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Greg German map; Concordia, Ft. Riley, Manhattan, Glen Elder, Kansas City
Greg German

Greg German

 

Biography  
          

Greg German was born in 1956 in Mitchell County, Kansas, where he was raised near Glen Elder and farmed with his family for many years. A graduate of Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, he holds a B.A. degree in English/Creative writing and a B.S. in Education. He also attained an A.S. in Agriculture from Cloud County Community College, Concordia, KS.  Now, Greg and his wife, Regina, live in Kansas City, Kansas. They have a son, Alden.

Over the years, Mr. German has accumulated a diverse background of work and life experiences. He taught high school English and creative writing at Junction City High School, Junction City, Kansas as well as community education poetry writing classes at Maple Woods Community College, Kansas City, Missouri. After teaching, he established Limestone9 Consulting, a website development, writing and consulting business. Active in social philanthropy, and community activism, he and his wife initiated Supporting Hands Network, a non-profit organization whose objective is assisting those in need.

Greg has experience trekking in Borneo, the Northwest Territories, the Rocky Mountains and other unique destinations. He and is family once lived for three years on the Caribbean island of Dominica, where he was locally active with the government’s Department of Fisheries, Lifeline Dominica, a charitable organization, and as a committee member of the country’s Nature Island Literary Festival. His pastimes include basketball, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, extreme hiking, and photography.

Greg’s passion for writing began in his youth. Later, while at Kansas State University, he was fortunate to come under the tutelage of distinguished professor and renowned poet, Jonathan Holden who seriously influenced his writing.  As a result, he has published poems and essays in over 50 academic literary journals. During Holden’s tenure as Kansas’ first Poet Laureate, Greg was privileged to be involved as project coordinator and host for the Laureate’s television program, Shop Talk, featuring Jonathan and distinguished Kansas Poets.

Greg created and maintains www.kansaspoets.com a unique resource dedicated to Kansas poets and poetry. He has also been judged several poetry contests and was honored to be a guest editor for Pittsburg State University’s literary publication, The Midwest Quarterly, issue (V.48, No.4, 2007).

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Bibliography  
 

Poems & Essays:

