by TaLeiza Calloway
Charles “Charlie” Preble doesn’t have too far to look for poetic inspiration. The 76-year-old retired pastor can simply reflect on the woods and fields that surround his blue farmhouse in St. Joseph Township or remember his many travels.
Preble recently published his first book of poetry, “The Ruffed Grouse.” He began writing poetry at the age of 73. Writing a book was something he always wanted to do but felt he couldn’t, he said. While he was anxious about publishing the 46-page book of poetry, he said the ride has been worth it.
“It’s just been amazing,” Preble said of the response to the book. “It’s been a real rush. Very gratifying.”
He and his wife, Jana Bollman, have lived in rural Minnesota since 1986 on a 19th-century farmstead surrounded by nature. It’s this place with its solitude, quiet and wilderness that inspires the writing and reading of poetry for him.
Preble didn’t find poetry. It found him. Bollman was taking a few writing classes in the Twin Cities a few years ago. He would ride along and wait for her in a coffee shop in the same location. She noticed he’d be writing as he waited, and she eventually convinced him to take a writing class as well. They took a class together a few years ago, and when it would come time for writing assignments, it was clear Preble had a poetic voice.
“The instructor would say, “Oh, you have a gift and ear for poetry,’ ” Jana Bollman said. “It’s a real call(ing) for him.”
He answered that calling. He took a poetry class, has been a member of a poetry group and found a mentor in award-winning poet Jude Nutter. Last year, Bollman suggested he publish a book of poetry. And so began the search for a publisher. It took him a year to complete the project.
Preble has had two previous careers – the first as an Episcopal priest,the second as an award-winning artisan in wood. When he took a step back from woodworking, that is when poetry entered.
“He’s always been a natural for making things,” Bollman said. “Poetry moved in and filled that creative niche.”
From descriptions of nature-themed scenes and rides on the Hiawatha Line in the Twin Cities to his experiences in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, his poetry is a mix of nature, autobiography and social justice. What he likes most, he says, is the expression poetry allows while bringing together heart and mind.
“I’m able to say things that I couldn’t say any other way,” he said. “You not only convey literally but emotionally.”
“The Ruffed Grouse” is available at St. John’s University Bookstore, the College of St. Benedict Bookstore, St. Benedict’s Monastery Spirituality Center, the Whitby Gift Shop or from the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s one of the 29 poems featured in “The Ruffed Grouse.”
Spring comes as a drunken father —
late . . . bringing gifts. As Winter’s stern
children, we demand, Where’ve you been?
He stumbles in, with his boozy grin,
spills the gifts here and there: daffodils,
crocuses, the red-wing blackbirds, their ambassadorial sashes aflutter;
and then, in a tipsy twirl he unfurls
flocks of Canada geese, scattering
them in all directions at once, and then
sloshes longed for flashes of green.
All these gifts, turn our hearts,
once again; win us over, enabling him.