Listening With The Eyes

As subtly as the doughy round flesh of infancy gave way to angles that would become a toddler’s shoulder blades and joints came the conviction that all was and would indeed be well. Perhaps the miracle was noticing amid the daily rounds of feeding and nap time, exacerbated by end-of-semester grading and the holiday spin-cycle. Somehow I noticed her flesh loosening, growing slack even as her limbs lengthened and glances slowed to the gaze of genuine connection – both expected and yet a surprise. In celebration, I planted a virtual willow, Nature’s reminder to exhale, next to the place on the map marked, “here yet be dragons”, and exhaled, and will continue to do so in the spirit of what Alice Parker has called the silence of completion.

Listening With The Eyes

Race Based Terrorism Has a Long History in the United States

The truth will set you free, if you act on it.


Fifty two years ago today, James Chaney, a black man, Michael Schwerner, a Jew, and Andrew Goodman, a white man, were murdered by terrorists in Mississippi, USA. These men were part of “Freedom Summer”, a voter registration and education campaign organized by the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) to educate Black people about the political process and register them to vote.

The long-standing white terrorist organization, the KuKluxKlan, recently associated with the current GOP presumptive presidential nominee, was implicated in their deaths. The bodies of the three men were found in an earthen dam after they were stopped by local police, let go, and then followed out of town.

The Mississippi Attorney General announced yesterday that the investigation into the deaths of the three civil rights workers has been closed. One person was convicted for manslaughter in the case. The Attorney General cited difficulties in the investigation including “enduring reluctance…

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Race Based Terrorism Has a Long History in the United States

Haiku as Paradigm


Revised 21 vi 2016

On the Kigo as an Image of Desire

Haiku is a hinged form. The single line — Japanese kigo– is often spoken of as a cultural given, a seasonal word everybody in the language community understands,  a sort of fixed point.  That is perhaps too univocal (see below) and suggests some otherworldly independence of the term. I’d rather say it is an index of the DESIRE for transcendence, a need that cannot die (as William Desmond puts it).

On the Ethos of Haiku

One reason — perhaps the most “rational” among many — I love the art of haiku is that it “models” ethical thinking in general. That is, the two-part asymmetrical structure of haiku brings into relation the concept of community –the self’s  basic desire for transcendence– and the concept of moving between the self and the other, which informs narrative, story, allegory. The narrative, usually…

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Haiku as Paradigm

Are You Experienced: Peter McDonald’s “Partridge”

Find a way to interpret and share this with 98 learners.


One of the smaller poems in Peter McDonald’s new book of poems from Carcanet, Hermes the Hunter, goes like this:


A little squeal, and then the sound

of a spring being tightly wound

in on itself, is all there is

at first, a sudden note and whizz-

whir coming from the bunched-up grass,

but maybe as the minutes pass

and you lie still, you start to see

a round bird moving clumsily,

all body, getting ready now

to risk the air, and chance a low

flight that will take it further out

from the covey: as if in doubt,

and happier with the ground below,

it hesitates; it doesn’t go.

In its very small way, this is magnificent.  McDonald, in criticism and creative work alike, is among the connoisseurs of poetic form. The management of the tetrameter meter, sacrificing nothing of “natural” speech or idiom, effectively conveys not simply…

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Are You Experienced: Peter McDonald’s “Partridge”

what to do

one week into a new year i find myself waiting for direction for this year’s blogging, savoring lucille clifton’s message from the ones over rooibus tea

some of you have been blessed
or cursed
to see beyond yourselves

into the scattered wrongful dead
into the disappeared
the despised

none of you has seen
none of you has said

what you have not noticed
we have noticed
what you have ignored
we have not


what to do

What If I’m Not A Writer?

What if?

Those are famous first words. They have led to many inventions, arguments, discoveries and yes, failures. It’s how my mind works or doesn’t much of the time. What if those who can’t do, write? Having withstood a similar accusation as a teacher for more than 20 years I answer, “big whoop”. And then, I put on the big girl panties and enter the classroom yet again. Teaching is not for the faint of heart. Someone’s gotta do the impossible with the unlikely. Why not me? I offer you the same Q & A if the What if I’m not a writer suspicion nags at you as often as it does me. Why not you? Let’s look at this particular neurotic’s landscape together.

Define writer. According to many, a writer is one who writes. I’m doing it now, aren’t I? Guess I’m a writer. You? If you think a writer is someone who is read. Get reading. There’s plenty research to suggest writing improves with reading. Often, when I read, I’m inspired to write back. Often I just do it. It gives me a sense of community, of somewhere to be outside my head. Even if it doesn’t really make me feel a sense of belonging, it reminds me at least that I’m not alone. If you think a writer is someone who publishes, be a publisher. Nowadays, it’s fast and free. So publish if that’s your definition of being a writer. If you think you have to be an editor to be a writer well, I find that I’m the best person to trust to keep my meaning, so I edit. But if that’s not your hang-up, we have people for this. If money’s what you lack, work out an exchange for services.

If you want to know what the difference between a writer and an author is, well, take yourself out on a wee little adventure and ask a few people. You know, the kind of man on the street interview Late Night made famous. Let me know if you discover anyone who really knows. Even if you don’t, you can write about the process and, voila, you’re a writer.

Lewis Carroll

What I’ve discovered so far is that each year as Nanowrimo approaches, I go into a dither punctuated by unrealistic expectations (writing 1,621 words a day, shutting myself off from human contact – other wrimos are only technically human so contact with us at local write-ins [no matter how frequent] doesn’t count – and adding daily exercise to my routine when it’s not part of my life for months at a time). What I’ve come to understand about myself is that November is pretty much the only time I give myself permission to prioritize what I enjoy more than eating, sleeping, housekeeping (no, I don’t particularly enjoy housekeeping but a messy house interferes with my writing) or solving the world’s problems with friends and family over coffee or on the phone. If this makes me a freak, so be it. If it makes me a writer, all the more reason to indulge. All the more reason to let November’s frenzy seep into the rest of the year. All the more reason to start writing and keep writing without apology. Besides, having unrealistic expectations is what makes us human and what moves us beyond what only yesterday seemed impossible.

Look at it this way. It’s 9:30 am and I’ve already exchanged texts with a neighbor, let the dogs out, fed them and myself, dressed and am having a staring context with the unmade bed. C’est la guerre. And, with close to 1,000 words down longhand and digitized, I count that I’ve already won. I’m two-thirds of the way to impossible.

What If I’m Not A Writer?