English professor Mielke plays with poetry

English professor and writer Bob Mielke identifies as a playwright, but has published poetry on the side. (Submitted Photo)

English professor and writer Bob Mielke reads aloud selections from his poetry collections.


Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series.

Bob Mielke met his fiancee by writing “Kirksville,” a poetry book about the small town. She ordered the book from Amazon and, after reading it, decided to move to Kirksville.

“The big success here is that the woman I’m engaged to decided to marry me because of this book,” Mielke said.

Mielke published “Kirksville,” his first published book of poetry, nearly six years ago as an answer to “Paris” by Jim Barnes. Mielke wrote “Kirksville” as a break from his other project, “Adventures in Avant-Pop,” mandated by his computer breaking down. Even with his computer restored to full-functioning order, Mielke’s handwritten poetry continues.

Mielke primarily considers himself a playwright, with three plays under his belt. His only play performed so far is “Sun Ra.” St. Louis Community College – Forest Park performed the play in spring 2015 as directed by Mary Hurley, a former communication professor at Truman State University and Mielke’s close friend. His other plays are “IHM (Immaculate Heart of Mary)” and “Discipline 27-II.”

“What I learned is that it’s harder to get a play performed than it is to get published,” Mielke said. “And it’s hard to get published, but it’s harder to get a performance because that requires such a commitment.”

Mielke is working on a second book of poetry, but it does not have the same focus as “Kirksville.” His new collection of poetry is not really inspired by anyone nor does it answer another book of poetry. Some of his recent poems feature Catholicism, which is on his mind because his fiancee is converting. He also has an unpublished manuscript about cats. He does not know when his manuscript will be done, but whenever he is in the mood to write a poem, he writes poetry and adds it to the collection.

“It’s a real jumble as opposed to ‘Kirksville,’ which had a lovely, tight focus,” Mielke said.

Nonetheless, he writes on.

“My advice to anybody who is a creative writer is [to] be yourself and see what kind of audience you get,” Mielke said. “You can’t woo an audience. They are sort of like cats, they have to come up to you.”

For more information about Mielke, pick up a copy of The Index on Thursday, Jan. 25.