June 9, 2022, “Recovery”

Today on “The Sentimentalist,” Jack revisits Maine, talks about gardening as art and as mental health strengthener, reads some lovely poetry by very young people, and honors Mental Health Awareness Month (last month, but who’s counting?).

June 2, “All at Once”

Tears. More tears. How can we live right now? News in the poetry community. A wonderful anthology to raise funds for Ukranians, that new old spinning wheel, more books in the making. The dog. The cats. Jack shares the news from his couch and his life…

Burying the Poems

Poet W.S. Merwin wrote, “On the last day of the world I would plant a tree.”

Why does that always astonish me? I don’t know.

April 22 was Earth Day. But every day is Earth Day. Don’t you wish that everyone
would have their heart seared by the realization that the Earth is helpless?

Someone strips a forest, wants to mine a wonder of a wilderness and we can only say, “No.” They don’t listen. And the tree next to the tree being dropped can’t fight to prevent the clear cut, only stand there in line, next. And the wilderness can’t defend itself, can’t even build a wall to keep out the ones who have no value for the ineffable, the wondrous, the soulful, that which profoundly nourishes each of us, the helplessly real.

And we need bees. Years ago a neighbor treated me as worse-than-worthless
for planting flowers. “What the hell are you doing, wasting time with flowers!?!”

He grew only vegetables, so many that he threw more than half away. Today he
would have a hard time bringing about a row of zucchini. I never
replied to his criticism. It was useless: I was a wuss of an “aesthete.” Had I
suggested the need and health of bees, he would have sneered, “Bees schmees.

Wherever he now is, I hope he has learned that we need bees, that they too
are helpless, defenseless, that they too can’t put up a fight.

Each day is THE EARTH’S DAY. We visit.

Burying the Poems

The night is still, the leaves calm
as a corpse when the words tell me,
“Be like the poet Alexander Kutzenov.

Bury your poems.” He sealed them
in glass jars like the finest currant jam,
laid them down into the earth and covered

their graves with leaves. I will do the same.
Slender light from the crawl of worms
will slide through the glass, lie between

the lines, along language’s slow syntax.
The dreaming earth with its lost souls
of slug and beetle, ephemeral scat of cat

and dog, drifting scent of nosing possum,
raccoon, and deer will mulch the poems’
quiet stay, the rhythms alkaline, the meanings

dormant in their disfigured corms. Moles
will come, nuzzle each jar. Voles will spin
like dervishes around the lids. Winter will

bring the hard frost tightening the ground.
Then following the breakage of spring and
the blisters of summer, the fall will raise

no harvest. Nothing there. Nothing to be there.
Only the jars under the lost dark green of leaves.

—Jack Ridl

A remarkable collection of poems that embodies
these ideas is Earth Again by Christopher Dombrowski
(Wayne State University Press)

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Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings and Reader’s World 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!

It’s April and It Should Be Spring

Welcome, welcome to all of my new German friends! This week has been overwhelming for me. Among the many joys of doing something that is for no gain is when the unexpected might, just might, come your way and becomes a gift you couldn’t imagine arriving.

This blog protest has created that experience. The gifts have come from you. You have created a world for me, one I realize is extraordinarily rare. My gratitude cannot be fully expressed. So today I want to offer two ways of thanking you. And when you read this, I want you to believe that I do feel that I am writing this post to one of you at a time. That’s very important to me.

These last few days have been overwhelming. Christian Zaschke’s article in the weekend edition of Sueddeutsche Zeitung about what I’m trying to do here reached far and wide. Some 200 new subscribers (Welcome!) from some 4,000 new visitors, primarily German speaking people from all over the world, Christian’s SZ fans from everywhere, arrived at at ridl.com, making that more than 27,000 people who have come to visit since I started this work, many to comment and/or email me. It’s become joyous new work to respond to each who have personally contacted me. It’s like having you all here, all around the kitchen table, and all attending to what matters to you.

This message from Albert Geiger is one of the many.  I think you will be as moved by it as I am, for all it implies for all of us:

“I am from Munich (Germany) and read yesterday the article about your activities in the SZ newspaper. Meanwhile I had the opportunity to visit your website and to enjoy some of your poems. The article and your poems touched me very much, resulting in a strong feeling of solidarity which drove me to write you these few sentences.

The article and your work reminded me vividly of my father who was one of the appr. 230,000 German resistance during the III Reich and who survived almost 11 years of imprisonment only because of literature and tender poems which gave him incredible strength. He even was able to write his own poems.

So I feel that your work is also extremely important for me, and I want to thank you for it.”

And here in an email response is the writer, Christian Zaschke:

“… if I may quickly throw a word into this group: this e-mail by Mr Geiger is extremely moving for me (I wrote the story). And if I may add: reactions in Germany to the text have been so kind, so gentle, so wonderful. I am overwhelmed (even though the readers all love Jack now and not the messenger – rightly so :-).

And it confirms what we all know: people have to engage. And to speak out. We can all reach out and touch the world.

I am so grateful for the time I have spent in Saugatuck and Douglas.”

My abundant thanks to my friend, Norbert Kraas, who contacted Christian about this project. This would not have happened had Norbert not been so kind as to do that. That’s Norbert — kind.

It’s snowing here and the wind is harsh. And it’s Spring. Yes, within this storm, there is Spring.

It’s April and It Should Be Spring

The gods are tired of tending fires.
Against the window, snow.

Each night the hour hand moves
time and us closer to the light.

No one wants to go out. No one
wants to stay in. And the snow.

Robins do their silly walk across the lawn,
dead grass dangling from their beaks.

Crocuses raise their purple risk
through the ice-crusted mulch of maple,

oak, beech, and willow. They last
a day. Clumps of daffodils stay

blossom-tight. We want to put away
sweaters. What would the saints do?

We haul in more wood. It is snowing.
Thursday and it is snowing and wind cold.

Winter’s wedged itself into a crack
along the equinox. We know, in time,

the trees will bud, the flowers rise
and bloom. We do what the earth does.

–Jack Ridl

And today? This is today. Here is hope.

First published in Temenos

Published later in an alternative form in Poetry East

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

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Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings and Reader’s World 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!