John Kaniecki is a full time caregiver for his wife Sylvia. John writes in his spare time and has over a dozen books published, including his memoirs "More Than The Madness" which deals with John's struggle with mental illness. John served for eight years as a voluntary missionary in the South Ward of Newark with the Church of Christ at Chancellor Avenue.
What do I do best?
I try to be humble and avoid being arrogant. I know this statement is going to go off of the ego scale but in all truth I am the best all around poet that ever lived. Allow me to tell you what I mean by that.
I cannot write iambic pentameter as well as William Shakespeare. I cannot outdo Robert Frost in what he did. I will not express the sentiment of a people as well as Langston Hughes. I cannot write song lyrics as well as Bob Dylan or Neil Young. What I can do is write in almost every variety and with excellent quality.
My poetry career began about the same time my bi polar surfaced. I developed my writing going in and out of psychiatric hospitals. I would write for the staff, fellow patients and visitors. It would help pass the time. It was very difficult to find a medicine that worked well for me so I had a terrible fear that I would never work in my life. So I tried to write song lyrics hoping that one day I might have the miracle connection and write a number one hit. Back then such an accomplishment would take care of a person financially for life, if they were wise with their money.
Inadvertently I was attempting the most difficult poetic task one could do. Anyone who can consistently write song lyrics that are played on the radio are nothing less than geniuses. A song lyric has strict meter. It needs to employ rhyme. Also there is the repetitive chorus with the hook. All of this had to be done in a minimal amount of lines. It was an excellent way to learn how to manipulate the English language. Most of my early song lyrics were terrible but it was a great learning experience.
Fast forward twenty years to when both of my parents died in the same year. I needed to express myself creatively to release my inner feelings. I once more began to write but this time I wrote more poetry. I got the complete works of many masters and read all of what they wrote. The masters really aren’t that intimidating when you read everything they put out. You see their good and their bad whereas in a collection having only several poems by one author one only sees their best. I tried to imitate and learn by their example.
Here is the greatest poem I will ever write. It comes from my book “Poet To The Poor, Poems Of Hope For The Bottom One Percent”.
Tea with Joe Hill
By John Kaniecki
Joe Hill and I had tea
He let his biscuits soak
They say America is free
Man how they love to joke
Ask Sacco and Vanzetti
Ask Red Cloud and Crazy Horse
And the way I see
Is things are getting worse
I said “Joe why ain’t you dead?”
Righteousness is like Love my friend
Laughed Joe as he shook his head
Spirits never die and never end
A thousand tyrants and all their force
In truth could never compete
With the Love that is the source
Of one of my melodies sweet
You see death and life they coexist
Some never die and some never live
So songs of revolution will always persist
For unto themselves my songs give
So open your eyes and organize
Never give in to their lies and organize
Do not hate and despise but organize
Raise your voice in mighty cries and organize
Joe slurped the last of his tea
And bid me a final farewell
Above all fight to be free
You’ll get heaven when you give them hell
What makes me the best version of myself?
I think the best quality that I have is trying to always be nice and polite. I try always to remember that everybody I am dealing with is a human being like me. I really believe in the teaching of “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
It is true that sometimes in being nice people will take advantage of you. But in the long way it will take you really far. I always ask somebody how they are doing. I try to smile and ask them about how their day is going. I try to make jokes if it is appropriate. I try to remember people’s names.
I used to work for an engineering company and made deliveries all over the state of New Jersey. I would always be nice to the secretaries and they would take care of me making sure the deliveries were handled in a correct and prompt manner. One time I was delivering to the D.O.T. and the secretary was on the phone talking. I patiently waited. When she was done I handed her a little present. She collected spoons from all around the world and I had recently gone on a cruise and I had got one for her. When I gave her the spoon not only did she apologize for being on the phone but she promised me that she would never keep me waiting again.
What are my aspirations?
My personal goal is to make the world a better place. That may seem ambiguous but I have a laser beam vision as to where I want planet Earth to be in twenty or thirty years. I want wars to end, poverty eradicated, capitalism done away with (capitalism is no more than the love of money), racism abolished, the environment held with utmost respect.
I have worked long and hard to achieve these goals. I have studied history extensively as well as the cultures of various types of people. I have participated in the political process in association with Woman’s International League Of Peace and Freedom and New Jersey Peace Action. Also I am a minister in the Church of Christ. With the Church of Christ at Chancellor Avenue I spent eight years as a volunteer missionary in the South Ward of Newark, New Jersey.
