That Time We Read at Roan & Black

I lost track a while ago of all the “Once Ever” experiences poetry has brought my way in the fifty years I have been in this one art.

This past weekend extended and enriched this list because of the great and lovingly generous souls at Roan & Black Gallery–John, Doug, Angela, J, Rian, and Sophia–where within the gallery’s understated but bounteous gardens the luminously soulful poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer and I read, accompanied by Rob Kenagy, the gently awesome improvisational guitarist/poet/friend.

We played before an audience (150 of you?!?) who welcomed each word and note with a warmth we soaked up and savored. Imagine–the gardens, a huge lawn for chair or blanket, flowers and lemon water on the set, incense keeping any gate-crashing bug at bay, the sun glowing down its way within weirdly accommodating weather, Prosecco, gourmet cookies, sighs and laughs, and good folk lingering after, enjoying just being with one another. Thanks to everyone who came and for your part in creating an evening that is already a sustaining memory.

Then on Saturday I got to be Rosemerry’s sidekick for an all-day workshop planned and hosted by the inexhaustible Colette DeNooyer at Colette and Bob’s welcoming home on Lake Michigan, where winsome and intelligent folk gathered in Rosemerry’s ideas, sparks, encouragement, insights, and perceptions — all fresh and valuable.

Do visit Roan & Black–it is truly a visit —  the gallery, sculpture gardens, the home store, and the soulful hosts. Being there brings to you something endangered and much needed– Quiet joy. Our books are still available there, but of course, that’s only one of many reasons to go!

And now before I place yet another exuberant adjective before you, I’ll sign off with two words that we sometimes overlook. But they contain the ineffable.

Thank you.

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Roan & Black to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

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.

And, of course, click here to visit ridl.com, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

Reading! Reading! Reading!

  ********** ROAN AND BLACK GALLERY PRESENTS!!!! **********

A GARDEN PARTY READING/CONCERT FEATURING

ROSEMERRY WAHTOLA TROMMER
AND
JACK RIDL
WITH SPECIAL GUEST
GUITARIST/SONGWRITER/POET ROB KENAGY
Where:    Roan And Black Gallery on Blue Star Highway between Saugatuck and Douglas
Date:        Friday, June 23
Time:        7pm
Cost:        FREE!

Weather permitting, the festivities will be in the stunning gardens at the gallery. A limited number of chairs will be provided so consider bringing a chair and/or a blanket. Come early and visit the art in the gallery, stroll the gardens, enjoy the eclectic array of items in the two stores accompanying the gallery.

See the attached flier for more information. Guaranteed money back if you don’t have one terrific time. We would love being with you as we welcome–at long last–SUMMER!

Here’s that flyer.

TEDx Macatawa: The Perfectly Imperfect

A TEDx Talk.

I was asked to give a TEDx Talk.

These talks bring new ideas to the world, or at least ideas that have been overlooked. The last time I had a new idea, it was defeated in a faculty meeting.

Well, it wasn’t exactly a new idea. Actually it was a very old idea, an ancient idea, and one I’ve continued to promote through retirement and onward. So, what new idea could I come up with? I came up with a chair. TED talkers walk around the stage. I walk my dog, or follow as he sniffs,  a rather uncoordinated, random walk. I am quite good at sitting. It’s how I’ve always done my best work.

TEDx and TED Talks are stunning, flawless, perfect, excellent. I’m very uncomfortable with stunning, flawless, perfect, excellent. When I taught at a nearby college, people were constantly pursuing excellence. Like Charlie our dog doing his sniffing. “There! Nope…. Maybe over There! Nope.”

I never had any idea what in this or any world Excellence was or looked, sounded, tasted or smelled like. But everyone  seemed to know it was there, somewhere. I knew that it was used in conversation: “Like, ya know, that’s excellllent!”

Really? Excellent? When I asked, I was told it meant “doing or making a thing better than most everyone and everything else.” At what cost? And how do you know when you’ve arrived? Merely by measurement?

Only that can be excellent which can be measured? There is a reason standards have lowered from reaching for wisdom or inspiration to spelling all the words correctly. Reaching for perfect measures is the new black.

Not being much of a fan of it, what could I talk about if I couldn’t talk about excellence? This gnawed my bones for a long time before it came: I would talk unexcellently about other things worth pursuing. Or I chose to state the positive: I would suggest that a thing is worth doing even if you don’t do it well.

In fact, most things worth doing have more important reasons for doing them than doing them well. And so I sat in my chair, promoting The Perfectly Imperfect*

I TEDx Talked about the virtue of not focusing on doing things well, or even doing them well at all.

And my microphone fell off my ear.

And I went 34 seconds past my allotted time.

And my chair squeaked.

*The title came from our daughter, who at age 7 said to me when I hung holiday lights up one side of our front door, across the top, and 1/3 of the way down the other side, “Daddy! Let’s leave them up this way. They are perfectly imperfect.”

A Community is Born

This past June The Fetzer Institute hosted a group to spend the week writing, reflecting, being alone, talking with one another, and having daily group conversations about some of the subjects that those at Fetzer are devoted to exploring. We spent the time focusing our conversations, led gently and profoundly by Mark Nepo and Shirley Showalter, on suffering, love, compassion, forgiveness, creativity, and the artist’s responsibility in working with these conditions, each one certainly an integral part of each life.

For two days a film crew was at the Institute to record our responses in a formal setting drawn out from us by the unimposing presence of and questions posed by Mark and Shirley. These “interviews” are now available on The Fetzer Institute website right here. I have a hunch that you will find the insights and “takes” of the participants to be interesting, at times provocative, at times supportive, often unusual, always warm-hearted.

Here you will hear from a master of the Kora, novelists, poets, a world authority on the spiritual nature of the labyrinth, potters, a former NPR death row reporter, a leader of women’s empowerment groups, a concert pianist/composer, writers of children’s books, health activists, and, and, and.

In one little week, we became friends. All of us have been astonished at what Mark and Shirley enabled to happen–to us, for us, with us. We have stayed in contact, celebrating one another, cheering one another on in what we are each trying to do. We became that rarest of organic creations, a community.

And those who can’t stop teaching…

The new school year is starting and for the first time in 37 years, I’m not going to walk into a classroom, hands shaking….

(Feeling kinda wistful actually.)

But! This summer I dipped my toes into the waters of independent writing workshops. And I LOVED it. With the great good assistance of Colette Volkema DeNooyer, who has experience in these things and hosted the workshops at her magical home along Lake Michigan, I spent a week with a group of people who love poetry and loved being together.

The sessions were such a good time that Colette and I decided to try for another set of sessions running once a month from September through February. That workshop has already filled. So now we are thinking of other possibilities, and that’s where you all come in.

I’m imagining several types of workshops: ones for those who have always wanted to try their hand at writing poems, ones that focus on particular approaches to writing poems, ones that are for those who want to add to what they already do with their poems, ones that focus on developing ways of working with the various elements of poetry, ones that focus on particular contemporary poets and what we can learn from what they do, etc.

So—-to that end we’ve added an email news feature that you can sign up for to hear about workshops, readings, new books coming out, etc. By asking you to sign up for it, (see the link in the upper right-hand corner of the site?) we’ll know we’re notifying only those of you who want to hear about the kinds of things I’ll be up to in my so-called retirement.

Here’s the setting for our workshops:

Poetry Workshop Setting

photo by Joy Gaines Friedler

And if you have ideas about what these workshops should be? Leave comments here, or over on the Readings and Workshops page. I’d love to hear from you.

And now back to looking ahead while remaining ever grateful for the wonderful years I had with my students at Hope College….