The Uni-Verses of Ken M.

Twice a month, One Pause Poetry camera operator / video editing volunteers Clarissa & Clementine will go through the vaults of footage, introduce and share highlights from poets reading their work. This first installment features some outtakes from Ken Mikolowski reading at Metal in October of 2012.

When considering why the idea of poetry is sometimes alienating, I am reminded of Neil Gaiman's defense of comics: we value good drawing and good writing, but put them together, and suddenly it's an inferior art form. Poetry, it seems, skews to the other end of the aesthetic scale: we value evocative descriptions, and and we value storytelling, but make us step back and consider the language itself, and suddenly the words have been placed out of our reach: it's too hard, we're too stupid, the poet is trying to trick us, or is in on some poets-only joke.

Because it is humorously accessible, Ken Mikolowski's poetry is a great (re)introduction to the craft. In October 2012, Ken gave a reading as part of our One Pause Poetry series. The reading was held at a studio/workshop space called, appropriately enough, METAL—appropriate, because Ken's work strips poetry down to an elemental simplicity, as these three examples show.

His poems are deceptively bald and straightforward. But, is poetry allowed to be this "simple," or, heaven forbid, funny?! Well, why not? No, Ken's may not be the type of verse typically chosen to commemorate an event, but (and, yes, I do like Robert Frost), thank goodness, poetry isn't all roads diverged in a yellow wood.

Sometimes, especially in very short works such as these, the meaning of a poem lies in wait until the silence after the words, then there's a sensation like a pinprick, or a stray strand of hair falling across your forehead. "I am not now, nor have I ever been": take these tired words from the mouth of a crooked politician on trial in a television drama, and, instead, dangle them in front of an audience at a poetry reading: some new, humorous truth emerges. Just like when you take poetry out of the textbook, away from the ceremony, and plop it in an industrial art workspace—some fresh, new insight is born.

Ken doesn't trick you with his poems, beyond the usual tricks of humor and wit. They are efficient and open faced, even as they invite second and third considerations. At this sweet meet-and-greet, poetry bats its eyes and says, "Hello." And it's rather attractive. Yes, it's beautiful. Beautiful and with a sense of humor, too—that's an ideal combination.

— Clementine and Clarissa, One Pause Volunteers