These days, Clem Schoenebeck is renowned for his poetry ― but that hasn’t always been the case.
The Swampscott resident attended Pennsylvania State University and was a part of the school’s track and cross-country teams. He met his future wife, Bonnie, at Penn State and they were married in his senior year.
After spending two years in the Army Dental Corps in California, the couple settled down in Swampscott where he opened a family practice in 1966.
Schoenebeck credits the spark for his poetry to the birth of his granddaughter. After seeing his daughter Kristin and newborn Alexa lock eyes for the first time he felt compelled to write a “letter of welcome” to his granddaughter. After Schoenebeck’s daughter read the letter, she told her dad that he should write more often.
“Looking back at it, you could probably wring the page out like a sponge to squeeze all the sentimentality out of what I have put on the page,” he recalled.
Schoenebeck said his granddaughter’s birth also coincided with his search for a creative outlet. He thought about watercolor painting before delving into poetry.
He signed up for poetry workshops and the educational investment into his craft paid off. Schoenebeck has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize in Poetry four times and has had a collection of his poems published by Encircle Publications. The Swampscott resident also joined the Tin Box Poets, a local collection of poets that meets once a month.
Beside getting ideas from his own life, Schoenebeck also said that he is inspired by music.
“It sort of stirs up my creative juices and sometimes I’m more productive writing when I have choir rehearsals once or twice a week,” he said. “If the music is getting into me, it often gives me some ideas for writing.”
One of Schoenebeck’s better known works was published in 2013. “Dancing with Fireflies,” a memoir, was an honest account of growing up with a schizophrenic mother. The poet said that he was able to find healing thanks to the writing process.
“I think it’s the biggest gift,” he said. “Every day I think of my mother and it’s no longer with anger or fright.”