After Talking it Over

The National Spelling Bee…

Host: “The word is galliambic.”
Katherine: “galliambic- g a l l i a m b i c”
Host: “Correct.”

Host: “The word is tlamatine.”
Nathan: “Tlamatine. t l a m a t i n e.”
Host: “Correct.”

Host: “The word is hamburger.”
45: “Hamburger. h a m b e r d e r.”
Buzzzzzzzzz
Host: “I’m sorry; it’s spelled h a m b u r g e r.”

45: “Once again, FAKE SPELLING.”

 

After Talking It Over

She says, “Why not?” Says,
“Corn chips, a long walk, maybe
a new dog, a mutt, half beagle or
one-third collie, one that will sit
on our laps when we watch
the worst shows on TV.” I think
TV, but know the shows will
turn into another movie or
a report on raising taxes to build
a dam in Idaho. Sixth grade

was not this frightening, but came
close. Mrs. Kendelton held spelling
bees every Friday afternoon. We’d
stand in a line along the blackboard
in the order we finished the last time.
She kept a record. We spelled
antelope, nuclear, satellite, creche.
Winners got chopsticks. Amy
Witherspoon finished elementary
school with 27 sets. Losers sat
with their knees pressing against
the bottoms of their desks. This

place is filled with winter. Winter
makes you think about your head, keeps
your mind on the road, roof, the dog
being outside. You have to know how
to spell rock salt, shovel, scarf.

–Jack Ridl

from Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press)

Next Thursday: D.R. James, Katie Kalisz, and Greg Rappleye will be reading from their new collections at The Bookman, 715 Washington Avenue in Grand Haven, 7pm.

AND

On January 29 at 7pm, the Hope College Visiting Writers Series will host a reading by Sophfronia Scott in the John and Dede Howard Recital Hall located in the Jack H. Miller Center

AND

Today is the birthday of William Stafford. I remember him every day as I sit down to write, kept good company by this poem he wrote at our first house, about our first dog.

atjackshouse

On April 1 (perfect!) (yipes, just 2.5 months away) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

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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.

On the Last Day of the World

With apologies to Robert Frost who read at an inauguration where there actually was a large audience–

Someone there is who really loves a wall.
(Letting thousands suffer until he gets his way.)

On the Last Day of the World

Maybe the sky will be clear,
and we’ll take a walk down
the road behind our house,
just walk along, going nowhere,
somewhere. Birds will fly
branch to branch, a rabbit
or chipmunk may cross
in front of us, disappear
into the brush. We’ll try
not to look at the sun.
We’ll keep our eyes off
to the side. When we come
to the bend, we’ll look for
the deer path, take it, and
see where it leads, see if
it opens to a clearing where
each night the deer sleep
deep within the star-distant light.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Third Wednesday

Mark your calendars for Thursday, January 24 at 7pm. Three exceptional poets, Katie Kalisz, David James, and Greg Rappleye will read from their wonderfully varied new collections at The Bookman in Grand Haven.

On April 1 (perfect!) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

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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 Crank Collector

I’ve a wonderfully warm-hearted, well-read yoga instructor, Ami. On Monday Ami suggested that if any of us were planning to make New Year’s resolutions, that we consider changing the word to intentions. As I sat there cross-legged, palms up, the wisdom of that arrived immediately.

When with Ami, we smile as over and again she says, “Your intention is to stretch your right leg as far across the left held straight as you can.”

A resolution is a decision one must stand by. Once broken, you have to admit failure in one way or another. “I resolve to go to the gym three times a week” often leads to “I can’t right now. I have to go to the gym.”

An intention leaves room for the welcoming of change. “Yeah, I know. I intended to go to the gym today. Then my neighbor came over, needed to talk.”

Resolve!!! There’s something harsh, unbending, non-fluid, demanding, set in concrete, must be OBEYED, If-I-don’t-I’ve-failed about it. Also something I’m-sorry-but-that’s-just-the-way-it-is about it.

“Intend.” It feels kinder, forgiving, fluid, even softer.

To solve? or To tend.

