- Listen to Ron's Interview with Hank Bjorklund -
An Ex-Football Player’s Story of the Healing Power of Poetry
April is National Poetry Month, launched more than 25 years ago by the Academy of American Poets to recognize poets’ integral role in our culture. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world, and in today’s episode, we talk to an unusual poet who came to this craft later in life—and through the most unimaginable of experiences. Hank Bjorklund, a former professional football player for the New York Jets, became a business lawyer in New York City after retiring from football, then an educator and coach. Then, on one otherwise ordinary day, Hank found himself suddenly hospitalized due to dysautonomia, a severe disruption of his autonomic nervous system possibly caused by the repetitive head hits he received during years of tackle football. An idyllic, healthy life in retirement with his wife was unalterably changed. In his newly published book, “Head Hits I Remember,” Hank recounts his daily struggles to cope with this baffling, life-altering illness, and how he eventually turned to poetry as a way to connect with his thoughts and feelings and deal more gracefully with the profound realities of life previously unseen. He’ll recite a selection of poems from his book, some of which he’s turned into songs and performed with musicians who heard his poems and decided to put his words to music. Hank will talk about how poetry and music have helped him heal and brought meaning back into his life—and hopefully will inspire others seeking the strength to persevere through difficult and debilitating challenges.
Hank Bjorklund is a former professional football running back who played with the New York Jets from 1972 to 1974. After retiring from the Jets, he became a business lawyer in New York City and later earned an MS degree and became an educator and coach. He appeared in numerous television commercials and print ads and completed the acting program at the New Actors Workshop. He is the author of “Head Hits I Remember: My Brain, Dysautonomia and Football.”Contact: Hankbj8@gmail.com
Here is the SoundCloud link for four of Hank Bjorkland’s poems turned into songs. The first three he sings with his friends, musicians Diane Menzel and Helen Kotzky of Glen Cove, and the 4th song he sings a capella.