Monday, November 24, 2014

Le Guin's speech lights up the writing world

Indeed it did. So I'm posting about it, too, as are so many other writers.
"I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality."
Them's fightin' words - for a larger cause.

We are moving into truly terrible times. Look at the snowbelt around Buffalo, the disappearing glaciers of Glacier National Park, and the deep, deep drought in the west that threatens global food supply, for glimpses of our future.

Look at the corporate takeover of our political system, the loathing of knowledge and science that is all the rage, at the continued popularity of the Fox News propaganda network, how the Confederacy is finally winning the Civil War, to see just how unable we are becoming to cope with the reality pressing down on us.

As I write this, scenes from Ferguson in advance of the announcement of the grand jury's findings look like war preparation. We also see now what the militarization of police around the country will mean if people start getting upset about the weight of oppression, poverty, discrimination, and repression hanging over our discontent, fear, and anxiety.
"...we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being..."
Sounds like a mission, and one I hope to engage with more courage as this world moves headlong into deeper crises on multiple levels. More and more now, I believe in the power of stories, poems, and many forms of art to get us out of our heads, to help break through the cultural fog that surrounds us and makes it hard to SEE reality, even as it presses upon us on so many levels of our lives.

More and more I believe in metaphor and images to break us open, or to break us down, or to kick the props out from under us that hold us in this increasingly alienating and disempowering society.

Le Guin has it right. The corporate world that steals the talents of writers for its own profit is the same corporate world that is stealing from us the means to have dignified, wholesome, lives of integrity and truth.
"The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words."
I found myself cheering at my computer.

Thank you, Ursula Le Guin, for calling us to this mission.

Ursula K. Le Guin's fiery speech, and the overwhelming reaction to it (full text and video)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Writing from "local ground (s)"

Wow, I haven't written here in a month. That's pretty terrible, but speaks to one of those issues for writers - those periods when other demands and stresses of life keep you from writing. Some of that has to do with paying the rent.

I am compelled to start posting again on a more regular basis, and compelled to start doing that today by a very exciting new release in which I am a humble participant. And it is this:



Back in late 2012, I received an email message from Sarah and Wendy about an idea they had hatched, which piqued my interest immediately. Curious about the whole blogging thing, Sarah proposed an email exchange among several women poets here in Wisconsin who blog about writing - not blogging to promote their writing, but about writing itself, about writing poetry.

I was still feeling pretty much of a newbie in terms of poetry-writing, so I was excited, but also humbled, at the thought of being in an exchange of this kind with the likes of Sarah Busse, Jennifer Morales, Margaret Rozga, and Lisa Vihos.

Friday, October 10, 2014

"...the theopoetic..."

I found that lovely term in the book, The Blue Sapphire of the Mind: Toward a Contemplative Ecology, by Douglas Christie (Oxford). It is a very slow read - because it is profound, and it is beautifully written.

The passages copied below are from his chapter, "Logos: The Song of the World," and this morning they struck me as a powerful undertone for Wednesday's post written in the afterglow of the Blood Moon, of that moment of exchange between my niece and I 75 miles apart from each other, how she gave the prompt and I found the poem, the poem being in the lines of her email message and in that moment of encounter with the full moon setting in the west in full eclipse, dimmed by the shadow of Earth is it turned toward the sun, and in the encounters between mother and daughter, then beloved niece and her aunt... in other words, in the Word that resided in all those permeable, fluid, liminal spaces, those moments of connection where boundaries are suddenly revealed as permeable and full of "evolutionary potential:"

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wednesday morning - how an email exchange becomes a poem

I've been in a great writing mode lately, which is like having a fever that won't stay down because I have not had the time to write that I need in order to cool it off. Sometimes the creative juices will drive a person crazy when it gets all bottled up. A few recent poems came so easily that I had to stop myself and say, they cannot possibly be any good.

So I took them to my critique group and, with a few tweaks, they're done and I'm quite proud of them. Turned out they really are pretty good.

This morning, I got up very early to view the Blood Moon, the total eclipse of the setting full moon in the pre-dawn hours. Boy, was that worth the alarm clock calling me out of a deep, restful sleep! Even in the city here, the stars were brilliant, the enormous Big Dipper hanging handle down in the north sky, Orion in his glory, the Pleiades sparkling.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Yes, a light touch... that sears

David Whyte, whose poetry I much love, posted this poem on his Facebook page today, and I have kindly received permission to paste it in here. I have the book and have only begun to plumb all its wonders.

