Zimmer Teaches a Young Dog Old Tricks

This post is personal. It’s a little story about a man I admired and loved and lost.

A tribute to Poet/writer/editor Paul Zimmer

When I was 23, I wrote songs. When that didn’t work out, and I didn’t knock Paul Simon off the charts, I decided to write poems. After all, I had written lyrics, so poems had to be much easier. No music!

I had been reading a lot of Rod McKuen and feeling sorry for myself — sure-fire inspiration for poetry. So I went out and bought a yellow legal tablet (so cool!) and wrote and wrote.

I was living in Pittsburgh. A classmate was the administrative assistant at the International Poetry Forum there. She offered to introduce me to the poet Paul Zimmer, then also the editor of The University of Pittsburgh Press.

I summoned up the nerve to ask Paul if he would take a look at my poems and offer any advice. Under my arm were likely fifty-some pieces. Gracious as I had heard he was, Paul took the pile, combed through a few and gently said, “Let’s start over.”

That began my apprenticeship with an American original. He said he would tell me when I had written a poem. I asked him what his fee would be. He said, “Ya know, instead of a fee, what I’d really love would be access to your father’s locker room before and after games. (My father was at the time the head basketball coach at PITT.) I had grown up in Dad’s locker rooms, and this was all Paul wanted? He said it would be a thrill and interesting to watch pre-game talks as well as the press conference after a game.

We had a deal.

We met every few weeks. Paul would look at a poem, one about fishing, for instance, and say things like, “Now go read Yeats’s poem about a fisherman.”

After six weeks, he had not said I had written a poem. I asked if I should quit.

“If you want to,” he said.

Coach’s kids don’t quit.

Two and a half years later, he looked at the poem I’d brought and said, “You did it. This is not only a poem; it’s your poem.”

And that was it.

Paul Zimmer created a character “Zimmer,” a sometimes bumbler, a man of empathy. He loved jazz. He loved his dogs. He loved his family.

Two weeks ago I learned my mentor had died–in October. Nothing in the New York Times or anywhere. No obituary to be found. Paul had published the first books of at least forty writers who are now critically acclaimed. He discovered them. And not a tribute anywhere..

As a journalist in the Army, Paul covered the first tests of the atom bomb. He died of effects of that exposure. He wrote “Zimmer: Ass Over Tea Cups into the Atomic Age.” There is just one of his poems here.

RIP, Zimmer.

Zimmer Teaches a Young Dog Old Tricks

Zimmer took me on. that wheezing, pony-bottled
gentleman assured me, sure as shootin’
I would write/make poems
hard as Wanda’s winter nipples.*
Zimmer, creaking critic, teased me
out of taught, told me
here a line and there a dash had
kicked his ass. He wiped my pose,
and led me like a lemming
to the little magazines.
Zimmer pulled my purple plug.
He ordered me to “look at Yeats’s fisherman
before you toss your lines.
No bass would hit your lurid bait.”
Zimmer punched my eyes out.
then he sent me searching blind for images
till now at night I see no stars,
no sleek and sinewed constellation.
I’m led by a grin across our galaxy
as this mock hero shuffles through my Milky Way,
a pencil in his bow. “Who is, what is that?”
demands the learned astronomer.
The starry night winks back and whispers, “Zimmer.”

*Wanda was one of Zimmer’s characters.

–Jack Ridl

Published in The Same Ghost and in Poems from The Same Ghost and Between (Dawn Valley Press)

D.R. James has published a new collection, Flip Requiem with cover by Meridith Ridl. David does fascinating things with the ways he modifies nouns, giving us wonderfully fresh perceptions. Anne-Marie Oomen writes of these poems, “D.R. James flips poetic expectations like a skilled juggler of the world’s finest carnival.” Find it at your bookstore, or order from the publisher Dos Madres Press, Inc.

At last, the reading at The BookNook & Java Shop in Montague has been set.–7pm on April 28. I guarantee you will love the place along with its good food and beverages. Many thanks to owner and arts promoter Bryan Uecker.

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.

 

 

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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.

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.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

A Question of Prayer

Preview:Next week’s post will be a piece about my mentor, the late Paul Zimmer: An American Original.

Well, while thousands linger helplessly and needlessly behind bars, our dictator goes about pardoning crooks.

