NaPoWriMo 2021 #6 – Memories from Rope-Yarn Wednesdays

With these hands I weave my own destiny.
The threads I twist and spin together form
The basis, whether cotton, wool, or silk,
For weaving every cloth and tapestry
That results. Color and texture inform
The ultimate Design. Repetition
And precision make the underlying
pattern strong. The crosswise stitch overlaps
to reinforce borders of interface
With new threads introduced. The surface fills
with dust for a moment – I blow it off
And continue. I reach a point where I
can see the end. I may undo a stitch
Here and there for a more complete outcome.

NaPoWriMo 2021 – #4 Echochrome Dreams

Today’s prompt invites us to examine liminal spaces. I didn’t like the photographs so I did an independent search and discovered the Sony game Echochrome. This sonnet resulted.

Echochrome dreams

“Change the way you perceive the world and the path will be revealed.”

I never played Sony video games –
But I recognize a good string quartet
When I hear one – all those years of playing
Viola were not for naught. Music moves,
One learns so much from its forward motion –
Pathways that touch form continuities,
And if you jump from one path you will land
On another. The gap that’s blocked from view
Between connected paths should not be feared;
A hole that’s blocked from views may not exist –
Until you step in it, of course, and then
You fall to lower levels. Closer things
Overlap things more distant – you see more
Detail in near objects than those afar.
– April 4, 2021

NaPoWriMo 2021 #3, repeated, unpacked

Prompt was the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken.”

The cherry blossoms are
in full display today. A gift
To perpetuity from the Japanese.

We didn’t have to end
that war the way we chose.
I can’t make up for what
the people lost but still
I feel their pain.

We fought another war
that both sides lost:
A sacred cause that should have
been resolved by Jefferson,
Madison and Hamilton
over dinner in New York,
not on battlefields.

(How much might it have cost
To cut a deal? 620,000 lives lost
Is a price we cannot fathom,
a mortgage that forever haunts us,
a note that has no maturity date.)

Dogwoods remind me
of cherry blossoms,
white petals, not pink.
The tree that formed 

the cross where Jesus died –
A passing Easter thought
not inappropriate.

Too much is lost in war,
too many lives foreclosed
the fruit of labor spoiled
on the vine. I think about
their roads and choices lost.
– April 2, 2021

NaPoWriMo 2021 – April 1, 2021

Today’s prompt is the animated version of SunRa, Seductive Fantasy

Sun Ra, man,
Our prophet and guide
Saint of inner space

In painting and music –
And growing flowers –
There is no finiteness,
Only infinity, he tells us.

Shapes and seeds
Abound – a never ending
Increase in variation –
Alternating generations.

LIke a trombone’s slide
Or a trumpet’s valve
Or vibration of strings
Across a bridge.

Every moment is
An improvisation –
A riff on a theme,
Removing the top layers
And building again.
– April 1, 2021

Mid-term in the American Century Cycle

All: Congratulations on reaching the halfway point of our journey! We have covered five of the plays in the American Century Cycle and we have five left. Give yourselves a pat on the back!

You have probably noticed some things from our readings.

1. August Wilson gives us an inside peek into and a bird’s eye view of life in black America. But he also gives us a similar view into overall America. It just takes some peeling back of the onion skin.

2. Reading these plays may be whetting your appetite to see more live theater. Hopefully COVID will pass and we will be able to see more real plays soon. People have remarked that they look at plays differently after going through the cycle. I’ve noticed that now I prefer to read through a play before seeing it on the stage so I know what to expect. All that is normal.

3. If you are seeing something of your own lives in the reading of the plays then we are doing it right. If not, we are not necessarily doing it wrong.

4. A lot of Wilson’s poetic artistry is hidden in the stage directions and the settings of each play. His poetry will spoil you and you will never be able to get enough. That is ok.

5. The plays may get easier to understand as we build up an understanding of Wilson from the plays we have already read. At the same time, they may get more difficult as themes become more complex. Hang in there.

Feel free to hit “reply to all” for further discussion. Everybody’s perspective is important and significant. No one, especially not the study group leader, has a monopoly on ideas, interpretations, analyses. Many of August Wilson’s fans have not read through half his plays. Even fewer have completed the cycle. You are all joining a very special “brotherhood.”

Your midterm grade is A+!

