All about Raymond . . .
Raymond Keen was educated at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Oklahoma. He spent three years as a Navy clinical psychologist with a year in Vietnam (July 1967 – July 1968). Since that time he has worked as a school psychologist and licensed mental health counselor in the USA and overseas, until his retirement in 2006. He is a credentialed school psychologist in the states of California and Washington, and a licensed mental health counselor in the state of Washington. Raymond lives with his wife Kemme in Sahuarita, AZ. They have two grown children, Anne-Elise and Michael.
Love Poems for Cannibals is the author’s first volume of poetry. He is also the author of a drama, The Private and Public Life of King Able, which will be published in 2014. Raymond’s poetry has been published in 24 literary journals.
Raymond writes, “I was born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado. Back in my childhood of the 40’s and my adolescence during the 50’s, I believed in human greatness and human virtue. I had respect for authority, and believed that life was fundamentally fair and could be understood as a rational narrative. I believed that a human being could, through words, come close to expressing the truth, even if only a momentary fragment of this truth. I now realize that I may have been overly optimistic. Human verbal communication characteristically obscures the truth, as it covers the truth with the repetitive cliché. My poetry attempts to make that insight present and palpable and undeniable. Although I sometimes may succeed in getting through or beyond the cliché, I make no claims on truth.”
1. How did your life as a writer begin?
My interest in writing began with reading as an undergraduate. My favorite authors were Shakespeare (his major tragedies) and Samuel Beckett (his plays). Although their writings were “drama,” I recognized that they were also poetry, and I wanted to create poetry from that point. I have been keeping poetic fragments of my writing in notebooks since 1967, beginning with a diary I kept while in Vietnam. As years went by, I called this writing “SENTENCES and Particles: A Developmental Obituary.” Although I had written a few complete poems as early as 1963, I began transforming my notebooks of “poetry fragments” into poems in 2001-2002. In all honesty, I am not sure why I began that transformation at that particular time — maybe it was a dawning sense of my mortality, and the desire to leave something beautiful and worthwhile behind.
An inner feeling or stirring that I have something to say that has never been said before. I think that most of my poems begin with hearing or remembering some beautiful language, or hearing or remembering some awful cliché that serves to cover or obscure some important truth. I want, by use of intentionally clichéd language, to bring into awareness just how inadequate language is to express the depth of reality, or even a “moment of reality.” My purpose is not to re-vision the world, but to help see it more clearly, and to help understand that language can be an impediment to seeing clearly. I want to upset and disrupt the automatic thinking of my audience, to awaken them from their assumed interpretations of the world.
3. What is your most interesting writing quirk?
I want the reader to be taken by surprise, and I want myself to be taken by surprise by my own writing.
4. What is the highest goal that you desire to meet as an author?
To write something original, that is also beautiful and presents some aspect of living truth.
5. Who is the one author that you would love to meet someday and why?
Novelist Cormac McCarthy. He is brilliant, utterly honest, and does not write to please. Beauty and harsh truth are combined to give a riveting read. He is difficult, but so is life.
6. What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Goethe advises, “Trust yourself, and you will know how to live.” This applies to writing as well: Write freely and with confidence, without editing or judging. Then come back to the writing to find the “gold” and the “diamonds.” I believe much good writing begins first with an intentional “lack of control,” followed by exerting control at the editing process.
7. What do you have in store next for your readers?
Publication of my drama, The Private and Public Life of King Able, in 2014.
In Love Poems for Cannibals, Raymond Keen expresses the thoughts, feelings, quandaries and wonder of an American poet very much alive to the darkness and light of the 21st century. Written for educated adolescents and adults who are interested in current cultural, social, political and literary issues, this collection of poetry blazes with the passion, pain and complexity of the world in which we live.
As the reader moves through Love Poems for Cannibals, he/she will find poems of war (in this case Vietnam), poems dealing with current spiritual issues (Christianity, Buddhism, spiritual doubt and the soaring-singing human spirit), dysfunctional family relationships and feelings, portraits of great figures in contemporary human history presented with candor and wit, poems that rage against the omnipresence of human hypocrisy, and poems that present American/Western civilization under a glaring light – with the single redemptive quality that this author’s truth sings.
Connect with Raymond Keen
Love Poems for Cannibals Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LovePoemsForCannibals
Kirkus Reviews – review of Love Poems for Cannibals: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/raymond-keen/love-poems-for-cannibals/