Following Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin last night, I felt a sense of deja vu, a deep and exhausted dissapointment. Today in my inbox comes the response of Richard Cohen, President and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center. I am so grateful for the visible and continuing good faith work of people who refuse to become despondent in the face of tenacious social evils, and who know we are on a long path for civil rights, human rights. You can read Cohen’s cogent, calm, passionate statement here.
Meantime I will spruce up my hoodies, and think about what more we can do in Trayvon’s memory, and on behalf of all the other young people of color in this country, so that no more parents ever, ever have to get the phone call Trayvon’s parents received on the night he was shot.
Marty Kaplan, director of USC’s Norman Lear Center, was wonderful to hear on this week’s Moyers & Company, speaking on the Weapons of Mass Distraction–how we are diverted from the citizen work of keeping democracy responsive to the people. On the same show you can hear a conversation with Gary May, author of “Bending Toward Justice; The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy.”
We were talking today with a writer whose poetry collection was finalist or semi-finalist in numerous contests, and got picked up by an esteemed small press. That was two years ago and a contract was never signed, a release date not specified, and soon the poet’s emails stopped receiving replies from the press. What’s a writer to do?
People are not perfect and neither are any of our enterprises. So I encouraged additional attempts at closure. Awful as it feels, sometimes one’s manuscript falls between the cracks and is passed over unintentionally. Maybe an email address goes dead, personnel changes, it’s just overly busy and crazy that season at the press, etc. Other contact points must be sought. But if the press truly has lost interest, it’s time to move on and seek another home. Sad, but it happens occasionally.
A publisher we know used to scoff at writers’ complaints about presses or journals with ungainly long delays in publication. She’d say, You should have so much writing going out that you don’t have time to get hung up on one poem, one anthology, one book that’s been delayed. Keep working! Keep submitting!
All the important struggles are long ones, often lifelong. What we believe in, what we choose to champion, be it our own work or a cause in the wider world. It’s good to remember most stuff isn’t personal. Perspective is good to cultivate, along with compassion, and the hunger for a better world. And as one of Bill Moyers’ guests put it, we really can’t afford to not be optimistic. We have to commit our attention, our time, to the things we love and the world for which we yearn.