Creating Community

photo of person holding sparkler

Photo by Malte Lu on Pexels.com

I live in a community where I have not experienced a strong sense of community. Having come here in later life, after living in other states, Southwest Virginia has not been all that welcoming or hospitable to me. I find the Confederate flag at the United States’ Independence Day parade to be a reminder of the worst division this nation has ever known, one that almost killed us off as nation, and not a symbol of any proud heritage, for instance.

In the face of these divisions, my friend Maggie who was born here, although her mother is from New England, and identifies herself with this town, invited people she knew to come hear her read at a local café on the evening of July 4th. I was the only one who showed up. When I arrived, at the open mic night, a band was playing, too loud for me to stay inside the café. Others came in and quickly left as well. The place was almost empty. I though that someone should tell the band to modulate their amplification to fit the space, because they had great energy, but the sound was overwhelming what they were playing. Maggie and I talked outside and I said I would walk up and down the street until she came on. At the same time, on the street, people were gathering for the city’s fireworks. 

About a half hour later, the band of young men, who appeared to be in their twenties, stopped playing. I went back inside, to find I was to be her audience, along with potentially three new customers getting drinks at the bar. Maggie asked the band to stay to listen to her. They went backstage. Now, Maggie is a large, young woman who it turns out has a “schoolteacher’s voice” I didn’t know about. She said she’d wait. One of the band members came back out and she asked if the others were coming. He said no, he didn’t think so. I felt for her at this point, but thought, hey, just go ahead.

As she began to read, the other band members came out and sat at the table right in front of her. They were talking, quietly, among themselves, but as she continued speaking, they began to listen. She read and spoke from memory and improvisation about a locust tree in her backyard that was full of vines, and the vines were killing it. She cut the vines to give it a chance to live. At some point she sensed she heard the tree thank her. She saw the leaves of the vines yellowing, in time. Then she talked about July 4th and freedom, and how we as Americans are free, and when we see someone else in shackles, we have to emancipate them; it’s our civic responsibility to cut their shackles. 

The band members applauded when she was done and one young man came over to her and talked to her a while. A young woman who had been sitting with the band eagerly reached out to her. They spoke as well, and then she and I walked toward the door. I said, “You knocked their socks off.” I was proud of her, and what literature, poetry, and thinking, can do, and most of all, having the freedom – and the courage – to express what you are feeling and thinking.

I drove home as the city’s fireworks lit up the sky. So maybe community is when we have the courage to create it, no matter the odds against us.

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Grandma Wing

KatherineMiller_Florida

Grandma lived in Winter Park,
near Lake Osceola and Rollins College.
The house was two stories, and wide
windows looked out on a fountain
in the circle of the road
On the front porch she waited for us,
shoulders bent forward and in,
but willfully resolute, and keen-eyed;
I felt her cool arthritic palm
Once inside sunlight blazed beyond
Venetian blinds, antiques and a lifetime’s finds,
crystal and china shone in measured light,
and overhead fans kept the rooms cool;
matching the tapestry of her garden
She was never bored: I read,
I think and daydream. At my age
these are the things I do best.

I saw the joys and sorrows of a long life
imprinted on her face, in a window’s sunspot
when we settled in for a game
of double solitaire;
but when she asked me to stay with her
a day or two I made excuses:
parents’ disapproval, homework, school
Don’t you want to?
Yes, I nodded. But I already knew
some wished-for things will never be.
Help me in the garden, she said,
rising from her wing chair
A delicate aroma of tropical flowers
washed over me: I want to stay with you,
I thought, of days in this garden
backlit by water-dappled clouds
She showed me how to water roses
and there’s a right way and all other ways
are nonsense. And we are always there
with the blue beyond us, the blue around us,
the blue within us, and the roses

 

Mary Clark

March Blizzard Poetry

megabenefit2On March 7, 1983, the day of the “Rock’n’Poetry” Benefit for the Poetry Festival at St. Clement’s Church (423 West 46th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, New York City), a major snowstorm hit the city. By late afternoon the streets were empty.

Allen Ginsberg arrived, shaking off a mantle of snow, about fifteen minutes before the reading. He was friendly, but a little shy. I showed him and a friend into the library where lamplight glowed on the blue, green, mauve and earth-colored leaded windows.

Spalding Gray arrived, and shook my hand. (He’d promised he’d come one day.)

