Some writers will tell you that they were born with an inspiration to write, but for others the knowledge comes a little later.
For Hudson County writer Kate Kaiser, it was personal tragedy that gave her impetus to first put words down to paper.
Although her writing life began only eight years ago as an adult with all the trappings, it still manages to sound fresh while touching on deeply emotional territory.
Kaiser writes about her family, past and present and has given many readings of her poems and essays at local venues such as Art House in Jersey City. Last year, she compiled a collection of poems titled “Some Words.” She is currently working on a novel.
She recently took time out of her schedule to share some thoughts on the craft:
DS: What was it that first inspired you to write?
KK: What inspired me to write was my husband Bob’s death from colon cancer. Does everything happen for a reason? The week he died something made me go to Kate’s Paperie store. When I walked in [I heard] the Natalie Merchant song, “Kind & Generous,” which I had played at my husband’s memorial. I picked out a black journal, a pen, went to a coffee shop and began writing. Since then, I fill a book up every 2-3 weeks.
DS: You often write about your family. Is it easy to write about your personal life?
KK: Yes. I don’t know why I am this way, but real life interests me more than fiction. Finding the word or words helps me breath easier. As the youngest of eight, I’ve always had trouble speaking up. I used to blush all the time. The man I married was bold. He would say anything. Maybe witnessing my husband’s death made me realize that I am alive today, I don’t know about tomorrow. So I write about who I love and what I love – today.
DS: Do you consider yourself more of a poet or an essayist?
KK: I consider myself an artist. I am now aware that I have more affect on people if they hear me speak my words live. With technology talking to us more and more (autodials, GPS Systems, ATM Machines), I think live artists need to talk more to help us not forget our humanity, intonation, and our inconsistency. We are perfectly flawed and that’s OK.
DS: Do you have plans to write a book?
KK: I have written a memoir called “Becoming Kate” and I am in the process of a final rewrite. It is the story of how I was [first] Katie and how I became Kate. At the start of a friendship, it all might seem purely random, how you are thrown together by accident and some shared interest. But decades later, when you look back at the winding, intersecting paths that brought you to today, it might appear more like destiny was at work, a destiny whose sole intent was for you to become you. Is life mainly random despite the stories we tell to have it make sense? Or are we destined, to truly love and freely live and ride and ride and ride?
DS: What do you consider to be your best piece?
KK: Recently, I did a twenty minute set at Art House called Intimacy = In-ta-MESSY. It contained poetry, a monologue and a song. Doing that show made me believe that I could create a one-woman show that enlightens as it entertains.
DS: Is it easy for you to read your work?
KK: I am comfortable on stage and again I can’t explain that. I do get nervous every time, and that energy makes for a better performance. I’ve been to The Bowery Poetry Club, Montclair, Barnes & Noble, and Grace Church Cathedral Arts Festival. But I discovered that I felt colder reading to an audience where I didn’t know anyone. I am a single mother, so I don’t want to leave my two children, Rhapsody & Bucky, while they’re young. So I made Art House my home base. I feel free-er on their stage because it’s familiar and there is a supportive community. When you branch out too much you gain surface and lose depth.
DS: You used to live in Jersey City. Do you still consider that to be your home?
KK: I lived in Hoboken for ten years, Jersey City for five and now Bayonne for six months. I discovered who I was in Hoboken and gosh darn it, I love their mutz and bread bakeries, but Jersey City is where my friends are.
DS: What is more rewarding for you – creating something with your kids or writing about the experience later?
KK: If I don’t really live, there is nothing to write about. I sometimes find writing an annoyance because really, I have to stop living to write about what I just experienced and is that living? My kids crack me up. Rhapsody is clever and witty. Bucky is just funny without meaning to be. He often asks, “Are you writing what I just said in your book?” (The answer is always yes.) My favorite thing in life is when we, as a family, have what I call artful moments. It is just the three of us doing something. Each of us is being our distinct selves and it’s funny and wonderful and then the moment is gone.
DS: Do you write to find clarity about your life?
KK: I began writing to understand me and to find a home for those complicated feelings that needed to come out. I didn’t understand that all my feelings were valid and that I choose what I share and to whom. Then I discovered others liked my writing. It opened them and helped them [find understanding]. This made me feel useful. Feeling useful helps you get out of bed in the morning. I heard Bill Murray speak once and he said, “If you can write, you must.” I remember his words when I want to give up. Now I am writing for the reader. I want to be useful to them. I sense each of us needs to be what we are for the world to work.
DS: What would you like a reader to take away from your work? KK: Find your voice and be the best you. What you say matters. What you hear matters. Speak clearly. Question gently.
For more about Kate Kaiser and her work, visit: www.KateOfHoboken.com.