I think that mankind will be able to solve their problems when we come to understand one another. If you were raised in the United States you were instructed to learn a certain kind of historical and social education. However there are a myriad of ways to examine history from various perspectives.
For example I will never know what it is exactly like to be an African American person just like they will never know what it is like to be of European descent. But I have educated myself in the African American culture. I can tell you the differences between the philosophies of Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. When you take the time to learn about the history of somebody else they appreciate it. I once had a discussion with a young man who was very impressed that I knew who Wallace Fard was. If you take the time to learn about somebody else they appreciate it.
Also I would like to end the stigmata against mental illness. As being openly mental ill, that is I don’t hide it our deny it, I am an advocate for those who suffer from psychiatric disorders. It was one of my motivations for writing my memoirs “More Than The Madness” which tells of my successful struggles with mental illness.
As far as professionally I would like to become a professional writer. I would like to have my writing not only pay my bills but also give me an income to help others. I would also like to develop and help others to learn how to write as well.
My Biggest Success?
I think overcoming my mental illness has been my greatest achievement. I have been committed three times to psychiatric hospitals. I say that because I want you to know the severity of my psychological disorder. It was a long struggle which sadly many of my friends and colleagues have fallen victim to. Too many surrender to the illness and give up on life their existence relegated to dreary days smoking cigarettes.
I always tried my best to return to a ‘normal’ way of life. I am married now and I support myself financially. I have also returned to college and I have gotten my degree. I have become a gospel preacher and an evangelist as well.
It took a tremendous amount of help from others and a long time to do, but I have my mental illness under control. I know as long as I continue to take my medicine I will function fine.
As life has its funny twists and turns if I become successful writing perhaps my mental illness will take me to a better Promised Land than the one that would have happened if I never got ill.
My Most Challenging Moment?
Presently my wife Sylvia is suffering from dementia. It is a great challenge because instead of being the recipient of care I am now the caregiver. Everything in the household falls on my. She is not able to even bathe herself. In fact she cannot even walk without me helping her.
I cannot afford to have a bad day or to take a day off. Every day I have to deal with the reality of her needs. It has been several years that Sylvia has been sick and she is now going into the final stages. I wrote some of my feelings and experiences in my poetry book “Polishing The Fragments”.
I know the Sylvia will eventually pass on, most likely before me. This I know will be a very hard thing for me to deal with. They call dementia ‘the long goodbye’. It is a terrible and sad way to go and extremely difficult to deal with. When she was in her wandering stage I always took it personally and I got angry when she would run away time after time.
From my poetry book “Murmurings Of A Mad Man”
By John Kaniecki
My love she lies beside me sleeping our dream
My breath is hushed as my pen dictates scream
She is the angel that makes life easy
She is the devil that knows how to please me
Lover, Friend, Doctor, Nurse, Mother and Wife
The steadfast anchor the Love of my life
How many angry words have you forgave?
How many times my life came to save?
I do not have any greater desire
Then to kiss your lips and embrace your fire
You are fantasy a lady and more
In agony the woman I adore
When the well is empty from you I drink
When my mind is barren your thoughts I think
You are my black rose delicately tough
I ask for more I’ll never have enough
I pray your inner hopes of righteousness
Will awaken you with fulfillment’s soft kiss
I am the sage you humble to a fool
I am a god your life I cannot rule
Sleep dear child as I chase futility
You will never know what you mean to me
Having suffered from mental illness gives me the insight and compassion regarding Sylvia’s condition. I have walked a similar path in some ways.
I told my friend Steve that when I die I want the motto “At least he tried” put on my tombstone. I may not have all the answers and I don’t do everything right. I know that having a dream to make the world a better place is a foolish delusion. Still every day I give it my best shot. I often fail but I always try.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
When I was a young man there was an elder in the church named Jack. He was a very spiritual person full of love and compassion. He had a way of talking to a person saying the exact words that would make a person feel good. Jack meant a lot to me when I was suffering from mental illness. I would call him every week from the hospital. He wouldn’t say much but he would listen.
I remember one day I was walking outside of church and Jack was talking to somebody else. I walked on by thinking I’d say hello to Jack later. Don’t you know that Jack pushed that other person out of the way to say hello and give me a big hug? He didn’t want me to leave without saying hello.