  • A Brave Farmer Goes To Town (*prev pub) (KansasTime+Place, 2017, online 04-08-17)
  • 6 poems Anthology (*prev pub; Kansas Time + Place) ( KansasTime+Place, 2017, Anthology)
  • Listening To Grandpa, Again (* prev pub) (KansasTime+Place, 2016, online 03-07-16)
  • A Farmer’s Son, Age 11, Plows 6 Acres (* prev pub) (KansasTime+Place, 2016, online 05-30-16)
  • Seasoning (* prev pub) (KansasTime+Place, 2016, online 10-03-16)
  • Traveling With The River (* prev pub) (KansasTime+Place, 2015, online 07-06-15)
  • The Limestone Cowboy Discovers Atlantis (*prev pub) (KansasTime+Place, 2014, online 04-07-14)
  • House In The Middle Of A Field (*prev pub) (KansasTime+Place, 2014, online 08-04-14)
  • Just Like The Old Farmer... (Stars Thru Diff, 2012, Anthology)
  • Lunch Time at Walnut Creek Cemetery (Begin Again, KS, 2011, Anthology)
  • The Farmer’s Wife (Midwest Q, 2007, V.48, N. 4)
  • Psychic Farmer… (Flint Hills Rev, 2006, N.11)
  • The 7th Day of Harvest (Comstock Rev, 2003, V. 17, N.2)
  • Old Farmer Walks… (Mid-AM Rev, 2002, V.3, N.2)
  • As A Catfisherman I Sit On The Dull Edge (Fresh Water, 2002, Anthology)
  • Coyote #1 (full version) (Seedhouse, 2001, V. 3, #6)
  • Hunting Camp (Seedhouse, 2001, V. 3, #6)
  • Dust-devil (Prairie Poetry, 2001, June)
  • A Farmer & His Son, Age 23… (Rattle, 2001, Summer # 15)
  • From The Truck Driver’s Seat (anthology) (KC Show & Tell, 2000, Anthology)
  • As A Bass Fisherman. . . (Avocet, 2000, Spring)
  • Just Before The Dry Spell Ends (Mid-AM Rev, 2000, Fall, V1, #2)
  • 9 of the Harvest Series (KS Historical Scty, 2000, KS Archive Topeka)
  • Far Away Places*(ESSAY) (1st Pl. Emporia St. U, Non-fiction wrt contest
    Flint Hills Review, 2000, Issue 5)
  • As A Duck Hunter I Crawl Between The Wires (Wolf Head Revm 1999, V. 5, # 1)
  • As A Bored Catfisherman I Search....Bend (Wolf Head Rev, 1999, V. 5, # 2)
  • Brave Farmer *contest/prev pub (Americas Rev, 1999, Issue #10)
  • Farmer’s Son, Age 25 *contest/prev pub (Americas Rev, 1999, Issue #10)
  • From The Tractor Driver's Seat (Potato Eyes, 1999, Issue #20/21)
  • As A Trapper I Take Care Of Business (Black Dirt, 1999, F/W, V2, #2)
  • Walking Along A Dark Trail In Borneo (ESSAY) (Potpourri, 1999, V.11, #4)
  • Bareback On The Palomino (Paws & Tales, 1998, V. 1)
  • Coyote #2 (half version) (The Chiron Rev, 1998, Issue #55)
  • Tumbleweed (Potpourri, 1998, V.10, # 4)
  • A Farmer’s Son, Age 11, Plows 6 Acres (Wind, 1998, Fall # 81/82)
  • A Determined Farmer....Loads The Last Heifer (Kansas Quarterly, 1993, V.24, # 4)
  • A Disgusted Farmer Takes A Day Off (Kansas Quarterly, 1993, V.24, # 4)
  • A Tired Farmer Goes To Town (Kansas Quarterly, 1993, V.24, # 4)
  • A Brave Farmer Goes To The Bank (Kansas Quarterly, 1993, V.24, # 4)
  • The Last Day Of Harvest (Kansas Quarterly, 1993, V.24, # 4)
  • A Farmer' Son Gives Up...... (Kansas Quarterly, 1990, V.22, # 3)
  • The Limestone Cowboy Sees God.... (Hawaii Rev., 1989, V.13, # 2)
  • The Limestone Cowboy's Luck Runs Out (anthology) (Bits Press, 1988, Light Year)
  • Late Addition Forecast (Alaska Quarterly, 1988, V. 6, # 3)
  • House In The Middle Of A Field (Kansas Quarterly, 1987, V.19, # 1)
  • Traveling With The River (Wind, 1987, V.17, # 61)
  • Leaving Home At Age 3 (Permafrost, 1987, V. 9, # 1)
  • 8 Neighbors & 27 Hundred Bales (Permafrost, 1987, V. 9, # 1)
  • One Morning While Taking Straw....Barn (Permafrost, 1987, V. 9, # 1)
  • The Limestone Cowboy Duels A Stubborn Horse (Zone 3, 1987, Winter)
  • The Limestone Cowboy And The Red Rooster (Zone 3, 1987, Winter)
  • The Limestone Cowboy Searches For Cinderella (Zone 3, 1987, Winter)
  • The Limestone Cowboy Talks At Dusk (Zone 3, 1987, Winter)
  • The Limestone Cowboy....White Man’s Camp (Zone 3, 1987, Winter)
  • Seasoning (Negative Cap., 1987, V. 7, # 3)
  • Sow 32 In Stall #9 (Poet Lore, 1986, V.81, # 3)
  • Thursday, November 28, 11:07a.m. (Cottonwood, 1986, # 40)
  • Visit To My First Home (A.I.D. Rev, 1985, V. 1, # 1)
  • Listening To Grandpa, Again (Touchstone, 1983, Fall/Winter)
  • The Purging Of A Gobbler (Touchstone, 1983, Fall/Winter)

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Writing Samples  
 

A Tired Farmer Goes To Town
                                  ---Fifth day, wheat harvest--

A locally scattered thundershower
comes through on a full stoked
locomotive wind, and slams
past his house.  He gets out of bed
to watch, and stands there
in the storm's confused
reflection, more a shadow
than a man.  Raindrops.
big as boots,
kick at the windows.
Then it's over.
The farmer can't sleep.
At first light
he gets in his pick-up
and goes to look at his land.
The sun rides up
on a clear sky, a shiny spot
on a porcelain plate.
An eye-batting breeze
flirts with the damp
flour scent of a delayed
harvest.  At the 5-mile corner
the farmer knows that he has drawn
out of a full-house.
He looks at his field
like it was never there.
When hail comes, size doesn't
matter.  Five minutes
of the pea-sized stuff
is all it takes
to iron a wheat field
flat.  He is tired
and considers never going home.
At the restaurant, some men
are not tired at all.  Conversation
spills across the contour
of damage.  To stop the erosion,
they pull their best jokes
out of their pockets and plant them
between cups of coffee.  Before noon
the farmer antes, and goes back
into his country.  He greases his combine
and enjoys the dust.

