Monday, January 26, 2015

LIFE OF A POET - KENN MERCHANT

Today, my poet friends, we are visiting the beautiful state of Maine, to talk to the young poet, Kenn Merchant, who writes at KmercPoetry. Kenn is one of our newer members, so I really enjoyed visiting with him. Grab a latte, and come sit by the screen, so we can get to know Kenn better.



Sherry: Kenn, I'm so happy to be visiting with you! Would you give us a little glimpse of the poet at home? Your family, and where you live?






Kenn: I live in the state of Maine in the United States. I currently live with my mother and two younger siblings until I can become financially stable enough to move out. I live in a small town and a lot of the work around here is very competitive, so landing a job here is really hard to do unless you know people. 

Many people don't know where Maine is, or what it even looks like, so I would describe it as a cold wasteland during the winter, a hot and sweaty summer, a magnificently colorful spring covered in mud, and has many different shades during the fall. 




My mother is a drug and alcohol counselor. So you can imagine what it is like trying to have a drink or two around the house once in a while. My middle brother, who is twenty, is an outdoor fanatic and craves the idea of searching for some buried gold somewhere. He is a great influence on me, because he has autism, and I've been working with him, as well as family, for years to get him where he is now. 




Sherry: You sound like a wonderful brother, Kenn. I'm very familiar with autism, usually some of the most brilliant people around.

Kenn: My youngest brother is aiming to go into the military, and hopes to do so sometime later this summer. He has an attitude about him that is fitting for a soldier, and I couldn't be happier in supporting him in this endeavor. I tend to personally keep to myself as a homebody, but I would quickly give it all away for a chance to travel around the world. Money is quite an issue here, though.  

Sherry: Yes, a limiting factor for so many of us. When did you begin writing? Which came first, prose or poetry? what do you love about poetry?

Kenn:  I began writing exclusively when I was twelve or thirteen, but I have been professionally writing since my freshman year in college. I originally wrote very short stories, but discovered poetry during a high school creative writing seminar. 

I found that words could do more than tell a story, but could in fact manipulate the way people thought. This intrigued me greatly, and I have been writing poetry ever since then. 





Sherry: Yay, I get to ask my favorite question. In school, did you write in secret? If not, did the other guys give you a hard time for writing poetry, or did they respect your abilities?

Kenn: I've always written my poetry in private. A lot of people never knew I wrote poetry until I told them what I was studying at my university. Nobody really gave me a hard time about it, but they would give me that weird look and ask me, "really?" as if it was hard to believe. I know that a lot of people respect my ability to write in general, so I would imagine they respect my ability to write poetry as well. 

Sherry: Well said. What do you love about poetry? 

Kenn: I love the fact that poetry is always in a constant state of change, and that it can affect people in so many different ways. I personally use it as a stress reliever and a babysitter, but I also use it to tell a story, which I love to do.

Sherry: Do you enjoy trying different forms? Are there any that just aren’t your cup of tea?




Kenn: I've tried a few different methods, but I enjoy free form the most because there is so much freedom in what I am writing. I don't have to set up a certain number of syllables, or count how many lines are in a stanza. I write haiku exclusively, but free form is my favorite. 

I occasionally will write a traditional poem with an “ABABC” rhyme scheme, but this is mostly because I'm trying to test myself. Sonnets are not my cup a tea because there is so much complexity that I'd rather not get into. I don't really rate certain forms higher than any other, because I like to keep an open mind. Some of the time I will write in a certain form without even realizing it. 




Sherry: I love it when that happens! Is there a genre of writing you especially favor? 

Kenn: I definitely favor the fantasy genre more than any other. More specifically, the high fantasy genre. I grew up reading books in this genre, and I play a lot of role-playing games based off this genre as well. They have been very influential in what and how I write.

Sherry: I can see how they would work together very well. How would you describe your personal approach to the creative writing process? Is there a process you follow to bring a  poem  to completion? Or do they flow much as we see them on the page?

