At least in the seat of power, where chaos has abided since January 20, 2017. However, I am not in chaos. I am in a writing studio at the Rauschenberg Residency in Captiva, Florida. The sun is bright, the air cool, there are shells found on the beach in front of the famous Beach House, where my studio resides. Last year one of the gifts received was this residency. I am now into my 2nd week and am working on prose and poetry, revising and starting new work. I am also listening to my fellow residents, many are visual and performance artists and one is a art historian working on a book about the great Black artist, Norman Lewis.
I left New York at the end of a cold spell (cold snap was totally not apt) but filled with great energy. The past few months have been about revisiting my life as a poet and writer, but also forging new projects and gaining new friends, not back for a sexagenarian. Over the past year I’ve worked to create a group of poets and cultural workers who are deeply interested in wresting the ideas and ideals of American identity from the current crop of crooks who claim it–good way to use alliteration. We have much to do. At this point we are calling it the American Poets Congress and we will be rolling out programs and activities that explore the concept, but also actively support Voter Registration and progressive candidates and agendas. The #Resistance has many elements and we are but one. It is good to part of efforts to combat not only this current noxious political climate, but to really think through the many ways that American ideals have lifted up citizens and people worldwide. I am mindful that the original pledge of allegiance was written by a socialist (without the in god we trust bit put in by the Eisenhower people) and the Memorial Day was organized by former bonds people to honor the Union Dead. Our national history is complicated and often violent, but when I think about the labor organizers who fought against child labor, when I seen the children of Birmingham, they were my age or older at the time, when I think of progress and forward thinking I see these great efforts from the Left and we need name and claim them and often. I grew up in the Delta in one of the poorest counties in the United States, I know what poverty looks like. I know how racism works and who is advantaged by it. What is happening now is the culmination of decades of ideological build up with all the stereotypes, bad ideas on top of White Supremacist thinking rolled into one ball of bad behavior i.e. our president. Sad, but we must work to gain and sustain power at the local and state as well as national level. It’s going to very very difficult. But as many women who marched this week noted “we are in it for the long haul.”
And I am a poet who has been in it for a long haul and I am pleased that some of my efforts have been recognized, even celebrated. Here where the Gulf shimmers and the Bay shines, it is beauty that makes me happy to be alive and working. Today is Richie Havens, Lord Byron and Sam Cooke’s birthdays-my kinda men. Beauty.