Aloe of the Evening
At 92, a Springfield Poet Faces the Future
In his 23rd book of poetry, Springfield poet John Knoepfle uses his customary (sometimes cagey) and perhaps even more intimate than usual voice to deliver quietly crucial insights about what it is to be a thoughtful nonagenarian in the U.S. in the 21st Century. Or maybe, what it is to be John Knoepfle in the 21st Century.
The 57 short poems often comment on their own aims, their own making, as
in "night of the meteor shower":
well just spinning lines
this is what I can do
always with that pressing
desire they would be better
searching the sky in the early dark
lost for a moment in outer space
becoming someone other than
the man you know you are
It's as if a lifelong poet isn't sure of what he is doing. Perhaps that's one of his —
no one is sure what to make of life and the intrusions upon it. These
poems often are populated with noise going on outside of them — ringing telephones,
fuzz from the television — and also with the human infirmities that maybe hinder
the poems' creation, but also inform their subjects, as in "what to say about this":
now my eyes are tearing
the left eye especially
shivers too down my spine
what to do about my itches
that time of year
house too dry for an old man
And of course, as in "blessings to fill a long life," there is the chief concern of poets and old men: "[i] need to turn from the past/ face into the future/ short as this will be perhaps/ this doorway to eternity."
In Aloe, we do not see the prospect of death in the idealistic late T.S. Eliot or Wallace Stevens sense. Knoepfle's carefully crafted, deceptively spare poetics draw us into a conversation with not the poet, but with the man who is the poet. So, the simple but difficult gifts Knoepfle offers in this collection kindly require reader and writer to be brave together — to face the inevitable as a human experience of the mind and the body.
In the poem "Christmas at hickory glen" (the retirement community in which he lives), he reminds us "we are not made forever." While traveling that distance toward that doorway to eternity, John Knoepfle's plainly stated ambition is "to write these lines/ to come to a close." He's not just talking about the poem's close, but also of our own. Accomplishing that close is not as easy as his poems would seem to make it sound. Sometimes, he looks back and sees "this empty page/ I so wanted to say something."
In case he doesn't know, let me say this publicly: John, you have said something.
For me, likely for many readers, you are that "stranger/ who went out of his way to help." Your unflinching truths, your honest words do that.
Available from John's website for a special price! $15.00 plus $3.00 shipping. Order now!
Order using our PayPal portal.
Other books available via PayPal here
Artist & Poet
"Writing Poems is hard human work. It is a matter of many failures and of successes that must be seriously qualified. I write poems because this is what I am able to do. In my poetry I try to reflect a common quality that I have found in persons as diverse as Ohio River raftsmen and expatriate professors. This quality does not reveal the aesthetically beautiful or the diamond-like intellectual fireworks that man is capable of, but it does reveal something basic and handsome about him. I like this handsomeness, and I try to discover it again in my poems."
Poem of the Month
- March 2016:
saturday in dublin
- February 2016:
- December 2015:
this silent moment
- November 2015:
reading the heavens
- December 2014:
well I had something in mind
- December 2012:
- November 2012:
- October 2012:
- September 2012:
a difficult morning
"I would consider John Knoepfle one of those classic poets of place. His attachment to the midwest is a genuine attachment; it is the place that he inhabits, rather than writes about, and that is what makes the poems so lovely. I think it has to do with his sense of relationship of place to person to word."
John Knoepfle is the author of over 20 books of poetry as well as several prose pieces. He is Professor Emeritus of Literature at the University of Illinois- Springfield. His awards include fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the Mark Twain Award for Contributions to Midwestern Literature. Click here to read
...more about John
Order a book
For information on contacting John, or to order a book, click here.