Clerihews and CLE Poets, The Quick & The Dead

I haven't  blogged for awhile because --get this-- I've been trying to get some real writing done. And, this week, I unearthed 18 poems  from my "Half Baked Folder" and worked on revising. Among the cold pancakes, I found a handful of clerihews that I wrote across five days in a month where I stupidly agreed to join CCPL librarian Laurie Kincer in writing a poem a day. I'm not real fond of poems under duress, but I am fond of trying forms, which I don't think of as duress but sort of undress, er, dressing-- window dressing, dressing up, trying on, twirling around, giving it up as too expensive, sometimes finding a deal and buying it.

I came across Clerihews, which I had not yet tried and decided to have a go at a few. The clerihew, which our own Robert Wallace in Writing Poems defines as "a comic form of four lines of irregular length, of which the first line is the name of a famous person....The rhyme scheme is aabb; and part of the fun is rhyming on the proper name, as well as making a pointed comment on the personage." I should add that the form was made up by Edmund Clerihew Bentley when he was a school boy, and many of his strike me as sophomoric, like this:

Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium
.


And yet, what I like about this poem is that it's factual-- at least the sodium part. I found in writing them myself that the trick is to state something accurate, specific, and not just a blow-off line for the sake of the rhyme. There is a lot more blahblahblah about clerihews online, especially at the Wikipedia entry, if you want to read more on the form and see more examples by the likes of Auden, Chesterton and others. (Still, all men, so it's time to take it up, dear Wompos).  

Mine tended toward the chatty (which is why I am struggling right now to write a decent haiku), so I really love this example by Paul Curry Steele that Robert Wallace gave:

Zane Grey
Struck pay
Dirt and
Quicksand.

Okay, so I have drafted twelve clerihews, all using Cleveland Poets. I keep tweaking them, but here they are for now, in alphabetical order.

 

CLERIHEWS ON CLE POETS

                          -- THE QUICK & THE DEAD 


Russell Atkins
won't write about catkins.
but on music and towers,
Cleveland buses and cemetery bowers.

George Bilgere
Presents “Wordplay” on air,
Good kisses printed on pages
And read on Garrison’s stages.

Dianne Borsenik,
Reading, cuts to the quick,
With her red hair, so dashing,
And her metaphors flashing.

John Burroughs
Reads his poems. His brow furrows.
Then he reads awhile,
Breaks out in a smile.

Cy Dostal
Could be hostile.
Till he felt you were a true poet.
Then he let you know it.

John Gabel
Had us all to his table.
He fed us and read us
And in all the Poets League chaos, he led us.

Susan Grimm
Is not a pseudonym.
Her poems “know their way around a knife”
Which is to say they cut strife.

Bob McDonough
Is gonna wanna
Refine this poem
Before he goes home.

Ray McNiece
Says, “I’ll read this piece
In the style of Kerouac.
I tell, you, it’s where it’s at."

Kevin Prufer
Is such a trooper.
His teaching, editing, and poems show such a sharp mind,
And then to boot—he’s kind.

Leonard Trawick
Announced to the crowd, “Say, pick
One of my Suhthun stories or two.
I’ll recite them to you.”

Alberta Turner
After workshops, looked sterner
Till here came her Manhattan with its cherry
And all of a sudden, she grew quite merry.









A Small Meditation on the Commerce, Relevance and Permanence of Writing in General and Poetry in Particular

I've just finished reading John Scalzi's Don't Live for Your Obituary: Advice, Commentary, and Personal Observations on Writing 2008-2017. He's an Ohio writer, always a plus for me, and I am a sucker for books on the writing life and I enjoyed most of the  465 pages, which read pretty fast, maybe because he writes pretty fast. ("Fifteen books in nine years"! the book flap notes.) And he makes a lot of money at it! An average of $100,000 a year for ten years, and, in the most recent year, $164,000, he reports in the first paragraph of the book.

There isn't a Table of Contents nor an Index here, and I don't remember much of the 465 pages, except that money seemed to come up a lot. But one blog post really stuck with me: "A Small Meditation on Art, Commerce, and Impermanence" from January 30, 2012. He begins with the list of best-selling books from 1912, a hundred years previously, to make the point that these books and their authors do not remain influential or even recognizable to readers today. And as far as I am concerned, he's right about that. I never heard of these 10 books, nor any of their authors either. And he goes on to say that writers shouldn't worry about permanence, but be concerned with being relevant here and now and maybe "make a living at it"  so they can remember in the end what fun they had.

