Elliot Greenbaum: Tell us a bit about your back ground? When did you begin writing, what did you write about?
J. Kent: Let’s see. I was born at a really young age and my mother and father are my parents. Though seriously, I studied a mix of engineering, psychology, costumery and a lot of the “Fine” arts in college. I really liked dabbing my feet in whatever sounded interesting- whether that meant slinging clay or pouring molten metal or simulating multi-planar models of the universe with physical analogues. If it sounded different, I was there with bells on. Sometimes literally. I liked the tie-dye and baggy pants look in college.
I think I first dabbled with writing in high school. My English teacher, Mrs. Williams of Leto High School (this was about 1999), kept telling me I’d be a children’s writer. I scoffed at the time because, well, I was gonna be a multi-millionaire playboy rocket surgeon or something! One day she handed us The Canterbury Tales and told us to write a story of another traveler in Iambic Pentameter couplets. I started writing and I fleshed something out and loved it! Funny thing is she gave me a C or D or something because I could not write in Iambic Pentameter. To this day, I detest keeping a strict meter. If it sounds right, it is right to me. Meter matches the message; the message shouldn’t match the meter. So, I didn’t write anything again until college.
In college, I had an assignment where we were all given 15 minutes to describe ourselves using single words in a flowing thought chain. Everyone else wrote stuff like ‘Dark. Intelligent. Funny. Artist. Painter’ and I belted out ‘Neurotic, Quixotic, exotic and maybe a bit psychotic, but fun and silly and a little hillbilly. Maker, Creator, writer and a fighter- though friendly and finicky, tricky, teasing, smart and love sharing my heart….’ and I went on and on. I remember I filled a 9×12″ sketchbook page within the allotted time. I can’t find the original- I really should try and put my hands on that. Anyway, I realized at that moment I loved writing and could use words like a magic wand to create worlds. That night I wrote my first real poem, “Flamingos in the Fountain,” and presented it in class in lieu of a drawn portrait. The teacher loved it! Later, I shared the poem with my friend Jim Sanders and he then introduced me to the Writer’s Alliance and, well, the rest is history!
Elliot: We in the poetry group admire and love your work, have you published and/or how can others find copies of your work.
J: I honestly have not found a venue for my poetry that I like other than reading or sharing them in person. I enjoy seeing the reaction and taking part in the experience. Websites don’t afford that luxury and I don’t feel like I’ve earned the privilege to bind my poetry into a book yet. My goal is 100 poems in the “Material Men” series and 250 normal poems that I’m proud of. These numbers are arbitrary and if I ever hit that ‘I’m ready to publish’ feeling, I’ll let everyone know. I want there to be a serious substance to my writing when it is ‘en-tome’d’
However, if I can find an illustrator, I’d love to put “Flamingos in the Fountain” out there as a children’s book.
Elliot: Your poems are fanciful, emotional and beautiful, have you written short stories or perhaps a novel or two.
J: I write short stories for my friends. It’s sort of a personal thing though- when my friends need them, I write little stories to try and cheer them up. I tend not to share them though as they’re tailored for particular souls and the stories feel a little lost when taken from their intended home.
I have been working on a science fiction story for a while, though. One I’ll share with the world at large. I’m finicky though and keep writing giant bits of lore that never quite fit into the narrative. You know how writing goes- you sit down to write a chapter and end up starting a whole new story!
There’s also a short story in the works written in poetic verse titled Sweet Seline. I’m hoping that will be done later this year.
Elliot: What do you do when you aren’t writing?
J: I currently work with Miles Space and do commission work in the art field. I volunteer at Tampa Hackerspace, too.
Elliot: I know you are interested in Science Fiction, who are some of your favorite authors? Any thoughts on life off our planet, expansion of the universe, or string theory?
J: Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series certainly help develop my sense of humor, as did Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. I also think David Wong’s John Dies at the End heavily scarred my style but in a good way. Maybe in that Phantom of the Opera kind of scarring but I make it work. As for poetry, I’m a fan of Charles Algernon Swinburne, John Keats and Shel Silverstein.
As for my thoughts on Life, the Universe and Everything, I like to cite GRB090423. On April 23, 2009, we detected a Gamma Radiation Burst that detailed the end of a star. This star was 13.1 Billion light years away and influenced my poem of the same name. That meant 13.1 billion years ago, a star died. It also died 13.1 billion light years away. If we had a grain of sand for every mile in that distance, we could remake the entire Earth 7 times over. In that size and distance, I think it’s improbable to say we are alone. And if we are, that just makes us, as a planet, infinitely special.
Elliot: Would you please, please share a poem with us.
By J Kent
It’s such a nonsensical statement,
seemingly a gibberish galvanization of numbers
preceded by an instance of letteric designation
but this phrase is something beyond imagination!
On an unassuming April morn,
we got the chance to see a star die,
before we’d never known it was born.
At a distance of 13 billion light years,
a flash of light we’d miss by sight
on even the most clear of night,
an entire solar system ceased to be.
It was a point of light in the sky so small,
from the surface of the earth
it would seem to be nothing at all-
An insignificant speck that can only be seen
by the imperceivable eye of science.
Humankind would see only inky blackness.
The implications of this instance
is enough to haze over the sharpest of mind.
13 billion light years is a number, nothing more-
a mere figure of fractions and decimals
to even the most endeavoring of imaginative soul.
We perceive the universe at the speed of light,
a figure of luck that makes our lives seem bright
but the flash of photon that paints our mind
is made of math and meter that makes us small
the more we strum upon the abacus of infinite all.
In a single second, the time it takes to smile,
a photon of light has gone 186,000 miles.
To put in perspective, a photon could spin
around the Earth 7 times in that simple second.
Now wait an entire year for that photon to fly
and you’ll find a distance done of 5.8 trillion miles.
Once again, it’s just a number-
something so numeric it’s nearly barbaric
and beyond the recognition of the human eye.
So instead of 5.8 trillion miles lets try feathers,
all arranged neatly in a nice big pile.
If we had a feather for every mile
we’d have a mound of over 7 billion pounds!
Continue on until you reach GRB 090423
and you’ll traverse 13 billion light years,
a number so big its beyond belief!
If we were to count a grain of sand on our hand
for every meter in 13 billion light years,
we’d have sand enough to build
even Earth itself over 7 times!
Now we come to the point of this poem,
the reason our sweet GRB 090423
is worthy of stupefying splendor.
This particular GRB was a sun that died,
a star that came and went without notice.
What we were seeing on that Thursday morn
was even older than our own galaxy.
As light takes time to travel,
it means the image we saw is incredibly old.
An ancient amount of time has transpired
since the day that old star expired
and sets the age of our universe as even more
than we ever thought it was before.
So, with the witnessing of GRB090423
we saw a snapshot of the stars-
posed 13 billion years before you and I.
How long did it take this star to die?
How many billion years more were bore before
we saw its passing in the heavenly sky?
An entire solar system and all we saw
was the day it died in a flash of light.
Imagine how much more there could be
beyond all our brightest engineers’ dreams!
What epochs have begun then been lost,
all upon the limitless infinite of the stars?
What lies behind the blackness of that Gamma burst
we brutishly dubbed GRB090423?
Think next time you stare up at the sky,
toward all the solar systems begun and gone,
imagine, if you can attempt to try-
just how much is out there?
How small are we against the night?
Imagine it, I beg you give it worth,
how fortunate we are on this simple Earth.