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My Last Blog Post of 2016

May 2017 be a kinder and more peaceful year. May the war in Syria end.
President Obama had his last press conference of 2016 and this is my last blog post of 2016. Our President looks weary and so am I. But it’s the holidays and we are implored to make merry, to be grateful, to put all our worries aside. Not possible. According to my husband, an historian, the election just past was an American Tragedy. This from a man who rarely gets depressed.

Holidays. There will be presents, a sparkly tree, good food and good company (Canadian, British, American), a romp or two in the snow, a drive over a gorgeous mountain range. I will stop and snap some photos. The air will be fresh, good people will embrace us upon arrival. Our daughter’s dogs and cat will be happy to see us and vice versa. All good cheer, but not enough this year. I need more: a schemata, a plan, a writer's resolution.

Here it is:

I will write continuously and consistently about any threat to free speech, a woman’s right to choose, bigotry, deportation, hate crimes, threats to Social Security. Many areas of day to day life will be under siege. I cannot list all of them here. First up, already in draft and sent out to readers, an essay about my back room abortion before Roe v. Wade (1973) the law that is now under threat by a soon to be stacked Supreme Court. Dear Reader, I will let you know when it is published.
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History is Sudden, Poetry is Kind

Pages from my personal poetry anthology: handwritten, printed, clipped.
Oh, how the mind wanders, connects, obfuscates and clarifies. Not necessarily in that order and mostly when I am moving, usually in the water, sometimes on dry land. This strange juxtaposition of thoughts occurred to me on the A train yesterday. I had been reading Philip Roth’s “American Pastoral,” a prescient and disturbing book. It’s my second Roth in several months. First up during the election was “The Plot Against America,” also prescient and disturbing.

Though Roth overwrites and his machismo grates, I have never put down one of his books. His most recent—shorter—books, “Indignation” and “Nemesis” are masterpieces.

Page 87 of “American Pastoral”: “People think of history in the long term, but history , in fact, is a very sudden thing.”

That thought has stayed with me all week. But how did it connect to “poetry is kind?”

The progressives among my readers will understand: we’ve been hit by a 2x4, e.g. “history is sudden.” And even those more centrist will agree, we’re headed for a bumpy ride. Every day there is more bad news about an inappropriate, dare I say—cruel-- appointment to head a government agency. Worse, this election, like the 2000 election, may have been stolen. As I write this morning, President Obama has announced an investigation into Russian cyber interference. The accusation is no longer “notional.” It is certain.

Now for the second phrase: poetry is kind. What do I mean to say? That poetry is consoling, most probably, particularly in a confusing moment in history or our personal lives.

I have been collecting poetry in a designated notebook ever since I joined a writer’s group with three poets. I had been working as a free lance writer for Holt Rinehart & Winston and one of my editors there was trying to write fiction. So was I. She was starting a writer’s group and asked if I’d like to join. “What about a couple of poets?,” she asked. I think my only thought was: why not? I was in for some big surprises.

Unconcerned with linear narrative, poets think in images and connect ideas as, yes, juxtapositions, just as I have here today. My linear narrative prose illusions were shattered and I began to write more freely. It was grand. Since then, I’ve returned to reading and writing poetry regularly, sometimes daily. I have a poetry app on my electronic devices and continue to build a personal anthology. But when I mention the word “poetry,” to my students, they often glaze over.

They are mostly young, eager and thoughtful. To a person, they were hit hard by the election, hope shattered. They were shocked one week, angry the next, a predictable cycle of grief. Then came depression, a subdued entry to the classroom, nearly catatonic. So, this week, I brought in some poetry and read a selection for thirty minutes before we got to “work” critiquing their manuscripts. “Let your mind drift. Relax,” I said. I assigned prompts from lines in the poems—two minutes each. “Try not to ‘think,’ I said as you read what you’ve written aloud.”

I don’t know if the poetry and the prompt exercises helped. I hope they did because I care so much about my students and their progress as writers. And I feel strongly that older adults—parents, educators—have an obligation to be supportive guides in grave and challenging moments. We have more perspective, more experience. But if my students needed reassurance, I did, too, of course. By encouraging them I was lifting my own spirits. In the end, we shared our wisdom, our resilience, and the life-affirming poetry I had brought to class.  Read More 
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Nomads 3 @ The Cornelia Street Café Tonight

We’re here to celebrate the publication of “Nomads 3,” the final volume of my Nomads Trilogy which will be published in one volume in the New Year. These writings began as an experiment and became a project. I’ve learned a lot, found joy and struggle in the writing, and stand before you tonight satisfied that the trilogy is complete.

It will be more necessary than ever in the coming months and years to find solace, empathy and insight from art. The Nomads Project is one writer’s modest contribution. As a writer, it’s my mandate to observe keenly, feel deeply and do my best to transform observations and feelings into artful prose. Just as importantly in the coming months and years, is a promise to remain active in the protection of a free and vibrant press. I am a child of refugees. The privilege of having been born here is an accident of history. I do not take that privilege lightly.

I have promised you a serene evening and to that end I have with me two professional theatrical friends—Stephanie Stone and Constance George (their bios are on back of the programs I have placed on the tables.) And though we designed the program together, and I wrote the pieces you will hear them read, and as they are artists in their own right, I have entrusted them completely with their own interpretations. Therefore, the evening is a collaboration with them and with you, the audience. Once they appear on this stage, my work no longer belongs to me. I dedicate it to everyone here tonight, to all my readers, and to the next generation. May they live in a kinder, safer and more peaceful world.  Read More 
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