Good poetry begins with
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Turning 65

As most of us know, we live in a culture that no longer reveres aging, or so it seems. Elders were once reverenced among their tribes and villages, but we tend to put ours away. We do this because the culture says we are not supposed to be burdened by them, and many of our elders have internalized this message.

"I don't want to be a burden on my children." Have you heard that one before?

Aging didn't always present "burden." It used to present the possibility of wisdom passed down.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

We need new stories...

Last night I was sitting on the cushion at my sangha meditating there for the first time since the beginning of August. In the past few weeks, life put in front of me a rich platter overfull with travels to the East, with insights, experiences, input, output (i.e., work) relationships (some new, some decades old), reunions, homecomings, and the raw vulnerability of accompanying a family member intensely dear to me through a profound medical challenge.

In the background was Gaza, and ISIS, and the Ukraine, and Ebola, and climate change tipping points, and Ferguson, and visceral racism, and on and on. When I came home, it was back into this nasty political culture that is my poor State of Wisconsin in an election year with huge stakes and money corrupting the whole process.

Whew! And I think I appreciate more than ever that the work of culture

Friday, August 1, 2014

Art is Not Optional

Carolyn RaffenspergerBy Carolyn Raffensperger

The first time I realized the impact of the arts on my life as an activist was after a big loss in the Illinois legislature over public lands on Lake Michigan. At the time I was the State Field Representative for the Sierra Club. I had worked hard lobbying to oppose the sale of 26+ acres of Lake bed and shoreline to Loyola University. The legislature sold it out from under the public. I, along with others, had done everything we could to save that land for future generations and prevent the University from building a sports stadium on a landfill in the Lake. We lost big time. That night I went to hear Tom Paxton at the Old Town School of Folk Music. His beautiful familiar music washed over me, taking the anger and sorrow enough so I could get up the next day and go on. During an intermission he wandered among us and I told him what that night of music meant to me. I told him that I knew I was not alone in the struggle. He hugged me.

Monday, July 28, 2014

When you just can't write...

Sometimes the world overwhelms. Sometimes life becomes that thing that happens while you're making other plans. Sometimes available hours to write just don't appear. 

Sometimes you wonder why we live in a culture that does not support culture and the arts so that that time would be available...

It's especially hard when you are in the middle of a project you love, that is coming from deep within you, that wants to be written, that is even important, and that you know is some of the best writing you've ever done.

And life unfolds...

Monday, June 23, 2014


Well, my Medicare card arrived in the mail over the weekend. I can tell you that, besides being dumbfounded at the passage of time, it sure does focus the mind - and the heart. It is NOT crazy to start pondering the limits of the years that are left and what one wants to do with them. Thousands of things that seemed so important recede from the list of, you know, what's important. And that, my friends, can be quite liberating.

What do I want to give back to this world for the life I've been given? What do I most feel urgent about passing on from the narrative of my own life's journey?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April Is No Fool

A lesson in clinging: the winter that is so reluctant to let go. Every now and then we get a teaser, a day when it actually feels like spring. It lasts a day or two, then - well, today, for example. Back in the 30s and a winter weather advisory for the overnight.

A lesson in clinging. If you want something new, you gotta let go - mostly of expectations. Winter and spring are in this intense dance this year, more intense than in many years, and it is exhilarating to be in it, to watch the wrestling match, knowing that the cycle does ultimately tell us which one will finally relent.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Still writing. Honestly. I'm still writing.

Wow, has it really been 3 months? Time to renew my commitment to this blog about writing, about my writing, about the journey that is the writing part of my life.

I would like to blame the bitter cold winter and above normal snowfall. I would like to blame being overwhelmed with life changes, with too many commitments, with the need to pay my rent, which writing doesn't do (yet - one can always hope). But when I think about all that, I realize it is only more material for writing.
Lake Michigan holds winter in place...

I haven't stopped, of course. I finally offered the book I've been working on for a couple of years to my siblings for feedback - the book that opens a lens on this moment in the culture through the multi-generational story of my family, from ancestors in the old country, pioneers, farmers and miners, to my parents and the struggles of the generational clashes of the last century. They turned out to be wonderful readers and I am finishing up the revisions that came from their feedback.