A morning inspired by Pete Seeger

On this morning of Obama’s State of the Union address, I hear that Pete Seeger has died. I immediately hear a banjo in my mind.

I think of Bruce Springsteen. I remember Pete leading the country, along with Bruce, at the Lincoln Memorial at President Obama’s inaugural concert. I was so proud of our country, so filled with optimism about the direction this anti-war, progressive president might take our country.

Six years and a full election cycle later I’m proud of our president’s Health Care initiative, but I’m mostly disappointed. I imagine Mr. Seeger is too for President Obama’s drone strikes, continued militarism, corporate bailouts, and privatization of our public schools.

Twitter asks what I hope to hear from our President tonight. I’ve learned from five previous State of the Union speeches that high hopes will lead to great disappointment. It’s not like it was during Bush when every sentence brought offense. No, with this POTUS I have to listen carefully because it is the subtext I need to decipher, particularly in the education section of his speech. He will surely address accountability in our schools which really means disempowering our unions and rewarding teachers based on test scores. He might say we must not teach to the test, but he will likely emphasize just how these crucial these tests are.

So, before I head to work in my union red this morning, I listen to Pete Seeger, and I’m reminded why I write, why I’m a union activist, why I teach in a pubic school, and why I’m compelled stand up for what I believe, even when it gets lonely. 


Building Your Writing Community

I am lucky enough to spend the holiday weekend with dear friends I met in my MFA program at Antioch University over a decade ago. We fly, then drive from cities and small towns, wind down long, steep roads and gather in a house overlooking the Coast to celebrate a milestone birthday. But as we reconnect, it's obvious there is so much more to recognize: sobriety, a couple of books, a baby, a marriage, a law degree, an engagement, a successful blog launch and subsequent book proposal request, and our friendship.

Ten years after meeting my writing family, despite all the time we've spent apart and even though we live in different cities and write different genres from different perspectives, we still strive to tell our stories. In our conversations we weave narratives. We introduce new characters, construct settings, pile on conflicts, and seek out resolution. We gaze out at the Pacific for hours, each of us searching for the story that will set us free.

But we are writers. We will never truly be loose of the stories we are compelled to tell. That is why it is so critical that we stick together.

Writers have to find other writers, because this can be isolating business.

I soak in three days with my writing family and then I make the long trip home, thousands of miles from this creative community. I arrive at my coffee shop the next morning. I check-in with another writing friend, my local-writing-family, and then, with the momentum of writers everywhere sitting pen in hand or before a glowing screen, I put down the words.

They are what keep us going,
keep me going,
keep going.


Another Poetry Post: Amiri Baraka

We lost American poet Amiri Baraka this week, and if I'd still been posting a poem a week, I would have found one of his poems to honor him. If I learned anything from my year of poems, it's that there are so many poets to appreciate, I should not pass on an opportunity to explore one. So, here is a bio from the New York Times which begins to explore some of the complexity that is Amiri Baraka and here is a poem (or a preface) which leaves me breathless.

From Poet Seers' bio of Amiri Baraka
Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note
By Amiri Baraka

Lately, I've become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelopes me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus...

Things have come to that.

And now, each night I count the stars.
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.

Nobody sings anymore.

And then last night I tiptoed up
To my daughter's room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there...
Only she on her knees, peeking into

Her own clasped hands