For nearly a decade, Larry Jacobs, Don Kunz, John Kvapil, Peter Lovering and John Martin have been meeting weekly to collaborate on their mutual hobby. It's not fly-fishing or custom cabinetry. Not classic cars or Texas Hold 'Em or beer. They find themselves more often in bookstores than bars, and spend a good deal of time (half of the group is retired) pondering elegant sentences rather than highlight reels. These five are guy's guys, and poets.
For most of us, poetry has taken on a feminine aspect (the rise of Romantics in the 19th century are probably to blame). We assume that men who write poetry must sigh a lot, sniff flowers and generally avoid hard work. Or, poets in general are tortured souls who write poems to make their readers as depressed as they are. However, some of the most brilliant and prolific poets of our time have been uber masculine intellectuals. Alexander Pushkin died in a duel defending his wife's honor; Lord Byron was said to be so dashing, women fainted when he entered a room; and Sir Walter Raleigh was a daring buccaneer and adventurer.
For the High Desert Poetry Cell, taking back poetry for the guys has become a passion. "Except for a few cowboys, men don't write poetry anymore. But we do. And we're happy," says Martin. Their audiences are happy, too, often swelling to standing room only numbers in venues around the Bend area. The HDPC reads and performs poems that are relatable, short, and even funny. Most are collected in their first volume, The Guys' Big Book of Poetry, and a follow up, The Guys' Home Relationship Maintenance and Improvement Manual, the proceeds of which go to Saving Grace of Central Oregon, who support the victims of domestic violence.
Self-described "real" men, the HDPC has a collectively diverse background in teaching, landscaping, architecture and real estate, but their love of poetry is what unites them. Larry Jacobs is a real estate broker, who spends too little time fly-fishing. Don Kunz is a retired English professor who now volunteers for the Habitat for Humanity (when he's not writing poetry). John Kvapil was a design architect for the Bend Title Building and the Tower Theatre, but fondly remembers the year he picked oranges south of Valencia, in Spain. Peter Lovering enjoyed a career building houses, teaching biology, and owning a tavern at one point, but is now a full-time husband and grandpa. John Martin, a poet, journalist and landscaper, counts a surefire cure for hiccups among his many artistic talents.
Whether or not you appreciate iambic pentameter or ekphrasis (or can even define them), the High Desert Poetry Cell hopes to convince its readers that poetry isn't just for academics and droopy misanthropes anymore. Their poems tackle love, relationships, fathers and fatherhood, loss—all with the grace and tenderness (and not a little humor) of "real" men.
The High Desert Poetry Cell
Sat., Aug. 16
Paulina Springs, 252 W Hood St. Sisters.