So, let’s change the subject to something wonderful that can happen anywhere, that puts loving good into the world…

When the pastor of our UCC church accepted a sabbatical, the congregation decided NOT to bring in anyone to take over while Pastor Sal was gone for twelve weeks. Instead, volunteers have done the readings, the announcements, the “Joys and Concerns,” the offertory, the decisions about music, leading communion, the benediction. Also twelve different members were selected to give the homily each week.

And each week the service has been “perfectly imperfect.” Yes, each week something is shall we say awkwardly handled. And now here’s where the joy comes in… Every single time, the whole congregation smiles and comes close to a unison “That’s okay!” And anyone who goofs just laughs and says something like “Well, I guess I had better read what I was supposed to read!”

There is never an eye-roll or a set of pursed lips or a judgment or a critical comment or a chagrined sigh. Instead there are sweet grins and a gentle and unified feeling of full understanding. Never have I felt community more than at those moments.

I’m not gonna draw some lame moral from this. Let’s call it a parable. This has happened from the first Sunday on. One time my wife Julie saw that the person meant to lead communion was absent. Julie jumped up from the pew and, well, led communion, graciously. And may it happen again this Sunday, March 1, when I am the one stumbling through the homily. May it be a joy, and not a concern.

The Question of Prayer

Monks know we can be one
with the world without words,

a name, not even a murmur
or breath. Within the modesty

of presence, prayer could be green,
slow, tattered, cold, alone

as a possum crossing
a back road. It’s the touch

of the still. It’s where
we are Amen, Shalom,

Namaste — it’s our there, here,
our forgotten habitat of yes.

We become sigh, our “I”
the wet dog, the sparrow nesting

in the anonymity of brown.

for Randy Smit

–Jack Ridl

First published in Southern Poetry Review.
Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)

Julie here saying NO KIDDING: Jack is giving the Homily, “The Devil Went Down to Douglas” at Douglas UCC Church, 56 Wall Street, in Douglas, on Sunday, March 1, 10am. This event is not likely to be repeated, so come on down!

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.

We are working at rescheduling the reading at The BookNook & Java Shop in Montague thanks to the kindness of owner Bryan Uecker.

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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.

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.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

We are working at rescheduling the reading at The BookNook & Java Shop in Montague thanks to the kindness of owner Bryan Uecker.

The Collection

How do you read? I don’t mean sentence by sentence. (Smart aleck.) Nor do I mean that you attempt to out speed-read Evelyn Wood!

Maybe you read one book at a time, can’t put it down. Or maybe once you start a book and find yourself uninterested in it, you feel obligated to finish it. Perhaps you finish the book club book one hour before the meeting.

I have two reading habits: One is that I like to open a book most anywhere just to feel its world again. Maybe I want to be around the bogs of Thomas Hardy or the world I know little of that is Toni Morrison’s or James Welch’s.

I also read several books at a time. right now seven. One of them is The Long River of Song by the heartbreaking and joy-filled Brian Doyle. Here’s a passage that means a lot to me, maybe to you as well as we go through these days. Doyle writes…

Wait. First this–

I imagine you have heard it said, “How can one write about flowers at a time like this?” Or “I understand you love to knit. Don’t you feel you should be out there doing something about . . .” Or “What good is your painting going to do?”

I recall William Stafford being accosted by an audience member who shouted out, “NONE of your poems are political poems!” Stafford quietly responded, “Actually all of my poems are political poems.”

So, back to Brian Doyle —

He is talking with a monk.

“I asked him why he was a monk. How can you think what you do matters in the long scheme of things?” The monk said, “Walking helps greatly, I find. Also birds. We have a resident heron here who has been a great help to me. You could spend a whole life contemplating birds and never come to the end of the amazing things they do. There are many swallows here. They have the loveliest gentle chitter with which they speak to each other in the air. . .  I want to be a monk because I think that would be a very good use of me.”

The Collection

That’s when it started, during a storm
when I started thinking about
collecting the drops. And from there
it just took off into all this other stuff: light
on the underside of leaves, what the rust
peels away, the space between notes.
My brother tells me I’m wasting my time. I
tell my brother he’s right and that I’m saving
that too. Wednesday, I got up earlier than
ever and forgot what time it was and wrote
that down. I try to get out each evening
and sweep it up. When I was a kid I
remember loving plus-signs and the way
all the other kids ran off the ball field
between innings. These jars are filled
with air I collected from between
people’s toes. These boxes are filled
with the last sounds of bird songs.
I have to wait and time those just right.
these are harder to get: the holes in the
air that the birds make when they quit
singing and fly away. Over here,
these are the hardest to get. I have
just a few. These boxes. They hold
what happens just after someone leaves.