In the 100-some comments that follow, many readers rise to the lack of bait (even though he suggest they not do this) and contend they love the work of Gene Stratton Porter, the top of this list, or one of the other forgotten best-selling authors of 1912. And in the loony way of blog commenters, several digress into the topic of how racist Moby Dick is. These are no doubt the same people who are horrified that Jonathon Swift wants to cook and serve Irish babies.

But I digress.

I am not a novelist. I am a poet. And while I am sure there must be some poets who earned $164,000 on their writing in 2012-- actually, I am not really all that sure of that, but there is always the "Comments" section here, if you'd like to weigh in, all you wealthy poets-- I am sure that it has been a long long time, maybe never, since books of poetry were on the list of best-selling books. There were none there in 2017, and of the top 20, only four were not novels. So it's not my wont to be very in tune with the best-selling novels. To be honest, I'm pretty oblivious to the top-selling anything. But I do read novels and nonfiction and poetry and lots of different gradations-- YA, children's, not so much genre, but my husband has that category covered for me and reports regularly.

And what Scalzi's list made me wonder was whether anyone kept track of memorable books of 1912. And what do you know, Wikipedia, among other sources did, and here are a few authors from their  list of literature first published in 1912. Among the fiction are books by: Joseph Conrad, Willa Cather, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Theodore Dreiser, Edna Ferber, Anatole France, Zane Grey, James Weldon Johnson, Franz Kafka (you've heard of him?), D.H. Lawrence, Sinclair Lewis, Thomas Mann, Katherine Mansfield, Saki, Tolstoy (though he died two years earlier), H.G. Wells, Edith Wharton, and P.G. Wodehouse. In poetry, there is Amy Lowell and Tagore, and in nonfiction John Muir and Carl Jung.

None of them made the bestseller list. Some made a living at it.  I'm not sure they remembered all the writing as "fun," though most, if not all, wrote because, like Joan Didion, their "most absorbed and passionate hours [...were] spent arranging words on pieces of paper."

My point, really, is related to Scalzi's: that writers shouldn't worry about permanence. They should worry about relevance. I personally like how Czesław Miłosz defined relevance, that the writer's work "could be of use to at least one person in the struggle with him[her]self and the world." That's the audience poets tend to be going for, that one person who needs us. As Mary Oliver so wisely put it, "It isn't easy to make a living as a poet, but it's the best way to live in order to have a life.

Talking About Poems and Plagiarism: I Confess to Looting

My poem "Confessions of a Looter" came out today. It appears in my new poetry collection, Prison
(Cover art Phil Sugden)
Terms
. You can read it here.

It's in the latest issue of the online issue of Riddled with Arrows, a journal of metapoems and metafiction, or poems about writing poems and fiction about writing fiction. If you are as interested in this kind of literature as I am, read the editor's discussion of it-- with examples from Neruda and Heaney-- here.

It is a kind of literature banned and disparaged in many journal's submission guidelines, and while it isn't my main theme, I do love to read and write metapoems. Some of my friends may recall that I was actually the poetry editor for a very large academic journal that published poems about writing-- much to the chagrin of the high-powered academic theorists who also published in its pages. (The editor also deemed to publish essays by faculty at community colleges, which irked those same chagrined theorists no end.)

But I digress. I mean to write about this poem about writing. About sources and lifting and stealing. I wrote it around 1984, long before The Poetry Foundation asked why 2013 had become above an article by Ruth Graham about the outbreak of plagiarism in poetry ("Word Theft"), which is horrifying if you are a poet and probably meh if you're not. Since then, I did a lot of teaching about how to use sources without abusing them, the whole giving credit where credit is due idea. I do a lot of using sources in my poems. I write responses to poems, recently one titled "The Skirts" in response to Robert Pinsky's "Shirt" and one titled "Another Cut" after Plath's "Cut." And I quote other's phrases in my poems-- which is easier to attribute in a book of poems than on a singular poem, though italics help and quote marks.

