Dr. Kenneth Pobo is a rennaisance man. Well-versed in verse, peerless in prose, Kenneth teaches courses in literature and creative writing at Widener University, where he has won the prestigious Lindback Award for teaching. Ken will be leading a poetry workshop on the power of Free Verse at the conference. PWC President and fellow poet Eileen D’Angelo caught up with Ken to discuss the conference, how to keep working, and what it’s like for poets in this sometimes scary digital age. Find out what he has to say after the break.
How important are conferences to the writer?
It depends on the writer and what the writer wants to get from the conference I’m attending AWP this year and it is overwhelming: 11,000 writers all rushing about. However, you can hear some great presentations and also some fantastic readings. I plan in naptime to keep from feeling crushed by the enormity of it all. Many writers network at conferences. At AWP I love the book fair where one can go aisle after aisle of publishers and editors and see what’s happening in the current literary scene. I’m also happy to return home when it’s over.
What do you recommend to get your butt in the seat and hands on the keyboard?
First, have a writing space. Woolf says writers need a room of one’s own. It helps. Take advantage of open times (which may be few) when you can write. Many writers carry around journals or write on their hand-held devices even if they only have a few minutes. Sometimes, it’s discipline. If you are a runner, you need to run to improve. Thinking about it won’t work the muscles. As writers, we need to work our writing muscles regularly. Don’t be afraid of the blank page or screen. If it doesn’t work out, so be it. Eventually words will come. Until they do, read, garden, meditate, play with animals, have some romance, watch a film.
How do you balance your writing life with your day to day obligations?
Most of us have challenges with balancing each of the parts of our lives. My writing life needs to be nurtured as does my home life and work life.
I think we should be fine with admitting we don’t always balance these very well. It can’t always come out evenly. However, if one feels that the writing isn’t happening at all or it isn’t happening in a sustained way, it’s time to reassess and see what can be done to provide the time to nurture the writing life. Connecting with other writers can be very useful to do this.
When did you first realize you were a writer?
Some people can point to specific days when their lives changed: a wedding, a birthday, a spiritual awakening. In my case, I began writing on July 4, 1970. I wanted to try writing song lyrics, fantasizing that Tommy James and the Shondells would record them. That never happened, but within a year I was hooked on writing and pretty much knew I’d be writing from then on out. My first attempts were in my parents’ basement. My first song/poem (I’m being generous to myself) was called “The Open Door” and it was all peace and love. After a while having to have a chorus and rhymes got old and I started writing in free verse more. And reading.
What are you looking forward to at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference?
Connecting with other writers is first on my list. Sometimes writers can feel a little isolated in their communities and much of writing is solitary, so the energy that one gets from the company of others who are interested and involved in writing is necessary. This conference emphasizes writers in our area so that is particularly helpful. I’ve never been to this conference before so I’m sure I’ll be in for some surprises and delights.
How has this new and ever-increasing digital world impacted you?
I do almost all of my writing on my computer. I’m not very skilled with technology, but the computer is a big help. It is also useful for keeping track of submissions and for creating files for book manuscripts. Another thing I like is that I rarely submit work through Uncle Sam’s mail anymore. Submittable and email save the postage. One negative is I think I’ve grown too dependent on the machine. Writing by hand and using a typewriter (as I did for many years) offer alternate ways to enter language. One size does not fit all. Writers need to find what methods work best for them. It does seem that the impact of the computer on the writing life is growing, not shrinking.
Ready to meet Ken and get his take on writing in free verse and the importance of character in poems? Register Here!