Teachings are helpful, but often times I need a concrete example. The poem “Beg for Love” by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir is a teaching. The accompanying concrete example, along with the artwork, reminds me how to put the teaching to work.
Mishearing as a creative act lays out the case for misinterpretations of other people’s words/lyrics/statements as potential sparks for new creative works. I’ve several poems in progress like that: I knew my wife said, “You can’t lead where you haven’t gone.” and that I heard, “You can’t leave where you haven’t gone.”
This can also happened with things misread or mis-seen. A T-shirt that said “Prefect Circle” with a fold in the middle mis-read as “Perfect Circe”. I’m not sure what a Perfect Circe is, but I’m working on it.
I go to a fair number of poetry readings by visiting poets, Open Mics, and poetry festivals (AIPF, Waco WordFest, Georgetown Poetry). Austin gets a modest number of famous poets reading (e.g., Naomi Shihab Nye several times this year). Most just read their poetry (not Naomi). The Spoken Word people are an obvious exception. “The Word That is a Prayer” by Ellery Akers appears in “Healing the Divide” (review coming when I finish it). My wife says it “caught her heart.” Ellery isn’t a poet that’s known to us. I looked her up. On her Website is the poem and Ellery reading it. When a man on a street corner says, “Please”, I can hear his voice. Nice.
I read David Brooks’ column in the New York Times because he brings a new slant to the conversation. I know almost nothing about Marianne Williamson, a Democratic candidate for President. She is not one of the front runners. Just trying to track the top three and have a life is a challenge. Brooks’ recent column entitled “Marianne Williamson Knows How to Beat Trump” got my attention. It’s a take down of Trump for his corrupting influence on traditional American values. His take on the Democrats is they are a party of economics for the middle class and poor, i.e. materialism. They have no clue how to counter Trump’s emotional appeal. “It is no accident that the Democratic candidate with the best grasp of this election is the one running a spiritual crusade, not an economic redistribution effort.”
His solution? “We need an uprising of decency.” I agree.
Poetry has always had a connection to politics. Much of the Hebrew prophets are recorded in poetry. In an interview with poet Michael Astrue, politically conservative, who goes by the pen name “A.M. Juster” he cites “For the Student Strikers” by Richard Wilbur, 60s poet of the left.
For the Student Strikersby Richard Wilbur
Go talk with those who are rumored to be unlike you,
And whom, it is said, you are so unlike.
Stand on the stoops of their houses and tell them why
You are out on strike.
It is not yet time for the rock, the bullet, the blunt
Slogan that fuddles the mind toward force.
Let the new sound in our streets be the patient sound
Of your discourse.
Doors will be shut in your faces, I do not doubt.
Yet here or there, it may be, there will start,
Much as the lights blink on in a block at evening,
Changes of heart.
They are your houses; the people are not unlike you;
Talk with them, then, and let it be done
Even for the grey wife of your nightmare sheriff
And the guardsman’s son.
We across the political spectrum need to push ourselves and the nation to a return to civility and decency. Democracy requires it. Dictatorship is almost inevitable without it. Read the whole interview here.
It’s not just my daily cup of coffee. In the early days of chemo, I promised my wife I would tell her that I loved her, she was beautiful, that I’d make her coffee, and be silly everyday. The first two promises I have always kept, though not necessarily first thing in the morning. The third promise I kept every day we were at home. While traveling, I brought her coffee from the hotel. Being silly was often beyond me at first. My record has gotten better to the point where neither of us pay much attention to the promise and how I’m doing.
Coffee has gotten more serious. We joke about doing the American Coffee Ceremony, each night being sure the “ritual utensils” are clean, making it a ritual, exactly the same each time so I can “do it in my sleep”. The chemo messed with my adrenal and thyroid hormones, so being fully awake first thing in the morning is a challenge.
Problems with Austin water, bad batches of coffee, have led to us using spring and/or filtered water, changing bean suppliers and roasts. Problems with head aches and stomach upsets have led us to switch from Melitta cones, to the Clever Coffee Dripper, to a DeLonghi espresso machine. Along the way I’ve searched coffee blogs for how hot to steam almond milk which led us to using oat milk for our lattes.
The upshot is thinking a lot about coffee from our end and about the coffee growers, roasters, distributors, and retailers. Most coffee beans we use on a regular basis cost around $1 per ounce (e.g. $11.99 for a 12 ounce bag of whole beans). I tried some Allegro Vienna Roast that was cheaper and it tasted like it. How much of that goes to each link in the chain.
Changing Challenges & Solutions for Guatemalan Coffee Producers gave me an eye-opening look into what it’s like at the other end of the chain. Challenging. There are three areas in the US that grow coffee: Hawai’i, California, and Puerto Rico. I’ve toured a boutique coffee plantation in Hawai’i near where my sister lives. Very good coffee in the tasting room. Never could duplicate it with the bag I bought ($25 for a half pound) at home. The owners kept their hands clean. The workers didn’t have it so good. The coffee in Puerto Rico is fairly good coffee, but doing the dirty work of picking and processing the coffee beans doesn’t pay a living wage. She now sends me a bag of Ka’u varietal every Christmas from a more reputable grower. California is doing super-boutique coffee that can sell for as much as $600 per pound. The production amount is tiny compared even to Hawai’i. Where I can, I buy Fair Trade coffee. I will find more way to do so. Doing Justice.