Thursday, August 9, 2001
Gary Lechliter has been through it all in his attempts to be a published poet. He's studied his craft, written journals, appeared in various anthologies and won awards along his path of getting a manuscript published. And he was well aware that most people have trouble getting into poetry as recreational reading. So he thought he had it all licked when he hooked up with a book publisher for his work. Then his mini-nightmare began.
"They held it for a year and a half," Lechliter says. "And then they sent it back because they could not fit it in."
Not taking discouragement and rejection easily, Lechliter shrugged off the lost year and went after another publisher. This time it did not take long, because he had an ace in the hole. His editor, Brian Daldorph, decided he wanted to publish the book through his Coal City Press. Daldorph teaches writing at Kansas University and is a major backer of local and regional writers, often publishing their work in his Coal City Review anthology. He met Lechliter through a class at the Lawrence Arts Center, 200 W. Ninth St., and became a big fan of the poet and his book "Under the Fool Moon."
"This book is so fantastic," Daldorph says. "I'm so proud of it. It's very good poetry."
Lechliter's writing career began back in 1981, and he never dreamed at the time that he would ever take poetry seriously.
"I needed an English credit for my psychology degree, and so I thought of poetry as an 'easy A,'" Lechliter says.
He wrote through the years, but it wasn't until he hooked up with Lawrence's enclave of writers that things took a serious turn.
"Brian has been there to help, and Jim McCrary (publisher of Smelt Money), and Denise Low (Haskell Indian Nations University instructor) is always there for me," he says.
The book touches on numerous subjects, including growing up in Kansas, and working in the psychology field, but it primarily revolves around a common theme: dealing with various phases of the moon.
"It follows a different slant than what some poets do. It's about this weird life we live under the moon," Lechliter says.
The poet has his share of awards and publishing credentials. His work has appeared in journals across the country, and includes "New Letters," "Mudfish," "Rattle" and "Coal City Review." He named his book after an award-winning poem of his that was published in "Potpourri."
"I figured the title was OK since it was based on the poem that had won a poetry contest," he says.
Even his nostalgic poems have a bittersweet ring to them, so no reader can go into it expecting fawning, feel-good musings.
"I'm proud of growing up in Kansas, but it's not all poetic," he says. "There is dysfunction and there is definitely pain. Unfortunately, these are things people can relate to in this state. They've been there and they know all about it."
Lechliter is a vocational rehabilitation specialist at Topeka's VA Hospital, so he has to fit in his writing and editing whenever he can find some spare time.
"Whenever it hits me I start writing, mostly evenings and weekends. I have to fight my wife for the computer. Sometimes I get up late at night," he says. "Some poems come out the way I want them the first time, and others have been revised 12 or 13 times. If I can't get it, I'll set it aside and come back to it. Some poems have took two to three years to complete."