Peninsula Poetry: John Patrick Redell

John Patrick Redell retired in Sister Bay a couple of decades ago after working in construction as a surveyor, engineer and supervisor in various places around the United States. Poetry is his way of solving other, more important problems.

He had not shared his poems widely until he came to Door County, but now he’s a regular contributor to the Dickinson Poetry Series, a participant in local writing groups and a published poet. Although he’s known in Northern Door for his haiku, he writes in many forms, usually with a philosophical angle. His friends find his work positively classy. 

What’s your writing routine?

Whenever the mood strikes. Prompts, things overheard, things read, and best of all, imagination. I don’t know what I would do without it. Candlelight and a drink nearby help. Most of all, solitude.

What do most poorly written poems have in common?

Things I lose interest in. But I don’t think I’m overly critical. People have different ways of looking at things; I want the same freedom.

What do most well-written poems have in common?

Things I can reread. That stoke my own imagination. I have no problems stealing images from others that I like. Many writers steal from each other but don’t admit it. I admit it. Hell, I’m a former construction guy. I ain’t got no class.

Is it important to understand the meaning of the poem or for the reader to be able to “solve” it?

No. Sharing an imagination that can be understood is all that is necessary. And even if not understood, so what?

What book are you reading right now?

Shattered Diary by Benjamin E. Lacy. He sent it to me years ago after he had attended a Dickinson Poetry session and said he liked what I had read. I came upon it after reading the stack of books on top of it. This is a nice problem to have. It’s about gory murders. Some interestingly disgusting imaginative stuff here. Hey, I’m done with Dick and Jane.

Peninsula Poetry is a monthly column curated by the Door County Poets Collective, a 12-member working group that was formed to publish Soundings: Door County in Poetry in 2015 and continues to meet.

Among the Trees

Among the trees there is a small forest
The spaces between are very quiet
On one of the branches where birds nest
A cowbird shows up to cause a riot
And occupy the home of another
The trees look on with wonder and dismay
Knowing they cannot provide some cover
The little birds do not have any say
An eagle above looks down with some glee
The taste of cowbird is on its menu
I believe that everyone will agree
Those birds enacted an age-old venue
Finally the parents arrive with food
And the small forest is in a good mood
Jazz Peace

Patterns arrive through a cosmos of thought
releasing themselves from chaotic pressure

A varied relentless pressure
a language of emotion that can be dark

Memories searching for a sequence
freedom within the patterns of chaos

Conversation in sound with no rules
automatic timeless analysis of tone

Abstract feelings reacting to the unreal
imagining a place where the cosmos isn’t

Improvisation is all that remains

And what is left is eternal
Autumn Leaf

The autumn leaf disengaging
from its leaf stalk
denotes a sadness
end of life end of gladness

Fantasy? Nah
reality is good enough
for me
being beyond the degree of sharing

Ecstasy? Yeah
the horizon is easy enough to see
I’ve wasted my life

The leaf joins others of its kind
to eventually disintegrate
I’m there also
an unwilling participant
Little White Ball

During the winter holiday
I was given a season membership
To a golf course down the road
So, if I don’t show up some sunny Sunday morning for the service
You can assume my spiritual relationship
With a little white ball has taken precedence
Over other spiritual matters
I will be addressing more important things
Making the effort to focus
On placing a little white ball
Into a distant hole I am unable to see
I will be exploring the vast reaches of mind and spirit
Looking to give meaning and direction
To this little white ball with the use
Of a club with the name of a famous swinger stamped upon it
I will expect to wander through water and sand
The woods will become part of my rough path
And the name of a lord will be taken, generously, in vain
But I will prevail
I plan to play around
And lose count of the time the strokes
And most likely a few of the little white balls
Which is par for the course
I will burn a candle at both ends
Have many moments of reflection
Augmented by unseen birds singing praises
To an infrequent birdie or an even more infrequent eagle
But I aim to give it a shot
Seeking a fairway to a welcoming green space
To hear the anti-climactic sound of the soft plunk
Of a little white ball finding its way home
Canyon of Dreams

I wonder if the path I’m on
is the same path that reemerges beyond the bend

Or is it that path on the other side of the canyon
The canyon of dreams

Without a bridge my path is limited
to that fog of perception

Showing a path as straight and perfect
but maybe an illusion of a futile quest

To find a bridge across
the canyon of dreams

But I keep going down a path that is
sometimes too close to the precipice

Continuing to pass through the good times
and able to find my way

While meeting others all looking for that bridge across

The canyon of dreams
My Haiku Was Good

My Haiku was good
The proper nuance was there
But then the phone rang

A deliberate distraction of sacred community
while sitting in a garden
similar to one we were banished from

With train of thought lost
I searched for that lost nuance
And never found it

Quoting others merely repeats
what they knew during their time
I became annoyed by tiny bugs floating in my drink

I drank some more wine
Thinking about that lost thought
It was a good one

Even the supernatural force has thrown in the towel
instead of fingering these things out of my drink
I just drank them down

Someday I will know
And be able to hold on
To illusive things

It speaks to me
this force that invented irony
other people would love to have this problem

But at the moment
I drink the whiskey and beer
And love where I’m at

I am grateful for the cosmic laughter
swallowing tiny bugs in a garden
that becomes nothing more than a self-indulgent poem