Paris Morning Publications
Paperback 978-0-578-95706-7, 126 pages
September 15, 2021
In 1982, a teenager unsure of himself and his future suddenly quit high school in Minnesota in the middle of winter and hitchhiked to Texas. It was a risky yet classic journey of self-discovery, one that countless others have taken along America’s interstate and rural highways.
The young teen stopped in Denton, Dallas, Austin, and other locations, including Corpus Christi and the Gulf of Mexico, before “finding himself” and returning to St. Paul.
Forty years later, that “boy on the run” has a pen name: Danny Klecko. And he just goes by “Klecko” on his book covers. He’s become a prizewinning “action poet,” a writer in a verbal arena where words often are read aloud with expression, energy, and even fierce emotion in front of audiences and judges at poetry slams. Action poetry sometimes also is painted on walls, displayed in murals, sung, or presented in other ways, as well as published on the Internet and in traditional book form. And it often recounts and reflects on real-life events.
Klecko’s newest book, 3 a.m Austin Texas, artistically documents his spontaneous young journey to Texas and some of the events and people he encountered after arriving here.
In his poem “Tribute,” he writes:
After crossing the state line
I felt recharged
Texas is the most confident place on earth
He describes his joy at getting out of a truck in Denton, standing on the interstate shoulder, taking off his Minnesota winter clothing one layer at a time, and concluding:
Few things refresh a pioneer
Like a lightened load
Later in the book, however, in a poem titled “A Final Thought,” his thoughts about Texas have taken on more somber tones as he decides to return home:
When I think of Texas
I remember setting camp under bridges
Praying the moon would vanish
So the world would become dark enough
To dream of Minnesota
The use of punctuation often can be minimal in action poetry. Klecko, however, breaks his lines smoothly, and it is not difficult to follow the flow of his poems’ images and stories. The use of familiar, accessible words is a common hallmark of action poems. Meanwhile, the themes in Klecko’s new book range from loneliness and longing to fear, joy, death, religion, and admiration for a few briefly encountered people who might not have gotten a second look from others.
In the final portion of his book, in a poem titled “Upon My Arrival,” Klecko poignantly describes the quiet reception he received once he finally arrived home:
My homecoming was met without ceremony
Our woes were not discussed
We watched TV and ate Chinese takeout
Our relationship was not discussed
It’s hard to focus on a loved one
When you’ve lost touch with yourself
Along with poetry, Klecko is known for his baking. He has been called one of the best bakers in Minnesota. And his previous book, Hitman-Baker-Casketmaker: Aftermath of an American’s Clash with ICE, won the 2020 Midwest Book Award for General Poetry. According to an interview he gave to the Washington Post late in 2019, the book was his “poke back” at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency after it discovered several of his employees were not eligible to work in the United States. Klecko could not hire and train replacement workers fast enough to meet his contract for hamburger and hotdog buns at the 2018 Super Bowl and had to close his bakery.
Fans of action poetry can find much to relish in Klecko’s 3 a.m. Austin Texas. Readers of other poetry genres may be skeptical at first, unless they can let themselves listen closer to the emotions and energy packed into Klecko’s clearly expressed phrases.
Klecko is a 40+ year master bread baker and winner of a 2020 Midwest Book Award for Hitman-Baker-Casketmaker: Aftermath of an American’s Clash with ICE. He’s also the author of Lincolnland. Klecko lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, across the street from where F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote This Side of Paradise.