I was in law enforcement. I thought myself a hard-core realist and pragmatic in my approach to how I handled life and people. I had always been a reader, enjoyed the study of philosophy, and minored* in journalism in college. I had a small column in the college paper called "TO TI". It was the statement Socrates would make when formulating the beginning of an argument. I became an instructor and guest lectured at some major universities. Of all the things I have been modestly good at doing, it has been in asking the right questions. Perhaps, that is why I have been successful in law enforcement; I seem to be able to get at the heart of the matter.
I was thirty-two years old when I wrote my first real poem. I was moved by an incident for which I had no real outward response, or perhaps, I was afraid to let myself be moved. Machismo is an ingrained element in the psyche of most in my field.
It seems that this man of about twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old had some kind of terminal disease where the nerve tissue in his body was growing into ganglia-like balls. It had become rampant throughout his body and had begun to cause his organs to fail. He'd had a hundred operations on his face to help make him look presentable, but at this stage, it had failed. I worked second shift and it was nearing the end of the shift -- midnight. He sat on the edge of the secretary's desk just behind mine. He had come in to turn in his badge and keys. He was dying. He told me that his wife and two beautiful daughters had left him. He didn't know where they were but maybe it was for the best that they not see him in this way. He didn't want their last vision of him to be the grotesque thing that he had become. He bowed his head and said, "I just wish I would die and get it over with."
After he left , I was numb. My senses and emotions were in a whirl. In a while, I wrote some thoughts down. I don't know why; I just felt compelled to say something. Perhaps it was to relieve some of the torture I felt, or maybe I thought I would make ready something to say to him the next time I saw him. I don't know. I put it in my desk. The next day, I ran across it and read it. To my surprise, with a couple of minor changes, it became a poem. I hid it, embarrassed. Later that week another inspiration came to me and I wrote another poem.
Then it was like I couldn't turn it off. I wrote between five and ten poems a day for over five years. I was determined it was some sort of fluke and it would go away or I would run out of words or ideas. It didn't. I would go around asking people to give me a word or express an idea in a sentence. I would write an eight to sixteen line poem for them right on the spot. Sometimes the poems would shock me, cutting into someone's life as though I knew them.
I now call it a knack. I am still the same old hard-core realist. I still have high expectations of people and believe in my heart-of-hearts that humanity is worth saving if only people would believe in themselves.
I seem to hold everyone accountable for who and what they are, and mostly will say it up front. I am a poet...and coincidentally write the stuff. If you want to do a thing well, do it a lot. My advice to those starting out? Well, knowledge is the great equalizer of mankind and inspiration is its product. Read, read, read, and don't be fooled into believing anything more than you can use.
I am himself, Michael L. Conner, age 55. I am married with three grown children. My formal education was in law enforcement. Journalism was my secondary (backup) choice. I began life on a farm and finished in a mid-western town. I have written some 10,000 poems but only 8 books are completed so far. Writing gets in the way of book production.
e-mail Mike at
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