Kansas Poets "Shoptalk" Series
Program 1 - Greg German
April 4, 2006



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Greg GermanGreg German, a native Kansan, was born and raised near the rural community of Glen Elder, located in the north central part of the state.  After farming for several years, he returned to college and graduated from  Kansas State University with degrees in English and Education after which he taught English at Junction City, Kansas, high school.  He has also taught college level writing classes and workshops as well as designing and implementing writing curriculums for various projects.

Now, a website designer by trade, he is also very active in philanthropy endeavors that include planning and fundraising for non-profit organizations.  Other ventures involve coordinating events, including the Kansas Arts Commission's Kansas Poets Shoptalk Series.

German's poetry, has appeared in Poet Lore, Alaska Quarterly, Kansas Quarterly, Zone 3, Rattle, Wind, Hawaii Review, Americas Review, Permafrost, Flint Hills Review, Mid-America Review and many more, including numerous anthologies.

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 Kansas Poet Laureate Jonathan Holden on Greg German

If there were one "farm crisis" poet in America, it might be Greg German, who was forced to sell his farm and make his living as a teacher/writer.  We have all heard the term "farm crisis."  It's a cliche, an abstraction. (Think of the etymology of the word "abstraction":  L. ab:  from.  The L. struhere:  to pull.) 


In Greg's poem, A Brave Farmer Goes to the Bank, we see an example, and should remember Ezra Pound's famous dictum:  "The natural fact is always the adequate symbol."  The facts which Greg poses here speak for themselves, and they are dark. 


A Brave Farmer Goes to the Bank

He parks right out front
where his neighbor's mud
has hardened
onto the asphalt,
and walks
straight to the bank's thick glass
door.  The door is placed
to reflect everyone's image,
and the farmer sees his T-shirt
is untucked.  The door is easy
to open.  It shouldn't matter.
The banks is his friend,
and behind a plowshare-styled smile
that can't break crust,
he welcomes the farmer
with interest.  They both fake it.
A mystic, the banker pulls
his pile of paper, from somewhere,
and begins to read the future.
The farmer is afraid,
and imagines himself swallowed
by the chair that holds him.
He is paying for his life
with his life.  He leaves
the building with the mystic's fee
printed on pink, and feels the stiffness
of the concrete
move into his knees,
proving that he is not ageless.


Perhaps the poem's scariest lines are:  "He . . . feels the stiffness / of the concrete / move into his knees."  It's an especially scary passage if one remembers that Greg was/is a passionate basketball player.  He is watching an entire way of life being ruined, being taken away by banks and by bankers who don't care:  Their smiles "can't break crust," and their "interest" in the farmer is entirely financial, a high interest rate. This is a deeply political poem, showing the "cost", on both the personal and economic level, of predatory economics.


            Jonathan Holden