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An Interview with Kay “Kro” Kroger


Kay “Kro” Kroger (@kroetry) is an on-demand typewriter poet. They teach creative (type)writing classes and are poet-in-residence at the WNDR Museum. They have a linguistics MA (2016) and are an MFA student (2025). They are the DePaul Publishing Institute’s Editorial Assistant. Their interactive poetry/essay/activity collection, Prayer Wheel, was self-published in 2022 with grant support from the Illinois Arts Council. Their work has appeared in Outpatient Press, The Prairie Light Review, and QWERTY Quarterly, among others.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since Ms. Evans’s 7th grade language arts classroom. For the first time in my life, I wrote poems. And everybody clapped after I was done reading them! That’s when I thought hey, this writing thing might work out. I started writing terrible fanfiction hardcore mimicking Clare Bell’s The Named series when I was in junior high, filling up entire spiral-bound notebooks. Since then my taste has refined itself somewhat, and I am no longer committing intellectual property theft writing about talking cats.

As I’ve gotten further into my writing journey, my tastes have started broadening. In poetry, I was influenced heavily by people ranging from Pablo Neruda to Kathleen Rooney.

For the last three years I have been an on-demand typewriter poet full-time. People give me a word and I typewrite & recite them a poem on the spot, in two minutes or less. To date I have written roughly 5,000 poems. Since I started this adventure, I’ve been heavily inspired by the stories and requests from my spontaneous patrons.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

Documentary poetry is a way of life for me.

Hitchaiku started with a pilgrimage. I knew I would be climbing a Mt. Shichimenzan in Japan with my Buddhist sangha (community) to sit and chant with the monks at the mother temple. In my day-to-day life as an on-demand typewriter poet, I write poems for people about whatever they want, documenting a special moment in their life. So it only seemed appropriate that I would start documenting my own story.

Using haikus made sense, because both my sect of Buddhism and this poetic form are indigenous to Japan. Plus, haikus are short. I am known as the Traveling Typist, and initially I wanted to bring a whole typewriter with me to Japan. However, the thought of carrying even the lightest typewriter (9 pounds) up a mountain quickly killed that notion. Instead I brought a notebook and scribbled these during moments of stillness on the journey up and down the mountain, and at the temples we visited.

I didn’t know what the final form of the project would be. I didn’t know if I would end up with enough material for a book. Then I wrote nearly two hundred haikus and knew that I had to turn this into a fully fleshed-out project.

Entropy’s Diagnostic Workbook started with the urge to take participatory poetry from the street and the stage to the page. I wanted the reader to become an active participant in what was happening on the page. I started dreaming up ways to do so. I wanted to take my interactive ethos and put it down into book form. What resulted was a thirty-page manuscript full of poems that were also mad-libs, word-searches, writing prompts, and “guided meditations.” It is both an absurdist series of interactive exercises and an exploration into the world of typewriter poetry, mental health, and the loss of relationships. It was generated in a truly weird Experimental & Hybrid Nonfiction course in my MFA program, taught by Barrie Borich.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

Hitchaiku came to me in a flash of insight. I found a solid pun and knew I needed to use it. Entropy’s Diagnostic Workbook took me much longer. I went through many iterations. At first, leaning into the mental health aspect of the book, I tried a pun. That pun was “Fruit Basketcase.” However, that word has ableist overtones that I ultimately decided made it out-of-bounds. Instead I settled on a combination of words that describe both things falling apart (entropy), riffing on the mental health overtones by referencing the DSM5 (diagnostic), and including a shoutout to the interactive form of the piece (workbook).

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Entropy’s Diagnostic Workbook: “Why am I like this?” by Orla Gartland; “Stupid Big Teeth” by EMMY; “Panic” by Amy Lawton; “Best Life” by Cheekface. Basically, a series of songs about being mentally ill and getting yourself into therapy.

Hitchaiku: “Song About America” by Olive Klug; “1234” by Feist; “The Grey” by Annelle Staal; “9 Hours of Lofi Coffee Shop Radio” on YouTube. In essence, a series of songs about making peace with the ambiguity of life. Also peaceful zone-out vibes.

Describe your dream book cover.

Hitchaiku: My dream book cover would be an action shot of my sangha and me climbing Mt. Shichimenzan with our guides, two Buddhist priests named Rev. Igarashi and Rev. Ichigawa.

Entropy’s Diagnostic Workbook: My dream book cover would be a spoof of a white clinical-looking workbook cover, such as the DSM5, covered in nonsensical notes and coffee stains.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

Prior to going full-time as an on-demand typewriter poet, I have been a teacher, a linguist, and an Assistant Property Manager. I have an MA in linguistics, with a focus in endangered language revitalization. I worked with indigenous slam poets to analyze code-switching and identify performance in their spoken word poetry pieces. My hobbies include fire-spinning and fire-eating, and I am a queer trans person who uses they/them pronouns.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

Hitchaiku: For research – The Lotus Sutra; Cave in the Snow, a Biography of Tenzin Palmo. (Big Buddhist Energy.) For comfort – We Are Legion, We Are Bob by Dennis Taylor.

Entropy’s Diagnostic Workbook: For research – Discomfortable: What Is Shame & How Can We Break Its Hold? by AJ Bond; The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner; A Molecule Away from Madness: Tales of the Hijacked Brain by Sara Manning Peskin. For comfort – A Long Road to A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

Hitchaiku: Spiritual growth is not linear. Sometimes the only way to get up the mountain (literally and metaphorically) is one step at a time. Sometimes you fall. I fell often. Also, the journey isn’t always serious. There are moments in the journey of healing that can be very, very funny.

Entropy’s Diagnostic Workbook: Healing from trauma is also not linear. Sometimes you have to draw on the page, doodle in the margins, and forcibly insert yourself into the work to play with the author. And in that act of play, you are no longer alone.

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