Poet Adele Kenny CNR GS ’82 published her 1000th poem earlier this year. The poem, “This Light, October 2nd,” was published in the latest edition of poetry magazine Exit 13. This milestone highlights Kenny’s lifelong love of poetry.
“There have been ups and down in my life, but poetry has been a constant,” she said. “That’s something like 70 years of poetry!”
Author of 25 poetry and nonfiction books, Kenny is the co-director of the Fanwood Arts Council in Fanwood, New Jersey and director of the Patricia M. Kuran Cultural Arts Center’s Carriage House Poetry Series. She has earned various honors and awards over the years, including first place in the 2021 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards sponsored by the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College. She has also served as Poet Laureate of Fanwood since 2012. “It’s a lovely honor to be recognized by the people you live and work with,” she said. “I’m proud to be part of the arts in this little town where I’ve lived for over 45 years.”
Kenny fell in love with words while confined to bed with polio fever as a child. Her mother entertained her by reading aloud poetry and the Bible, and eventually taught her how to read and write. Kenny wrote her first poem at four years old. “That time of my life was quite unique and life directing in many ways,” she explained. “I loved words immediately. For me, it's always been about words and language.”
Even with that deep love of reading and writing, Kenny hated school. “I learned early on that I could get Bs and Cs doing very little work, so I was quite content to be mediocre,” she said. “I didn't like being told what I had to learn. I could go to the library and research so many wonderful topics, but I didn’t see the point in what I learned at school.”
Despite her experience in school, she decided to go to college to please her father who wanted her to be the first in their family to earn a degree. And funny enough, after earning a bachelor’s degree in English, she decided to become a teacher.
While teaching secondary English in a public school in New Jersey, she began taking graduate-level courses. It turned out that one of the instructors, Dr. Michael Bagley, also taught at the College of New Rochelle (CNR). Once he saw Kenny’s potential, he convinced her to enroll at CNR to earn a master’s degree in gifted education. Over time, she became Bagley’s teaching assistant and then an adjunct instructor in creative writing.
Kenny says that teaching at CNR helped her come into her own as an educator: “I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven because I was teaching poetry and creative writing to people who wanted to be there, were eager to learn and produced beautiful work. CNR made it possible for someone like me who hated school to end up loving teaching. Being a student at CNR was a turning point for me because that’s how I started teaching at the graduate level and ended up in roles that I never dreamed of. Had I not gone there, I don't think I would've been so involved in the teaching process.” Later, she taught creative writing at Rockland County Community College and police report writing at the John H. Stamler Police Academy
Now retired from teaching, Kenny is by no means retired as a poet. She still writes poetry, edits poetry for others and organizes arts events in her town. As she looks back over her life, she feels immense gratitude to CNR, her wonderful colleagues and friends in the arts and her Yorkshire terriers — all named after famous poets, the latest one being Chaucer.
“I had breast cancer twice and survived it twice by the grace of God,” she said. “When you dance with death a couple of times, you realize that if you’re still here, life is good. Not easy, but good.”