And then this week, I read a wonderful chapter on "The Fallibility of Memory" in Oliver Sacks' last, posthumous book, The River of Consciousness. Sacks begins outside the realm of literature with his own faulty memory of a bombing in WWII that he was sure he experienced until his brother convinced him he did not. He also mentioned others' faulty memories, like Reagan's "distortion of memory," movingly recounting a story of a WWII bomber pilot as though a reality when in fact, it was the scene of a famous movie. My father, who suffers from dementia, started doing the same thing at about the same age as Reagan, telling stories out of WWII movies as thought they were his own. Unlike Reagan, who never saw battle, Dad in fact was a B-17 tailgunner, and he did see some awful battles in the 100th Bomb Group. His pilot used to say, "Dammit, his own stories are better than these. I wish he'd tell them."

Sacks goes on to talk about two types of "literary theft": cryptomnesia and plagiarism. The first in unintentional, and he gives two famous examples of those. One was committed by Helen Keller and one by Mark Twain. Both of them were aghast when they found out and apologized to their public for the offense and explained how it might have happened. The second type is intentional, and most people who commit it today tend to line up their lawyers and PR people to shout down the complaints, and if that doesn't work, they line up a lot of friends to sign a letter making excuses. They insist it isn't a big deal and never apologize. (Maybe because they have lawyers lined up behind them who won't let them.)

And in fact, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between cryptomnesia and plagiarism, so as I used to tell my students, keep notes.

In 1984 when I wrote the poem, I wanted to imagine a serious plagiarist who really really thought of himself as a thief, and I wanted to use the language of theft-- this was still before I had walked into prison and taught there for 18 years and heard the lively language of thievery, and still I found some authentic stuff, I found. The poem actually began with what is now its last line. The editor of Riddled with Arrows emailed me about the poem, "That's a killer last line."

So here is my real confession: I lifted that one line from an anthologized short story with a narrator who had to move a lot. I kept notes back then, but I have moved at least 10 times since then, and my notes got lost in the shuffle. I have no idea who the author was, nor the title of his story. I am telling you now. If you find it, let me know. I'd love to give credit where credit is due. 

An Occasional Poem for March 29, 2018


ON ADNAN SYED'S VACATED CONVICTION

          after Yeats

What do we need, now come to sense
but find the hefty wherewithal
to free this man free of offense
whose case holds many in its thrall—
but not for them, his eighteen years
that he has languished in the gaol,
but for his family’s worse fears,
let this not end in epic fail.
Let law’s worst errors be undone
so finally justice will prevail.

Yet “fumbling in a greasy till”
for one solved case will not undo
the system that we have here still,
so much of it is misconstrued,
too mistried, unfair, tortured, so
focused on the adversary
not any desire to follow
truth or facts, no emissary
of such so that in the ending
there is no end. We’re left wary.

And yet, we’ll chip away like this,
readers, thinkers, coming along,
while lying witness’ Judas kiss
can be unlied and right the wrong
as NGO’s and volunteers,
pro-bono lawyers and the press,
podcasters’ cell phones show up here,
search for the truth, provide redress.
Here’s to Rabia, Brown: Sayed--
on to Pelletier, Montgomery, and the rest!



On Writing an Elegy in Real Time

I love the elegy, in both the expansive definition of "a poem about a loss" and its narrower, wrenching, "poem on the death of a friend." I am a very slow writer of poems, so I have never written one for a funeral. That is, until my dearest high school friend of 50 years, Linda Ecksmith, died this past month, and her husband asked if I would write a poem for the funeral, which would be happening in five days. Our mutual friend, Karen Wambach, standing behind him on the phone and having some sense of the task added, "Or read a poem. Even read a poem by somebody else."

I couldn't imagine writing one in that length of time.  I set, as I always do, to reading. (On a recent Facebook post, a poet called me "the poet who reads more than she writes." What? You all don't??) One group of elegies I re-read often is Seamus Heaney's cycle of sonnets on his mother's death, "Clearances." Auden's elegy to Yeats had some very useful lines, since Yeats died in a terribly cold month, and my friend, though she died in Atlanta, was coming home to be buried in a frigid Ohio February. While reading and re-reading elegies, I asked the Wom-po Listserv (a group for the discussion of Women's Poetry, which I have been a member of for over a decade) for suggestions. Many of its hundreds of members sent many suggestions and sent their own poems and their friends' poems. I was awash in beautiful elegies. Wompo's Patricia Fargnoli suggested Mary Oliver's "White Owl Flies into the Field" and many people suggested Patricia's "Duties of the Spirit," both of which I highly recommend to you if you are looking for beautiful poems to be read graveside. None quite fit, not even that many recommended Shelley, and I was so aware of the power of his elegies from work I did with small grade schoolers decades ago. 


