leaving the bubble–Rauschenberg Residency 29

On Friday, I return to New York City, to Brooklyn after 5 weeks on Captiva Island in Florida. The Rauschenberg Residency has been an enormous gift to my mind, my spirit, my writing and creativity.  The staff is so open and helpful and skillful and happy to be working in a place that is all about allowing artists to make whatever work they can while here.  I stayed in the Print House with an International Artist , Minouk Lim,

North Captiva

on North Captiva–boat trip day

who has started to make huge waves in the art world.  I met dance theater people who have worked or known people I’ve known from the theater and dance world. One of the artist is disabled but makes super huge sculptures.  One of the writers here was working on the first major book on Norman Lewis.  Every residency I’ve done reminds me of how many amazing poets, painters, dancers, composers, actors, scholars, etc there are and how this culture allows a few of us to be part of places designed to take care of our needs, our desires.  RR29 has lived up to all it has set to be be.  A place where the staff will help you do what you want to do or show you that you can do it.  Amazing.  I wrote new poems.  Drafted essays on June Jordan and poetics. Read Angela Jackson’s bio of Gwendolyn Brooks, Eudora Welty’s wonderful book One Writers Beginnings and of course We’re On: A June Jordan Reader (Alice James Books), a must have for serious students of American poetry.  And Laura Penny murder mysteries.  With fellow residents I saw The  Post where Meryl Streep chewed up some lovely scenery and journalism is celebrated.

Now I have to leave this beautiful bubble and return to the “real world”  but of course this too is the “real world” just not the one we get to hang around in too long.

The Print House patio

patio The Print House

Dog Tags by Jane Hirshfield on tree in “the Jungle”

Beach House writer’s studio

sunset spectacular

beach front


the Jungle


The sun is in Aquarius-chaos abides and so does beauty

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.

Gates, Rauschenberg Residency

Gates to Main Studio, Captiva, FL

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.

The beach, the sea

beach, sea, Captiva, FL