–Jack Ridl

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.

We are working at rescheduling the reading at The BookNook & Java Shop in Montague thanks to the kindness of owner Bryan Uecker.

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

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.

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.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

My Girl’s Father Always Changed the Station

As I mentioned last time, let’s assume the context for this project from this post forward.

The other day I had an idea for a distraction. As many of you know, our daughter is a visual artist. When we moved to our new home, we had to store a gallery’s haul of artworks in the mechanical room. The mechanical room?? That didn’t feel right.

One of our bedrooms in our little condo is made into a kind of make-do library, books sorted by category on free-standing metal shelves. Nothing on the walls. Those old-timey library cards available for those wanting to check out a novel, non-fiction, a knitting book. There are books on how to lay tile, how to draw or paint or carve or garden or cook Czech.

So I carried out the paintings and hung them salon-style, covering the walls, making sure with my elegant eye and sense of balanced hues to place one piece next to, above, below, across the room from another so that nothing stole the “exhibit,” each setting off the other for the eye’s delight.

What’s it take? Hammer. Nails. Alignment. Hold the painting up high and marking where the nail goes. Note pencil is across the room. Get pencil. Place finger on mark. Notice hammer is across room. Secure hammer. Repeat. Note box of nails is across room. Get box of nails. Recognize I am in a Laurel and Hardy film and say out loud, “Well, NOW we’re getting somewhere!” For fifty artworks, this scenario occurs twenty-one times. Wake in the morning with every muscle screaming, “What the hell have you done to me?!?”

But it’s so cool. Julie loves it. And I was distracted, laughingly, happily distracted. And what I did mattered. The history of our lives recorded in art is holding the history of our lives recorded in books.

And just in time for our 39th Valentine’s Day, another of those holidays that is either a joy or a sorrow–

My Girl’s Father Always Changed the Station

“Not in this car, not
while I’m the driver,”
he would shout and slap
the dash, then jam
his middle finger
on the center button.
The point would leap
across the dial, leaving
the long wail of
Janis Joplin in its wake.
We’d sit back, sigh, let
our fingers lace, look out
the window, watch the farms
pass, the men plowing,
the cows lying still
against the acceptance of the sky.
Hearing a Pirates game, the news,
some orchestra, we would dream
of Janis, still singing
and a back seat
where we could listen
and learn to love alone.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Southern Poetry Review
Subsequently published in Between, Dawn Valley Press

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.
We are working at rescheduling the reading at The BookNook & Java Shop in Montague thanks to the kindness of owner Bryan Uecker.

On Valentines Day at The Bookman In Grand Haven there will be a heart-fun reading with Greg Rappleye, Jane Bach, D.R. James, and moi. Hope you can make it.

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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.

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.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

 

Aubade for Today

Ok, like many of you, I have had it. I confess. I quit. I’m worn down. 45 and his gang of mind marauders have done me in.

Not my spirit, but my attention.

So starting this week, no more 45. My protest is going to be devoted to anything worthy of our attention. And my hope is that we can sustain one another this way.

Always the context is, of course, the Despots and the Cowards of Congress, but our days will be no longer wasted on what we can’t do a damn or holy thing about.

I had lots of responses to last week’s post, many of which wondered what the coach and his family had to say about it. So I asked their permission to offer their comments to you and they said,

“Take absolutely anything.”

So here is some of what they had to say. Oh, and one correction: I neglected to say that Coach Morehouse achieved 600 wins faster than any coach in history from any division. Now, what coaches come to mind? Rupp? Wooden? Summitt? Krzyzewski, Smith? Knight? Nope. It was Brian Morehouse. And his daughter, Meg, plays as a first year player on his team.

Here Coach/Dad’s own words:

Delicate balancing act. Sometimes the coach’s kid gets the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes she’s held to an unrealistic expectation.

