By Janice De Jesus
LAFAYETTE -- Despite being diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was a toddler and with epilepsy when he was 11, Peter Karplus has striven to express himself artistically through the poetry.
"I started writing in high school, only as a hobby, as an amateur poet and lyricist in hopes of expressing my thoughts in unique ways and also to be discovered as a songwriter," said Karplus.
But a breakup with his former girlfriend of 22 years became the catalyst for an outpouring of poetry and books.
"She was the reason, for my own therapy of eliminating the depression she put me through," said Karplus, 52, a Martinez resident.
"I enrolled in a poetry writing class in the fall of 2001 in which my work was encouraged by the instructor to be published."
Karplus said he's struck by the use of metaphors, rhythm and meter in poetry, all of which "give words a dimension, a depth deeper than most realize."
Poetry has become a form of therapy for him, he said.
"I like poetry because it is the easiest form of writing that conveys so much in the least amount of time and space," he said.
"I also have been known to 'awe-shock' strangers into a newfound respect of the disabled by showing my poetry books to them.
"They read a few and are stunned by the ... intelligence showing through my works on the pages, so much so they have to look at the author photo and at me, and ask in disbelief, 'You wrote this?'"
Now, after years of writing poetry, Karplus is sharing his most recent creative endeavor -- the publication of "Silver Arrow, a Loyal Friend, Companion and Playmate and Other Free Verse Works," his first children's book, which was originally written years ago for an English class in which he was assigned to choose a character from a short story.
Karplus selected Red Wing, a teenage girl from a William Kotzwinkle short story.
Silver Arrow follows the 13-year-old Apache girl who is befriended by a spirit guide/elder as a wolf pup. The work also includes 12 children's poems, covering subjects of dreams, imaginary realms and friendships.
There are also two poems written for the 44th first family, one about President Barack Obama taking office as well as one about first lady Michelle Obama written for her birthday. He will read from his new book at 1 p.m. April 17, at Orinda Books.
While Karplus has endured many physical hardships, he said his life also been full of encouragement, love, and understanding.
The youngest of seven children and nephew to Martin Karplus, a joint winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the author said he's grateful for being born into a family that supported him, encouraged him, loved him as a 'normal' sibling and treated his physical limitations as challenges for him to learn from.
He would not be where he is today if they had not spent the time with him stretching the boundaries of his abilities, physically and psychologically.
A love of words isn't Karplus' only passion.
"He's also known to have a soft spot for animals. Martinez resident and Safe Cat Foundation president Marla Rogozin said she first met Karplus in 2009.
"He would come up to the Petco (Martinez) and hang out with us during adoptions," Rogozin said. "In 2010, Peter adopted two black cats from me. I have always admired Peter.
"His ability to do what he wants despite his limitations is wonderful."
WHO: Martinez author Peter Karplus
WHAT: Book signing
WHEN: 1 p.m. April 17
WHERE: Orinda Books, 276 Village Square, Orinda