Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Confession Tuesday - Year Trade-In

Dear reader:

Happy New Year from Kansas City! It's been quite a year and I feel like I'm in a dealership about to trade in 2018 and drive off the lot in a new year.

I'm off to the confessional, won't you join me?

Friends, I'd like to say that  I'm excited about the new year, but anxious may be more accurate.  As I enter the new year with my trade-in, sadly there is no warranty. What I am offered is hope and in all my years I've found that hope brings expectations and sometimes pleasant surprises and other times disappointment. This year I am choosing to tie my hope to behavior. That being said, I feel I have some stake in the outcome and that gives me a slice of control. Maybe not of the whole year but the rather hopes and dreams. This is the best any of us can do.

I confess that  2018 was defined by the frustration all around us - all of us. One of the things I am going to do in 2019 is to lessen the chaos around me that distracts and drags me down. No, I'm not turning off the news. Burying my head in the sand makes me an irresponsible citizen and voter.  But I intend to avoid the crap that none of us need. What we engage in is a choice we make. I want to make better choices.

I saw a graphic that said something like this:  We have 365 pages this year to write our new life story. That made me realize several things. One, urgency. If we don't put anything on a page, that's a lost day. I can't write today's page tomorrow. It also means I am responsible for my own story, my own year. Yes, I have to work with what the world throws at me, but that is only part of the story. What I do with my resources, time, events, people are my responsibility. Choose well. Kevin Larimer, the editor-in-chief of Poets & Writers said something in his note in the newest edition that resonated with me. He spoke of deeper gratitude for the idea of production that isn't entirely based on what is put on the page and more on how we honor those moments of living off the page.

One thing I am going to do this year is to guard and protect the time I allocate for writing and reading.

I hope that  2019 brings us lots of change. America is an idea and not just a physical country on a continent. America is based on democracy and certain rights and liberties. All of us need to hold up the vales connected to our founding documents and defend them against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Just being on this continent is not enough. We must preserve those values that were the basis of what makes us great, and remember this nation is a melting pot for the world. This is our greatest natural resource.

Wishing you all realized hope, health and love throughout the year.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

A Simpler Tine

This is not intended to be political as much as it is hearkening back to a simpler time. A time when there was a simpler discourse among leaders and even though the bitter battles of politics were waged, in the end, differences aside, these were people who lead this country with an unquestionable dedication the country they believed in and wanted most of all for it to succeed.

To me, the passing of President George H.W.Bush brings with it a double sadness. First, the loss of a fellow American, whose service to this nation was long, and varied. I am also feeling a stark contrast in the present and earlier times.

To be sure, George H.W. Bush and I differed widely, both on domestic policy and foreign affairs. At the time of his election, I was serving as Chairman of the Jackson County Democratic Party (metropolitan Kansas City MO) and while the Democrats did not carry Missouri for our candidate, Jackson County did by the biggest margin for a Democrat up to that point, since John F. Kennedy.

Looking back on 41, I can say without a doubt that he believed strongly in America and his pat may have been different from what I hoped for, in the end, he cared about this nation. He cared about our allies in Europe and around the world. And his transfer of power was orderly and supportive even if he might have charted a different course. Dear Bill," George H.W. Bush scribbled Jan. 20, 1993, to the Democrat about to succeed him as president. "When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too. The full text of the letter can be found at the link above. This note was part of a ritual of the outgoing President leaving a note to his successor in the top left drawer of the "Resolute Desk" in the Oval Office.

Somehow, this all seems more complicated. America's reputation abroad is very low. In some places, perhaps the lowest of modern times. Our friends around the world are uncertain what we stand for. Indeed, many Americans seem to no longer embrace longstanding principals upon which this nation was founded.

When issues of colluding with foreign nations that differ with the U.S. on a number of pressing issues are front and center. When it is questionable if the President cares more about his investment opportunities then what is in the best interest of the nation, the concept of ethical government has become non-existent, can we be assured that President does, in fact, have a central dedication to American Democracy? What kind of letter might the next president find in his drawer?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Mega-Confession On Tuesday

Dear Reader:

So it's been a while since my last Confession Tuesday and I'm not waiting any longer. I confess I don't know exactly how long it's been and I could look, but I'm not going to.

Reader, here are some of the things that have happened since the last confession: Call it the rebellious streak in me, or just plain lazy, your call.

