After many years of keeping it mostly to himself, Kevin Pittman is preparing to share his written works with a larger audience.
©Andrew Robinson/The Compass
CARBONEAR, NL — In a day and age where people are more often reading in small print on a handheld device, Kevin Pittman is prepared to try and engage readers through a unique medium.
Pittman, a Salmon Cove resident, has been writing all his life, but aside from a few poems published in the Newfoundland magazine Tickle Ace in the 1980s, he kept them all to himself.
He comes from a literary family, with brother Al Pittman commonly regarded as one of the best writers Newfoundland and Labrador ever produced. The brothers grew up together in Corner Brook after the family moved from Saint Leonards in Placentia Bay.
Kevin attended St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick when his brother was mingling with writers like Alden Nolan and Fred Cogswell.
"I was just a greenhorn nerd who arrived for university not knowing anything, and found myself among them," he recalled. "This was my surroundings all the time, and that continued all my life really."
Kevin went on to work in publishing, both with private companies and government, and later taught communications and worked with the advanced writing centre at the College of the North Atlantic campus in Qatar.
I got satisfaction out of (writing it), that's fine, but how would it stand up? Would other people like reading it?
Through all those years, Kevin was always writing something, and would share some of his work with friends or family. Otherwise, he kept it to himself.
Upon returning to Newfoundland and Labrador, he took another look at his writings and starting thinking what was the point of keeping it all if he wasn't prepared to share any of it publically.
"I got satisfaction out of (writing it), that's fine, but how would it stand up? Would other people like reading it? Would they get anything from it? And I said, 'I won't know until I try.' So I decided publish was the first impulse, but at my age, if you're an unknown writer, poet or whatever and you're seeking out publishers, that can take years."
Instead, he's presenting his poems on large three-and-a-third-feet by five-feet pieces of printed fabric.
While he loves technology and considers himself an early adopter of computers, he feels the digital world had a negative influence on engaging with text. Kevin believes that to be even more the case with poetry.
"If it's longer reading, the tendency because we've developed these (habits) through school and our own use of the technologies and stuff, the tendency is a very sort of spurious kind of reading. Very fast — scan, browse, get on to the next thing. Or if you're going down through text, there's a link that jumps you out of the text to something else, and then you may come back to it."
Considering what might break that cycle, he came upon the idea of presenting his poems in a larger format. He then went to Tammy Wrice from Ocean View Gallery, and she was on board with the concept. The show is called Essential Tremors, and it collects poems covering most of his writing career.
"I have a shake," he noted. "It's chronic … and it can become very much a nuisance. I did a little research there a couple of years ago, and discovered this condition has a name. There's a clinical name, which I forget, but it's commonly referred to as essential tremors."
According to Kevin, these sorts of shaking movements are known to come about when a person has an intended task in mind.
"I loved the phrase essential tremors. There's something very existential about it and almost spooky."
Kevin plans to eventually release his poems in a self-published book under the same title as his show opening this month.
Essential Tremors will be presented at the gallery, located at 195 Water Street, Carbonear, Aug. 19-Sept. 3. An opening reception takes place Aug. 19 from 1-5 p.m.