And no, I emphatically do not believe that all good intentions pave the path to Hell. In fact, I believe that resolutions more often do. The old “I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is. Can’t change it now.”

“Resolved” is not benign.

Last week I mentioned the terrible, destructive injustice done to four beloved music teachers at Hope College, where I taught for 37 years. From the beginning it was obvious that those out to destroy the joyful and life-giving intentions of these four were most emphatically resolved to do them in.

What’s left now? Well, thousands of students are enjoying enriched lives given to them by these four. But, though their good work lives on, this wreckage can’t be healed, fixed, re-solved. And the bitterness is spreading, rapidly.

These four teachers worked with their students with loving intention, the intention being the enrichment of each student’s days. One does not demand that a student be resolved to master Bach, Baez, or Ellington. That leads only to failure or stagnation. These dynamic and encouraging teachers’ intention was to time and time again enable each student to be with and grow with whatever music they were studying, each time new and renewed.

The Crank Collector

I’d love to rust.
Just sit there
turning into air.
I put cranks
on anything. See
how I put one on
that lawn deer.
I wasn’t sure where
to fasten it. When I
found this old stuffed
chair, I had to put
a crank on it. I
thought this stump
should have one.
And that one,
on the rowboat, I first
put on our bed. I find
cranks everywhere.
They just turn up,
in the woods for instance,
behind a garage. I found
one once in a cemetery.
The one on the side of
the house, I found
digging in my garden,
planting some spurge.
There are a couple
thousand kinds of spurge.
That crank there’s
a double handle. You
can swing it arm over
arm. This one, I painted
green before I stuck it
into that window box.
And I took that one from
my grandmother’s attic.
I thought she’d like it
fastened to her Bible.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

On April 1 (perfect!) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

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

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.

Dear Coach

Leadership is on my mind. The kind that helps people to flourish, the kind that does just the opposite.

A sportswriter, in a piece for Sports Illustrated, noted that my father may have been the only coach in America who kept geraniums wintering in his basement, wore a hat, and said “Oh my” a lot. “Oh My Is a Four Letter Word” became a ubiquitous bumper sticker around Pittsburgh in his day.

Another sports writer wrote about how much my father loved the game of basketball and quoted him saying, “But I don’t understand why thousands of people come to watch and why it matters to so many if we win or lose.”

One time, when one of his players missed a layup that would have won the game at the buzzer, my father, surrounded by reporters in the locker room, was asked, “Why did (name) blow that layup?” My father thought for a bit and then said, “Well, if he didn’t miss it, and instead blew it, I guess he wanted to.”

Have you ever had friends falsely accused to the point that it cost them being able to bring their goodness into the world? I can’t voice how terrible that is. It’s happened to four cherished friends of ours recently. Done under the kind of blind, cruel, fear-inducing “leadership” so popular these days. Cruelty that can’t be undone.

On the other hand, there was my Dad. A real leader. How brave he was.

Dear Coach

Dear Coach,

Remember the time you left me in after I’d missed seven in a row, tossed a few out of bounds, and let my man score twenty? Bad night. But you didn’t pull me. You must have taken a lot for that. I can still hear the boos. I thought they were all at me. Why’d you leave me in? I’ve thought about that lately. Did you really think I’d come around? The other guys were furious sitting there watching me screw up. And after the game? What did you say? You must have had a second thought. It hit me last week. I was thinking back, remembering certain games. After that one, I wanted to run away. I had a thousand excuses. My family’s fine, kids are growing up. We took a vacation this year. My mother’s doing OK. Business is business, up and down. If you’re ever in town, I sure hope you’ll stop to see us.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Nebraska Territory

Subsequently published in Losing Season (CavanKerry Press)

Don’t forget to check out Holland Weekly at hollandweekly.com

On April 1 (perfect!) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

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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.

A Christmas List for Santa

“You’re just being sentimental.”

Sentimental. Sentimentality.  These words more often than not are used as a judgement to label the recipient deficient. We encounter the word when reading reviews and critiques, in the academic world among those appealing for so-called objectivity.

It’s no wonder so many fear being damned as sentimental.