What we really need is for Jack and Meg to hang out as coaches’ kids 🤔😁

Today is a new day. We are one more ACL tear into our season, coach thinks a new offense will work, assistants think and think and think, and meanwhile somewhere in England or Rome or Munich or Shanghei, no one gives a shit if we win or lose. So coach goes to work early because, well, you have to win the next one.

And from wife/mother Liz:

A coach — always the topic of conversation.
No matter where his wife sits…..
by the parents–my kid doesn’t play,
by some fans–your daughter should play more,
by [others]–the player needs to shoot more,
she needs to stand up faster,
the coach needs to give her an opportunity.

The player hears her teammates and wants to fit in,
the player wants to please her dad.

The Dad wants to play her more,
the dad’s ability to access her talent is blurred in all directions–playing her too much, not enough.

They win together. They lose together.

TOGETHER~Yes, win/lose let’s stay together. Till next week with a whole new, kinda, approach

 

Aubade for Today

When the morning comes,

that’s when you can do
what the morning hopes

you will do. You don’t

have to. If you do
though, it will then

all change. And it will

be noon and time for
a sandwich, or you might

keep going until the moon.

–Jack Ridl

We are working at rescheduling the reading at The BookNook & Java Shop in Montague thanks to the kindness of owner Bryan Uecker.

On Valentines Day at The Bookman In Grand Haven there will be a heart-fun reading with Greg Rappleye, Jane Bach, D.R. James, and moi.

 

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

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.

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.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

 

Coach’s Son Tells His Wife What It Was Like

I CAN’T WATCH!!!

I am a coach’s son. Coach’s sons tough it out. Coach’s sons play with pain. Coach’s sons come through no matter what.

One of my former students is a coach’s son. When he was in my freshman (called that back then) English class, he and I would talk about being coach’s sons. I said I learned I could never be a coach. He said that being a coach was all he wanted to be. And he — Brian Morehouse — just became the youngest coach at any college or university level to win 600 games. 600! Of course he owes it all to freshman English.

Of course he’s being celebrated. And he’s carried all the deserved recognition with his usual modesty and without a single cliche. Honesty. Integrity. Deflected attention. Even disbelief. Through and through. And I know he never missed a game.

Me? I turned into a teacher and a poet. And Tuesday night I missed a game. I did not come through. I was to read at a special winter lecture series. I caught and kept a bug that is spreading its way through household after household. And I all but drove my wife Julie crazy first with insisting I go “anyway” and then by over and over and over saying to her how I’m letting everyone down.

“You play anyway. You can’t let down the team. Get out there.”

And so to all of you who didn’t know of the cancellation and who were at the door reading the sign, I’m sorry. And that doesn’t cut it.

Coach’s Son Tells His Wife What It Was Like

I couldn’t wait for the game
to be over. Win. Lose. I knew

what to expect: Talk. Sports pages.
Television. Radio. Even a win was

seldom good enough: “I thought they’d win
by more than that!” “Why’d your father

keep Daniels in? He was terrible.” “Yeah. but
next game?” Losing led to all their reasons why.

I’d shiver hearing “Coach blew it at the end.”
“When’s he gonna give up on that combination?”

Headline: LOOKS LIKE A LONG LOSING YEAR!
Headline: WILL THIS BE COACH’S LAST SEASON?

At school I would sit in class wishing I could read:
CAR DEALER BLOWS SALE AT END OF DAY!

DENTIST SCREWS UP ROOT CANAL!
After a win I’d only sigh. After a loss, I

would lie in bed readying my words, and
cringe as I felt my fists unfold.

–Jack Ridl
Published in Aethlon: Journal of Sports Literature

I am welcoming new sign-ups for one-on-one coaching in poetry writing held here at our home or online via Zoom or Skype. No experience needed; all levels are welcome. I always tailor the sessions to meet whatever you would enjoy working with. To set up a date and time just contact me at this link or the one above. Cost is $85 for an hour-and-a-half session or $235 for three sessions. And of course if you don’t enjoy our time together, no charge!!😊

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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.

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.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

 

Ice Storm

It’s snowing, a quiet downfall of small flakes. Daughter Meridith and I make up children’s book titles using the word “Little.” Today it was “The Littlest Snowflake.”

Prior to Saturday’s Women’s March Reverend Ginny Mikita, with her sparkling presence, offered us gently disquieting and heart-affirming encouragement as she told of the time she and her daughter went to the March on the day after 45’s inauguration. There they heard Gloria Steinem’s call to courage and Michael Moore’s assurance that “this will be over in 4-6 months.”