Amiri Baraka called to say he was on his way in from Newark and battling the snow.

“I understand if you can’t make it.”

“The roads are still open, and it will be just as bad trying to go back to Newark. And I wanted to get into the city anyway.”

The audience filled the downstairs theatre and I began to worry about over-capacity. More than a hundred people had braved the storm.

Easing open the door, I saw a mound of snow creeping down the street. The mound pulled over to the sidewalk and Baraka piled out with his family.

I held the church door open. “I can’t believe what you’ve gone through to get here.”

“I was determined to be here,” he said. “There aren’t many places like this.”

I left him with Ginsberg and the other poets and their friends in the small library room next to the front office. Poets sat on the sofa, Ginsberg in a low armchair, and others on the well-worn, wine-red rug.

The reading was segue-ing from poet to poet. Spalding Gray said all he needed was a table and a chair. He sat at the table center stage with one spotlight, reading from his notebooks. His words flowed out intuitively, and the way he coupled the words, tangled, bickered, or united in conjugal bliss, exposed his inner turmoil and joy, his triumphs and losses.

Sheri spoke to me and I was jolted back to my responsibilities.

Applause followed me down the front hall. I counted the box office.

It was time to give Baraka and Ginsberg the heads up. I poked my head in.

Ginsberg looked up, making eye contact. “Are you doing well? Did you make money?”

“We did. We’ll be able to go on another year with the money we made tonight.”

He smiled. “That’s great.”

I stared a moment, not realizing before his commitment to poets and poetry groups.

Baraka went into the theater next, giving a reading filled with stamping meter and hard-edged images tempered by, well more than humor, empathy, or sense of injustice and hope, by love I would say.

When Ginsberg spoke people clapped, stamped their feet, howled, and sang, his voice rising like a cantor. The walls reverberated, the theater was heated by the crowd, a night of wonder.

Outside the snow had stopped. The poets left with the crowd, a beautiful sound in the silent snow-cloaked city.

DIY Printed Art

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EPHEMERA was a type of printed art and writing produced by fine printers in the late 19th ad early 20th century. They could be postcard-sized, leaflets, and broadsides.

This is a modern example: “Sunset in Waves,” composed of a few stanzas from my epic poem, Children of Light. The document can be downloaded, and the font and color changed, printed on cardstock or colored paper, to be used as a card or note in person or online. Use an excerpt of the poem (with attribution) if you like.

You can find many examples of modern ephemera, ready to print, on Pinterest. Here’s my Printable Ephemera Board.

Existential Leaper by Richard Spiegel

This poem is relevant today, words for the telling of what is happening to us in the USA. Boxes, dogma, closing in and closing off. Some poems reach deep into our European-Middle Eastern past: religious, social, and linguistic.

“Musings” begins with:

Are we contained in cardboard boxes?
Prison cells? Bureaucracies that shut
us off and turn the locks are staking
psyche’s territory; but we collude
too easily, taking what we find
at hand then brooding over changes.

These bureaus contain moments
of yesterday’s crash. Unclocked
comments race with fantasies
and lies along the synapse
of knowing, while pretenders
to power stay doggedly perched.

You can read the whole poem here: Existential Leaper

Enid Dame, Poet: Woman’s First Breath

enid1 from internet

Enid Dame (1943-2003) was an upbeat Post-Beat feminist poet. Her satire lacked the cynicism that defeats its purpose, and her good-humored,  tongue-in-cheek sensibility made her work unique. Her poetry often brought Biblical characters, especially women, to life.    

Her poem, Lilith, showcases her humor and spirit. When she read it with her Brooklyn accent the effect was effervescent. One reviewer said of her book, On the Road to Damascus, Maryland, that it was “a book of illuminations, conversions, and the hauntingly contemporary voices of Biblical heroines.”

For 25 years, with her husband, the poet Donald Lev, Enid published Home Planet News, the voice of taxi driver and worker poets, road poets and café poets, and multi-everything poets. The duo ran the late night readings in the 1970s at the Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village with just the right mix of order and disorder. A long polished bar and chairs and tables glittered beneath the plate glass sky roof and windows on the street gave the place a dark glamorous look. It was legendary as a watering hole in the 1950s and 1960s for Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac and other Beat poets, along with Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and other modern artists.