For perhaps a surprise consider the Merriam Webster dictionary, where sentimental/sentimentality is defined as tenderness, love, sadness seemingly expressed in an excessive or foolish way.

Ah hah! The dictionary author says “seemingly,” which I would suggest implies that sentimentality is not false feeling, nor as is often taught, a feeling inappropriate to its stimulus.

(Most definitely false feeling exists. We experience it every day in ads and especially in 45’s tweets.)

It’s that time of year when most joy and merry-making would disappear without the authenticity of sentimentality.

As our dear friend Mary Ruefle (Our fathers were college roommates.) writes in her extraordinary and wonderfully subversive-for-the-good-of-all book Madness, Rack, and Honey, “Why is it that all the great stuff is never in keeping with what you are always told: don’t be sentimental.”

Sentiment. Mental. What a lovely and whole coupling.

So, ’tis the season to be merry. And nostalgic. And sad. And wistful. And rich with seemingly inappropriate love.

As is every season, day, hour, and minute.

A repeat for this season–

A Christmas List for Santa

A Wednesday afternoon with no thought of Thursday

Three weeks in the woods, two by myself, one with my father

My father

Cups of tea, plates of sugar cookies, the first ones I ever made,

the dough still sticking to my fingertips

Comic books from the late ’40s: Little LuLu, The Green Hornet, Felix the Cat

Every creek from the upper peninsula of Michigan

The last page from twenty unpublished novels

The ease of a dog’s sleep

Five gold rings

A moon-draped evening among the birds in the hemlocks

Any snow-covered pile of leaves

Photographs, I don’t care how many, of my daughter just before

she smiles for the camera

Seven moments with the lucidity of cutting yourself with a bread knife

Whatever happens between what happens

The liturgy of an old monk laughing

–Jack Ridl

From Practicing To Walk Like A Heron (Wayne State University Press)

Don’t forget to check out Holland Weekly at hollandweekly.com

On April 1 (perfect!) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

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

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.

He Went to The City of Bridges

Pittsburgh is my home city. My sister still lives there. Many times I wonder why I don’t. On November 27th the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Manfred Honeck and featuring the Mendelssohn Choir and Itzhak Perlman, presented “Tree of Life: A Concert for Peace and Unity,” a gift of music as response to the 11 people killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue. My sister attended that concert.

Tonight, streaming it on PBS, Julie and I watched and listened to the performance. We encourage you to as well. The performance is available behind that link, above.

Pittsburgh’s Fred Rogers said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Some of those helpers created this concert. The arts are capable of transcending, of comforting, of helping us feel we aren’t alone. When asked what you think, answer “Music.”

Pittsburgh is a relatively small city, one made up of neighborhoods, many inhabited by varied cultures. And only New York has more bridges. Pittsburgh is known as The City of Bridges. Bridges connect.

He Went to The City of Bridges

He went to The City of Bridges.
He stood in front of the synagogue.
He dared shake the hand of the Rabbi.

He said what his daughter, her husband
told him to say. He went to The City
of Bridges. He went to the city of

neighborhoods. He did not enter
The Cathedral of Learning. He did
not look in the eyes of those sitting shiva.

He proclaimed he saw no one standing in lines
with their signs: “YOU are NOT welcome”
in The City of Bridges. He went to The City

of Bridges to meet the Carnegies, to see
where the steel barons sat. The others stood
at the church where Fred Rogers knelt.

He stopped by on the way to his rally.
In The City of Bridges, there was a rally
for HIAS, for peace, for health, and for love.

He went to The City of Bridges, one built
by the -iches, the -icis, the -ids, and the -o’s.
And I’m pretty damn sure that he crossed

the irregular streets where my immigrant
Bohemian hunky great-grandfather drove
horses hitched to a wagon hauling barrels

of beer through the city where his own son,
sixteen, said he was 20, so that day after weeks
he could stand on the monotonous

line, do his irrelevant, replaceable job.
At the end of that line was something that lined
the tailored twill pockets of those balancing books.

He stood so his family could eat, have
a car, and a house, a new radio. I carry hunky
in my blood, my heritage a shit hole country.

