Dr. Robert Zinn

Local pastor and poet Robert Zinn describes his passion for words below. His book Packet of Poems is a collection of his life-time work.

“When my childhood playmates and I chose up sides for our sandlot games, I had a special position, “left out”. Under dire circumstances the position was “left way out”. Classmates had learned early either to catch or throw a ball with accuracy. Not I, I had to concentrate on something else with which to play. This meant that I was left free to play with words as my favorite toys. Whereas my classmates enjoyed the fun they could have with fast balls and hockey pucks, I was forced into the world of puns, rhymes and verbal surprises, a passion that has endured a lifetime.

My sisters and I had word games to play when traveling with my parents. Alphabet was a good game, competing to find letters in sequence on highway signs. We would especially try to outdo each other as we approached the climax of the game looking for Q or X, which would bring victory. In unison we recited Burma Shave signs, along side the road, that passed for verse. We lived in a house full of books. I remember especially the set of classical story books my parents provided for my sisters and me. They are now being read by a pair of great granddaughters in Alaska. They presented classic literature for young vocabularies. From those books, I was able to recognize Beowulf and El Cid when I met them later in college.

Poetry especially was alive in my childhood home. My Father told in his late years how he enjoyed poetry lessons from his own childhood. Given an assignment to memorize a few lines of poetry in school, he would appear the next day, fully the master of the entire poem. He recited poems from his childhood the rest of his life. In my library, I have a battered copy of his Book of Humorous Poems. He bought it at a second hand book table at his denomination’s national convention. It’s a favorite with me as well. I would secretly sneak it home from his bookshelf. Then my eldest son would faithfully return it to Grandpa on the next visit after enjoying it with me. I now own this ancient book from the Harvard Classics which is characterized by verse in many styles, mostly from the 19th century.

Word-play of all kinds, from bad puns to favorite reflections, are characteristic of my own poetry. Friends have characterized my poetry as wacko or whimsical. I invite readers to celebrate in the same vein. My Packet of Poems is a collection of poetry from college years to the present most of them written in Waukegan. I do have a claim on Waukegan as my artistic home; my wife is the well-known Laini. From 1969-1983, I served as pastor of First Congregational Church in downtown Waukegan and have lived here in retirement since 1993. I was born in Michigan and educated there through a bachelor’s degree in Alma College in 1950. Further academic credits include Bachelor of Divinity at the University of Chicago, 1959, and a doctorate, Master of Divinity, at Chicago Theological Seminary. I do express my thanks to the Waukegan Public Library for spurring my interest in maintaining my lifelong hobby in poetry.”

Zinn’s book, Packet of Poems, is a collection of his life-time work.

Robert Zinn died in Chicago on March 11, 2007.

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