Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, EDT, on his Facebook Page here, where the video will will be saved for viewing, in case you missed it.
On Monday I spent time on poetry one-on-one online with a shaman. Her poems invariably bring a realization. Authentic poetry isn’t “about.” It brings about realization; it reveals.
During our conversation, she told me a shaman believes that a disaster can bring about a personal awakening. Not making lemonade out of lemons. It’s more like, well, let’s look at the pandemic. We are worried. We are cut off from our outside daily lives. We are angry. We are enduring great losses. We are grieving.
But the shaman would also ask what awakenings have we realized?
For me, people on a screen are talking photographs.
Please don’t misunderstand; I am extremely grateful for this means of “Staying in touch.” Imagine our isolation without this wonder! However, I actually can’t “Stay in touch.”
My awakening has been how important, how enlivening the actual presence is of another. A couple of weeks ago I spent a one-on-one time with the poet Jim Allis, who said, “How about next week I come over. We’ll stay six feet apart. There’s something about actually being with each other that for me makes a valuable difference.”
There is an ineffable something, a presence another creates. I can’t name it. I just know when I feel I’m within it.
My awakening, I will tell the shaman, is that because of its absence, I have realized my need for the enlivening presence of another.
Fortunately, of course, it’s Julie’s presence I dwell within.
Here in the Time Between
Here in the time between snow
and the bud of the rhododendron,
we watch the robins, look into
the gray, and narrow our view
to the patches of wild grasses
coming green. The pile of ashes
in the fireplace, haphazard sticks
on the paths and gardens, leaves
tangled in the ivy and periwinkle
lie in wait against our will. This
drawing near of renewal, of stems
and blossoms, the hesitant return
of the anarchy of mud and seed
says not yet to the blood’s crawl.
When the deer along the stream
look back at us, we know
we have left them. We pull
a blanket over us when we sleep.
As if living in a prayer, we say
amen to the late arrival of red,
the stun of green, the muted yellow
at the end of every twig. We will
lift up our eyes unto the trees hoping
to discover a gnarled nest within
the branches’ negative space. And
we will watch for a fox sparrow
rustling in the dead leaves underneath.
The reading on April 28 at The Book Nook and Java Shop will be done via ZOOM starting at 7pm. Contact Bryan Uecker, owner and organizer for information. Later, this summer, Jack will give a live reading there with Mark Hiskes.
Jack’s Homily, “The Devil Went Down to Douglas” is here for those of you interested in marking the occasion.
Don’t miss subscribing to this podcast. And Then Suddenly is the brainchild of the kind and brilliant Angela Santillo, whose path I’ve crossed once before while working with CavanKerry Press. Her podcast has a brilliant premise… Describe a moment in your life that changed… everything. She’s had that moment, and from it she has made this podcast. Here’s the conversation we had recently. I hope you explore many of the episodes. Because they will change you. In a good way.
There will be an outstanding Writers Conference held at The Grace A. Dow Library in the Dow Gardens in Midland on July 21 and 22. Each date has a 1-4 afternoon workshop and a reading in the evening along with a Q & A. July 21 features Desiree Cooper and John Mauk. July 22 features Anne-Marie Oomen and me. The workshops are capped at 20 people.
Here’s a wonderfully generous gift from documentary film maker/poet John Stanton:
“I wonder if the people you mail your weekly missives to would enjoy free access to a small collection of documentary films? I do not want to assume anything. But I keep thinking that it might give people something to do during all this self-isolation. If you think it is a good idea, feel free to send them out. All anyone has to do to see them is click on the links.”
Wood Sails Dreams (60-min) This was a film festival hit. The idea of boats made of trees and powered by the wind is a small miracle. The people who build and restore these boats are very soulful.
Oral History: Life During the Troubles, Belfast, Northern Ireland (20-min)
The Last Bay Scallop (30-min) The tradition of dredging for bay scallops runs deep in coastal southeast New England. But are the last days of this cottage industry on the horizon?
Memories of the Aud (45-minutes) In the last week before the closing of the Buffalo Auditorium we spoke with people for whom the sports played there gave them a sense of community.
One Man’s Vietnam (8-min) This might be my favorite. Peter Sylvia is a friend of mine, who was drafted a few weeks after he graduated from art college in 1968. As an act of catharsis he painted what he saw, and then simply put the canvasses in his attic. This short film was made the day he took them down from the attic.
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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.