Friday, January 25, 2013

Inaugural poem - the poet was the significance

It's hard to write a poem for a president's inauguration. Poetry may not work all that well in this setting. Expectations are high - including the expectations for patriotic praise, nationalistic uplift, inspiration, reaching a mass audience.

So there's lots of critique of Richard Blanco's poem. Some of the lines were lovely, lyrical. 
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Racism on my mind

I've got racism on my writer's brain today. Have been reading Michelle Alexander's disturbing, The New Jim Crow - Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, watched part one of the new series about the abolitionists on PBS's American Experience, then all the hoopla around the brilliant film "Lincoln," and the awareness that I live in the nation's most segregated city, and the racist vitriol from some gun rights nuts who cannot believe the "black man" in the White House wants to limit access to assault rifles and huge ammo clips and are preparing for the uprising against the federal government...

yea, and on and on and on... Hard to get away from it these days.

Local writer Barbara J. Miner wrote a long piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Sunday Crossroads section entitled, Segregation and a tragic silence. The connection here between deeply embedded racism  and entrenched poverty spreading out from the city's northwest neighborhoods is beyond obvious; it's the plan, the intention, of far too many of our citizens around these parts (is it the Germans? the Slavic descendants? I have that blood in me and I know my people only too well).

Monday, January 7, 2013

Writing amidst the noise and din

Being a writer now is a very different challenge than being a writer even 20 years ago. We are being crushed by words, by communications, by verbal noise, a steady din, within which a poet, a story-teller, an essayist attempts to be heard.

Trying to find the way to be heard amidst all that background noise, so much of it noise for its own sake, is not easy. Even more, being heard and impacting the culture - no, not easy.

There was a time when sitting together telling stories, reading poems, singing songs of a people's mythology and/or history was the way culture itself took shape, provided meaning, communicated a coherent cosmology that held a tribe or village or empire together.