I had studied the elegy in the early 1980s when I was a poet in the schools at Clinton Elementary in Canal Fulton. The children's beloved third grade classmate had just died of leukemia. The principal, Marc Crail, one of the wisest educators I have ever known, thought elegies would be a good lesson for the day. I studied up on classical English poetry, and Shelley, whom I read to the children--"Oh weep for Adonais, for he is dead"--, along with many other poets, Shelley was the one the children most took most to heart, took into their own remembrances of their friend. I recalled my college professor's lecture on the American elegy, "What to Make of a Diminished Thing" with references to "Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter" and Roethke's "Elegy for Jane." I looked up the classical form in The Princeton Anthology of Poetry and Poetics and recalled the three parts of the elegy: lamentation, praise, and consolation. But all that was a long time ago, and I had the distance of not knowing the deceased and being the teacher who was helping the children who did, and I never wrote a poem then.

But a few women poets emailed me, "You can do this. You can write this," and to them I am most grateful. I began by thinking I would write a cento, a form I love, which consists of lines borrowed from other poems. I had collected a lot of lines. But my cento was not coming together as the clock was ticking. 

Pressing in on me was the belief that we would all be standing graveside in a very very cold Ohio February, so I figured my poem had to be short. Shelley's "Adonais" is 17 pages long. I thought maybe one stanza for each of the three parts of the classical elegy, rather than five pages.

In the end, we were not graveside but still, in a cold, unheated stone building in the cemetery. The minister had already spoken in the funeral home, as had many many friends with wonderful stories of what a terrific, memorable human being Linda was. This last moment of tribute, for which twenty-carloads of people had driven through the city of Canton, had three parts: the reading of my poem, the a capella singing of a song by her college friend Eric Kristensen, and finally, the giving of a white rose to each person from Linda's husband, Peter Farranto.

The poem, which I will share below, bears traces of my cento idea with quotes from Jean Valentine, Seamus Heaney, and Thorton Wilder, as well as a whiffs from Auden on Yeats and "Lenox Hill" by Agha Shahid Ali.  I do not at all mean to suggest that my poem has the grand sweep or the linguistic ability of any of the poems or poets I have mentioned here, only that like the Beatles, I get by with a little help from my friends. I will be missing Linda's help for a long time:



Flowers Back Home in Winter

            An elegy for Linda Ecksmith
            April 17, 1951- January 23, 2018


So what use is poetry
in this ice-covered Ohio cemetery,
the mercury plunging at the end of this week,
coldest day so far—as our hearts plunged
last week, the ambulance siren wailing in Atlanta
and we, wailing by our phones and laptops
for her husband’s messages through the night
to the next afternoon, when she was finally gone,
with her pain, and ours began anew.

And we all knew one thing by being there.
The space her life had left had been emptied
into us to keep, it penetrated our memories,
opening like peonies, expanding: years of letters,
phone calls, emails, posts—such wit with words
that woman had. And stubborn? Honey, I mean
to tell you. Birds of paradise suddenly stand
among us: her bright laughter and smile,
then the wild flowers of her friends’ singing,
which she loved, the dishes she cooked up for us,
our abiding love of her, all unmatched
by Peter’s astounding, surrounding, lifting love.

The purpose of poetry is to offer consolation,
and I have little, would prefer a dirge. On Facebook,
she still lists her religion as a Skeptic,
and like her, I have no surety or certainty
to offer. But I wish for her the peace that passes
my poor understanding, and for you, if you wish
these perennials from the playwright which comfort
and sustain me, stolen and scattered like roses here at last:
Wasn’t it wonderful to have known
and loved her? What glory! What fun!
What goodness! What lovableness!

PRISON-POETRY-PALOOZA, MARCH 4th

Book Launch for my new book,  Prison Terms


When I taught college classes and a creative writing workshop in prison for 18 years, I got
tired of hearing three myths about prisons from people who had never been in one. On March 4th, when I launch my new book of poems about that experience, I hope to introduce my guests to people who can help me lay those myths to rest. Along the way, I trust we will have a good time and raise some money for arts in prison.

The event will be at the Cuyahoga County Public Library, South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch, at 2:00 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Refreshments, along with fine words, will be served. (Directions here.)