Kenn: One of my favorite practices as a poet is to take three random words and use them in a poem. Not only does this get me thinking, but it also applies the idea that poetry isn't always about synchronous thinking. Poetry demands a writer to think outside of the box, and this is what I tend to do. I also enjoy closing my eyes and listening to everything around me. I take mental notes of everything I hear, and write it down after a few minutes. Not only is this a great way to meditate before writing, but it helps a writer extract one of the five senses to include in their writing.

Sherry: These are some intriguing writing tips, Kenn.





Kenn: The conclusion of a poem isn't always writ in stone. Most of my poetry is very raw, and I've done little to any changes upon it. When I write the actual ending of a poem, it follows this same ideal. I might change  it, or I might not. There are some times where I don't think the ending will necessarily be fitting, and this is okay, because poetry has that magnificent thing called freedom. No matter what is written on that page, it is a work of art. I know this doesn't really answer the question, so I will mention this one little tidbit. I end a poem when I don't know what to write. Simple as that. Seems kind of strange for a creative person to do such a thing, but it seems to do the job.

Sherry: This is very interesting. You have studied writing at two universities. Tell us a bit about that. You first studied journalism. Do you still aspire to being a journalist?

Kenn: When I initially attended the New England School of Communications, I wanted to be the type of journalist that traveled the world, all expenses paid, and write stories about people's lives. Basically I wanted to be a journalist that worked for National Geographic or Travel Magazine. Unfortunately this school I attended didn't provide that sort of influence. Also, I realized how competitive the journalism field could be. If you wanted to write a story you literally had to “fight” someone for the chance to land that job. I'm not much for competition in the slightest, so I stopped pursuing that field of study. Not to mention the teachers I had didn't help me in my endeavors at all. Most of the time the professors in this field of study were choosing favorite students over others. I didn't agree with this sort of behavior at all.

Sometimes I have the feeling that if I went to a different university to study this field I may have had a different view, but it didn't work out that way. There will always be a part of me that wants to go out into the world and tell people's stories, but now I will be doing that as a poet rather than a journalist.




Sherry: It is a competitive field. But you still might wind up traveling, reporting stories as a freelancer and making your way that way. Maybe even through a travel book. There are a billion stories out there, just waiting for a young man who loves to travel. Tell us about your job at Ink and Quiver,  Personalized Fairy Tales.  I am impressed that you already have a job in the field of writing.

Kenn: Ink and Quiver gave me my big break, so to speak. Every client that I receive has their identity protected. I don't know their name, I don't know what they look like, I haven't even met them in person. So, how is it that I am able to write a fairy tale about someone without really knowing who they are? Well, my boss sends me a shortened biography that the client has personally written. I read over this multiple times, trying to discern important key aspects of the person's life. Once I have figured that out, I can begin writing a rough draft. 

A lot of the time it is a hit or miss kind of situation. I had to write my first client's story at least four times before it was approved by my editor. So you can imagine that this job is no different than being a journalist really. The only difference is that I don't have to leave my house to do the job. In a way, this is a dream job for me because I'm doing what I love and the payout is really good. The downside is that it is a contractual job, so I'm paid when the client pays my boss. So the money portion isn't really received till much later after taking on the client. 

Sherry: It is a writer's dream to be paid to write at home, Kenn. Wow! Is there someone you feel has had a significant impact on your development as a writer? 

Kenn: This is a really hard question to answer... I would have to say that my mother is a huge influence, because she was the one who made me sit down and read. Some parents don't bother making their children read. Reading is very important for a child's brain development, so I'm thankful that I read plenty. I also have to thank my creative writing professors, because they taught me everything that I know.

Sherry: A love of books is the best gift a parent can give a child, right up there after love and nurturing. Smiles. Yay for your mom! Is there a poem we might include here that you feel is one of your best, or perhaps one that says something about who you are?

Kenn: I cherish all of my work that I write. Of course there are some that receive better results than others, but I love all of them. Having said this I would have to say one of my newest poems, “Mrs. Quill and Mr.Inkpot,” really captures who I am as a writer, as well as covering that nostalgia factor of being a poet.

