When I started doing this poem stuff some fifty years ago, I couldn’t have known that poems would bring me so many uplifting souls and enriching experiences, that this was what can come from such an eccentric enterprise. I’ve been very lucky.
Two such gifts arrived last week.
Thursday I got to read with critically celebrated writer Lisa Lenzo at a venue that should have a historical marker: Michigan News in Kalamazoo. Since 1947 it has remained an authentic newsstand, now an endangered species. The one and only Dean Hauck took it over from her father. Ready for this? There are more than 6,000 magazine titles on the racks at Michigan News! And books piled on books, the categories labeled in Dean’s hand on cardboard signs. Walk in, talk with Dean and your heart will detach itself from the world of 45. There isn’t a single slick surface, no espresso bar, just the utterly uncommon reality of Dean and her beloved newsstand, a gift to all who enter.
Then on Saturday, a dear pal and I trekked up to Ludington on a Spring blooming day within the hills. While Jim hiked in the state park, I met with the Ludington Writers. Talk about an insightful, interested, warm group. Not once did anyone manipulate a question to draw attention to herself or his writing. They wanted to talk about Saint Peter and the Goldfinch.
Each had a book, and the afternoon turned into a two-hour conversation. These writers care about one another. They help one another in ways that reveal respect for and attentiveness to the writer’s work. Following our time together was a loving tribute to the marvel that was George Dila who once wrote about a man who had a gun held to his head and when ordered to say his last words, said, “Pizza Pie.” George’s books are available!
Then, of course, there’s 45, holding an economic gun to our heads while hawking how marvelous the economy has become because of him. Talk about obfuscation, about misleading figures, about distorting facts that impact people’s thoughts and lives.
Last week after sending to a friend a notice for a job, I received this–
How are you? Been thinking of you and hoping you’ve been enjoying this really lovely weather.
My parents drove up from Valpo yesterday for my mom’s 80th birthday. We barbecued and watched the robins and blue jays laugh at my homemade scarecrow. Very peaceful.
This job appeals to me and I think I’d be good at it. At 20 hrs a week, though, at $15/hr, I’d still struggle to make ends meet and would still struggle to have health insurance. [My other job] starts again soon, but that’s just under full time, only 6 weeks of work, and no benefits. Really hoping for a full time gig so ____ and I can have insurance.
[It’s a] maddening refrain how the economy is doing so well and there are so many jobs, when the reality is there are so many low paying, part time jobs with no benefits. I look at the list of cover letters I’ve written for full time jobs I’ve applied for in the last 2 yrs. with my 2 master’s degrees and years of professional experience and a handful of respectable publications, and can count on one hand how many I’ve even gotten so much as a phone call from. It is scary, frustrating, and the list goes on.
Yes, working when I did: I was so lucky.
Easy world, you gave it once,
that quiet afternoon after
a morning rain. We
had lunch. Then, the sun
came out and we took
our sweat out into the
garden, pulled gently
on the weeds and lifted
the slugs off their path.
It was our own greenhouse,
lost under a wide sky, the
thunderheads now gone
on, the mud mixed
with the deep, muted
smell of leaves. That
was all, a morning
storm, a steamy afternoon,
a garden helping us
feel we belonged.
Check out the Art on the Meadow classes at Ox-Bow. I’m getting to teach one called Personal Mythologies. But don’t let that intimidate you. What I mean by this is that your own personal experiences are the equal to what we inherit from known sources, like fables, legends, children’s stories, religious texts, classical myths. Work with your own world to discover that your poem about your frightening illness connects with dragon stories, that your story about being bullied connects to David facing down Goliath. You don’t have to draw on the sources. Just write your poem or story or fragment or paragraph and realize that you are doing personal mythology. Some of you might recall Joseph Campbell and his work, how he showed that we are all living our own mythological personal history. And it’ll be fun to be with one another.
When: June 23, 10am till 5pm. With a great lunch at Ox-Bow included!
A gift arrived in my inbox yesterday. Garrison Keillor featured one of my poems on The Writer’s Almanac, now a podcast. In good company with Harvey Milk, Hergé, Orville and Wilbur, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (Thanks, Norbert!)
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Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.
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Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.