Vern Fein has lived in Urbana, Illinois for 60 years, getting a Master’s in literature there, marrying, having three wonderful children, and teaching special education until retirement. At that point, about age 75, he began to write poetry and short stories and has had some success since he recently became an octogenarian. He has published over 250 poems and prose pieces on over 100 different sites. His first poetry book—I WAS YOUNG AND THOUGHT IT WOULD CHANGE—was released in 2022 and he is currently working on his second book.
Vern's work appeared in Pond 74
Why do you write?
I always wanted to write as so many do but never do. When I retired I decided to try to write some short stories and did, but one morning I awoke and a poem literally popped into my head so I wrote it down. I never expected my Muse to be poetry, but it was unleashed that morning and floods of ideas came forth. I joined a couple of poetry groups that give me great input. My first published poem—FISHING—was a two line one and I was hooked. One member of a poetry group remarked on the great range of topics my verse covers and I think that is true. From family to theology to politics to poems about unsung heroes in history, there is a wide range. I truly love this avocation.
What other creative activities are you involved in?
Over my long and fortunate life, I have lived in many worlds—Grad student in American literature, prominent activist in the anti—VietNam War Movement and civil rights, a community outreach pastors in two churches that uphold Jesus’ concern for the poor and for justice, a youth coach for over 40 years, the founder of our local Food Bank. Currently I am part of a community committee that is dealing with the huge issue of reparations for African-Americans. Justice for the oppressed is probably my major focus beneath most of my poems.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Impossible to answer, but if pressed Dostoyevsky and the Russian writers. Of course now I am immersed in poetry to a degree I never was. A current favorite is George Bilierge, who doesn’t know I am his protege.
Tell us about the mechanics of how you write.
It is such a cliche to say that the writing Muse sends things to me and I write them down, but that seems to be true. I had never written a poem in my life until that morning when I was 75 and a poem about my daughter who had just moved to New York, presented itself. I quickly wrote it down and learned that a quick response to ideas was critical and I learned to put any ideas down as soon as on my phone notes. When I do write them down, they alway require a lot of revision which my two groups help me with. I believe I have grown as a poet and will continue to do so, but that initial inspiration mode has never left. I no longer worry about poem ideas. They just appear when they do and I choose which to write and which are worth revising. A delightful process, but it is not easy.
Finally, what do you think about Carp, the fish, not our website?
A story here. I have loved fishing from boyhood due to my father. I have written a number of fishing poems. Once a Black friend of mine went with me and we caught a giant carp. I laughed and was going to throw that scavenger fish back. But Stevie said: “What are you doing?That’s good eatin”. I laughed and said it was a garbage fish. He said: “ You white guys have no clue. In my world, we take them home, run them in a tub with running water a few days till the junk is cleaned out and you’ve never tasted better fish than by Grandma’s fricasseed bbq carp.” He was right; it was delicious. Sometime I may well write about that.