He went to The City of Bridges. Then on
to his base to proclaim to their cheers
he was loved. Loved. Not by the murdered.

Not by the trodden, the poor, the betrayed.
Not to the sorrow-filled veils. Not to the
hope-draped at the border, all ordered

to hand over their photos, their wallets,
their backpacks, their toothpaste, and children.
At 45’s rally, the congregants roared,

“Lock her up!” Blasphemed, “Great!”
Cheered on their hate while out there,
somewhere, someone was smiling,

planning, constructing a bomb, or
stroking a gun while the bereaved,
the love-broken sat shiva.

He went to The City of Bridges.

–Jack Ridl

HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, opened its doors in 1881 to aid Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. Their doors have remained open in support of anyone fleeing persecution. Please consider supporting them here.

Don’t forget to check out Holland Weekly at hollandweekly.com

And Todd Davis’s new collection of poems, Native Species (Michigan State University Press) will be out January 1st. One can pre-order. Jane Hirshfield writes, “Reading Todd Davis’s gorgeous poems, you can’t help but feel that [our] capacities for this way of seeing and naming have been mysteriously increased.”

 

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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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.

Stonington, Maine: Early

In her poem “April 9, 2018” poet Sharon Arendshorst uses as an epigraph, the following quote from Annie Dillard…

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

45, along with his sidekicks in Congresses both national and state, chronically — through action, lack of action, unethical and callous practices, words and tweets and disregard — do violence to our right to determine how to spend our days, thus creating our lives.

Interesting word, “spend,” how it suggests a limited amount of figurative currency. It’s a terrible thing to be robbed of something of monetary value. It may be even more evil to break, enter, and steal our time, our hours and minutes that deserve to be contributed to the common good, the personal good, the good of those loved in our worlds.

“Thou shalt not steal,” is most often applied to the robbing of material things. These thieves have stolen and hoarded the expectation that everyone deserves humane housing, healthcare, food, education, and safety, what should belong to all.

And they are stealing what little time we have.

Stonington, Maine: Early

The moon, full and on its
downward turn, seems to lay
the light bright off the harbor.
The fishing boats are leaving–
Cap’n Dolan, Edward Lee,
Jesse III. The snarls of rockweed
wrap the granite juttings. Open
clam shells seem to be gaping
as if taking in the morning.
And you are waking.
Gulls are walking on the low
tide floor. The town is beginning
its day: the bait shop opening, the diner,
the bookstore with the morning paper.
Father Kenney on his walk to Mass,
Marge and Marv turning up the heat
in their gas station/grocery store.

–Jack Ridl

boneandsinewoftheland

Such good news from historian Anna-Lisa Cox who lives nearby…

Smithsonian Magazine named Anna-Lisa’s The Bone and Sinew of the Land as one of eight books honored as the “Best History Books of 2018.” This year they were looking specifically for books that spoke to events in the nation today. Her book tells the history of the brave African American pioneers in the Midwest, people whose stories have been overlooked for so long. Follow the story: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/best-history-books-2018-180970864/?no-cache

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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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.

Fractals: A Nocturne

Tis the season. As we learned this week from the Handbook of 45–global warming is a hoax, climate change is normal. Just note the big early snowstorms.

Sigh.

When confronted by Pilate, Jesus said, “I am not of your kingdom,” and a multitude of us are most certainly saying, yelling, muttering much the same about King 45.

Things aren’t fine, but we have learned how to hold on to all that is good, loving, true.

And so in the midst of it all, ’tis still the season to be jolly, not happy–jolly.

Fractals: A Nocturne

Today we woke to the first snowfall of the season.
You know how it is: The flakes fall, and after
the dog goes out, comes in, you wipe his paws.
Or you don’t.

My wife’s father was captain
of a destroyer heading to
Cuba during the missile crisis. He
and his crew listened to Radio Havana.
Sometimes to Tito Puente. Kennedy
called to turn back the fleet.

This is the holiday season. The deer will soon lie in
the drifts outside our bedroom window. They sleep,
lift their heads, then lower them back into sleep.

