Kent Ricker holds a copy of his newly published collection of original poems titled "Even the Crickets are Listening."
ALBANY For such a tiny book, “Even the Crickets Are Listening” is carrying some pretty significant weight.
Asked to put what the book means to him in a few words, Kent Ricker, a medical/surgical nurse at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and “Crickets’” author, said, “That’s my soul on paper.”
It’s a soul filled with loss, with joy, with pain, with passion ... with emotions that inspire. Ricker has the capacity to capture those emotions and bring them to life through his poetry, leaving him in a very small class of modern writers who have embraced what is becoming ever more a lost art.
“The reaction to the poems and to the book has been humbling,” Ricker said of the volume recently released by Indiana publisher Xlibris. “Am I proud of the reaction? Of course. But the aim of this book was to reach people, to touch them.
“If I can do that, I’ve achieved my goal.”
Ricker has been writing poetry off and on for years, but it was only after he shared some of his works with a handful of close friends that the idea to collect them into a book started to take shape.
“This is not one of those traditional projects where I sat down and dedicated a certain amount of time to writing every day,” Ricker, who grew up in Orlando, Fla., said. “I’d write, then not write. I wrote a few poems, then five to 10 years of life happened.
“It was an ongoing process: write and live, live and write.”
Ricker’s pathway to his first book was nothing if not circuitous. He worked in the food services industry around Orlando for more than a decade, accepted a friend’s invitation to give car sales a try and worked his way north to Albany to continue that trade at a local dealership.
Ricker returned to the restaurant industry after a short period, first at Gus’ Barbecue and later at Logan’s Steakhouse, before reality gave him a swift kick.
“I looked up one day, and it dawned on me that my oldest son had played in nine soccer games, and I hadn’t seen a one because I was always at work,” he said. “I knew I had to make a change.”
Ricker went back to school, first at Darton College in Albany and later at Georgia Southwestern in Americus, earning a degree in history. He planned to go to graduate school at Auburn and was set to teach while he worked on his degree, but the time element resurfaced.
“They forgot to tell me that I had to be in the office five days a week, so there I was back in the same boat,” Ricker said. “I was kind of at a loss, and (wife) Gail just said to me one day ‘Why don’t you get an R.N. degree?’ I’d always been in service-type jobs, so I thought about it a while and said why not.”
Gail Ricker, who is also a nurse, gave her husband a nudge in the direction that appears to be his calling.
“I’ve done a little of this and a little of that over the years; I’ve always found myself attracted to new career paths,” Kent Ricker said. “But I fell in love with nursing; it was just a natural fit. I love having the opportunity to talk with the patients at the hospital.
“The only way I could ever imagine leaving nursing is if this book takes off.”
During conversation, Ricker frequently speaks of the impact his father had on his life. It’s obvious his dad’s death when Ricker was only 10 affected him deeply.
“Yes, my dad was one of those larger-than-life dads,” the poet said. “He’s one of those dads who leaves you feeling you’ll never quite measure up to the dad he was. That’s why it became so important for me to treasure the time I have with my sons.”
Ricker’s father’s spirit dwells throughout the lines in the poems from “Even the Crickets Are Listening.”
“In many ways, I can see and feel what I went through with the death of my father in the poetry I write,” he said. “Without that love and loss, I might have never been a poet.”
“Crickets” is available at a number of websites: www.eventhecricketsarelistening.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and at firstname.lastname@example.org. The collection may be purchased in hardback, soft cover or as an e-book. It may be purchased locally at Carriage Trade, at Hadden’s Flowers and at the Phoebe gift shop.
Dates have not been confirmed, but Ricker will hold book signings at both Phoebe and Darton locally, and at to-be-determined sites in Birmingham and Pensacola, Fla.
“The poems I write come down to me dealing honestly with myself,” Ricker said. “Part of that is looking at where I need to be spiritually. The Bible says that God takes care of widows and the weak, and I am the child of a widow, so I think there’s some inspiration from above involved in this.
“For me, the strength of poetry is the ability to make people feel. That’s what I want to do, to make readers feel. I guess the best example of that was when I learned that, even though the book just came out, one of the poems was read at a funeral in New Jersey. Man, the fact that these words touched someone that much, well, it just reverberates.”