"I'm 89 years old," Kanter said last week. "I'm still able to do things by myself. A lot of people my age just sit around all day and watch TV. People think if you're old, you can't do anything. But that's not true. I still do my own housecleaning and laundry. I'm still active."
Kanter's mind is as active as her body. Every day, she writes a poem.
Her work is featured prominently on the website poetry.com, and she's an active member of the International Society of Poets.
Just last year, Kanter received an award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry from the International Society of Poets at their annual convention in Washington, D.C.
"It was at the Hilton Hotel," Kanter said. "I got to meet Tony Orlando and Montel Williams. There were people from all over the world there, not just the United States. There were poets from Russia, China, England, all over the place. It was amazing."
Kanter is still a newcomer at her art.
"I started when I was 78," Kanter said. "I always loved poetry and loved to read it, but I never had the time to write."
One writer's beginnings
Kanter, whose sister was the first female pharmacist in the city of New York, and joinedtheir father's drugstore in Manhattan, worked as a secretary at Jewish Memorial Hospital in New York for many years.
"I got married young and had two daughters that I had to raise," Kanter said. "I had to worry about making money. I liked my job. It was very interesting. One time, I had to take dictation from a doctor in the morgue. I didn't think I could handle it and thought I would pass out, but I made it. But I just could never find the time to write."
About a decade ago, Kanter started writing poetry to her family and friends during holidays.
"I put the poems in everyone's cards and they loved them," Kanter said.
Former Guttenberg Mayor Peter LaVilla, who at the time owned a weekly magazine for senior citizens called Seniors Today, recognized Kanter's talent and told her that he would publish her poems in the magazine.
"He was a very nice man to me," Kanter said. "He encouraged me to continue writing. He liked my poems and put them in his paper. Anytime he saw me, he encouraged me to write more. He told me to keep on writing."
Kanter's first published poem?
"Beef Stew is Good for You," she said. "That was the title of the poem."
Yes, the entire poem is dedicated to stew, its ingredients, its nutrients. Hey, even Robert Frost had to start somewhere.
Poems for her doctors
But seeing her work in print inspired Kanter to write more and more. She was filling notebook after notebook with poems about anything and everything.
"She wrote poems for her cardiologist, her podiatrist, her opthamologist," said Kanter's daughter, Jeannie Rubach, who also resides in Guttenberg. "She writes poems for the driver of the senior citizen van in Guttenberg. Everyone has her poems."
"When someone gets one of my poems, it makes them feel special," Kanter said. "There are so many people I've written poems for."
Including Marc Rubach, who is Jeannie's ex-husband, but still remains close to the family. Kanter actually wrote a poem for her former son-in-law. That has to be some kind of first.
"Well, I wrote it for Marc because he gave me my grandson [Josh]," Kanter said. "Since Josh is special, then Marc is special."
"When I got the poem and read it, tears came to my eyes," Marc Rubach said. "Every word means so much. She's just an amazing lady."
Josh Rubach has been the focus of most of Kanter's poems. After all, he is her only grandchild. "One thing about Mom is that she never wrote sad poems," Jeannie Rubach said. "She said, 'No one wants to read those.' She [writes] a lot of happy poems, funny poems."
Twice a year, Rubach takes her mother to a poetry convention, where her poems are read and admired.
"We go all over," Kanter said. "We just came back from a convention in Philadelphia. For four days straight, I read my poems. People share their writings, their thoughts. I was glad to be there."
Kanter was asked about the total of poems she had written since she started 11 years ago.
"I've written so many poems that I don't even remember half of them," she laughed.
But she still writes regularly - and once the poem is written on looseleaf paper, she gives the poem to daughter Jeannie, who then types it up and sends to Poetry.com for publication on the Internet.
"I just get an idea in my head and start writing," Kanter said. "Maybe I see something on a television show and that will give me an idea. Sometimes, Jeannie gives me an idea to write about. Other times, it just comes to me and I have to write it down. I don't know why it happens. Maybe because I read a lot and then I write about stuff that I read."
Kanter said that her writing has definitely been like a trip to the Fountain of Youth.
"I definitely think the writing keeps me young," Kanter said. "It's more than a hobby now. It keeps me active. I constantly go to the dictionary to look up words, their meaning and the correct spelling."
So what has this all been like, getting attention for a poetry career as her 90th birthday approaches?
"It's been like a magnificent dream," Kanter said. "I can't believe it. I'm so lucky that I get published. I'm so happy that people like the poems and want to read more. I have people who ask me to write a personal poem for them. I like that, because it keeps the personal touch."
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org