Mrs. Quill & Mr. Inkpot

“For last year's words belong to last year's language 
And next year's words await another voice.”   
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Words hold so much meaning to a quill
Because it gives her a chance to mingle
With the likes of hunky ink pot,
And on occasions where parchment is necessary
The quill and ink mate together well;
Like two rivers swirling in a rapid dance.
As the quill and ink ages through the years
They can look back at what they have wrote
And continue that story into the future.
I mean that is what writing is all about right?
Continuing one's life story from one year
All the way into the next, without regrets.

Sherry: Oh, this makes me smile, especially the hunky ink pot. I am old enough to have actually used pen nibs and ink pots in school, a messy situation, complete with pigtail ends dipped in ink. You have a book out, available through Amazon, Pair A Dice and  Dream Lands. How did it feel when you first held it in your hands? Do you have plans for more books?





Kenn: When I first held it in my hands, I was simply astounded. Keep in mind that I have no prior background in publishing whatsoever, and that I've always wanted to publish a book. You could say that I was really excited to have a physical copy of my work in my hands. 

Of course this was two and half years ago. Looking back on it, I can say I definitely knew nothing about publishing. I tried to incorporate pictures in the book, and they were far from being professionally done. In fact the pictures kind of did the opposite effect than I wanted: distracted the reader. I wanted the pictures to kind of meld into the poems that I had written; sort of like a companion. It didn't work out that way, in my opinion. 

I have a second publication in the works, Writings On The Wall, and I'm very excited for when it will be released. It is a smaller collection of poetry, and it could have easily been put into an e-book, but I am a firm believer in a physical copy.

Sherry: I am too, Kenn. We look forward to your second book! What are your hopes and dreams for your writing?

Kenn: My view on writing has never changed since the first time I lifted up a pen. I write to tell a story that others might read and enjoy. If I can entertain someone through my writing, then my duty as a writer has been accomplished.

Sherry: Well said, my friend. What other interests do you enjoy?

Kenn: I've always been a semi-nature oriented kind of person, so I greatly enjoy being in the outdoors. Just not during the winter. I also enjoy having my friends and I get together to have a nerd night. We get out the dice for some table-top role-playing games, or we set up some kind of video game to my television. 




I'm also an amateur photographer. I enjoy taking photos of animals and landscapes because it reminds me how beautiful this world can really be. Of course there also is my obsession for books from the Forgotten Realms world of Dungeons & Dragons. I literally have miniature library in my bedroom due to this. 




Sherry: My sons still find Dungeons and Dragons fascinating, and they are in their 40's.  How has the blogging world impacted your writing, Kenn?

Kenn: The blogging world has impacted my writing quite a bit. It is the first place that I've openly shared my poetry, and it has encouraged me greatly to keep writing poetry. A lot of this has to do with the wonderful comments I receive, and the fact that people are going out of their own way to stop by and read. I like the idea that someone is reading my poetry and enjoys doing so, because this means I'm doing my job as a poet. I've also started to experiment a bit with recording my voice while reading my poetry. While I've only posted a reading to my blog once, it has been something I'm trying to get used to. I've never been one that comes out and reads poetry openly, and reading my poems has nullified that fear little by little. 

Sherry: Step by step, our confidence grows, thanks to the support and encouragement of other poets. I believe we need such encouragement to keep us at it. I know it has impacted me hugely. Do you have a few words to say to Poets United?

Kenn: I would definitely like to thank Poets United for giving me the opportunity to explore other people's work, and for allowing me to share my own. It has been a huge push forward onto my writing platform. I also enjoy participating in the poetry prompts that Poets United offers, because it challenges me as a poet to write more. Last of all, I would like to thank Poets United for interviewing me and allowing me to share some of my own personal insights. 

Sherry: It is truly our pleasure, Kenn, and thank you for sharing your thoughts with us so generously. And for sharing photos of your corner of the world. It is very beautiful there. We look forward to reading more of your work in the coming months.


