Richard Blanco is our first Hispanic, first openly gay, youngest ever inaugural poet.
I was talking with our wonderful new intern about the uneasy contradictions between the progress we have made as a nation and persisting prejudice. We were listening to the master CDs of Cornelius Eady’s forthcoming release, the song about Trayvon Martin, which has the disturbing refrain “This land is my land” spoken in the voice of the man who killed Trayvon.
Last night at the library I hosted a poetry reading by three of my favorite Cleveland writers, Eric Anderson, Bonne de Blas, and Shelley Chernin. They’ve all got new books out by local small presses. Shelley had us all laughing at her charming ukelele songs, beginning and ending her poetry set, and Eric said he was pulling out some of his non-narrative poems to read because Bonne had been so brave reading hers (which crystallize around such honed language you could cut glass on her poems). At the same time, Mary Weems–who I’d hoped to include in the reading–was speaking at Case Western about the theater piece she created for Karamu from her poems about foreclosure. We published her chapbook Closure, and the longer collection, For(e)closure, is now available from Mainstreet Rag. I thought about mentioning Eric’s hoodie when I introduced him. Eric told us a story of being on the surveying crew when the water pipes were to be laid on the street outside the library, how he would look longingly at the library and wish he were inside instead, then he realized no one would notice so he started spending part of his work day inside with the books. The librarian was at the reading and afterwards we joked with Eric that we’d just as soon our tax dollars go to literacy.
I’ve got several recent blog drafts that never posted because of, well, life. Just like I’ve got certain work items on the To Do list which keep getting recopied to the new list. I regularly ponder how to balance different parts of life and I don’t have answers, just revolving questions, how to remain present to loved ones and still accomplish the necessary progress in work, how any of this stacks up against the writing life. What about the intrusions of the world at large–those massive external events which impact the psyche even if distant? The writer must stay alive to the world. At the same time, the artist’s sensibility can be harshly impacted by witnessed suffering. And what about personal struggles–we all have them, sooner and/or later, ranging from acute or chronic illness and disability to dislocation/isolation to job loss or other financial crisis to… [insert personal battle here]. Last week one of my favorite writers sent me a note about a recent breakup, saying “my life went out of control for a minute.” Those kind of messages stop me in my tracks with the familiar pang of crisis unavoidable and everything that spins out, after.
On the planes to and from New Jersey this weekend I began reading two books I recently received as gifts. Kathleene West‘s 2002 The Summer of the Sub-Comandante is a string of stories about a woman who travels to some tricky destinations (both geographic and intra-psychic), prose that rides the rim of poetry (or vice versa). Kathleene has that lively intelligence and thrust to her writing that keeps me turning the page, immersed in the lush imagery at the same time I’m trying to figure out what she’s up to. I also pulled out The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Vol. 2, a beautiful melange of drawings and brief writings drawn from Hitrecord.org, a continuing collaborative online project.
Snow unabated here on the north shore. I don’t mind the sub-freezing temperatures and the slippery roads when I can stay home making soup and banana bread, watching the white stuff pile up on tree branches and rooflines, existing inside a cozy snow globe.