Ultimately Jesus would be the ideal goal but being sinless is too high a goal. If one understands the Bible rightly to be sinless not only would one have to act perfectly but they would also have to think perfectly as well. Jesus showed love and compassion to everyone. That is a good thing to strive for.
As far as writing goes I admire Stephen King and not because I really like his writing that much. I admire Stephen King because he has a great work ethic, that he is successful and that he loves what he is doing. I am never happier except when I am writing. If I could only be twice as successful as Stephen King in my writing I’d be almost satisfied.
T.S. Eliot is another one. I want to call him the greatest poet ever but I can’t for two reasons. The first is the small volume of poetry he produced. That is a great negative .Secondly his outlook on life was rather grim. Still I love ‘The Hollow Men’. I have my fair share of darkness infesting my soul that is to be sure.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
My favorite destination has to be without a doubt Grenada. But I really can’t be sure because I haven’t traveled as I wanted to. My wife Sylvia is from Grenada and so I have family in Grenada. Also the island is so small that everybody knows somebody you know. I say this without exaggeration. The people are very friendly and kind. The island is beautiful and has some of the best beaches in the world. Also from Grenada came Maurice Bishop probably the greatest revolutionary mind of our generation. Since I boast about my writing here is a song lyric about Sylvia and I going to Grenada.
Going To Grenada
JFK was miles away to catch the plane
City in fright, security tight what a pain
Took off my belt and I mooned the guard
Never knew going to Grenada would be so hard
Going to Grenada
The Island in the sea
Going to Grenada
With my Love with me
Landed in the sun, really felt the heat
Maurice Bishop airport that name’s a treat
Long ago the man fought for all our dreams
Rose like an angel only to fall in screams
Going to Grenada
Revolution does survive
Going to Grenada
Our hopes are still alive
Family, friends, we are kinfolk one and all
Calypso, hip hop, reggae, prophets call
Times hard, money tight but hopes run high
Maurice is dead but dreams can never die
Music puts the Love in motion
Sunny beaches by the ocean
Riches here beyond compare
For all of us to share?
Going to Grenada
Can you read between the lines
Going to Grenada
Everything will be fine
My throat dry, belly empty, where is righteousness
Jesus was well until Judas gave his kiss
On that hill on that cross blood was shed for peace
The world could use another man like you Maurice
Going to Grenada
God I beg you for your grace
Going to Grenada
Help the human race
My Favorite Products/Objects?
My favorite possession is my Bible. I read it almost every day (don’t want to lie.) It really does have the answer to all of the world’s problems.
Some people say that the immense amount of evil in the world proves that an all powerful and all loving God does not exist. But I feel that all the evil in the world proves the opposite. If mankind would just obey one simple tenet of God “Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself” ninety percent of the world’s problems would vanish. Not only would war end but so would the military. Gone would be hunger and loneliness. Think about it.
Other than that I use my computer a great deal. I usually spend hours on it writing or promoting my writing. In fact I had to get a new keyboard just yesterday as I wore the one I had out.
My Current Passions?
My writing and my faith are my passions. Taking care of Sylvia is one as well but I don’t view the three in the same category. The first two are pleasant exercises whereas taking care of Sylvia I see as a negative. Not that I feel I am suffering unfairly but rather because I so much wish that she was well. When I write or work on my faith it is positive and uplifting. I have great joy in taking care of Sylvia but it is a burden I’d rather not have. Writing and my faith produce burdens as well but it is different. You will always have the burdens from writing and faith but not every woman perishes from dementia.
I look at Sylvia’s illness as perhaps the greatest thing that happened in my life. I haven’t worked a conventional job in over three years because I had to take care of Sylvia. During that time I focused many hours on my writing. I would never had the courage to quit the day job and simply try writing for a living. So perhaps something terrible will produce something wonderful. That is the hope. It would make a great book. God is the author of the greatest stories after all.
I wrote of book called “Sunset Sonnets” in thoughts of losing Sylvia.
Sunset Sonnet 4
I see the sun setting inside your eyes
I hear tomorrow whisper on your breath
Honesty is truth and truth never lies
I feel the Lord is calling soon comes death
Your hand in mine you’ll never be alone
We stuck together no matter the weather
In this world you’re the best I’ve ever known
Soon you shall fly high on golden feather
What are you thinking to smile so sweetly?
Do you see heaven with it’s streets of gold
Your calm essence it soothes me completely
God bless your faith in the promises told
A last goodbye believe that it is true
When I say these final words “I Love you”