Book review: Mystic poet in search of meanings

Reviewed by Nvasekie N. Konneh

Jack Kolkmeyer

Poets are inspired and motivated by events, people and places or sometimes by imaginary ideas or thoughts. Some of these could be heroes of political struggle, religions, history, natural phenomenon or the aesthetic values of things around us.

The sky, ocean, deep forest, gardens and the list may go on endlessly, have all inspired poets and poems for ages.

For Jack Kolkmeyer, a former Peace Corp volunteer in Liberia who studied literature from the Ohio State University years ago and now runs a popular radio program called Fifthwall Radio, if one may consider his three published books of poetry, mysteries of our past are his inspiration and motivation for his poems.

For him, looking for the meaning of our current world from the experiences of those in the past is the subject of his poems. In the introduction of his first book, “Higher Glyphic,” he wrote: the ancient ones and the ancestral voyagers of other times have left so many messages for us to understand who we are, where we come from, and where we might be headed.”

While some may find the answers to all these questions in history books or books dealing with other important subjects, this mystic poet wants us to study the glyphic, hieroglyphics, petroglyph etc. in search of meanings of the things around us.

Maybe we will find something there that may not be in the history books. In our fast moving world today where people are interested in the next big technological breakthrough, it is quite interesting to see someone writing poems about the ancient symbols and their meanings. These meanings may be locked up in stones or tree or other natural things around us. 

What do we know of the past? What we don’t know about it and what do we need to know about it? These are the questions Jack is asking. To some these are salient questions, especially those who are enlightened about the world beyond it physical appearance.

There are others who may not care either because they are carried away by the materialism of the modern world or don’t have the mental or intellectual capacity to grasp the essence of symbols of the past that are the subjects of interest here.

While we are carried away by modern technology, we must not forget how we got here and for us to know without yesterday, today could not be possible. It is a clear fact that before we advance into the future, we must understand and appreciate the past in all of its dimensions. This could be one reason why millions of people flock to Egypt every day to marvel at the pyramids and the mysteries behind these gigantic structures from ancient time.

Jack writes in deep and rich philosophical language which challenges us to look at things critically beyond the surface.

In a poem titled “Different Minds,” the speaker says, “the process of thinking obtusely, opining differently or simply regarding dissimilar perceptions, involves a subtle shift of view because seeing is not always believing.”

To put it simply, in the next line, he says, “sight can even be deceptive” and of course we all can attest to that.

The last lines of this poem reads as followed: “this is the way it sometimes comes to pass, when strolling in the neighborhood with people of different minds.”

This may relate to the politic of our time in the US or elsewhere in the world where we all see things differently from one political and social viewpoint to another. This may best describe the world views of folks who watch Fox News and those who watch MSNBC or CNN.

I know this analysis may not be what the poet has in mind but to make the picture much clearer to the ordinary readers, I have to bring in this analyses of how we look at the world differently from various perspectives. These poems are not about the politic of our time but if this is the only way to make things a little simpler for the ordinary readers, I make the deliberate effort to use the social political angles of our time. 

One of the longest poems in the Higher Glyphic is “The Heart of Greeness” which interprets the mystery of the rain forest. Though the speaker in this poem does not indicate where this rain forest is located, one can only assume it could be anywhere else.

Maybe it could be in Liberia, West Africa, where Jack spent time as a Peace Corp volunteer which has featured prominently in some of his social media postings. In the last lines of this poem, the speaker says, “this is not urbanity for sure; this is not rural by any stretch. This is the deep forest where night falls at the forest door.” 

Jack’s second book of poetry is titled, “A Philosophy of Yard.” If his first book is too philosophical or mystical for the commons minds, this second book is much more fluid, lyrical as some of the poems are simply lyrics of songs composed by the lyricist or the poet.

In the opening lines of the introduction to this book, he writes, “The great places of the world are reflections of the past, the present and the future. They also reflect how differently individuals and groups perceive them. But so are the intimate and minute moments that we pass in our own small, personal environments.” 

As such, the poet reflects on the places he has visited or has been to in his own personal journey as a man with perceptive mind.

As human, we are migratory beings and while we go to some places only for short visits, there are places we only past through to get to our destination and sometimes we move permanently to settle in new places far from where we were born and raised.

As humans, our experiences will vary from one person to another. For Jack who was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, his places of passing through, visits and settlement ranges from Cincinnati, Ohio, Paris, France, to a little town in Liberia called Kpaiyea where he served as a Peace Corp volunteer many years ago. 

The opening lines of the title poem read as followed: there is a philosophy, blooming in this yard, among the stones and plants and seeds and weeds that call this terrain their home.” This is describing his dwelling place in Delray Beach, Florida. 

In the poem Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the poet is celebrating the impressionist paintings of impressionist painters whose works adorn the walls of museums around the world. This poem is a celebration of his own love affairs with visual arts of those master painters. The following lines say it all: “I will surround myself with shifting colors, in the hope they blend me into serenity.”

In the third book, titled, “Gnarly Roots,” the mystic poet continues his search for the meaning of the mysteries surrounding us.

The sophisticated language, the imagery, and the structures of the poems, all point to the fact that Jack as a poet has mastered his craft very well.

To illustrate this fact, we are sharing with the readers the tile poems in its entirety. I am sure you will be thrilled and mystified in your understanding and appreciation of the share force of creativity in these lines.

For those who will like to go beyond this review, you can have copies of these books through Amazon

Gnarly Root

the gnarly root of the old

banyan tree

desperately scratch

at the ground

in an age old attempt

to claw their way

to the heavens

while branching out

shades the anxiety of the search

and provide shelter

from the storms and respite

to the gamely fights and scars

that always transpire underneath

the real arboreal aspiration

is manifest in the elder entanglements of girth

and the trunk full of treasures

buried in the earth.

as the roots stay firmly grounded

to support the timeless expansion

of the natural urge to spread higher

and of our constant wondering

just when will we find

the ancient star seeds

that planted us here

in the first place

The above poem and many others in these three books will fascinate the readers, if they are lovers of poetry. They are hard to put down books. They will enrich your sense of not only seeing but imagining and smelling as well. Enjoy.

About the reviewer: Nvasekie Konneh is a nine year veteran of the US Navy. He’s a Liberian writer and author of the collections of poetry, “Going to War for America,” The Love of Liberty Brought Us Together, and the memoir of the Liberian civil war, “The Land of My Father’s Birth.” He can be reached at, or 267-826-3952.

About the reviewer: Nvasekie Konneh is a nine year veteran of the US Navy. He’s a Liberian writer and author of the collections of poetry, “Going to War for America,” The Love of Liberty Brought Us Together, and the memoir of the Liberian civil war, “The Land of My Father’s Birth.” He can be reached at, or 267-826-3952.