The groups who will be joining me will be the Oberlin Drama at Grafton (ODAG) program, the Kent State University Prisoner- Poets of ID13 program, and the Ohio Innocence Project. I will read a poem from the book, then each group will present a 5-minute intro to what they do. The rest of the event will be open to meeting, talking, snacking and selling Prison Terms, with all proceeds from the book going to the ODAG program. I hope we will also post on social media to raise awareness about Ohio's criminal injustice program and what the average person can do to be a part of improving it. 

I would like to credit the idea of raising funds and awareness through a book launch from an article in Rattle magazine's "Rust Belt" Issue (Fall 2017). There in an interview Detroit poet Ken Meisel says of his practice of donating book proceeds to charity:

I wanted a transactional process that served something bdyond just buying my book. the only way I could resolve that paradox was to give that money to charities, and each book will inform what charity I end up donating it to. So with Drunken Sweethearts, I giving the proceeds to a woman's shelter.

 

Some writers may balk at that idea, I know. We deserve to get paid for our work, blahblahblah. And we do. But long ago, I fell for Lewis Hyde's idea that poet's work is shadow work. Moreover, when I first walked into prison in 1984, I was very aware that both my college and I were profiting from the work we were doing in prison. Now, we really gave back. The education that The University of Findlay provided to the men at Lima Correctional 1984-2002 was stellar. Professors taught their hearts out. The degrees we granted the men were as solid as the degrees we gave on campus, taught by full-time faculty who put in extra time and provided extra activities. Still, I am not sure I would have even earned a tenured position if the college hadn't had that contract that took additional faculty. And I know the college library got new carpeting thank to that program. 

So I felt even then that I needed to give more, and that is why I started an extracurricular, unpaid non-credit creative writing workshop. It met at least once a month and in summers, met weekly with two weeks of daily meetings for performance practice. I brought in guest writers. (Thank you Jim Gorman, Gloria Naylor, Okantah, Devon McNamara, Joe Bruchac, Daniel Thompson, and so many other writers.) I brought in my sister, a performance professor, who directed the men in performance. Jazz professor Jack Taylor brought in music and accompanied some of the poets. The men went on to publish books, win PEN Prison Writer awards, and one memorable spring, three men who were out, performed with Paul and I at a academic conference in Omaha, where Jimmy Santiago Baca took us all out to dinner. 

I've had a 16 year hiatus in Massachusetts without any prison work, but now that I am home, I am back at it, visiting Marysville for a Piper Kerman reading last year, the Lima prison next week with Carole Elchert and Phil Sugden and sitting in at the ODAG program occasionally. The situation in prisons seems worse to me now, tenser, but the inmates continue to be grateful and supportive. I'd like to keep giving back.
 
For the record, the three myths were:

1) MYTH 1 - They all say they are innocent

In 18 years, I did not have inmates tell me they were innocent, except for one inmate, of whom my co-ordinator said, "He is the one person every other person in this institution knows is innocent." Bill served all the time on in sentence with a grace that is inconceivable to me. With us on Sunday will be FOUR exonerees from Ohio, all of whom served crushing sentences for crimes they did not commit. 

Recently, a famous crime writer said to me, "I imagine most of them have committed other crimes and got nailed with the one they didn't commit." I gasped. This is not the case. Many of the exonerees never were involved with crime at all but were the victims of unethical prosecutors, bad cops, coerced confessions, and paid witnesses. Please come and hear the stories of the four people who will be joining us from the Innocence Project.

2) MYTH 2 They all have it easy

The person who says this has never been in a state prison. I had to walk through the cafeteria twice a week, and every night, the smell of what passed for food nauseated me. I saw demeaning treatment of the inmates that was beyond what I would expect in a humane society. A Swede recently wrote, "In Sweden, we believe that losing your freedom is the punishment. It is not necessary to provide additional punishment." And yet punishment meted out, by other inmates and by prison employees and the institution itself is shocking. Volunteers who go into the prison see more of this than family members who never get beyond the visiting room. It's why it is important that volunteers are entering the prison to bear witness. ODAG brings audiences in from outside the prison to performances, also. And The KSU program is taking the men's work out for exhibit, as they did in February.


3) MYTH 3 - They don't have anything else to do (as in "Of course they do well in your course. They don't have anything else to do.")

This was never the case in our college program, where most of the men worked full-time and took college classes on top of their jobs and in the face of harassment and fear of violence erupting at any point. Some of them felt lucky to be in a dorm where the guard would let them sit up and do their studies in the cold bathroom, under the one light bulb available at night. I see the same diligence in Phyllis Gorfain's participants in the ODAG program, who are in college or work all day and arrive twice a week in her drama class. The men have plenty to do, and a lot of it is not nearly as difficult and not nearly as productive as Phyllis' productions of MacBeth, Hamlet, and Midsummer's Night Dream. And yet, there they are, studying the lines, sweating the memorization, arguing about meaning. 