Wasn't this a lovely visit, kids? I love seeing young poets starting out on their poetic journeys. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


43 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed doing this interview with you Sherry, and I couldn't be any happier with this article that you've put together. An update on my new book, Writings On The Wall: I received the proof copy a few days ago, and I am looking over it now. Pretty soon it should be on its way. It is a poetry chapbook, so don't expect that it will be a heavy read. I'm thankful that I have a professional helping me work on it this time around because I honestly don't know anything about formatting and print review.

    If anyone has any questions for me, please feel free to ask. I'm an open book.

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    1. It was my pleasure, Kenn, and again I thank you for your prompt return of your responses, it made my job so easy! Congratulations on your book. It is a wonderful feeling to hold your first book in your hands! Yay!

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  2. What a wonderful interview this was, Sherry. And, Kenn, it was great getting to know you. You are one of the newest poets I have started 'following,' and I have enjoyed your poetry. I like the diversity of styles you are willing to try. I also like how responsive you are to other poets in this community and others!

    I can identify with what you mentioned...that other people in school didn't know you wrote poetry. I was the same way. In fact, long into adulthood the same was true. In fact, I still don't talk about it a lot today. Smiles.

    You mentioned being an amateur photographer. If you have some Maine photos, I would definitely be interested in sharing some photos in the Pantry on Sunday. Main is a beautiful state.

    You said we could ask any questions: I always am interested in knowing if someone has any well known poets that they especially like. Do you?

    Congratulations on your books too. Smiles!

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    1. I can't say that I have a favorite poet per say, but I do enjoy reading Edgar Allan Poe, E.E. Cummings, and Walt Whitman. Each one for a specific and different reason. Poe's poems are "pure darkness" that really helps me understand the complexities of the human emotion. Whitman is an excellent visionary of romanticizing the life of a person. Cummings on the other hand is the most risque of the three, but I enjoy his work because he reveals that poetry doesn't have to be written sanely and in perfect balance. He taught me how to break the rules, and still make a poem an enjoyable read.

      As far as the Maine photographs go, I would gladly take some for you and send them your way. Just shoot me an email address, and I'll see what I can do.

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  3. I've just bumped into Kenn online recently. Thanks for introducing him so well!

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    1. I'm happy to have made your acquaintance Ollie. If you ever want to ask me anything, please feel free to email me at my fan mail: kmercpoetryfan@gmail.com.

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  4. Kenn, I really try to read what you write.. I think we have crossed paths many times. You are so gifted, but I also realize that you have a lot of experience in poetry.. I always try to listen in to Sherry's interview (they are so good in bringing out what a poet is.. Glad to have you in the blogging world.

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    1. Thanks Bjorn, that comment means a lot to me. I'm happy to have read some of your work too because you are equally talented just the same.

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  5. I so enjoy the opportunity to feature the poets in our community. Knowing our poets' life stories lends depth and understanding when reading your poems, and I think we all come closer as a community this way. It is my privilege, and is always a pleasure.

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  6. It is always a delight to meet another poet in these interviews with whom you have interacted in commenting each others work. How lucky Kenn is to have a job in publishing which allows one to have the pulse of other writers at your fingertips. Another great interview Sherry.

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    1. I too enjoy meeting poets from so many different backgrounds. I really enjoy reading your romance and love poems Old Egg because they've inspired me partly in writing some of my own. I never really wrote this genre of poem before, but I have to say it is fun to write.

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  7. Thanks Sherry for the lovely interview ~ I just meet Kenn only recently and I am amazed at the young man's talent ~ Good for you to discover this early and nurture it ~ Congrats on your new book ~

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    1. Thank you Grace, I'm happy to have a fellow poet who enjoys my work. I've read a few of your works too, and you are talented as well.

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  8. I've recently been following your work Kenn. It's inspired me. To think you have a lifetime to continue to improve. Thanks again for the encouragement the other day. Sherry, you do seem to have an easy going way with this column. Nicely done.

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    1. I'm glad to have been such an influence on you, and it makes me really blessed to know that I could help you with my poems in some way. It is really true though, continuing to improve is essential to human life. I can't imagine being the same person every single day in some sense because there is so much to be learned and do.

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  9. Welcome to the team, Kenn, and congratulations.

