Gabe Kruis ’07 has read poetry for friends everywhere, from a Brooklyn bar to at home in a bathrobe. “I really think poetry is, for me, largely about community,” he shared. And he means it.
If you have the pleasure of meeting Kruis, an MFA poetry student at Hunter College in New York City, you’ll have to throw out your preconceived notions of what you think poets are: reclusive, withdrawn, reserved. That’s because Kruis makes poetry happen, and not just on the page. He brings people together to experience the written word—often times spoken—in community, making meaningful connections around the craft.
Kruis collaborated with a friend last year to start a poetry reading series in the city. For Kruis, the initiative was a natural outgrowth of his enthusiasm for poetry: “I admire the DIY side of poetry,” he explained, “That if you aren’t doing it, no one will. I wanted to be a part of that.”
While an ability to weave together poetic community seems to come naturally to Kruis, poetry itself has not always come easy. Kruis attributes much of his training to Calvin mentors, including English prof Lew Klatt.
“Taking an early American Lit class with him, witnessing his tenderness for Dickinson, his passion for Whitman, and the way he could take (in my opinion) the most untoward Puritan’s poem and find some delicate and ecstatic vein in them, all of this inspired me,” Kruis recalled. “Lew’s poetry, poetics, sense of play and love of the pun; the way his poems are wild and leap between lines, yet each line remains sharp and concise in its perceptions; this has hugely inspired my own writing.”
The emerging poet is grateful for Klatt’s teaching style as well: “Sometimes he’d scratch through 80 percent of a poem of mine,” Kruis said of the poetic veteran, “but the fact that he felt 20 percent of it was worth keeping inspired me.” To this day, Kruis takes the time to wrestle with his poetry drafts, refining his words over time, admitting: “The poems I’m most satisfied with take months, even years to write.”
In addition to Klatt, Kruis can list a handful of other Calvin English professors who took the time to pour their knowledge into him—a young undergrad ravenous for words: “I was hungry and mostly ignorant, and all of them know so much and love the language so much, and so they were willing to give.”
Old US Highway 608 (....)
—for L. S. Klatt
I. Fleamarket Genetics
Knife gleams for jugular &, in semiprecious spray, scatters
garnets on the ground.
Washed in the Blood of the Lamb, you hijack the amber stop codon,
clone the flock of Judah.
Forthwith, as good shepherds would, the wise
tech examines facets of lamb,
What is sacred is sustenance. Cooked gray,
the sacrament glistens in posole.
On the surface, oils opalesce
& hominy holds a pearl of great price.
If you are really like Christ, be flocculent, be lambent.
Be brazen, blow the trumpet.
The Holy come home to roost.
The meat of the sheepshead, skinned of wool, gleams
like rose quartz, opaque & pink on ice.
Black diamond pupil in amber iris.
The skin-walker in you provokes you: If the sheep fits, wear it
among the congregants. Worship like a wolf would.
If you are lost, count yourself
lucky. Even when you were hungry & thirsty,
you beheld the juniper through cruciform eyes.
If you are really like Christ, your tongue hungers
for thistles, your mouth for nettles.
Beyond your lips
bees bumble for nectar.