  • My Giants did not make the postseason play this year.
  • I had another poem published.
  • I read in Liberty last month.
  • I got to see one of the poets on my 2018 Poet Crush List 
  • The Democrats in the house were part of a blue wave that may well give them a 40 seat gain in Congress, taking over that body as the majority. 
  • The big bad boogie caravan has not yet made it to the United States yet, but Trump has called up the regular military to protect us from gangs, bad dudes, murderers, rapists,  Leprosy, Small Pox, et al.
Please, join me at the confessional:

Dear Reader, all is not well. You know it (some of you anyway) and I know it. This country is ill. I've watched as the fever rises. I've observed its unsteadiness in the world community. I've seen its values denied by some. Hate is perhaps at an all-time high. The patient seems listless and those of us with concern are gathered with Lady Liberty at her bedside.  Who will offer blood for a transfusion? Who will give comfort and support? Who will help her stand again and walk? I confess it is so easy to be hateful at these times because one hate breads another. This is a challenge we face. But I think we have to be certain that not meeting hate with more hate means we simply roll over and do nothing. The absence of hates is not weakness. It is even a greater strength than the haters have. It is a will to defend, to support our democracy and that means be there for the inclusiveness of others. It is to have very wide arms.  

Now reader, on a lighter note, I have found joy in two things. One is that I have been working on my family genealogy. Working a little several times a week I confess that I have been making great inroads. I have the Wells family no going back to a fourth great-grandfather Freemon Wells, Sr born in 1770  and his wife Martha Combs born in 1774. It's fascinating and while it is perhaps not easy to learn intimate details about these relatives, some things will emerge. I confess that I would like to learn enough about these generations of the Wells family and some of their offshoots, Sartins, Keegans, Peachers, Masons, and Combs.  Or on the maternal side of my family.

Another joy has been the use of a family seal. I confess that in some mail, notes to others I have enjoyed doing a wax seal of the envelope. It's fun I think because it personalizes it, and it's a little bit artistic. I bet there are many of you out there that have never received a wax seal stamped envelope. I know I haven't. Maybe that is another reason I so much enjoy it. I know the person on the other end is getting something in the mail that even I have never seen in my mailbox. How crazy is that?

On Veterans Day our president did not even bother to go to Arlington National Cemetary. I confess that this seems to me to be outrageous. Wouldn't you think this would as commander-in-chief be a minimal thing he could and should do?

As to writing, least I close without confession that the struggle continues. But alas, I'm not looking for sympathy, If tomorrow I were to write the greatest poem the world has ever seen, picking up my pen the following day, the struggle would continue.  I am simply happy to write something better today than yesterday.

With this, I conclude this Tuesday's Confession.  May you all be safe and remain at peace!

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Laura Kasischke Returns after 12 years

This week I had an opportunity to audit a Masters class taught by Laura Kasischke at UMKC and the next night attend a reading  followed by an interview with her for New Letters on the Air,

I first met Laura 12 years ago at a reading here in Kansas City. She captivated my attention with her book Gardening in the Dark, a book I would read and reread for inspiration from time to time when I felt stalled in my creativity.

What I liked about her poetry was the way she made me believe in the magic that can be found in poetry when the poet is so inclined to treat you to writing with twists and turns and language that will not stand still. There is a tactile quality to a lot of her work. It doesn't just lay on the page.

I picked up her book The Infinitesimals to read, which makes the third book by her in my poetry library.  You can expect a forthcoming review of it before the end of the year.

Also see:  My 2018 Poets Crush Six Pack

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Breaking Out of Boredom with Lola Haskins

Friday & Saturday I had the opportunity to hear poet Lola Haskins read and to teach a workshop.

It's my first exposure to Haskins though I had heard good things about her.  Her Friday night reading was remarkable in that she read everything from memory, her voice is soft and yet words chosen in her work are profound. Each and everyone with a purpose. It was especially intimate because she was so in tune with the audience and not a page in front of her.

Saturday she quickly set out to provide sound advise and tool for eradicating the dreaded boredom that creeps into our writing and takes over. To stop writing from safety and write from risk.

Haskins has over a dozen books to her credit and another on due in 2019.
You can see some of her work and books on her website

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Acceptance - Yeah!

Just a quick note to say I'm excited that my poem Ambiguity has been accepted for a fall publication date.  More, later.