Friday, March 30, 2012

Adrienne Rich

There are the poets that make a difference in our lives, and the ones who change our lives. When that happens, we revere them; they become part of us. It's just that simple - and profound.

To reach this pinnacle, the heights where poetry actually changes our lives, requires more than beauty in words, metaphors, images, or the flow of a line. It takes courage. Poetry can inspire. There are verses that make me gasp in awe. But poetry that makes one 'see' the world differently, opens up new paths, new spaces in the psyche and the heart, anchors one differently in the world - that is rare and wonderful.

Adrienne Rich was that for me.

I am a terrible poet, but I have learned so much about writing from my attempts - and from reading poetry, lots of poetry. Poets have taught me about the stunning efficiency of words, about metaphor, the turn of a phrase, the resonance of an image, a line you read once and never forget. A line like this, from Rich's poem, 'Hunger:'

Until we find each other, we are alone. 

Here she is, writing about writing poetry with poetry:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Silencing the written word

It is actually stunning how much censorship is going on in this country now - articles and essays that can't get published, books banned from schools and libraries, plays that can't be performed because they violate someone's deeply entrenched world view.

It's another indication of the growing assertion of right-wing, white evangelical Christianity over the US culture, something really finding expression in the GOP presidential contest this year. Deeply rooted in our history of Puritan-style evangelicalism, this version of white superiority has come to dominate airwaves, local school boards, and Tea Party politics across the country.

We see along with this (and sometimes as expression of it) growing portions of a white society that feels incredibly threatened by their looming loss of majority status, disoriented by the variety of cultures, colors, languages, and lifestyles that now surround them, that are woven into the larger fabric of a melting pot that never really melted very well.

This phenomenon is now bankrolled by wealthy corporate investors and shareholders who are using these fears and insecurities to drive democracy out of our politics, to shred our Constitution, to silence voices and movements that represent a considerable portion of the population, especially the young, who do not want their lives dominated in every aspect of them by corporations, by commodities and markets.

But the effort to stifle democracy continues.When it hits writers, I take it personally, I feel the offense.

Friday, March 16, 2012

First robin

The telltale call in the wee hours of the morning, herald of spring. This year, a robin has moved in so close to my little flat that I have resigned myself to the reality that when the windows are open this year, I will be awakened long before dawn. No way around it.

Lake Michigan shore, Feb 2010 - Photo: Margaret Swedish
And this year the windows are open early. Record warmth has spread across the country, while I'm still wondering what happened to my winter. I am missing deep in my soul the frozen lake, the ice sculptures formed when the winter storms send waves crashing on the rocks and bluffs. I am missing the unforgettable, awe-striking sound of water undulating beneath the ice sheets on the lake's surface, the sounds of cracking, the almost imperceptible motion of the ice that if you really pay attention to it can make you feel dizzy, as if the earth itself is gently rocking, rocking.

We are shattering records by 30-40 degrees. I say to my friends, if it's 82 in March, what will it be in July?

Are we scared yet?

Or does the robin song in the hours before dawn annoy the sleep-deprived, the busy workers, the ones who stayed up late playing Wii games?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Beginning again...

That's one of the wonderful things about this life, if you are not too attached to identity, personal history (or, baggage), career, beliefs - you can begin again - over and over and over. Evolution continues to create and recreate life over millions and millions of years. Why not mine?

Star formation. Chandra: NASA
Of course, this also means dying over and over again, letting go what no longer works, what no longer fits, what no longer describes or provides narrative for what we learn as we go along in life. It means not clinging to belief systems when those systems have cracked open at the foundations under the weight of new discoveries, new realizations, new unfolding...

I just try to open these days, more and more. It's hard right now because it means opening to some shattering truths about where this species seems headed, the damage we're doing, the deepening of suffering as a defining reality of our times. On the other hand, I see no other way to address that suffering at its causes. If we don't go to the source - and it is, indeed, a harsh journey - we can't get to the place where suffering ceases.