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 caring 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