Saturday it rained. Saturday it snowed. Saturday the wind gusted up to 40 mph. It was as if the rain and snow were a tag team determined to deter the Marchers. The Marchers won. They came into the finish laughing and cheering and shivering. They had marched again. Perhaps the most stirring poster sardonically read something along the lines of “I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit.”

I sit here, the ever present pit in my stomach. How I love the sensibility that leads all of us to cherish “The Littlest Snowflake.” I try to balance it with a world suffocating under violence and the violation of all we cherish. I can’t. Cruelty overwhelms.

I’m reading Barry Lopez’s Horizon. He’s watching his young grandson playing in a pool, playing in joy, and he writes, “In the beauty of this moment, I suddenly feel the question: What will happen to us? … I want to wish each stranger I see … an untroubled life. I want everyone here to survive what is coming.”

And I too, of course, want everyone I see to survive, to be able always to watch for the delight of the littlest snowflake.

Ice Storm

Here on the couch with my young dog
I’m feeling gratitude, an odd gratitude,
an old gratitude, one I thought had gone

for good down a long back road
that led away from the years when
I felt glad, felt what I believed

was an abiding gratitude: to be,
to be warm, and grateful to be
warm, to have some pillows

and a dozen books and all afternoon.
To be alone without even a sideswipe
of loneliness. To be on page 47,

or 114, or page one and there
was nothing missing. The ice
storm made things warm,

time irrelevant, made the sleeping
dog an Amen to a prayer
never needing to be said.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Third Wednesday
Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)

Just published is Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from Paraclete Press, by Gayle Boss, an exquisite spiritual writer. Gayle spent years studying species that are not only endangered but near extinction. “Wild Hope is the only book whose table of contents alone gave me chills” wrote MacArthur grantee Carl Safina. The collection has also been been celebrated by Bill McKibbon and Richard Rohr. The woodcuts by David G. Klein are astonishing.

On Tuesday, January 28, at 7pm, come see us in Montague at the amazing, one-and-only BookNook and Java Shop! I’ll be reading from St. Peter and the Goldfinch, and chatting with Book Nook people. The best people. Here’s how to get there.

I am welcoming new sign-ups for one-on-one coaching in poetry writing held here at our home or online via Zoom or Skype. No experience needed; all levels are welcome. I always tailor the sessions to meet whatever you would enjoy working with. To set up a date and time just contact me at this link or the one above. Cost is $85 for an hour-and-a-half session or $235 for three sessions. And of course if you don’t enjoy our time together, no charge!!😊

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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.

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.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

 

After School

Last week I wrote about having our daughter and her students out here at our home for a class. The house echoed with joy, and it has lingered — lingered along with wondering what future 45, his cronies, and the cowards in congress are creating for them.

Last night local student and friend, 14-year-old Hannah Huggett, received her town’s Youth Social Justice Award for her tireless work combating climate change, gun violence, violations of women’s rights, pollution, harm to the earth. Hannah, of course, gives us hope, but like Greta, she wants more than hope; she demands action.

We’re all proud of you Hannah. Let’s embody that pride by celebrating you with action. Here’s a start: Join the fourth annual Women’s March on January 18. We will be marching from Douglas to Saugatuck. In our towns we will be meeting and organizing all weekend long. For details go here: http://bit.ly/SDWM2020.

After School

Under the bridge from which anyone could have jumped,
we stood and read the history of rust, the sleep
of iron in the rainy afternoon. “I love Eddie”
“Class of 1974” “This world sucks!” We
remembered our hands. And we wished we could lie down
in this dirty stream and feel the fish come back,
see a weary angel lay its wings beside
the abandoned tire and wander off
tossing beer cans from the weeds and laughing.
–for John Armstrong III

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Carolina Quarterly
Subsequently published in Poems from The Same Ghost and Between (Dawn Valley Press)

On Tuesday, January 28, at 7pm, come see us in Montague at the amazing, one-and-only Book Nook and Java Shop! I’ll be reading from St. Peter and the Goldfinch, and chatting with Book Nook people. The best people. Here’s how to get there.