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    1. I'm happy to be aboard the wagon Gail, thank you.

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  10. It is often fascinating to meet a new poet and you are no exception, Kenn. I enjoy your poetry and your style.

    I too think you are lucky to be able to work from home and write. Congratulations on the previous and coming books!

    Thank you, Sherry, for this great introduction to Kenn.

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    1. Thank you so much for the comment Gabriella. I'm happy to have made everyone's acquaintance. Although some days I feel dragged out commenting on so many people's works, and sometimes I can't, but I try my best to interact with everyone who reads my work. If someone shows the effort I too feel like I need to put in that extra effort.

      It really is a nice being able to write from home. I'm thankful to my younger brother for internet. Thank you for the congratulations.

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  11. What a great interview - nice to know a little more about you Kenn

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to get to read about me a little bit.

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  12. Wonderful interview-Congratulations Mr Ken for publishing your poems. Thank you Sherry ...'The Three word poetry challenge is my favorite too.

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  13. Such a delight to meet Kenn in this way and get to know him a little better. You have been making your presence felt at Poets United, Kenn, as an interesting new voice, and I very much appreciate your thoughtful comments at my blog.

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    1. It is also a delight to get to know everyone else here at Poet's United through their poems, and you are welcome Rosemary for the thoughtful comments. I enjoy reading your poems.

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  14. Hi Kenn, nice to meet you. Thank you for sharing your insights about poetry, the world has still lots to offer to you. Congratulations on your books too :)

    As for photography, just keep on clicking and you'll be fine :)

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    1. Thank you for the congratulations Totomai, much obliged. :)
      I will take that photography comment with much appreciation. :)

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  15. I totally enjoyed the relaxation of reading this interview, Sherry. It literally flowed, topic to topic. Kenn, I enjoyed learning about you and particularly love what you say about reading and books. The bookshelf picture is one of my favorites, but altogether the pictures give a perspective on Maine that I enjoy. My nephew, who just turned 40, leads games evey Saturday afternoon in a comic shop in upstate NY. Together, we celebrate nerdishness.

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    1. I derive a lot of my inspiration for fantasy works through my tabletop gaming experiences. The Dungeons & Dragons realm has greatly expanded since its creation. Wizards of the Coast even publishes authors and their books set in the D&D realms. R.A. Salvatore is literally my favorite author of theirs.

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  16. Good morning, kids. It warms my heart to come in here and read the fellowship going on in here! Yay! You are all most welcome. I always say, I have the best job in the world!

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  17. This is a really wonderful interview, Sherry! Kenn, thank you for opening up and letting us all get to know more about you! I've had the great pleasure of reading so many wonderful poems of yours and I think your writing is brilliant! It's nice when someone else's words can make your soul move ;)

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    1. Thank you so much Torie for the wonderful comment! I'm simply amazed at how much poetry can move someone to climb over mountains and get out of their comfort zones. It is a great way to represent motivational speaking in silence.

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  18. Thank you, both for this interview!! Excellent questions Sherry and gratitude for your willingness to share, Kenn.

    :)'s

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  19. Sherry another wonderful interview and what a pleasure to read about your life as a writer Kenn. I really enjoyed it when you said, "...but could in fact manipulate the way people thought...." Writing for our enjoyment and others as well as getting people to think is the addictive part of writing I think. looking forward to reading more of your work and congrats on the new book.

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    1. Thank you for the congratulations Donna, I appreciate it. I've always enjoyed the ability for a writer to persuade or get people to think out of the box. It is really fun being a writer. Even though it can be a burden sometimes.

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  20. Great questions as usual coming from Sherry and Kenn, what else is there to say? You're a loving person.

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  22. Nice to meet you Kenn. Will be dropping by to read your poems.

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    1. Nice to meet you too Suzy. I hope to see some of your poems on here as well.

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  23. hey Kenn, nice meeting you here!

    i enjoy haiku, and free verse too, but i am open to structured poetry as well. just keep on writing, you're doing fine. :)

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  24. This was a great interview Sherry :D Its a pleasure to know more about you Kenn.
    xoxo

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