Last night we put up a Frazier fir. They hold
their needles. We also untangled the strings
of lights. Eight months before I was born, my father,

white Army captain of a black company, led his
men through the rubble of Belgium and France.
My mother and her mother trimmed a tree.

I was born in April. My father was slogging his men
through the breath-stealing heat of the Philippines.
We are not treated the same as the others, he wrote,
and we are living in a rice paddy. All there is is rain.

Here it is still snowing.

–Jack Ridl

First published by Re)verb.

Then published in Toad.

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

I encourage you to take a look at the blog kept by award winning author and artist Linda K. Sienkiewicz. In posts she entitles “What, Why, How,” Sienkiewicz asks each person she welcomes to her blog those three questions. Talk about cutting to what really matters. Her novel In the Context of Love received not one but five major awards.

For many the Season of Advent is arriving. I noted before, Gayle Boss’s All Creation Waits, her numinous reflections on creatures who live with us, each reflection accompanied by the stunning woodcuts of David G. Klein. Day one: Painted Turtle, followed by Muskrat! Soon comes the loon and then the wood frog!

And here’s what Dos Madres Press has released about Greg Rappleye’s new collection–

New Book:  Tropical Landscape with Ten Hummingbirds by Greg Rappleye

Tropical Landscape with Ten Hummingbirds

Greg Rappleye is a poet of exquisite, lush language, exacting and precise in description, inventive in the re-creation of entire worlds. In this intoxicating and revelatory journey through the Brazilian rain forests of the 19th century, he populates the canvas of his poems with not only the flora and fauna of that time and place, but with the voice and inimitable perspective of its subject: Martin Johnson Heade, an American painter obsessed with the otherworldly appearance and flight of hummingbirds. As Rappleye’s imagined Heade confesses, “[I] walk for days to find their tiny hearts / beating in the jungle dark.” Yet for all its meticulous research, the heart of this book is a meditation on connection, on what we willingly give our lives over to. As the poet asks, “What should we save—/ a fallen world, or the life we are finally given to live?” —Todd Davis

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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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 Man Who Wanted to Change the World

For the first time in the now two years that I have been posting, I received an email questioning the worth of it.

45 is still in office. Congress remains cowardly. Yes, there are some inroads of integrity as a result of the midterm elections, but…

Perhaps this questioner is unaware that I could never be brash enough to imagine I can change the oligarchical agenda or minds polluted with hate.

As I’ve said from the very beginning, all I but desperately hoped to do was offer an affirmation for those who — while keeping Jefferson’s dictum to maintain a vigilant watch over those in power — never abandon attention to people and things that matter.

After all, sarcasm, shallow irony, and cynicism are easy. What is difficult is to refrain from saying, “Honey, can’t you see that I’m watching the news?!” Or refrain from turning every conversation into a rant instead of asking, “So, tell me what’s been happening with you?” To instead feed the birds or visit the one grieving down the street.

When the synagogue in my home city of Pittsburgh suffered the hate-initiated mass killings, 45 of course drew attention to himself.

Noah Farkas, the nephew of poet Joy Friedler, is a rabbi in Los Angeles who answered the killings with an invocation to his city. He kindly allowed me to excerpt his:

A Prayer for Pittsburgh: Invocation at the Los Angeles County Board Of Supervisors
Published October 30, 2018

Thank you Supervisor Ridley-Thomas for asking me to come this morning. Indeed it is a difficult morning. The last few days have tested our resolve. On this past Shabbat, the sabbath, a man filled with hate murdered eleven worshipers simply because they were Jews. They came for respite and found only violence. But I would be remiss if I did not mention that this attack-the bloodiest massacre of Jews in this country’s history-an attack meant to divide us, was a singular event. Just hours earlier two elderly African American patrons were gunned down in a grocery store because of the color of their skin. At the same moment, an assassination attempt against our nation’s leaders and former leaders was still unfolding. Such violence, such hatred, such cruelty.

As a nation we must understand that an assault during the sabbath is an assault on the sabbath itself. It’s an assault on all of us, not just Jews. On the poetry that is America.