NaPoWriMo 2021 – #1

Romare Bearden – The Piano Lesson, 1984

The black mirror invites my inspection –
A scaled representation of the whole.
The wooden metronome in its foreground
Reminds one of rhythm and time’s passage,
The pendulum’s swing until the winding
Dies. The young girl, black like the mirror, plays
As her mother directs. The mother’s face,
More blue than black, leans in attentively.
A non-flowering plant rests in a vase.
A paintbrush seems out of place. It could be
A missing conductor’s baton. The sun
Bursts through the window as a slight breeze blows
The curtains askew. A ceiling lamp and
A table lamp compete to light the room.

Wilmington’s Lie – a bifurcated review

Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy by David Zucchino

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

February 8, 2021 — There is something I find slightly Moby Dick-ish about this book and I am only a quarter of the way through. Short chapters like Moby Dick that provide glimpses into the context of the history as it unfolds remind me of little packets of energy. The focus on the “obsession” in the narrative, zooming in and zooming out, provides additional context.

I am a NC native, so it all has special meaning for me. And so many of the surnames remain in “circulation,” enhancing my own curiosity. I heard the story before in my youth, but as I mentioned to a friend, it was whispered about. Hushtones.

And there is a bit of irony in how i acquired the book. Our docent group (LOC) does “enrichment” visits and tours and one was to the NPR studio and offices just up from the UDC metro station. We ended the tour in a room that housed a library of books that writers and publishers donate to NPR. The tour guide told us to take whatever we wanted of the collection (I guess they needed the empty shelf space) and Wilmington’s Lie was on the shelf right in front of me. So I grabbed it and it grabbed me almost simultaneously.

I am reading this book slowly at bedtime. A couple of chapters a night. Hope to be done by the end of the month. Will finish this review then. See ya!

March 22, 2021

Took me a while but after several interruptions I finished the book. Painful reading, very painful as I identified not with the victors, but with the slain, the humiliated, the disenfranchised. A lot of research went into this book, making the unpacking of events clear and intentional. I applaud the author for painstaking research and examination of all sides of the issue.

Reputations were made in the effective execution of the 1898 coup against an elected government. Reputations were equally lost, destroyed. A narrative to explain the deeds of the victors was created, sustained by university scholarship, the state press, and the state education system. Fingerprints are everywhere and well preserved. We are especially indebted to researchers who chose this as their dissertation topic, with special recognition to Helen Edmonds of N.C. Central University, who wrote about a hidden topic with lucidity, clarity and courage in 1951 when it was not exactly sexy to do so.

Over time I have sided with thinkers who say blacks should have never left the south. Cast down your buckets where you are, Booker T Washington and others intoned and advised. But in 1898 Wilmington, what choice did people have? Stay and die, or flee and live? There was no in-between. I wonder will I ever be able to return to North Carolina to live? After reading Wilmington’s Lie, my heart may never be in returning, much less forgiving. In my hometown everything is named for Charles Aycock, well not everything, but the reputed best junior high when integration came was Aycock Junior High and the performing arts venue we all attended as children and as adults was Aycock Auditorium on the campus of UNCG, which fully integrated before most venues did. And to think Aycock was one of the leading propagandists of the Wilmington Lie and a leading proponent of separate but (un)equal education in North Carolina for over half a century.

I do recommend reading this book, especially for present-day Democrats and leaders in the cancel culture.

View all my reviews

March 7, 2021

The Death of Poetry

Note: I am taking a course, “The Decline of the American Republic” and reading a book by Bruce Ackerman with the same title. In our first meeting last week we discussed the importance in a republic of living free from fear. I came face to face with my truth that I am living with some fear in this cancel culture. I think each person must make his or her own stand in their own way against this feeling of fear that surrounds us. #stopcancelculture. End note.

My poetry blog has been empty
For over a month. I still write
But can’t publicly post since
Being identified an enemy of the state –

At least so they tell me because
I question the legitimacy
Of a presidential election
That had a pattern of fraud.

Now I must censor myself
If I want to stay out of jail –
There’s no longer freedom of speech
In the home of the brave.

Poetry is dead in a land where
Diversity of thinking is not allowed.
Place poetry in a pretty box.
Lower her gently into her grave.

