We know where WE will be tomorrow night.


Our pal Lisa Lenzo is throwing a launch party at one of our favorite local coffee shops, Uncommon Coffee Roasters. And you’re invited! Lisa’s work is as unblinking as the title of the new book, Unblinking, from Wayne State University Press.

Will we see you there?

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019
Saugatuck Book Launch Party
Short reading at 6
free coffee, tea, and treats
Uncommon Coffee Roasters
127 Hoffman Street
5-8 p.m.

And! Soon! Thursday, May 16 at 7pm, I’ll get to read with Lisa at the Michigan News Agency bookstore, 308 W. Michigan Avenue in Kalamazoo.

Guided Meditation

Ready for a hodge podge? Here it comes.

Wasn’t it stunningly thoughtful of 45 to tell the French firefighters, obviously all ignorant of how to deal with the blaze devouring Notre Dame, what they should do: drop tons of water from planes passing over the area.

And it felt so good to hear 45, when asked what he thought of the destruction, respond with “It’s terrible.”

Uh huh.

45 has pledged money to help rebuild the cathedral. Doesn’t that look good! We all know those who make sure you see what good folks they are.

Of course, Puerto Rico was all but demolished by the hurricane; however that was “their fault.” And certainly the hungry and ill kids and parents and others at the border should be ignored because who do they think they are, barging into our country?

Be sure to read up on Jimmy Carter’s response to 45. It’s in a homily he gave at his church.

Whew. That’s enough.

A gigantic thank you to Wayne State University Press for supporting the free book launch event we held on April 5. I have heard from many about what happened there: The feel of a performance with an audience disappeared and the whole thing transformed into something we all created together.

It was terrific to hear, “I never realized that there were so many of us who cared the same way. Being amid like-minded souls felt sooooo good.”

Here’s but one example, this from the wonderful writer Gayle Boss. Find her work here. “. . . like a silent retreat: not until it’s over and you’re walking away feeling easier in your bones do you know how much tension you were holding. For a couple of Spring hours we were immersed in the Beloved Community.”

And I say to all of you who were there, thank YOU for making that community!!

How about this for begging? Please buy Saint Peter and the Goldfinch or another book from Wayne State University Press. They work hard on behalf of us by putting good into the lives of others who are holding on during this oppressive time. And if you enjoyed the book reception and feel the price of a book is worth what you enjoyed, all the better to support them. It’s a gift economy.

And now for your relaxation and peace of mind, your welfare, I offer a repeat poem. I recommend you repeat often…

Guided Meditation

Sit in a way that allows you to be comfortable
and relaxed. Do not let this hot and humid morning
enter your mind. Empty your mind, even if you

were up until 3am trying to forget what
your doctor told you yesterday afternoon. Now
take three deep breaths allowing yourself

to savor the mysterious gift that you
are breathing. You are breathing here
during this one moment, the only moment

that the benevolence of the earth gives
during this moment. This is your moment
even though we do not yet know

what a moment is. I often wonder what
the moment is just prior to the moment.
But that is a thought. And this is a yoga

meditation, and we are to accept each thought
as simply something that passes through us
and goes on its merry, or often unmerry, way.

Take another breath counting to four on the inhale
while picturing a gnome strolling up your nostrils
lugging a bag of gentle breezes, then count to six

on the exhale as the gnome cascades ass over
essential oils on an avalanche of air. Feel
your whole body fully relaxed. Continue breathing.

Picture a candle in a cave. Do not ask why in the
whole wide world there is a candle in a cave. If
you do, see in the question a yogi smiling as he

searches for the matches. Continue breathing.
And now imagine a field of lotus flowers. Or
if you are from the Midwest and unfamiliar

with lotus flowers you can always substitute corn.
Now picture rain on a roof. Listen to it. Listen
to the distant cough of thunder. Just listen. Don’t

think about what you left out to ruin the last time
it rained. Continue breathing, and as you do, allow
any image to appear on the multiplex of your mind.

Be sure not to fixate on any one image. If a lover
old or new comes at you with a flame thrower, just
sit, watch, let it all pass, be glad your ego’s been emulsified.

Stay relaxed. Continue breathing. Feel the comfort
of your whole body as you repeat the mantra, “I am
at peace. I am totally at peace. I am really, totally at peace.”

Now that you are at peace, feel your feet, palms, pelvic floor
fully at rest in the room. Come to Sukhasana. Bring your hands
to your heart, and join me for one long peaceful Om.

for Ami, Stacy, and Teresa

–Jack Ridl

First published in I-70 Review
Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch

Hey here’s some good news. Our dear friend, the remarkably compassionate and intelligently understanding Ginny Mikita has founded Animal Blessings. Ginny offers animal blessings, grief support groups, one-on-one companioning, memorial services, estate planning, and advocacy for our animal companions. Her website is www.animalblessings.love. Or call her at 616-460-0373.

And the wonderful Kathleen Markland’s new book, A Pen, A Brush, A Book, is out and orderable right here. We have been celebrating this homecoming all week, and would like to boast that some of the work in the book was penned and painted right under our own noses. We have bragging rights on this one.


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Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Losing Season Finds a Home

Julie here, reporting for Jack, who is sitting, stunned on the couch right now… He’s just received word that “Losing Season,” his wonderful manuscript of whole-wide-world-in-a-small-town-basketball-season poems is going to be published by the exquisite CavanKerry Press. Those folks make gorgeous books. We’re just thrilled! Well, I’m thrilled. Jack’s in a stupor. I’ll let you know if he ever comes out of it.

“Retiree” Returns to Work

Well, this “retiree” is back at work! I’m teaching the Intermediate Poetry Writing course this fall I have a great gang of poets in there including my philosophy professor pal Jim Allis. He enables me to say things like “Oh, that ontological move you made from the Aristotelian assumption of reality to the Platonic reality of reality which then implies a Buber-influenced relational reality just blew me away!” And the students with their affirmation of one another’s work have taken a conventional classroom and have transformed it into a safe and creative space. We get to hang out and talk about poems.

The second edition of Approaching Literature (Bedford/St. Martin’s Press) that Peter Schakel and I wrote will be out soon along with a new edition of our 250 Poems. Approaching Literature, we think/hope, is a richer book than the first time around. I’ve loved working with Peter. We’re a great good team, able to bring our very different strengths to the book. It was funny—at first, I kept worrying that I was having all the fun while Peter was doing the work I would not enjoy. Then we found out that each of us was concerned about that for the other. We were able to harmonize what each of us brought to the project. We always signed off our emails to one another with “On we go.” And on we went until, after two years of all but daily work we met the deadline.

Here’s something cheerful: You should all check out Julie’s knitting blog: knittingjuju.wordpress.com what she’s designed and knitted are now showing up all over the knitting globe, and I do mean globe. Wait’ll you see the sweater she made for me. I’ve reached the age where I could live in autumn in that sweater all year.