If we are to overcome the hatred, racism and anti-semitism that has reared its ugly head we must set for ourselves the task of reaching across our divides and be fully present for each other. We cannot live only with an either/or paradigm that says that when I win you lose. Or that when you win I must lose. Your redemption cannot come to fruition on the back of my neck, nor can my freedom be at the expense of your blood and treasure. Yours and mine are the same.

It was at night when they came for us. It was at night when the Nazis marched against us. It is at night when they broke the glass and burned the crosses. Came into our houses of worship, our schools, our businesses, our homes. It was at night when the tophets glowed the brightest.

In the morning, joy will come. In the morning, for only in the morning, after a long night, in partnership with other people, together, do we dare say it will be good

.–Rabbi Noah Farkas

I can’t help noticing the ways this invocation lays itself within every place in our lives, our towns and cities, our schools and churches, our neighborhoods, our divisive hearts. We have received permission from 45 to break the fragile bonds that hold us together. Farkas seeks to mend them.

And I think that is one of the great gifts of the arts. The bonds formed by noticing the sameness and the differences. There is Bohemian Rhapsody and there is Debussy. I began each of my poetry writing classes by reminding the students that it is good to find out what we have in common and where to find common ground. “But in our poetry class we are going to seek out our differences. You are safe here to be who you are. It MUST be safe here for each of you to be you. And that is going to reveal through your art that you are not the same. However we will refrain from being cruel. There will not be room for even one eye to roll. We are going to delight in our differences.”

A repeat–

The Man Who Wanted to Change the World

He thought changing the nouns
might help. No one could say
“gun” in the same old way. You
would have to pause, say,
“What’s the name again? Oh,
yes, sassafras.” You would hear,
“Give me the wisteria to the car,”
or find yourself asking, “Why
don’t we add some whispers
to the bottom line?” He realized
this one long, hazy afternoon
while staring up into the trees,
into the wild acceptance
of their branches’ tangle. He
watched the light settle on
the leaves. He believed
the robins, vireos, and
nuthatches could see it.
Later that evening drying
his dinner plate, he felt everything
around him leaving, felt himself
alone amid the sparkles of remaining
dust. Before bed, he addressed, sealed,
and stamped a stack of empty
envelopes, one for everyone
he loved. The next morning
he made his first list: bread dough,
lightning, salt, candle, mourning dove,
while he thought of last laugh,
coffin, profit margin, highway, lie.

–Jack Ridl

From Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

My thanks to Rabbi Farkas for permission to share his invocation, and to his beloved Aunt Joy Friedler, a poet whose valuable work I encourage you to explore. Her latest collection is Capture Theory. Her previous collections include Dutiful Heart and Like Vapor.

Rabbi Farkas’s commentaries can be found at https://noahfarkas.com/

A video of his complete invocation can be found at https://vimeo.com/298000094

My friend Karen Marie Schuen Rowe, on the Big read of Station 11 in Holland, Michigan, wrote this wonderful letter, which goes straight to the heart of what the arts can do for us in troubling times. And I think how lucky her students are to have her.

 

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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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.

Living in the 21st Century

Two years ago today, I promised weekly posts as a contrast to 45 until he was out of office. I did not believe that two years later he would still be perched on his obscene and life-destructive dead branch.

This post could perhaps be seen not as a contrast, however, I truly mean it to be, and to draw attention to what has always been what this country has cared about with the hope that hope can be resurrected.

>>Joy alert: Following this post is a list of absolutely wonderful news, on the publishing front, of new works that can sustain you, fascinate, illuminate, educate in the most humane ways, and offer experiences you perhaps have not had. So either skip past the post first for joy, or know the joy awaits.<<

Over the past seven months I have learned what it’s like to be a campaign manager (through the woman I get to be the husband to — Julie) for a candidate with full integrity and also what it’s like to be a full supporter of four other candidates who carry what today has become too often an anachronism–that same integrity. And then to watch them lose to five candidates who revealed their lack of integrity by barely showing up, or accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from you-know-who so that they can continue to dismantle democracy and replace it with their oligarchy.

