Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Khristian E. Kay

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.



Khristian E. Kay

is a storyteller; a teacher/poet. He has published 3 volumes of poetry: “The Echo of Rose Petals,” “I wouldn’t pay to hear you sing,” and “Highway Tourette’s by proxy.” And several chapbooks: “The Hell Sonnets,” “Faith in Shadows,” “The furthering Adventures of Sonny Baretoes,” “Gringo’s” and others. Generally considered to be controversial in subject matter because he pursues knowledge as the end all of existence. Khristian’s work often stretches the boundaries of complacency digging into the cracks as it were of what constitutes idealism. While his work appears political and very often satirical, he utilizes the words as metaphorical rubber bullets. See more at http://www.khristianekay.com

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I think like most of us we wanted to write songs when we were experiencing music for the first time in our youth. Not being musically inclined the song lyrics I wrote were bad lyrics but seemed to be good poetry. The more poetry I experienced the more I was able to hone my own skills and then the more I wrote. I also love words, their origins, their interplay. My dad had this old 1800s dictionary that was huge, about 10 inches thick with very fine print. I would read that for hours finding new words, new ways of reading and writing. I also love analogies and metaphors and finding new or different ways of saying something over and over. The essence of language then is why I write through poetry.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I do not really remember. If anyone it would have been through Dr. Seuss. I used to read to my little sisters and they rather enjoyed these stories. I also rather enjoyed reading them. I do not recall when I started writing, I know I was pretty prolific by the time I was in my teens, but what got me started I cannot tell. Most likely it was a teacher. I love to read, when I was a kid I read a lot of Russian masters like Turgenev, Chekhov, Pasternak and they always had poetry within their stories. I liked reading the swagger of Byron, the sensuality of the Song of Solomon, the wickedness of Rosetti. I liked reading things that were pushing the boundaries of “decency” like Lawrence, and Miller; Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti. I liked reading along that edge. I also liked reading Shel Silverstein within the pages of my dad’s Playboy magazines. These poems are far different poetry than what you find in his children’s books.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

It is odd, when I first started writing, my poetry was not recognized because I was too young, not experienced enough; now it is not recognized because I am too old not new and vibrant. I think as in all things there exists castes and cliques: you either belong to this identity or you do not. The older poets when I was coming up were the beat poets who denigrated form and structure and rhyme. Today’s poets are more about rhyme or minimalist structure like haiku. I assumed everyone had read the classics. When I taught literature at the university I was astounded on how little people in this country actually read or cared about reading.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I do not have a daily routine. I write when the inspiration hits me or else I lose the muse as it were. This means that I am scribbling on whatever scraps of paper I find or type notes into my phone. Too often I run out of time and try to revisit something that I had started but the inspiration is gone and I am left with an unfinished segment of words. Scrap really.

5. What motivates you to write?

It is a need, like a junkie craving. If I try to put it off I become irritable and frenzied. And much like a junkie when I have completed it I am not satisfied. Though whilst writing I am higher than a kite. There is a sense of euphoria that is unsustainable.

6. What is your work ethic?

I am unsure of your question. I write when the need hits and quite honestly I cannot do anything else. What I dislike is when a bookstore opens its doors for a poetry reading and no one buys books. Most poets go in with their own book and cry “Buy my book.” And then decry others because they are not buying their book. I refer these poets as the “Buy my book” crowd. It seems that the only reason that they write is to sell their book in order to become millionaires. I remember helping a group of poets who wanted to self-publish their anthology and I have a history of lay out and design in the publishing field. They wanted me to teach them everything I knew instead of allowing me to show them how to do it because they thought I might steal some of their poems and make my own millions. I like the words of the poet Don Marquis: ”Publishing a volume of poetry is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo”.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I read a lot of Frost, Tennyson, Byron, Shelley, Kerouac, Whitman, Nordine, Giorno, Bukowski… I write within form and structure quite a bit, I do not see that so much in today’s writing. I see a lot of rhyming couplets but not structure I am not sure if people are even aware of meter and the terms to describe meter. I enjoy free verse and relish in the jazz essence of free verse. But there are times that I feel a sonnet, blank verse or … deems speaking out.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

With the internet explosion there are too many avenues to pursue poetry. Slams seem to be a big venue spawning a style of poetry, hip hop has evolved into a rap that differs from its roots. I especially like the rap battles of yesteryear as they fit in with the Court Poets of centuries earlier. Currently there seems to be two schools: performance and written. Some performance pieces do not translate well as read, or on the written page. And some written poems need time to settle, absorb, or reflect upon which can be lost when hearing it spoken. Is one better than the other? Of course not, but some people hold true to their school and insist that that is the only way to create poetry. I try to support the newest poets the young ones who want to spread their wings and blossom. Are they always successful no and they should not be held to that standard. They should be encouraged to reach out and try new things, to develop a voice (whatever that is). So I do not have favourite poets that I am following I try to read as much as I can of what is out there – though if anything I hunker around the Avant Garde or experimental independent voices.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I like to create, I have tried drawing and painting and am not happy with my outcomes, I am tone deaf so I play a terrible guitar and cannot sing. I do wood working making furniture and such but that has become to be more house maintenance these days. Writing seems to be the one thing that I can do and be successful with. I can paint with my words and the meaning is clear or at least conveyed. Neil Simon poked fun at Chekhov in his play “The Good Doctor” The Writer states: “…here I am day after day, haunted by one thought: I must write, I must write, I must write…” This is me in a nutshell. Of course, it would be even greater if people actually read what I write. It is not a choice, it is a need. I speak all of the time about how people do not read much anymore much less read poetry. So why write these verses that no one cares about or will actually read? Why the importance of nuanced structure and word choice? The words have to spill out and then hopefully they get caught on the page.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Read. Read as much as you can. See what others have done before. Absorb it all, whether you like it or not. This idea that I cannot read anything because it will “taint” my own writing is bullshit. Your thoughts are not that profound. It is by reading others that spark an inspiration within us. It teaches us nuance, balance, form, structure…  a means to communicate. Start there and be wary of anyone who wants to teach you how to write. The only rule is: communicate your ideas. If people can clearly understand you or believe they do that is all that matters. And do not be afraid of criticism, embrace it actually: I liken writing to having children: you create these unique entities, nurture them, guide them in your beliefs and values and then they go out in the world and become who they are despite your best efforts. This is writing – what I write means something to me but how you interpret it means all that to you.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I am a school teacher and do a lot of character sketches about my students. I would like to do a graphic novel style book related to them. But being artistically disinclined in that mode I am stuck with creating their stories via words. I also have a poetry project that has been going on for nearly ten years. I ride a motorcycle and there are roads in Wisconsin designated as “Rustic Roads” these are unique roads and are designated as such. The DOT offers certificates and patches for every ten roads one rides. I started there and then became determined to ride all 117 of them. As they are all over the state it has taken some time. My original plan was to write a poem for every road I rode. I have ridden 60 some thus far and have only written 15 poems. My plan is to at least ride all the roads and then write whatever hits me about them. I also write haiku when I ride. The trick for me is to remember exactly how it went once I am done. I obviously like challenges, the April Poetry month challenge where one writes a poem a day for thirty days spurred me on. A lot of energy came out of that. I have the makings of a book centered around depression and anxiety from that challenge.
Oh, and buy my book!


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