Dear Tribe of Mat & Poem~
If someone were to ask me what my tag-line for 2020 is, I'd say: "It's complicated." From January's flu, fainting, and my ensuing black eye, to the outbreak of coronavirus in March, George Floyd's death in July and the November election that furthered the country's civil unrest and dividedness, the events of this year have all made these past 11 months really, really complicated.
In 1855, Walt Whitman published his first poetry collection Leaves of Grass which he hoped would unite the country and prevent the civil war. Though the civil war still happened, his idea and intention are those that I continue to attest: when we lean closer to our own humanity and vulnerability, we can learn how to build more empathy and understanding for our own multitudinous complexities and those of others' across the divides of our differences.
I of course don't say that to mean we should by-pass holding each other accountable, or lose our vigilance for maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships--after all, my co-worker at Berklee has nicknamed me RBG which has made my internal ethics police feel more at ease--but that I am a proponent of the Victorian values of truth, wholeness, and beauty which we can hold more fully in our undividedness. I've come to understand, for better or for worse, that in this world these values don't easily land right or leftist but romantically, other-planetarily idealist.
Whitman innovated not only a poems' content, focusing on the body, human reality and the day-to-day of the working class, but also experimented with a long-lined, non-traditional form and is now known as one of the pioneers of expanding the bounds of free verse. He also realized that within the mundane and profane of our lives, the sacred lives as a kind of secular spirituality. One that awakens our ability to connect more deeply with ourselves, each other, and something larger. strangely, and seemingly by-way of, our most fraught circumstances.
If for you too this year has felt equally fraught, uncertain, and lonely I encourage you this week to draft a poem that includes what you are grateful for in 2020, to let the wildflowers in your heart break through your mind's sidewalk concrete and allow that to rekindle hope within you, and belief in your individual life, its poetry, and the fact of our divine, collective humanity.
My 2020 poem of radical gratitude would include a devout honoring of the resiliency and innate healing capacity of my body, gratitude for the healing balm of my poetry. Gratitude that the majority of society has become increasingly vocal about our need for racial and gender equality, and gratitude for Trump's decision to pause the accrual of interest on federal student loans in light of the pandemic. It would also include gratitude that he donated his 400K a year Presidential salary to build graves for war vets. Gratitude for Biden in chosing a woman and a woman of color for his running mate, and that he seems to understand our need to take care of the planet. Gratitude that he agrees LGBTQ+ people should be able to serve in the military. I'd also include gratitude for my grief over my plans this year to find my own home being thwarted, and gratitude for the fact that I've still been able to provide for my most essential multitudinous needs while so many this year have struggled. My poem's title? "It's complicated."
If you do decide to write your own 2020 gratitude poem, let me know how it goes. You might be surprised by the hope living within the shadowed spaces.
POETRY OFFERINGS FOR 2021
I'm curious to see a show of virtual hands as to who is interested in multi-week poetry courses in 2021. Hit REPLY and let me know if gathering virtually in the name of poetic craft, creative community and personal expression is calling to you. The format will likely be 6 weeks, 2-3 hours of live meeting time each week, poem prompts, and poems to read written from diverse perspectives in honor of our multitudinous humanity..
In Poetry & Creative Community,