February 1, 2021

Happy National Freedom Day! Today day is also, relatedly, the anniversary of the first day of the Greensboro Sit-ins of 1960 (my hometown) and the first day of African American History Month. This sonnet may be a good fit:

sonnet for a Saturday morning

Our story has a happy ending.
I’m telling you up front so you know
what you can expect – how to overcome
any temporary darkness that may
attempt to cloud out the light we emit.
Our story is not a pop video.
It won’t make you dance or sing. Ain’t no blues
to wail, to welp, to beg, to plead, to scream.
Our story ends in celebration.
But Twitter and Instagram won’t tell you
what’s really going on. You have to read
between the lines, between the images
that flash past you faster than light or sound.
Don’t be depressed. Arise & celebrate.

Speaking of Freedom Day, information used to be so much more free during the Trump years. I know some readers of this blog will disagree, not on the merits but just because, but think about it. Just think about it. Trump sent us tweets day and night. We always knew exactly what was on his mind. Total transparency. And his transparency forced a degree of transparency by those below him, those around him. And transparency means information is free. Despite his departure, and despite the relative lack of information transfer between the White House and the public (other than all these damn Executive Orders he keeps signing, of which we have no clue about the consequences, short or long term, intended or unintended), a degree of the transparency Trump established remains. Small wonder we found out so quickly about Pelosi cashing in on stock futures on electric car technology stocks following a Biden executive order mandating electric car fleets in federal government.

But, they don’t want us knowing that stuff. I suspect that’s why they want to wipe Trump out completely so badly. They want the transparency Trump represented to disappear. They want the return of the cover of darkness to hide their deeds. And they want it quickly so they can get back to normal “business” on both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans. I know. I’m rambling.

Last night I consulted one of my LIS books, Processing the Past: Contesting Authority in History and the Archives. The question of politics in archives goes straight to the relationship between access to information and democratic governance as a core democratic value. There is an interesting essay about Glasnost, openness, as an element of Gorbachev’s program to democratize the former Soviet Union. His top archivist, Yuri Afanasiev, led the charge in “re-processing” Soviet and Eastern European history and records, without which there would have been no Glasnost “opening” to speak of.

The other night we watched “The Lives of Others,” a film about life in East Germany just prior to and following the fall of the Berlin Wall. (We are marching towards a type of political censorship and repression – there’s not much difference between the Stasi regime and the modern surveillance state and cancel culture.) Because the East Germans kept a central index on the files they kept on journalists, artists, and political dissidents of all occupations, people were able, after reunification, to pull their files and learn the degree to which their privacy had been violated. The big difference between then and now, and between them and us, is that we will have a much less organized way of recapturing the truth after this period of repression is over. Who would ever imagine we are less organized that the East Germans?

My faith in “the system” diminishes a bit daily. Every day. “They” can’t cancel me, all I do is write bad poetry, and besides, my readership is loyal to a fault. But what is happening to the rest of the country? How many writers are self-censuring to stay below the radar of the cancel culture police? What is happening to access to information as a cornerstone of our democracy?

Finally, those who say there is no evidence of fraud or irregularity in the 2020 elections may all belong to the same club, but they are not friends to this country. They are only friends to each other. They are not patriots. But those who say there may be evidence of election, voter, and/or vote fraud, but not enough to change the outcome of the elections, they are the evil ones and they have made their beds in Hell. Y’all know what I’m saying. God don’t like ugly.

January 31, 2021

It’s Sunday morning and there is a light but steady snow falling, more like floating down in Foggy Bottom. Normally I’d draft in the notebook then cut and paste into the blog. But today I am free styling, composing directly into the blog. Has nothing to do with the weather. Roads remain clear. I did all the shopping yesterday, just in case.

The Sunday morning talk shows are all covering the coronavirus vaccination programs and the proliferation of Biden executive orders. I’ll not go into details since the information police are patrolling and I am too old to go to jail. Censorship is complete and you’d better not say anything critical of Biden-Harris under penalty of cancellation. Not the country I fought for nor the government I served. This is America. The new America.

Organizing some material on my laptop for the August Wilson study group that begins the first week of March. This year we will be reading the plays in the order written, so beginning with Jitney. In the background bull riding is on the television. I look up every now and then. Brazilian and American cowboys getting thrown by bulls. Not sure I understand the points system for competition. The Brazilians seem quite good at it.

Next Sunday is Super Bowl 55!

p.s. February 10 post.