By Cady Kuzmich
Clifton Park — After coming home from working at General Electric, a young father held his son on his lap and read poetry aloud. Decades later, that little boy would meet his wife, thanks to a poem. Though literature impacts people’s lives in many ways, few can pinpoint a single poem that changed the course of their life the way Rick Mincher can.
If Mincher hadn’t read a particular poem in front of a particular group on a particular day, he probably wouldn’t have met his wife, Sue. After reciting “The wings that fly us home” written by Joe Henry and sung by John Denver, a woman approached him and asked him for his phone number. Two weeks later, the pair went on a date. A year after that, they were married. “Something in that poem opened her heart,” said Mincher.
Mincher and his wife Sue now have a 21 year old daughter named Chloe.
One of Mincher’s favorite times to practice reciting and memorizing poems, is while he’s driving in the car. He laughed while describing his young daughter confined to a car seat as his “captive audience.”
Though he pursued a career in engineering and worked for many years at the Albany Ladder Company, Mincher has carried his love of poetry with him all the way to the wilds of Wyoming. A friend in the poetry world, David Whyte, shared Mincher’s name with a friend who had founded a summer camp, Camp Paintrock, for disadvantaged urban youth from Los Angeles. The camp featured mountain biking, rock climbing and other outdoor activities but was missing something — the arts.
Mincher was invited to the camp to work with eighth and ninth grade students on poetry.
“My poetry is not to entertain… I didn’t know if it would resonate with the kids,” he said. Still, he flew out to Wyoming back in 2001 and began his lessons. After sharing some poetry and asking the students to take 20 minutes to write a poem of their own, Mincher asked for someone to volunteer to read their poem.
A 13 year old girl volunteered and brushed off Mincher’s instructions on how best to recite a poem, saying “I know how to do this.” She began her poem saying, “I remember the day mom told me dad died.”
“I’ve worked with honor students at Shen. Her poem was so impactful. At that moment I knew I had to boost my game. The kids were brilliant,” said Mincher. For the next several years, he returned to the camp twice each summer.
Mincher found ways to incorporate his love of poetry into his everyday life, even in his business career. “I used poetry in my career when I needed to make a point. When you recite a poem, people listen. I always found it to be a wonderful way to communicate,” said Mincher.
As a child, he most enjoyed the work of Edgar Allan Poe, though as he grew older amidst the political turmoil during the Vietnam War, his interest in protest poems was ignited. The first poem he ever recited in public was “The Box” by John Denver — Mincher recited it at Amity Reformed Church in Vischer’s Ferry.
In the words of his friend, David Whyt, Mincher said “Poetry is a language of the heart. If a poem is good, it goes into your head and you hear it with your heart.”
Still, Mincher doesn’t consider himself a poet. “Billy Collins said you have to write 10,000 poems before you find your voice. I have yet to sit down to write 10,000 poems,” he laughed.