I am welcoming new sign-ups for one-on-one coaching in poetry writing held here at our home or online via Zoom or Skype. No experience needed; all levels are welcome. I always tailor the sessions to meet whatever you would enjoy working with. To set up a date and time just contact me at this link or the one above. Cost is $85 for an hour-and-a-half session or $235 for three sessions. And of course if you don’t enjoy our time together, no charge!!👍😊

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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.

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.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

Before the Game

Our daughter Meridith, art teacher, and her colleague Ellie, theater teacher, are team-teaching an interim course designed to undermine the damaging distinction between work and play. When we were children there was no difference. We did what we did: work and play fully integrated.

On Monday Meridith and Ellie brought their two classrooms out to our house, one group in the morning, the other in the afternoon, to create a five-course gourmet meal. I watched. I listened. I smiled. Joy filled the house. The class and Ellie and Meridith laughed and talked and yelled and “Oh my gawd-ed” and spilled and stirred and cooked and then gathered together, wide-eyed at their colorful presentation and sat in front of the fire to savor what they had created. And yes they discovered that preparing a meal could be, if they chose it to be, a form of creativity and play.

Remember how Julia Child would make a cake, and it would fall, and she would laugh and say how delightful it all was, and then offer her “Bon appetit”? She always transformed the “work,” the “task,” the “chore” of cooking into play.

I know that Meridith and Ellie are hoping their students realize that value lies in the joy of playful doing, successful outcome or not, and that the things we must do over and over again can be sustained as play, delight-bringing, and as what deeply matters.

Before the Game

“A lot of slush tonight,”
Custodian thinks, looking
over at the row of mops
leaning against the wall
of the boiler room. “I
clean up after everyone.”

The crowd is coming in,
stomping the snow
off their boots, shaking
the flakes from their coats.
He grabs a bucket, takes
a mop, puts them by the door.

He thinks of his son, a teacher
sixty miles away, who’d played
guard, averaged 14 points and
six assists his senior year. He’d
let him in the gym on Sundays.
They’d gone one-on-one.
He’d won a game or two.

He remembers going
out with Cindy Cross.
She married a car dealer.
His hands feel like young birds.

The team comes bursting
through the locker room
door, clapping, yelling past
him. He slaps each player
on the shoulder, says,
“Good luck. Go get ’em.”

–Jack Ridl

From Losing Season (CavanKerry Press)

It’s a new year, and I was hoping these posts would not still be going out there. I was naive, figured six months at the most. So to all of you who have subscribed and to you who have shared and sent a column on to others and to you who have responded, my thanks are innumerable. I have needed to be sustained, and you have done that. As I was writing this post about the wonderful students, I kept thinking about their futures. What will it be? I try not to shudder. All that joy. How I hope they can remain loyal to it.

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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.

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.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

Christmas, the Impeachment of The President of the United States

Scenario: Greta Thunberg asks to meet with her school principal and guidance counselor. They ask her what the trouble is. She replies,

“The President of the United States is bullying me! I want him put in detention and have to write on the whiteboard ‘I will not bully Greta any more’ 150 times. And then, impeach him.”

 

Christmas, the Impeachment of The President of the United States

My father would be baking kolaces

I’ve shoveled the snow from the walk to the house.

Returning home. Leaving home. Finding a home.

The line into the soup kitchen is a block long.

Wood on the fire. Eggnog. Christmas scarves on the dogs.

All night the stars.

The oldest ornament we own, a wooden snowman sitting on a red sled, is 80.

The delivery trucks follow one another around the bend.

We’ve placed this year’s tea blend in the mailbox.

Each day rearranging the Christmas cards on the windowsills.

There is a wreath on the door.

What family we have left will not be here.

The cold clings in silver webs on the windows.

A woman behind a winter market stand lays a handmade necklace across her open palm.

–Jack Ridl

First published in 5AM; Subsequently published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press)

D. L. James has not one but two new collections out just in time for you to give to someone who finds poetry a good place to be. David’s humane poems are often funny or catch you not sure whether or not to laugh. The collections:

Nail Yourself into Bliss from Kelsay Books

and

A Gem of Truth from Main Street Rag

Special gratitude for all those who made the local Vigil Against Violence meaningful, and for those who protested 45 on Tuesday, and to all who created moving holiday concerts over the past week, and for those who celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and the Solstice, and the holiday of your heart, may it be MERRY AND BRIGHT!

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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.

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.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection