Saint Peter and the Goldfinch

Working on your taxes?

45 isn’t.

Enough.

Have to self-celebrate: The new collection Saint Peter and the Goldfinch had its launch, “Gala for the Goldfinch” this past Friday. The women’s resistance choir Persisterhood opened the occasion by rousing the audience with rich harmonies and call-and-response songs. Then I joined The John Shea Jazz Trio for a conversation between poetry and jazz. Working with John and the trio has always been a highlight of my life. I can’t explain what it feels like to read a poem, then turn it over to the trio. It sure takes the pressure off this guy. Everyone feels the music.

After the trio and I finished, everyone partied. What felt so good was being sure that those there got to be away from the oppressive feeling we carry because of 45 and his relentless cruelty. To see the joy on all those faces–it deserves to be there time after time.

So many worked so hard behind the scenes to make this happen. So many. Especially Julie. Especially our friends at the DUCC and Wayne State University Press. Thanks to everyone!

Here, again, the title poem:

Saint Peter and the Goldfinch

He’d filled the little-roofed feeders with
sunflower and thistle seeds, hooks hanging
sturdy from the birch’s branches twisting

his own arm’s length above the mulch path,
the day’s first light lapsing along the leaves.
Peter knew the neighbors were talking

about the guy in the frayed cassock
who last week moved in with only
a pick-up’s bed of what seemed to be

belongings—a small table, couple
of ladder back chairs, a sound system
that looked vintage, a lot of books,

three futons, a large canvas bag
maybe filled with pans, pots, dishes,
and three lamps, one that dangled

tiny stars from its frayed shade.
He had gone out and brought home
an Adirondack and about fifty flower pots,

and the feeders. Now he took his morning
green tea out to the chair to wait for the birds.
This, he felt cross his mind, is what I have

waited for. He sipped. A house finch came.
A couple cardinals, a downy woodpecker.
The chickadees would take a seed, fly

into the branches of the hemlocks surrounding
the house and batter to get to the meat. Time
and time again they returned. Peter tried

to count then wondered why, stopped
and thought about what to plant
in the pots, where he would place them

within the striped grass that made a nest
for the house to sit within. He liked thinking
he had nested. He liked thinking everything

here could be taken away. He had cosmos,
impatiens—no perennials until bloom
and loss became a ritual, sacred. There was

a breeze. There was the tea. And then there was
a goldfinch, just one, at the thistle feeder, its startle
of yellow and black seamless within its feathers.

Peter watched as it took the seed, sat above him.
He watched as the bird flew to the feeder, flew back
to the same branch. St. Peter and the goldfinch

here in the day’s beginning. He could not bow
his head. He knew joy’s coupled sorrow. He knew
that this was time. He knew what the earth knew.

–Jack Ridl

First published in the Colorado Review

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

Kathleen Markland’s new collection A Pen, a Brush, a Book has been published and is available online.

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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.

Kindness

Hate. Arousing and affirming hate is not a policy.

This past week 45 held a rally at an arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a mere 50 minutes from this desk, where for over an hour he roused and affirmed the hate carried by his base base.

The President, our elected officials, and all of us are to work toward helping those who are helpless when it comes to housing, food, health, economic fairness, toward combating climate change, to enhance education, to uphold freedom of loving cultures, to secure everyone’s rights and safety, to establish equal pay for equal work, to create fair taxation practices, to work on whatever problem we, our families, and friends are struggling with.

But hate. Hate is not subject to debate.

Kindness can and must withstand it.

“It is only kindness that makes sense anymore.” from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Kindness”

Scrub

Last night at practice
when my man slipped by me
for a lay-up, Coach threw down
his clipboard, ran right up into my face,
slapped me behind the head,
and yelled, “What the hell
are you doing? Get in front.
Take a charge. You
on this team or not! How
are we gonna be ready if you
don’t play tough defense!”

Some mornings I wake up
wondering about wind sprints,
and tough defense, and running
up the bleachers twenty times.

Two hours every night
at practice I’m the other team.
I’ve heard it a thousand times: “You’re
necessary. You’re an integral part.
Without you, we’d never be ready.”
But I know I do what you do
when you’re never good enough.

Some day I’ll come back
and point at that place on the bench.
Some day I’m gonna sit back,
watch t.v., take a vacation
every summer, have a dog,
and never miss a game.

“You get in tonight?” my father asks
when I come in after a game.
I knock the snow from my boots, “No.”
“What?” “No.” “Close game?”
“No, we lost by twenty-three.” I listen
to the empty air, the slow shake
of my father’s head, know he’s been sitting
with a beer watching one show roll into
another, sneering at the ads and laugh tracks,
waiting for the news, sports, and weather, bed.
I go to the refrigerator, look at the line
of Budweiser cans, take out the milk,
pour a glass, go in with him
to watch the scores.

Sometimes, after practice,
I walk home
slowly,
and I think about
letting the ball
bounce away. Then
I would sit down,
let my mind open up wider
and wider, so wide
the sky would
come inside,
the stars
would light it all.

Last week, on the bus for school,
my seven year old sister said,
I’m scared the sun will go out.
That’s ridiculous. Can’t happen, and I
took her hand, looked out the window, up
into the sky, watched snow clouds
cross. But it’s fire, she said.
Fire goes out.

Four wind sprints to go.
“Let’s see what you have left.
Run. Run like I’m after you.
Run. Run now, or after the next
game, I’ll run you till you drop.
Run, god dammit, run.”

Once last summer I lay in bed
wondering if somewhere hidden
in my cells was something good enough
that I could do. But
the cells were mute. The days
since then have been the same, even
their names dissolving
like the host upon my tongue.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Sanscrit.
Subsequently published in Losing Season (CavanKerry Press)

Mark Hiskes’s long-awaited collection Standing with Alyosha (Dos Madres Press) has been released. Lorna Cook, author of Outside Wonderland among other novels, says “Mark Hiskes writes with the wisdom of a teacher humbled and seasoned, yet lit by an unfailing love of literature and the incandescence of adolescence. Each poem in the lovely collection is drawn with honesty, grit, and a constant thread of grace.”

Kelly Fordon has several readings from her new collection, Goodby Toothless House, coming up in the Detroit area. See her website for dates and times.

 

Don Cellini’s latest collection of translation is Solar History by Jair Cortés. 

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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.

Guarding the Back Yard

Well, it looks like 45 will get out of it.

On to what matters.

There’s a wonderful photograph of Daniel Berrigan where he’s in handcuffs. He’s raised his arms and is offering the peace sign.

Maybe that’s what it’s like to be us.

Guarding the Back Yard

He wears a hat, sometimes placing a feather
in the star-studded band circling the world

of his balding head. He’s watching
for slanderous gnomes and fairies gone bad.

He swings a rake along his steps, back and
forth across the long grass. He suspects

elves are tunneling toward his roses. He
tries to sleep altering which eye he closes,

keeping the other on the trees outside
his window. He plays a flute to his flowers.

He sings opera in the doorway. He plants
pinwheels. When it rains, he lies on a slab

of limestone, opens his mouth, imagines
his childhood alive in a milking pail.

–Jack Ridl

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

Mark Hiskes’s long-awaited collection Standing with Alyosha (Dos Madres Press) has been released. Lorna Cook, author of Outside Wonderland among other novels, says “Mark Hiskes writes with the wisdom of a teacher humbled and seasoned, yet lit by an unfailing love of literature and the incandescence of adolescence. Each poem in the lovely collection is drawn with honesty, grit, and a constant thread of grace.”

Kelly Fordon has several readings from her new collection, Goodby Toothless House, coming up in the Detroit area. See her website for dates and times.

Mary MckSchmidt, author of Uncharted Waters works tirelessly for water protection. She reported recently on the staggering number of balloons sent into the air that end up in our lakes, oceans, and streams where creatures eat them and die. Please never release helium inflated balloons. And look for her book.

And don’t forget the new collections by D. R. James, Todd Davis, Jeff Gundy, Greg Rappleye, and Linda Nemec Foster. Linda will be offering a eulogy in NYC for poet Colette Inez who passed away this week. Colette, another who brought such good into the world and was all but unknown outside the poetry world. Sigh.

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Visit Reader’s World 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.

Coffee Talks with Conrad Hilberry

One of the world’s best, W.S. Merwin, an important poet, translator, and environmentalist, passed away this week at 91. That’s almost 70 years of work devoted to the good. When he received the Pulitzer Prize, the war in Vietnam was raging. He wrote this in The New York Review of Books:

“I am pleased to know of the judges’ regard for my work, and I want to thank them for their wish to make their opinion public. But after years of the news… and commentary from Washington, I am too conscious of being an American to accept public congratulation with good grace, or to welcome it except as an occasion for expressing openly a shame which many Americans feel, day after day, helplessly, and in silence.”

I guess I don’t need to say how much I wish I lived in a culture that valued Merwin, his life, and his life’s work.

And speaking of peace-filled poets whose work matters…

 

Coffee Talks With Conrad Hilberry

He brought out the robust flavor
of everything, brewed us lines perked

for sipping, savoring— images
espresso intense, carried latte light

across rhythms energetic as caffeine.
We pour these poems dark, rich,

some with cream, none with a sugar cube,
but each accompanied by the real sweetness

of a buttery croissant, one dipped
into the full body of a fine French roast.

for Jane Hilberry

–Jack Ridl

First published in Peninsula Poets
Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)

The Gala for the Goldfinch is racking up RSVPs. We have a few more seats. Grab yours here: http://bit.ly/GoldfinchGala

Jeff Gundy has a new collection: Without a Plea (Bottom Dog Press) Here’s what Lynn Powell says, “. . . in poem after adventurous poem [Jeff Gundy reveals that ‘the world is full/ of little possibilities for love.'”

Workshop on March 23 at Grace Episcopal Church, Holland, MI
Jack will lead this workshop, sharing approaches to Writing Personal History at Grace Episcopal Church in Holland, Michigan. Time 10-1:30. Contact the church to sign up.

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Visit Reader’s World 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.

After Filling Out the Brackets

This isn’t subtle: Do you say you work, “To make a living,” or “To make money”?

My memory may be errant here, but I can’t remember a single time while growing up in a small town that I heard anyone say they worked, “To make money.”

Way back then, the most common responses to “Why do you do what you do?” were “To make ends meet,” or “It pays the bills,” or “This is what I always wanted to be.”

And we supported our locals. We’d never head to a chain store to buy groceries. Cereal and milk cost a bit more at Gilliland’s Market, but that’s where we bought it. If you couldn’t find what you needed at Jim Miller’s, you didn’t really need it.

Jim would say, “I make enough for us to take a couple weeks off and go some place we’ve never been.”

The other day, I got a call from a woman representing Blue Cross/Blue Shield telling me that I could get my prescriptions cheaper by driving nine miles to a chain pharmacy. I said, “Nope.” She asked, “But why?” “Because at Saugatuck Drug Store, Sarah, Mark, Kelly and their staff are our friends.”

No one at some chain is going to carry on a conversation with me about the upcoming NCAA Tournament and how my brackets are doing, or about how our dog is getting along without his pal who used to play with her, or how our daughter’s teaching’s going, or how great Julie looks after her illness, or, or, or.

When I leave, they don’t say, “Have a nice day.” They say, “Say hi to Julie!”

When I was a kid, my mother used to laugh and tell people, “Jackie hates money.” That little kid knew why.

What’s 45 got to do with all this? Only a culture that reveres money above community, profit above people, could choose him to lead.

Enough. Let’s get to some fun, and fill out our brackets. Then watch them implode in the first round.

After Filling Out the Brackets

Each round sends teams home
to “I thought you might win
that one.” The winners head

back to practice and a hotel.
What could be more American?
There is no Good Samaritan

to pull the losers up from
their ditch. And tomorrow
the sun will rise and the moon

will rise and my grandfather
would be standing along
the assembly line tightening

three bolts every five seconds.
My wife and I have made a
terrarium and are pretty sure

we’ll make more. Now there are
sixteen teams left. Three I picked
are still hanging to the thread

of their seeding and we need
to do a better job of insulating
around the back door. And

the basement is cold. We love
working in the basement, all
that ground around us. You

can often be who you are
in a basement. It’s snowing.
It’s snowing and I’m putting

neatsfoot oil on the ball glove
I oiled each Spring when I
played shortstop more than

60 years ago. “Keep the ball
in front of you,” my father taught.
“On a lousy hop, let it hit you

in the chest. Always, always keep it in play.”

–Jack Ridl

Published in Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature

Workshop on March 23 at Grace Episcopal Church, Holland, MI
Jack will lead this workshop, sharing approaches to Writing Personal History at Grace Episcopal Church in Holland, Michigan. Time 10-1:30. Contact the church to sign up.

D. R. James’s collection Surreal Expulsion (The Poetry Box)is dedicated “To all the victims of gun and military violence throughout the world, especially the far too many young people murdered, maimed, and traumatized in, of all places, their schools.”  David has sent the book to be part of an installation sculpture at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Kelly Fordon’s new collectionGoodbye Toothless House (Kattywompus Press) is, to paraphrase Gloria Whelan, relentless and unsparing in giving voice to all trapped behind an idyllic facade.

In April, Salmon Poetry in Ireland will publish Robert Fanning’s new book Severance, a linked collection of poems that follows two escaped marionettes! In the words of Peter Markus, “Prepare to be undone, unhinged, unstrung by the strange song that is this book.”

Shea Tuttle is one of the three editors of Can I Get A Witness?: Thirteen Peacemakers, Community Builders, and Agitators for Faith and Justice. (Eerdmans) Among the 13 are Mahalia Jackson, Cesar Chavez, Daniel Berrigan, Dorothy Day, Yuri Kochiyama, and William Stringfellow.

Thanks over and again to all of you who will be attending our “Gala for the Goldfinch.” The Goldfinch is very very grateful! What? You don’t know all about it already? Follow the link!

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Visit Reader’s World 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.

The Hidden Permutations of Love

Oh it’s likely having reached this age, but I keep recalling days when the news attended primarily to events and what programs and bills the government was working on.

Now I keep thinking that it’s all gone the way of those magazines you see as you pass through the grocery line.

45 has let loose a cult of personality about as demented as it can get: lies, obfuscation, evasion are just fine so long as they are used for a self–serving economic policy and a narcissistic end.

Oh, it’s always been there, here and there, bits and pieces. I’m not naive. But there used to be integrity to counter all of this. Tricky Dick. Not everyone Liked Ike. Harry, so sure of himself. But this is not the same. What president of these United States rallies a frightening mob by shouting “BULLSHIT!”

Mom! Get out the soap and wash out that vile mouth for all of us.

You don’t have to follow any tradition to take in how Pastor Sal in our Douglas UCC church closes each service with Bishop John Shelby Spong’s gentle litany: “Live fully, love wastefully, and have the courage to be all you were meant to be.”

Yes. Let’s.

The Hidden Permutations of Love

He thought he would build a fence.
Not to keep anything out or in. He’d
make it of stones and branches
piled in the woods out back. He’d
weave the branches. He’d balance
the stones, make the fence
a mixed reminder, two textures,
one holding him to the ground,
one taking him into what
is above. He would sit by
the window and watch her walk
along it, touching the wood and
stone. She would stop to notice
how he had finely fit every rock
and branch, the wind able to move
through each open place. A sparrow
would come, perch long enough
to open a seed. Squirrels would
run along the ridge. He thought
he would plant English ivy,
burning bush, and wedding veil
hoping to see them climb, spread,
entangle, bring out the unnamable
hues of green, see them catch
the light and glisten in the rain.

–Jack Ridl

Published in an alternative form in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press)

You are invited to help us celebrate Jack’s new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch at:

THE GALA FOR THE GOLDFINCH: A PROTEST FOR GOODNESS
Featuring…

Songs by The Persisterhood Choir
&
A Conversation: Jack’s Poems with Jazz by The John Shea Trio

Book Signing and Party Time to follow!

DATE: April 5
PLACE: Douglas United Church of Christ, on the corner of Spring and Wall Streets
TIME: 6:30pm
Please RSVP here to help us plan this event: http://bit.ly/GoldfinchGala

Bring a bottle and a plate if you can, but not if you can’t.

Join the Waiting List for Poetry Trauma, March 20
This workshop is currently full, but usually people drop as the date approaches. Or, if we have enough people join the waiting list, we will schedule it again, inviting the waitlist folks first. Join the waiting list at this link: http://bit.ly/PoetryTrauma

Workshop on March 23 at Grace Episcopal Church, Holland, MI
Jack will lead this workshop, sharing approaches to Writing Personal History at Grace Episcopal Church in Holland, Michigan. Time 10-1:30. Contact the church to sign up.

At Fifty

When Duke and North Carolina, a men’s basketball rivalry that seems to have been around forever, played a little over a week ago, tickets for the game were going for an average of almost $3,000, the highest ticket price, some $10,000.

Some came for the rivalry, but many came to see Zion Williamson, the astonishing Duke freshman. In the first 33 seconds of that game, Williamson’s shoe broke apart, damaging his knee. He never reappeared.

Shoes. In the early 70’s when my father was the coach at PITT (The University of Pittsburgh), he was approached by a guy with a scheme he wanted my father to join. The scheme? To have a shoe company pay my father “big money” if he would have his players wear the shoe he represented. Dad said, in his rather understated way, “Something seemed fishy.”

My father said no. But he was concerned the pitchman would hound him or make him “an offer he couldn’t refuse,” and asked the university to provide security.

The guy went elsewhere, and the world of college basketball became a world where coaches made millions, and the players became marketing pawns, and fans paid up to $10,000 to see a nineteen-year-old phenom play for 33 seconds.

Within a year my father, who loved coaching, retired. He was only in his 50s. He was making $19,000 a year.

My mother, with a rueful laugh, often said, “My husband retired BS.” (Before Shoes). “We could have retired to some island off Florida if he hadn’t believed that offer was ‘fishy’.”

45 would say, “What a loser.”

At Fifty

Coach hurls the ball against the garage door,
grabs it on the rebound. He’s missed ten
in a row. He steps to the line, bounces
the ball twice, hard, and the fans from
thirty years ago send their hopes across
their weary lungs. He listens to the hush
of the home crowd while the taunts
of those from out of town float through
the rafters down across the backboard,
spinning around and around the rim.
He slams the ball one more time, feels
the leather, eyes the hoop, shoots.
The ball caroms off the back of the rim, rolls
across the driveway into the herb garden
his wife planted the year they found this house.
Once, he could drop nine out of ten
from the line, hit half his jump shots
from twenty feet. Coach sits down at
the top of the key, stares, sees himself
bringing it up against the press, faking,
shaking his shoulders, stutter stepping, shifting
the ball left hand to right, then back, then up,
his legs exploding, his wrist firing, the ball
looping up, down, through the hoop, making
the net shimmer, the crowd roar. He gets up,
goes over to the garden, reaches for the ball,
stops and pulls some weeds growing through
the oregano, basil, sage, and thyme.

–Jack Ridl

from Losing Season (CavanKerry Press)

I’ll be leading a workshop about approaches to writing personal history on March 23 at Grace Episcopal Church in Holland, Michigan, 10am-1:30pm. Contact the church for details, registration, etc.

Poetry Trauma: The Way to Recovery workshop is filled. But there is a wait list. Sign up here to put yourself on it. If we get enough people on the waitlist, we will add another section of this workshop..

Protest, Poems, and Jazz: A Gala for the Goldfinch.  Jack’s new book, Saint Peter and the Goldfinch, is winging its way off the presses. RSVP here if you can join us on April 5 to celebrate!. We’re so excited to welcome the Persisterhood Choir, who will kick off the evening, and the John Shea Trio, who will take the stage with Jack and create a conversation between jazz and poems. Then it’s party time, with more jazz, books, nibbles and sips.

Kristin Brace’s new chapbookEach Darkness Inside, can be ordered through April 12 from Finishing Line Press. It will be shipped in June.

Mark Hiskes’ new book is on the way! Watch Dos Madres Press for news!

Saugatuck’s D.R. James has a new chapbook coming out! Click here for a pre-order discount!

Feeding the Pup in the Early Morning

Speaking of treason… (And 45 has been tossing that extraordinary word around like it’s nothing more than a Wiffle Ball. ) …around here it’s called “insubordination.”

What can we do when there’s nothing we can do?

Many of us were brought up with good and evil being a good versus evil. If we didn’t fight evil, we were complicit in it. We were told making art, being cheerful, working in the garden, playing games at a time like this is morally repugnant.

Yes, let’s work to prevent further damage. But what do we do when we can’t stop the abuser of power or when what’s been done is done, leaving lives forever harmed, never to be healed?

Being cynical about the value of joy and the arts is easy. Why? Because these things CAN put good into the world.

Every second we are creating the world that others live in. We can continue to perform random acts of kindness, paint paintings, comfort one another, take care of a garden, stay by our families and friends, say hi to anyone we pass on the street, find a wandering way with one another’s differences, write down our days for our grandchildren, sing in the shower, and, and, and.

And get a dog.

The other day one of the beloved couples at the local college who were victims of hate and lost their livelihood in music got a puppy, a golden retriever. That pup will redeem their days. He will make them laugh, bring life to life, drive them mad, bring out their deep care, and join them in joy.

We are so glad for them, and for their dog.

Feeding the Pup in the Early Morning

I love our pup, she whose DNA chooses to chew
the coffee table’s legs, any book, shoe or the pair
of reading glasses I left where anyone my age

would set them in case of fire, storm, the need
to finally pay a bill, an inappropriate drop-in
by that person you would never add to

your daughter’s wedding invitation list. However
it’s 7am and I must feed her. There’s a schedule,
a set of behaviors prescribed in validated tomes

by those who decided never to major in philosophy,
dance history, or literature. They opened their minds
to trial and error, determining a schedule that for sure

is the only way to raise a confident and willing companion
who will on some unfathomable day give up dragging
anything dangling — bed spread, sweater, scarf, shower curtain—

who will come when called, sit, lie down, heel, fetch,
love me even when there is no treat. But it’s 7am and
I staggered to bed after meeting a 3am deadline.

However the schedule proclaims “Feed the pup at the same time
each and every day.” Oh come on! If she sleeps just one measly
hour longer, do I risk her turning into the neighborhood’s teeth-baring

dingo who digs up Mrs. Phelps’s petunias, snarls
at the priest on his daily walk, steals the dump truck
from the sandbox down the street, snaps at the kid

selling magazines for a trip to Haiti? Will I be
the one whose best friend must be muzzled
because she slept just one more hour of just

another day? What do I know? What will I ever know?

–Jack Ridl

From Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)

Daughter Meridith is featured in an interview along with her artwork in the latest Holland Weekly. Check it out at hollandweekly.com

Katie Kalisz will be reading from her new collection, Quiet Woman, at Grand Rapids Community College on February 21 and at Kentwood KDL on March 27.

I’ll be leading a workshop about approaches to writing personal history on March 23 at Grace Episcopal Church in Holland, Michigan, 10am-1:30pm. Contact the church for details, registration, etc.

Poetry Trauma: The Way to Recovery workshop is filled. But there is a wait list. Sign up here to put yourself on it.

We are throwing a book Reception for Saint Peter and the Goldfinch. RSVP here to help us make plans. We’re so excited to welcome the Persisterhood Choir, who will open for us and the John Shea Trio, who will take the stage with Jack and create a conversation between jazz and poems.

Kristin Brace’s new chapbookEach Darkness Inside, can be ordered through April 12 from Finishing Line Press. It will be shipped in June.

Mark Hiskes’ new book is on the way! Watch Dos Madres Press for news!

Saugatuck’s D.R. James has a new chapbook coming out! Click here for a pre-order discount!

Midwinter Song

There are so many things to write about this week to bring you down. Spent an evening with music teachers whose lives, not mere jobs, were taken from them.

And of course…

Nah!

Krista Tippett — many of you know her project “On Being” — wrote about how there are now two separated worlds. One imposes itself on us. The other is the one we will not give up, our own.

Let’s get back to how remarkable it is that day after day, hour after hour, each of us keeps attending to what matters.

Here amid the ice and snow, the local coffee shop is open. My buddy David and I had our coffee and pastries this morning with the owner, Renee. Every Friday from 6-9pm, her 80-year-old dad and his buddy Ron play their guitars and sing here, two guys who have a deeeeep and long friendship that comes out as they glance at one another, nod, and smile. They’d play if no one was there.

And that is what we are all doing: playing our “guitars” and being with one another. What otherwise might simply be what we do, has become an unintended act of resistance.

No matter what — whether it’s a job, an interest, another check off the to-do list, a passion — it has become in its everyday way what keeps us going, what we hold in our hearts.

Feed the birds. Shovel the walk. Listen to your music. Head to the coffee shop, and say hi to Renee.

Midwinter Song

How good it is to be
in here, on the couch,
the dogs asleep on the pillows
as if we are safe in the great
Kingdom of Snow. Death
with its lisping end rhymes
stands under an umbrella.
The snow against the windows
is a language, its assonance
an uninvited solace. Cold
will come again. We can’t
move south. We have sweaters.
We depend on a shovel
and the neighbor’s plow.
We depend on music, on
knowing we no longer
need to say we love one
another. Love is Emanuel.
This snow. The wind.
This music on the radio
is music on the radio.
The dogs sleep with
their names. The cold,
this music, this snow.

==Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

Subsequently published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press)

About that Party
Okay, I really, really, really believe that you will have a great good time on April 5 at the Douglas United Church of Christ at 6:30pm, where we’re holding the reception for my new collection Saint Peter and the Goldfinch.

WHY???

BECAUSE at 6:30 the shake-up-the-house choir PERSISTERHOOD will open for us, singing, and lifting your spirits above the spire.

THEN at 7pm, The John Shea Trio will take the stage with me, and we will blend the poems with exquisite jazz. John’s created a program to savor.

And then the jazz trio moves with us to the party, and we… party!

I don’t care if you have other plans, live in Germany, or 376 miles away — be there! I have no problem unselfconsciously promoting this. This party is for YOU!

More Good News

My March 30 workshop “Poetry Trauma: The Way to Recovery” is now full. Let me know if you would like to be on the waiting list. If we get enough folks on that waiting list, we will offer it another day.

Kristin Brace’s new chapbook, Each Darkness Inside, can be ordered through April 12 from Finishing Line Press. It will be shipped in June.

Saugatuck’s D.R. James has a new chapbook coming out! Click here for a pre-order discount!

Daughter Meridith is featured in an interview along with her artwork in the latest Holland Weekly. Check it out at hollandweekly.com

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Visit Reader’s World 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.

You Mustn’t Die Unsaved

Like many of you, I was a victim of Christian dogma abuse. Lots of fear, control, punishment, oppression, guilt for simply being. And then I had to take responsibility for all the fear and guilt I would never have felt without this oppression. A kind of vicious self-feeding trauma cycle.

(If you don’t consider yourself a Christian, welcome. I hope you will read on. If you do call yourself a Christian and are already offended, please read on anyway.)

In 1971 I joined the faculty of a Christian college. Back in my day, much of the faculty affirmed how Jesus had dramatically altered the consciousness of many, had challenged the assumed laws and status quo of the day, had placed people over policy, had shifted choice of behavior from obeying orders to following values like mercy, love, hope, compassion, forgiveness. We understood who should be throwing the first stone. And more.

Jesus didn’t punish people. He admonished people sometimes, sure. Even with the money changers, he angrily moved them to where they belonged — admonishment, not punishment.

While teaching at the college, I remember being admonished a few times. Some of those times, I admit, were deserved. But I was never punished.

Over the course of many months, more than a year, the administration and board of my old school severely punished several beloved music faculty members. The charges are refutable or minor. Ongoing investigation will perhaps bring this to light.

But some of these good souls are no longer teaching there. The music students have voiced their protest, their affirmation of their teachers. The Student Congress aligned itself with the administration. (The Student Congress?!?) After damaging these lives cruelly and forever, the powers and principalities continue to maintain the school is Christian.

I say no.

These punished professors, some of the lowest paid professors in our collegiate association, lost tens of thousands in legal fees. How did the college administrators pay for their legal counsel? Was it paid for by the parents and students who paid tuition, from donors? With or without their approval?

45 is seeping into our little local lives. He has been doing that for longer than he’s been president. His patent phrase, “You’re fired!” from his reality show changed the norm, the tone and tenor of collegiality from college classrooms to corporate offices to small businesses. The way we treat people now, blaming and culling first, working out our differences later, or never, has turned our culture into one where differences cannot contribute to a whole, much less be tolerated.

And at my little college, many (most?) of the faculty are left in trauma, afraid to speak, afraid to be who they have been trained and grown to be.

Is this paranoia? Nope.

We must hold to what we value: our care for one another wherever we see his attitude acted out, whether those who do so vehemently deny it. Those college administrators may say they disagree with 45, that this is different, that they acted on their own, according to policy.

Policy above people. What would Jesus really do? I mean, really?

You Mustn’t Die Unsaved

Reverend Kirk came to town,
lured us
from the playgrounds
to the church,
turned us into Christian jocks.
We carried Bibles, picked off sinners,
won them back to God.
We began to pray,
four, five times
every day, and memorize
key passages
to keep our noses clean
and pick apart the enemy’s defense.
God we were good.
Every other day, we met
with him for breakfast,
Bible study, prayer.
Before he came to town,
we’d all been up and out
each day to play
some ball and make enough
to take our girls out
after pick-up games we played
behind the high school gym.
But Reverend Kirk sure
set us straight. He taught us
ball, a summer job, and
four good friends were not enough.

For Rev. Gerry Van Heest who knew “Where two or three gather together . . .”

–Jack Ridl

First published in Samisdat
Subsequently published in Between (Dawn Valley Press)

Coming Up…

Saugatuck’s D.R. James has a new chapbook coming out! Click here for a pre-order discount!

Jack Interview, February 22 on WMUK’s Art Beat. 12:30pm.

Workshop on March 30. “Poetry Trauma: The Way to Recovery.” This will offer a fresh way to be nourished by a variety of poems. It’s FREE. But you MUST reserve a seat.

When: March 30, 10am-1pm.
Where: The Douglass UCC church Friendship Hall.
Click here to reserve your seat online, or sign up at the church hall one of these Sunday mornings.

Party Time: Book Reception, April 5 for the release of Saint Peter and the Goldfinch.

When: April 5, 6:30-9:30pm
Where: The Douglass UCC church.
There will be a reading at 7pm. Then we party. Books on site for sale and signing.
Click here to Read all about it and RSVP PLEASE

Writing Your Personal History Workshop, April 6Grace Episcopal Church. 10am – 1:30pm

Reading with Lisa Lenzo (whose new book, Unblinking, will be released in May!) on May 16 at Michigan News Agency Bookstore in Kalamazoo.. 7pm

Wonderful news for those of you who know or want to meet the beloved Kathleen Markland.
She has been named the Honoree for the celebration of and fundraiser for The Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency  in Saugatuck, Michigan. Ox-Bow is more than 100 years old and is a part of The Art Institute of Chicago. Stay tuned for that fundraiser date!

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Visit Reader’s World 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.