K-State grad Mark A. Chapman is probably best known in Manhattan as a significant donor to his alma mater, but his second book of poetry and images provide evidence that in addition to being a businessman and philanthropist, he is a solid writer and artist.
At a recent interview Chapman had just come from working on a painting that was being created with small patches of acrylic paints. His fingers bore traces of some of the paints he had been using. The painting was a non-representational piece. Unusual to say the least, it was certainly thought provoking and an interesting intellectual challenge.
The painting reflected the attitude that Chapman takes in his writing. A new book of poems and art titled “Like My First Book, Only Better” contains Chapman’s observations life and all that goes with living. The book defies easy categorization. Chapman satire and humor permeate the book from the title to the parody of Grant Wood’s American Gothic on the back cover. But no one could call this a book of humorous poetry or even light-hearted poetry. There are examples of both, but most of the poems in this collection are powerful, compelling narratives that make use of stark images and taut language that pulse with emotion.
Chapman’s poetry, as is his artwork, is original, fresh and very creative in both content and style.
“Millions of landscapes have been painted. Landscapes are a worn out genre. There’s surely nothing new in landscape paintings,” he said. “My art is different, not refined, just different.
“Poetry is beautiful because it only takes a turn of phrase that’s never been used before. “Take an interesting subject and write about it interestingly.”
Speaking about the emotional power of some of the poems, Chapman said, “Some poems I’m so sensitive to that I can’t read them in public.” Other pieces are intense and may strike various readers in vastly different ways.
Of these Chapman said, “Some of my pieces are personal interpretations best left for private reading.”
Chapman, a Clay County native, put together a book of his poetry and art a few years ago titled “An Artist Writes.” That book introduced readers to Chapman’s writing, which is an in-your-face, reality-based, image-built way of writing with an emphasis on tight use of the language, covering subjects that range from the sublime to shocking. His new book flows with power and leaves no room for boredom.
In her remarks at the beginning of the book, KSU professor M. J. Morgan said, “These are not easy poems. Confronting senseless accidents, youth crime, abandonment of rural life, as well as personal sadnesses such as a parent with Alzheimers, Mark Chapman’s poems will make you think as well as feel. He can write of a mind vacated by senility, ‘a thing to be held in your hand with no chance of flight.’ Yet he also creates powerful word portraits of people of valor — friends struggling against disease and age, or the tough, gritty Frenchman, a rural Justice of the Peace, honored in ‘French Justice.’ In many ways a searching analysis of what we carry away with us at the end of our lives, memories both stark and true, these poems are also unexpected…It is not enough sometimes just to observe life; we must also interpret its harshness. This questioning, interpretive voice takes on that responsibility…This precision of imagery, ever unsentimental, binds a truly striking range of subject matter.”
Some of the poems are set in Clay County, and Chapman explores relationships between family and friends, communities and even geographies in ways that question the continuum of time and space, of DNA and free will. These are not poems that will be put aside lightly. The reader will remember them long after putting down the book.
Like My First Book, Only Better is available from Amazon on Kindle and in print from the author at 1884 Bostik Rd. Cat Spring, TX 78933. Print Copies are $15 plus $3 S&H.
All proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the spay/neuter assistance program PUPS-Prevent Unwanted Pets of Cat Spring, Texas.