“It’s hard to guess where that pride of poets comes from, when so often they’re put to shame by the disclosure of their frailty.” Those words spoken by Polish writer Czeslaw Milosz resonate with Malone’s local poet, professor of language and literature Dr. John Estes.
Estes published his collection of poetry, titled Kingdom Come, in March 2011. Prior to this book, he had published two smaller poetry books as well.
According to Estes, the book is made up of poems written over time dealing with things such as getting married, having children and just the simple task of housekeeping.
“I wouldn’t say the book is about these things; it revolves around the artist’s vocation and the struggle to balance that vocation with the demands of relationships,” Estes said.
Though the book includes biographical influences, Estes was never interested in writing about his personal life.
“For a long time I never wrote about myself; I was never interested in poems that engage biography,” Estes said. “I myself am surprised that the book contains things both intimate and shame-worthy.”
Yet even with this personal touch, Estes still insists that Kingdom Come is not autobiographical.
Kingdom Come has been years in the making and according to Estes, the poems have taken shape over time. The first manuscript was put together in 2004. He described it as “awful.”
Over the next five years he continued to make revisions until it was finally accepted for publication by C&R Press.
Ironically enough, the poem “Kingdom Come,” from which the title comes, did not make the final revision.
Estes held a poetry reading for his book the evening of Sept. 22 at the Second April Galerie & Studio. Those in attendance describe the atmosphere as laidback, comfortable and informal.
“Dr. Estes did not put on a show,” junior integrated language arts major Megan McAbee said. “Instead he let us get a glimpse of his life through is writing.”
Audience members connected with his poems, which address a range of topics from his wife and kids to an ode to his sperm.
“He writes about ordinary, every day events,” McAbee said. “Yet, he portrays them in ways that most people don’t view them.”
Sophomore nursing major Hope Burton, also in attendance, personally felt connected to a poem about a miscarriage sharing that her own mother had several. Burton shared how powerful the poem was and the great impression it left on her.
“I praise him for being able to write about that and do it great,” Burton said.
Estes never set out to be a poet. Rather, he wanted to be a novelist. After something shifted, he went through years of wondering and indecision which ultimately led him down the path of poetry.
“Once you go down that path and you feel it’s more than just a hobby, it’s about feeling a calling – it’s a claim on your life that one has been marked out to do this one thing,” Estes said.
Not waiting too long after the recent publication of his book, Estes already has a second book of poetry in the making. In the future he hopes to return to his original ambition of writing a novel.
For now though, Estes said that every time he starts to write a novel, more poems come out.