Many twists and turns brought Terry Adams to life in La Honda.
Adams made little fuss when his first book of poetry, “Adam’s Ribs” (Off the Grid Press, 80 pages paperback, $15), came out in 2008. Now it’s available online and at the San Gregorio Store, La Honda Country Store and in Mountain View and San Francisco bookstores.
Its freeform verses capture life, consciousness, relationships and insight. Evocative and accessible, they invite discovery.
“I am constantly trying to articulate this stuff,” said Adams, the soft-spoken sexagenarian director of Public Works for the Cuesta La Honda Guild. “(Poetry) keeps me constantly looking for things in my perceptions, catches attention, and keeps me thinking, Hey, there must be value in this that’s worth telling people about.”
He was raised in Ohio by a highly patriotic father who was decorated in World War II and later a hard-driven newspaper editor. (His mother died when he was 8.)
While earning a master’s degree in modern American literature from Miami University of Ohio, he took a seminar in the “literature of the new left.” The professor told the class he “wanted to radicalize as many of you as I can,” but at first, he stayed conservative.
He joined the ROTC and moved into active duty upon graduating in 1969 with plans to teach literature. But, fascinated by Ken Kesey, Tom Wolfe, Norman O. Brown and others, he was writing poetry.
Then he accompanied a colonel buddy into the Strategic Air Command headquarters in Nebraska for work as chief of document security. “That’s what put me in the belly of the beast in terms of the cold war,” he said, referring to work with the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff to find targets in Russia and China “in the event of World War III.”
“It was very schizophrenic,” he said. “It led to a change.”
That change included an application for the status of conscientious objector, for which he wrote a 17-page document summing up his commitment to teaching literature and creative writing, and using writing to express his views.
“Humanistic education is the most valuable gift to the people of the world that I can help create, and I believe it can produce in men a rejection of violence and a deeper search for a universal peace,” he wrote.
He was granted the status, though his father stopped speaking to him for 18 months.
It all made Adams more of an activist. “I was absolutely appalled, grossed out and disappointed,” he said. “If we go to war against Iran, I will be marching” in protest.
He also keeps writing. “I know I can touch people if I explain what I see in a way that reveals the intense love of life I feel,” he said.
He’s part of the La Honda Poets, an informal literary group with roots in the 1980s, and charts his own course by recording his dreams to analyze. He attends literary readings with the Waverly Writers group in Palo Alto and is active with the Motley Men’s Group, part of a national men’s movement.