A Brave Farmer Goes To The Bank
                  ---farmer--/'farm r/n  1:  a person
                       who pays a fixed sum for some privilege
                       or source of income  2:  a person who cultivates land      
           or crops or raises livestock  3:  YOKEL, Bumpkin ---     
                                                Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1981     

He parks right out front
where his neighbor's mud
has hardened
onto the asphalt,
and walks
straight to the bank's thick glass
door.  The door is placed
to reflect everyone's image,
and the farmer sees his T-shirt
is untucked.  The door is easy
to open.  It shouldn't matter.
The banker is his friend,
and behind a plowshare-styled smile
that can't break crust,
he welcomes the farmer
with interest.  They both fake it.
A mystic, the banker pulls
his pile of paper, from somewhere,
and begins to read the future.
The farmer is afraid,
and imagines himself swallowed
by the chair that holds him.
He is paying for his life
with his life.  He leaves
the building with the mystic's fee
printed on pink, and feels the stiffness
of the concrete
move into his knees,
proving that he is not ageless.

Links to more poems in text:

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Author Interview
 

---Interview with Greg German by Ian Edwards of Washburn University (2013)

Q: Being a farmer is a very poetic job. The rigors and pressure of it are sometimes hard to put into detail. Did you encounter any difficulty trying to impress the physical and emotional demands of farming in your poetry?

The quick answer to avoiding rigors and pressures in trying to create a successful poem is: BE HONEST TO THE EXPERIENCE… The catch though is that this in itself is NOT easy. Writers, poets, need to be aware and work hard to avoid falling into the trap of writing what is easy and or what they think the audience wants to hear -- instead of solid truth.

Bees dancing to and fro between flowers to the rhythm of the soft wind… might paint a dainty and charming picture for some. But, the real truth is, perhaps, that each bee hustles haphazardly to a monotonous melody of instinct, a frenzied hustle between dandelions and hive. Hopefully one also can see in this quick example the “Show, don’t Tell” rule in action when developing images and scenes.

The difficulty is keeping the description in detail(s), related action(s) and emotion(s) – the language and images – fresh while avoiding cliché and or resorting to easily discovered metaphors and similes. Clichés are easy to come by when it comes to both farming and related nature settings; one can easily be suckered into using them. Not relying on them, I believe, is the difference between a successfully written farm poem and one that is mundane. (True for any well-written poem.)

Hopefully the lines that start “A Tired Farmer Goes to Town” are a good example of this:

A locally scattered thundershower
comes through on a full stoked
locomotive wind, and slams
past his house.


As well, the most obvious point of view, though often the easiest path, is not always the best
perspective from which to develop a scene. The everyday encounters and movements that are farming, besides the obvious, include many small details, actions, and props -- often things off to the side, even distantly – that subconsciously or minutely add to the entire moment of any given experience. Being aware of and tactfully incorporating those smaller details often are what support the physical and emotional demands of successfully delivering the farming experience in my poems.

Examples in “…Goes to Town” might be identified in these lines:

….Raindrops,
Big as boots,
kick at the windows.

---------
The sun rides up
on a clear sky, a shiny spot
on a porcelain plate.
An eye-batting breeze
flirts with the damp
flour scent of a delayed
harvest.


Other examples can be seen in many of my poems, For instance, in “From the Truck Driver’s Seat,” there is brief focus on “one fly on the dash” and “sweat draining…” down the speaker’s back.

Q. What prompted you to go back to school? Do you still dabble in farming?

To answer the second part of this question first… No, though the farm land is still out there, my parents who are in their 80’s and long retired, now rent out everything. I don’t think that “dabble” is a good word in asking this question. Though I know it was not your intentions, I was surprised how the use of that word irritated me. I think a true-blue city person might dabble in farming, but a true-blue farmer young, old, separated, removed from the occupation…would never see their self as dabbling in farming. The volume of land, labor and seasons never emotionally leaves the farmer, his wife, his children even after being physically dissociated for whatever reason(s). Simple things like mowing the yard, gardening, driving past fields, seasonal changes …keeps the farmer forever attached in some unforgiving way. --- Yes, from time to time I make it back out to the country where I drive the back roads and have friends that provide me the opportunity to drive the combine or tractor for a brief bit. Though it feels good, for me, it is never easy. A lot of ghosts live out there in the fields… for all of us.

What prompted me to go back to school was the financial mess of the late 1970s and early 1980s that affected most all farmers young and old. The market dropped out in livestock especially hogs per which I had been personally very successful for a number of years. This, coupled with exceedingly high grain / feed prices and bank interest rates climbing to near 20 percent, led to a craptastrophe. I was 26, married with a young child. Though we farmed a couple thousand acres (wheat, milo, corn, soybeans and sunflowers) the economic production could really only support one family (my younger brother was already in college). Many in my age range were being forced into bankruptcy. Wanting to avoid that scenario I realized I needed to supplement my income. So, I opted to go back Kansas State University to finish a degree, that I might have a better chance at finding a job. (I already had obtained an AS in
Agriculture from a Community College, then had attended KSU for one year before quitting and getting married.) At this point I significantly reduced my herd and drove 200 miles round trip 3 times a week to classes for 2 semesters… At the end of the first year the economy was worse than ever; the bank notes were on the wall… My wife and I sold our end of the farming option (the livestock) and moved to Manhattan. I continued to assist my father, summers and weekends, with crops until he retired.

