Time seems to be telescoping at the moment–it’s taken me three days to get this uploaded, so please forgive that some of it’s a little dated.
Kattywompus authors are up to some great stuff, which I’ll update here soon. Meantime, it’s been quite a week out in the world.
Three African women—one Yemeni, two Liberian—have won the Nobel Prize, previously a near-exclusive honor of male recipients, awarded for their work championing democracy, reconciliation, and women’s rights.
Here in the U.S. we lost preeminent tech innovator and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and American civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth.
As they spread across the nation, Occupy Wall Street demonstrations have garnered celebrity appearances and finally caught the attention of the mainstream press. Sometimes billed as the progressive antidote to the Tea Party, this movement retains its seemingly opposite leaderless, agenda-diverse populist impetus. There were mass arrests in NYC, where those camped out attempted to spread into a newly manicured part of the park and were promptly swept up by police.
Here at the wompus, it feels like a month has passed since this time last week. Several new books are inching toward the chute, two went into second print runs, our second printer arrived, and our very first wompus-published Poet’s Greatest Hits volume made its appearance. Yesterday I finished binding and trimming those books, and shipped them out along with a list of other orders, wholesale and retail.
Poet’s Greatest Hits is a separate line from our other books, an invitation-only series of 300 volumes (and counting) which we brought up from Pudding House Publications, with its own unique format and publication process. Parallel to the recording industry’s Greatest Hits albums, these panel-selected gems are as much fun as hearing the poet read in person. Along with the twelve most-requested “hits,” each volume in this series opens with an intro detailing the evolution of poet and poems. We always anticipate Greatest Hits manuscripts with pleasure. Chad Prevost’s terrific collection does not disappoint.
I heard some radio commentary on civil liberties while I worked, the other day. Who could have predicted that a modestly progressive democratic president, himself a constitutional lawyer by training, might do more damage to our constitutional rights than the constitutionally slap-dash conservative republican before him. I’ve watched with interest the motley mix of public figures, from Ron Paul to the ACLU to Muslim civil liberties groups, speaking up against assassination of American citizens without trial; against perpetuation of Gitmo; against the slew of other civil liberties incursions sustained and deepened on Obama’s watch. Strange times make for strange bedfellows, as detailed in the NY Times.
At the vet’s office last week I ran into an old friend from a food cooperative we belonged to a decade ago. Karen had brought one of her rescue dogs in for acupuncture. I’d brought our family dog for the same. Karen and her husband recently moved onto their farm out in gorgeous, sleepy, Hiram, Ohio, where she works half-time. She also rehabs houses, and fosters a constant stream of rescue animals. Right now she has a half dozen dogs. I always read and often forward her emails seeking homes for these pups. I told her that even when I can’t do anything directly to help, it cheers me up to be reminded she’s out there, doing this work.
When we met, Karen did volunteer work at the Geauga County Dog Warden’s no-kill shelter. I was homeschooling at the time and took my kids there to walk the dogs when we could. The shelter was always bulging at the seams, even before recent economic downturns. People even leave animals outside the shelter when it’s closed, hoping they won’t be turned away.
Karen has always been a cheerful, can-do person. The kind who doesn’t bother to stop and whine, but just figures out how to get the job done. She told me she’s found a great dog trainer who helps her get traumatized, unruly dogs into adoptable shape. These are typically dogs who would otherwise be euthanized. So far every one has found a home. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead).
Karen tries these days not to buy anything at the grocery—the only things she’s having trouble finding locally in her rural community are toilet paper, paper towels, and vinegar. One of her Amish friends—Karen describes her adopted community as half Amish, half Yank—reminded her the other day to slow down and spend some time in the woods refreshing herself. We laughed at how easy it is to forget this simple thing, despite that we are both within easy reach of beautiful natural settings. We get caught up in our lists and our tasks and the general hubbub of modern life, forgetting to drink in the beauty of the world.
Steve Jobs had some trenchant comments on getting the most out of life. He said, don’t live somebody else’s life. Live the life of your dreams. He said, death is the single best invention of life, because our mortality reminds us to use our time the way we are meant to do, and not waste it. Jobs dropped out of college after one semester, audited whatever classes caught his fancy, slept on friends’ floors and cadged food money collecting returnable cans and bottles for a few coins. He said that if he had not audited the calligraphy course at Reed College, he’d never have realized, later, that Apple computers needed font options and other innovations in typescript, which led to Jobs’ breakthrough recognition of user-friendly design interface as a key component in driving new technologies beyond the realm of tech-geeks, into their now accepted place as a universal currency of contemporary life. Thanks, Mr. Jobs, for the innovation and inspiration. Is it too much to hope that Apple might somehow, in the years to come, turn to a more truly green approach that accommodates ongoing creative innovation, without requiring the insanely quick turnover of these complicated devices on which most of us now depend? One interesting side bar on the Apple story concerns social and political (not to mention ecological) side effects of computer construction, the mining of rare minerals in China and the Congo, the intersection of poverty, jobs, and war. This too has received a little more press in the wake of Jobs’ passing.
This week I conquered a fear of one particular technical step in making chapbooks. It was my last one, and I mastered it when I had no help and no choice. A very satisfying moment. Have I mentioned that I took a leap of faith starting this press? Sure, I put in time doing apprentice grunt work. But there are a lot of things we don’t learn fully, don’t find a way to accomplish, until we are out on a limb all alone, facing down the prospects.
In a couple days I leave for San Francisco–a trip I came within hours of canceling (but that’s another story). I love San Francisco. I was looking forward to working there and playing a little, too. When the trip was upended I felt sorry for myself for one day. The next morning I decided I was okay with it either way. Sometimes plans shift because they need to, for reasons not visible at first. Sometimes it seems just a matter of luck, and I don’t expect any more good luck than anybody else walking the planet.
I’m back to pre-production on some really exciting manuscripts which will travel with me, looking forward to digging in with a change of scene, refreshing my spirit in the marvelous city that is San Francisco. Here in Ohio the trees are turning and I hand-produced a hundred books this week. It’s been a crazy week. It’s been a very good week.