Ninety years of poetry comes to life in Cherry Hill

Premier Cadbury resident Al Guretse recently published his first book of poetry at age 95. Last Wednesday, he unveiled his book at a special launch event in front of dozens of family and friends.

Al Guretse shows off his new book, “My Lifetime of Poems: Up Close and Personal.” Last Wednesday, Guretse read excerpts from the book and signed copies for friends and fellow residents at his home, Premier Cadbury, in Cherry Hill.

Cherry Hill resident Al Guretse proved it’s never too late to get started as an author.

The 95-year-old Guretse has been a poet since he was a young child. Guretse has preserved his life story in dozens upon dozens of poems, from growing up in Pennsylvania to serving in the Army during World War II to his 70 years of marriage with his late wife, Lois. He always wanted to compile all of his work into a book.

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“I had it in my mind for years,” Guretse said. “I just gave up on it. I never thought it would happen.”

Last fall, Guretse, a resident at Premier Cadbury on Route 38 in Cherry Hill, was attending a poetry circle group run by fellow resident and poet Craig Burgess. Burgess had previously published his own books and, in November of 2018, Guretse decided to talk to him about his dream.

“He came up to me after one of the sessions and said, ‘I just have a question. Do you think there’s any possibility that a 95-year-old person could publish a book?’” Burgess recalled about his conversation with Guretse.

“I said, if you have the energy, and you have the motivation, you can publish a book,” Burgess continued.

Less than a year later, Guretse not only got a chance to hold his own book in his hands, but dozens of his friends and fellow residents at Premier Cadbury attended a special book launch inside the Cadbury lobby to hear excerpts of his poetry and purchase copies of his work. The event took place last Wednesday and was something Guretse never imagined.

“It was a dream come true,” he said. “I never thought I could actually make it happen. I am so thankful God let me stay well and everything and that I came to see this day.”

Guretse’s book, entitled, “My Lifetime of Poems: Up Close and Personal,” is more than a collection of poems. It is an emotion-packed biography of a man who lived a very full life from growing up in Lansdale, Pa., to the number of volunteer activities he performs as a retiree today.

Al Guretse read excerpts from his book, “My Lifetime of Poems: Up Close and Personal” at a special launch event at Premier Cadbury last Wednesday. Guretse’s book includes poetry from nearly his entire life going back to when he was a young child.

The detail and emotion in Guretse‘s writing pulls readers immediately into his book. One of the poems included is one he wrote in memory of his late wife, which was published in the Feb. 14-20, 2018, edition of The Cherry Hill Sun. The poem goes over the many reasons Guretse loved Lois for so long, and while reading the poem last week, Guretse showed emotion as he recalled all of the best parts of his marriage.

“What amazed me was all of the emotions, the happiness, the tears, all of the things he was able to put into writing,” Burgess said of Guretse’s poetry. “You don’t just read the words, but you find yourself becoming a part of the situation.”

Writing was always a big part of Guretse’s life. He wrote many poems as a child and while many of them have been lost to history, his book includes a short poem entitled, “Mother’s Boys” that he wrote in 1930.

“I was probably around 6 or 7,” Guretse said about when he started writing. “I got the ambition from my mom, she was a poet too.”

Guretse included one of his mom’s poems, “The Hatfield Disaster,” as the first work in his book.

Through the months-long process of putting together the book, Guretse got help from Burgess, who helped get him in touch with The Print Shot and More in Stratford so he could print the book himself rather than trying to pitch the book to publishers. Guretse also got help from his son, Al, who showed him how to use the computer to put all of his poems and photos in a template to send to the printer.

“The template had to be sized for the size the book is going to be,” Burgess said. “Al learned how to do that. He did all of the material he already had on the pages, he did it himself at 95.”

Guretse wouldn’t take all of the credit for his book. He thanked everyone who inspired him and during a book signing session at the end of the event, took the time to speak with each person who came up to the table.

Guretse’s book may never make the “New York Times” bestseller’s list and he may never read his poetry in front of thousands. But for Guretse, finally publishing a book and getting to read his poetry to the people he cares about most is something he will never forget.

The cost of Guretse’s book is $14.95 plus $3 for shipping and handling. Anyone interested in purchasing a book can contact Guretse at (856) 667-2679 or email alois242@msn.com.

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