Enid taught composition at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and creative writing at Rutgers University in New Jersey.  She was a scholar of Jewish women’s poetry and midrashic writing, lecturing at the Institute for Contemporary Midrash, for the Religious Diversity Seminars of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. She co-edited the anthology Which Lilith?: Feminist Writers Re-Create the World’s First Woman (1998). Enid had seven volumes of poetry published, including Riding the D Train, Lilith, Lilith’s New Career, and Anything You Don’t See.

But what I remember most about her was her smile, her generosity, her passionate, amiable courage, as well as her intelligent, insightful poetry. 

Enid Dame on Wikipedia

More about Enid Dame on Rain Taxi

Enid Dame Reads Lilith (1989)

Interview with Enid Dame and Donald Lev

Home Planet News Marathon Reading Flyer

Books for Christmas!

Two of my books in Kindle format are on sale NOW through DECEMBER 26

RACING THE SUN and CHILDREN OF LIGHT

And that’s not all – these can be combined with the paperback – when you buy a print copy of Racing The Sun, you get the Kindle for FREE. The print copy of Children of Light is only $5.99, with the Kindle at .99. Great deals!

         Racing The Sun Book Cover Small (2)                    childrenoflightcoverbardpress

Children of Light: Live for the Holidays!

childrenoflightcoverbardpress

 Extended Holiday Sale!

Children of Light will be on sale through midnight January 10, 2018

Kindle 99 cents

Paperback $5.99

Poetry of the spirit

Reviews

Mary Clark has brought us an achingly beautiful chain of poems that both watch and listen: the sun, the sea, the darkness, the light, the passing of time—and the people who live among them.
Reverend Barbara Crafton, Episcopal priest and author

and:

As we know, poetry remains the best way to communicate our most fundamental ideas. In Children of Light, a modern tale of adversity and transcendence set in the unique natural environment and human history of Florida’s Gulf Coast, three children go on a journey that leads them to explore their true characters, their relationship to one another, and to society. 

The children’s journey, set in modern times, deals with questions of good and evil and how we can be guided by those who generate light. The author believes we can learn to exercise and develop our innate goodness, and in this tale, she shows how this can happen.

Reading this fascinating story told in poetic form to find out is a truly rewarding experience that one won’t easily forget.
— Bradford Dov Lewis, for the Liberal Minyan of Hell’s Kitchen/Chelsea, NYC

Kindle ebook of Children of Light, a poetry novel

Paperback of Children of Light

BardPress/Ten Penny Players

Cornelius Eady, Poetry of Compassion and Truth

Cornelius Eady at St ClementsCornelius Eady is the author of eight books of poetry, including Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems (Putnam, April 2008). His second book, Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, won the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets in 1985. The Gathering of My Name  was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1991. Brutal Imagination was a 2001 finalist for the National Book Award.

His theater work includes the play, “Brutal Imagination,” based on the Susan Smith story of her children being kidnapped by an African-American man. He collaborated with Diedre Murray on the libretto for the opera, “Running Man,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1999.

In 1996 he co-founded Cave Canem with Toi Derricotte, a summer workshop/retreat for African American poets. He has taught at the University of Missouri and SUNY Stonybrook, Southampton, New York.

I first met Cornelius at a reading of Home Planet News in 1980. In the audience, willowy Patricia Fillingham, a poet from suburban New Jersey, had found a home away from home on the New York poetry scene. With her Warthog Press, she published Breathe: An Anti-Smoking Anthology of poems, cartoons and songs, edited by Shel Horowitz, and Kartunes, a collection of poems by Cornelius Eady. I believe Kartunes was Cornelius’ first published book of poetry.

That fall, poets and actors performing poetry caravanned through the Poetry Festival. Cornelius Eady and Shelley Messing taped some of these events, as part of their work making audiotapes of poets for WBAI around the city. Always amiable, Cornelius was generous with his time and helped promote other poets.

Nocerino&EadyFlyer

Cornelius Eady and another poet, Kathryn Nocerino, appeared together at the Poetry Festival at St. Clement’s, 423 West 46th Street, NYC, several times between 1979 and 1983. One reading was on December 21, 1981. At one of these readings, in the large sanctuary and theater space upstairs in the church, I photographed Cornelius with his portable microphone. Tall and thin, he swayed like bamboo while he read. His poetry is compassionate with an edge that cuts into and through veils of ignorance. He fuses music with language about race, social issues, family, and love.

You can read more about him along with some of his poems at the Poetry Foundation.