Most of you know her as Mrs. Mediocrity… well, she’s anything but that. Her real name is Kelly Letky and she is a very interesting lady from New York with a full life as not only a poet, but (and I quote) “graphic artist, jewelry designer, writer, photographer, wife, mother, sister, daughter, crazy cat lady, friend, runner, knitter, gardener, and trying to be, above all, kind, caring, loving, generous, artful, and immersed in each and every moment.”
Take a seat, grab a snack; you’re in for a wholesome treat starting with this poem.
by Mrs. Mediocrity
i live in a place where quiet roams the streets
and birds are my alarm
windows open all night to a symphony of peepers
and the possibility of predator is
a four-legged shadow that almost never
crosses my path
while silence hides under rocks and slithers
away from the light
never quite reaching its destination
this is the anti-city
overpopulated only by mole and chipmunk
tunnel travelers who dig their own map
bending around rock and rising up
to find the jaws of hunger
or absolutely nothing
just bare sky hanging low
so close you can smell
the fragrance of stars
or feel the brush of a wingtip
on your shoulder
Tell us, Kelly; how did you come up with Mrs. Mediocrity as a blog and persona?
Ha! Well, it came from two things, one is my slightly twisted sense of humor, and the other was the realization that no matter what, we are all much the same, all in this thing called life together. People often take the word mediocrity as an affront, but I see it as simply meaning average, as in just like everyone else, here, on this earth, trying to survive.
I like your perspective… it’s very humble. You have another blog that features your photography and jewelry, right?
Yes, The Blue Muse.
About six or seven years ago I was sick for an extended period of time. It took doctors almost a year to figure out that I had a problem (fortunately fixable) with one of my kidneys. I spent a lot of time on the couch that year, thinking, feeling awful, wanting my life back. I was lucky enough to get it, and the whole experience really changed the way I live.
I am so glad it was a fixable problem. Tell us a little about your typical day.
So, when I’m not working or spending time with the family, I am either writing, reading, taking pictures, running, making jewelry, knitting, or working in my garden. I have a big garden, and I spend every spare moment out there when the weather is nice.
I make my living as a freelance graphic artist; I’ve been out on my own doing that for about 18 years. Before that, I worked at a newspaper, and then a magazine. I love working at home (it’s a pretty well-known fact that I am a hermit), and while life can be tough sometimes when things go famine rather than feast, it’s a decision that I have never regretted. I worked full-time outside the home when my son was very young, and I was away so much, being able to be here at home was a big change and one I was so happy to be able to make. My hours can still get crazy. Most weeks I clock far more than 40 hours, but I enjoy the flexibility of making my own schedule, and I always have a deadline to keep me on track.
So you have a son… what else would you like to share about your family?
I’m on my second marriage, my husband and I (his name is Bob and so was my first husband’s, so the joke in our family is that I only marry Bobs) celebrated our 17th anniversary last October. We have three children between us, I have a son and he has a daughter and a son, all grown now, in their mid-to-late twenties. We went through a lot of Brady Bunch stuff over the years, but we’re all pretty close now, even though his children both live hours away. Part of being a hermit means that family is very important to me, I love the times when we all manage to get together for a few days.
That’s funny about the Bobs. Glad you found the right one!
How would you define poetry?
To me, poetry is life. That probably sounds corny or cliché, but poetry is the thread that is always there for me.
How long have you been writing poetry?
I wrote my first poem when I was 11 or 13, I can’t remember which, when my mother’s father died. I remember having this overwhelming feeling that I had to do something to make her feel better. I don’t remember the poem at all, though if I asked her, she probably still has it. That was the first time I had that feeling I always get right before a poem happens.
Please describe this feeling you get.
The sudden urge to stop everything and get the words that are spinning through my mind down on paper before they are lost. It’s hard to explain, I guess you’d call it flow…. The words take over, like they are yelling to get out, many times in a fully-formed poem that is scribbled quickly down the page. This used to be the only time I would write, when this feeling struck, though over the years I’ve learned to tap into it at other times as well. I do always feel like my best poems are the ones that just “happen.” That probably makes me sound crazy… Smiles.
No, not at all! I think we can all relate. I just love the way you put it into words, Kelly. Poetry is a part of our inner being, isn’t it?
Poetry is the thing that I have always gone back to. There have been whole periods of time, years, when I haven’t written at all, periods of time when I pursued other creative outlets, or was just too busy with life. But always, the day would come when I could feel a poem ready to spill onto the page.
Here’s another poem spilling out to share.
by Mrs. Mediocrity
the way love can grab you
in the words of a song
playing in your head from
thirty three years ago
when you thought you were
someone whole and perfect
long before you saw the way
the roots you’d grown
had taken a turn in
directions you’d never
dreamed of and everything
you thought was real
became tangled up in
everything you know is true
and there you are growing
towards the sun with all
these bits of you
exposed in tendrils
of yesterday that
look like tomorrow
dancing in the breeze
a broken ballerina
and that is the
tree of life
Starting a blog (well, two, actually) is what really got me back into poetry. At first, it was just writing and photography, but then one day, poetry popped up, and more and more, I find that is what I write. One of the things I love about poetry is that I can write it anywhere, at anytime, even if I don’t have a pencil (as long as my memory holds up!).
Any literary influences in your life?
Hmmmm, I think the first poet I fell in love with was Sylvia Plath, and then later, Anne Sexton. If I go back and look at work from when I was young, I can definitely see their influences.
Strangely, I think I have been influenced more by fiction writers than poetry writers. Hemingway is my favorite writer, not for substance, but for style. I love the way he could tell a story using the least amount of words possible. I think I try to do that in my poetry, because I think what you leave out often tells more of the story than what you include.
I also love the way Alice Hoffman writes; almost always there is a touch of magic in her work. Anne Tyler is another favorite as far as style goes.
Alice Hoffman and Anne Tyler are a few of my favorites, too! How would you describe your writing style?
I still prefer to write free-form poetry, though I don’t think I am quite so confessional these days. I also don’t seem to be as angsty… I guess (hope) that comes with age, I find myself seeking out the light rather than the darkness these days, I hope in a way that is not trite or silly or bubbly, but simply honest. I was much darker in my earlier writing.
I think, as poets, we can try to be profound, or at least, we think we should. These days I find myself drawn to simple moments, the beauty of the extraordinary ordinary, those little slices of time that make up our days.
Do you have any plans for publication?
I am trying to put together a poetry compilation to self-publish by the end of this year…
How exciting… you will have to let us know so we can add it to d’Bookshelf!
Would you like to add anything before we wrap things up?
In the words of the Traveling Wilbury’s, “I’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive.” I don’t need to be famous, or rich, or special, I am glad to be here living my very average life in my very average town in my even-smaller-than-average house. Just being alive is all the profound I need.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share a part of who you are with us, Kelly. But we’re not done just yet! If anyone has questions, they will ask them in the comments. You can answer them there.
*All photography in this post is courtesy of Mrs. Mediocrity/Kelly Latke/The Blue Muse. For more info on Kelly’s jewelry, click here.