Monday, June 30, 2008
John Palen is one of my neighbors in Midland, Michigan. While he continues to teach journalism at nearby Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, he writes poetry and remains active in what goes on in Midland. Lois, his wife, is an accomplished cellist and actively promotes musicianship and music performances in Midland.
Mr. Palen graciously agreed to join our group at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Saginaw, Michigan on his birthday in the Spring of 2007. On March 8, a group of eight people met at the bookstore on Tittabawassee Road to enjoy a few of John's poems and to get to know something of the poet they came from. This man, origianlly from Missouri, is now working with a retired engineer and poet from China to translate poems from Chinese into English. Many of the poems they work on are hundreds of years old.
His own poems have been in magazines and journals since the early 1970s, including Poetry Northwest, Kansas Quarterly and Passages North. In 2005, Mr. Palen joined forces with Mayapple Press to publish Open Communion, a collection of more than twenty new poems and a selection of poems from his four previous books. Here is one of the new ones:
The Elderly Man
in the library reading room
keeps the cold away
with a jacket over a sweatshirt,
its hood bunched at his neck
like a scarf. He has placed
his cap at one edge of the table,
a folded overcoat at the other.
Together they prop a thin
newspaper, whose pages he
turns like a finicky eater -
accepting one story, rejecting
another, stubbornly choosing
among his meager options.
On his birthday, our group presented John with a birthday card and a store flier which contains an announcement about the event we held in his honor. It was an enjoyable evening for all of us. A few days later I received a Thank You note from John in the mail:
Thank you so much for the birthday reading. It was an honor, and I had a wonderful time.
Warmest best wishes to you all, [signed] John Palen
Mr. Palen has our warmest best wishes for his continued success.
If you would like to get Poets Birthday Readings started in your area, jump right in. We've been hosting events since June 2005 and it has been a wonderfully rewarding experience.