I have also learned what it’s like to be a helpless spouse who tries to do and say the right thing when there is no right thing to say or do. Sometimes I think it’s the curse we men carry who don’t blurt out the old “cheer up,” “get on with it,” “look on the bright side,” “some others won,” “we’re making advances in what matters” gene.

Last night here we watched our five local candidates, who both act on what they care about and have real plans (for accessible health care, budgeting to benefit those in need, safe water, reliable infrastructure, schools that give teachers salaries and classroom sizes that enable students to not only learn, but also become themselves rather than cogs in the machine that enable those who have no need to work to continue to have no need to work, the destruction of the planet, and more) LOSE to candidates who didn’t even campaign.

Imagine this, the people who WON refused to show up for forums. When asked by the press to answer questions for print, they didn’t. They accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from dark and corporate PACs — willing to have their corporate patrons tell them what to say and how to legislate. They lied outright about our candidates, which seems to be accepted practice under 45. They didn’t need to connect with anyone except tycoons, megachurches, gun fetishists, and any organization willing to tell their audiences, “vote for _______ or else.”

The people who gave five, ten, fifty, a hundred dollars to Julie’s candidates gave because they knew these candidates would work for what matters.

Those who backed the winners sustained their own selfish agenda. The winners oh so often say they care about us–with a smug simulacrum of honesty. However, that’s all: “I care.” The record shows they haven’t yet acted on this obfuscated word.

Let’s face it. The business of America is business.

I prefer the New Testament woman with only a few shekels who gave them all away.

I am staring now at my dogs, for whom this day is just another day. I want to be my dogs.

Living in the 21st Century

Long before there was this day
another day came. Maybe it rained
or there was a little sunlight. People

got up and did what they always do.
Birds sang and the cats wanted out,
or in. You and I weren’t here,

but the world didn’t know. Trees
grew and nobody noticed. Someone
was cruel. Someone else

tried not to be. Maybe the weather
shifted unexpectedly and plans
had to be changed. This morning

we watched our day begin. We
wondered if it would be good,
wondered if it would rain.

–Jack Ridl

Published in Broken Symmetry, Wayne State University Press

BIG NEWS! AND GOOD NEWS! WONDERFUL NEWS!

1. Greg Rappleye’s collection, Tropical Landscape with Ten Hummingbirds has been released by Dos Madres Press. That’s the same press that published David James’s moving if god were gentle. Leslie Harrison, finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry, says “The core of the book is a series of poems about the life and paintings of Martin Johnson Heade, and the poems, like the paintings, are intricate, gorgeous, and deeply, quietly felt. In range and scope this book is unique.”

2. Gayle Boss’s All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings, with stunning woodcuts by David G. Klein, has been published by Paraclete Press. Obviously this is a book for the Advent, Christmas, and Holiday Season. Richard Rohr writes, “Adapting to the dark and cold [each of the beautiful creatures in this book] announce…that through every dark door the creating Love of the universe waits.” And the late Brian Doyle, author of Chicago: A Novel, wrote “A wonderfully refreshing sidelong book that makes you stop and think and ponder and consider and contemplate and see not only Advent but your entire blessed life with new eyes.”

3. Jim Hanson’s 137 page — yes 137 page — poem About Florence has been published. Jim gave a recent reading of the entire collection, all composed in blank verse. He noted that there was an intermission.

All three collections can be ordered in the usual ways, found in area bookstores, or by contacting the authors.

AND–Mark Hiskes’s collection Standing with Alyosha has been accepted for publication, also by Dos Madres Press. Dos Madres recognizes these close-by, remarkable poets, all of whom know one another. What a joy!

And–a new weekly online publication has been created by Reka Jellema and Kathleen Schenk: Holland Weekly! It welcomes all writings about Holland and the area. As the editors point out, “It’s a new kind of journalism!” Check it out. I really think you’ll be delighted. Do consider contributing.

Alas I wasn’t able to attend the reading at Central Michigan University by honored German poet Eva Christina Zeller who follows these posts and has become an online friend. Eva lives in the same city of Tübingen, Germany, as dear friend Norbert Kraas. It was Norbert who introduced me to Christian Zaschke. The world is smaller than it feels.

WHEW!!!!!