Q: What was the biggest challenge of getting your work published?

The biggest challenge for any writer, including myself, is to keep the stuff out there …persistence in repeatedly sending it back out there after repeated rejections. One simply needs to buck up and come to terms early in the game with the fact that there are going to be a lot of rejections from editors. (This doesn’t mean your stuff is bad – hopefully not – just that it didn’t catch the editor’s eye.) However, one can bump up the odds by studying the market (see lists and descriptions in Poet & Writers magazine, read publications, etc.) so as to try and send stuff that more fittingly fits your style, thematics, meets the publication’s needs, etc. The big challenge of course is that most publications receive literally thousands of submissions a year so the competition is great… likewise is the huge monotony that editors drown in and suffer through in filtering through the stacks, most of which is not good writing – poor writing screams so within a handful of words or minimum number of lines …good writing generally snags and holds an editor by an eye. I’ve been fortunate in having published over 50
poems in 35 different literary publications.

Q. How did you get started as a poet? Were you always a poet or did you start working after
college?


I always enjoyed creative writing. On returning to college, I took Advanced Comp and an Intro to Creative Writing class… the first to improve my general writing skills (of which I quickly learned was needed). The latter, because in the back of my mind I was a story writer who had plans to write the next great novel. Initially, my intentions had been to finish my ag degree and perhaps go into teaching agriculture… but then as farm economics became more bleak I began to aim toward a degree in English. Frankly, poetry was the furthest thing from my mind. In my mind “real” men, especially farm guys like me, didn’t write poetry much less read it unless forced. Real men wrote novels. I was really none too excited to have to take poetry in the intro class but that was a part of curriculum, along with fiction writing… so, I was just going to have to suffer through it. Long story short, some unexpected things occurred: 1) As chance would have it, KSU Distinguished Professor Jonathan Holden taught the poetry section that semester; and, contrary to our strikingly different personalities and background he squeezed open a place in my mind I didn’t even know existed – overtime we became close friends. 2) I
was introduced to free-verse poetry per which I had no clue existed 3) Writing a good poem by the rules set forth by Holden was a serious challenge per my wanting to get a good grade in the class. The motions of my increasing understanding of poetry and development of skills accelerated from that point. (For more on this experience, I suggest seeing my essay “Beyond Confessional… Jonathan Holden” located in the essay section of my website (www.limestone9.com).

I’m not certain what you men per the second part of your question “…or did you start working after college?” --- After first getting my BA English / Creative Writing degree I went on to obtain a BS degree in Education… taught high school for a few years and then moved on to other things. For the past many years I have worked as a website developer / media specialist / writer and other stuff which embodies a lot of different tasks and insights. In the middle of everything I continued to assist my parents on the farm until their retirement. I have continued to write both poetry and personal essays… but not to the degree I would like; life is often in the way.

Q. Lastly, in your poem "A Tired Farmer Goes to Town" you describe a man who gets wiped out by a hail storm. I've seen this look on my father a few times in my life, but he could never put into words the impact it had on him. What words best describe the feeling of loss and anguish after a crop-killing storm?

Frankly, there are no words…. only emotions that are privately stuffed into the corner of one’s heart. My father, nor those other farmers that I was around having had similar experiences, would never expound. The extent of verbal recognition in company that I recall him or anyone relying on was the simple fact statement that “the crop was lost.” The emotional signals that I witnessed were simple displays of silence, a brief exasperated look, the pushing of his cap up and to the back of his head, uncaring whether positioned crooked or not… and perhaps a diminutive physical slumping of shoulders. The emotional weight of the ordeal which includes both financial and aspects of time …the experience, whether the loss due to hail, drought, flooding, wind, insects, fire is obviously incredibly dense – but all farmers, as their fathers before them, going in, understand the risks, rewards and disappointments.

One time, when I was a teenager, having arrived one early morning at a devastated wheat field just prior to it being cut, I asked him what we were going to do now. “Start over again and cut it next year,” he flatly told me. We then drove to where the combine was, where hail hadn’t fallen, and continue with the day. Though burdened with disappointment, his pace never changed and he never looked back.

….Before noon
the farmer antes, and goes back
into his country. He greases his combine
and enjoys the dust.

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