are there.  It’s a grand feeling to hold a thick book in one’s hand and know that it is one’s own work.  It gives me a sense of fulfilment. 


NS: If I were to ask you to describe yourself as a poet in 3 adjectives what would they be and why.


LK: Imagistic.  Solitary.  Sensual. 


Imagistic.  I’ve already written above that I have a strong visual take on the world around me. That is where feelings and ideas come from. 


Solitary.  I’ve been told often enough to believe that my poems have a kind of aloneness, though not necessarily lonely, quality about them.  I do find that I need a certain amount of alone time in a day if I am going to function well.  I like to socialize but need to re-charge my batteries.  I suppose I lean more to the side of the introvert than to the side of the extravert.  This trait served me well as a child, as I was an only child living in a rural setting in which there were few other children my age who lived close enough to visit in the summer months.  I feel it was good for my creativity to invent my own games and other play early in life.  And it serves me well at my current age, when most of my friends are on the other side, and I have less opportunity to hang out in town.  I do miss just sitting in wi-fi cafés. I find it creatively stimulating to be around people even if I am not actively socializing.  I take this stimulation into my solitary hours where I do my writing.  Most of my socializing is through email or video calls these days.  Good, but not quite the same.


Sensual.  By sensual, I mean it as both eroticism and the use of all five senses in writing.  At least, I’ve been told that I use all five senses.  I don’t actively think about it.  I describe what needs to be described in the poem I am working on.


Thank you so much Larry for taking time out to talk to The Wise Owl. We wish you all the best in life and hope you continue to enrich the world with your beautiful verse and captivating imagery.


Thank you for asking.  It’s been a pleasure.

Three of my favorite cherita from in an upstairs room.

you leaned


against me

and neither of us



for the longest



so that was that


now, breaking a dry stem

into bits



the river




sunset after sunset


these solitary walks

this ache to tell


the fiery furnace

closes and leaves me

to my dusk

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