If you are a writer who needs some grist for the mill or who is willing to meet and tweet or post that day, if you are a family member who has a loved one in prison, if you like engaged and engaging poetry, please join us on March 4th. 

  





PROTESTS: MY REVIEW OF A REVIEW & REFLECTIONS ON THE WOMEN'S MARCH, 8 MONTHS LATER

On Nathan Heller's August 21, 2017 New Yorker "Out of Action" - a review of four books on protests in recent American history

 

MY FIRST TAKE

Back in January, I spent a lot of time following, supporting, and writing about the Women's March. But now, eight months later, I am thinking, what the hell difference did it make, does it make? And reading Heller's review of the first of these books, I was ready to answer, "None." But reading on, and thinking on, I came to a different conclusion. I hope you will read Heller's whole review, not just for his summaries but also for his trenchant, thoughtful prose. Meanwhile, here's my summary of his summary-- and then, a conclusion.

 

FOUR BOOKS

After his own discussion of Occupy Wall Street in 2003, Black Lives Matter in 2014 and the Women's March in 2017, Heller reviews four books. The first, "Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work" is pretty depressing, if, like me, you've been a folk protester for 40 years. They really question whether protests have any value, call them "boring" and exercises in nostalgia. And these are writers from the left!

He moves on to "Assembly" by Hardt and Negroni, philosophers who focus on movements without leaders. I am no philosopher, and I don't follow this, but maybe the reviewer doesn't either. He says that maybe the authors "have much clearer-minded friends than you or I." 

Heller reviews two more cheering books. "Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism" by A. Kauffman analyses the past 50 years of American protests, going back to Washington, D.C. in 1971, about the time and place of my own first protest, which she finds a pyric victory for its having rattled the Administration.
 
Still, the most fascinating book for me looks like "Twitter and Tear Gas: the Power and Fragility of Networked Protest," mostly for what it reveals about the Civil Rights protests of the 1950s and 60s. She provides great detail to show that while passion was at the center of this great movement, what made it great was the strategic, thoughtful, careful planning. For example, King had given the "I Have a Dream Speech" several times before the 1963 March on Washington, but for that march, they had the very best sound system ever, and when it was sabotaged just hours before King spoke, the organizers had their previously-made connection to Bobby Kennedy to get it fixed. She reports they even considered the food for the journey and ruled out mayo so no one would get sick in case it turned. (Lots more fascinating details here: read it!) 
 
Heller ends up by debating between the don't-make-no-difference side (he calls them "the Jacobins") and a
hope that protests matter. He seems to feel that in fact, protests don't really work, if by "work" we mean "gain political results."
 

AND YET...

This is where I was before reading the review. Really, what difference did The Women's March make in the long run? My friends and I had been pretty euphoric at the end of that weekend, but now? The past grinding-on seven months have been horrid. My husband and I had agreed every Monday we would sit down and decide our political action for the week. We finally (having stabilized our small, unstable income after a half-assed moved half across the country) sent money or other support to any number of causes and entities we feel are important-- national and local political, cultural, social, and arts orgs. We had phoned and emailed our Senators (one uselessly, the other so good he didn't need our calls) over the health care bill. But we haven't had a Monday meeting in months. Meanwhile, health care is stalled and the upcoming autumn Congressional session looks bleak; meanwhile our President dismantles nearly every form of justice I have ever cared about

But here, Heller lifts us up. He says, "maybe direct action is something to value independent of its results... the Women's March...produced no concrete outcomes and it held no legislators to account. And yet...."

His conclusion is heartening. For my friends who marched in January in D.C.-- for Patricia Buchanan, for Kathleen Welsch, for Carole Elchert, and everyone who went to D,C, (Elena, Julia, Laura) and for everyone who in January marched elsewhere (Peggy, Indigo, Aaron, Larry, Laurie, Rosemary) and anyone else who supported the march, you need to hear his last paragraph:


"What was the Women’s March about? Empowerment, human rights, discontent—you know. Why did it matter? Because we were there. Self-government remains a messy, fussy, slow, frustrating business. We do well to remind those working its gears and levers that the public—not just the appalled me but the conjoined us whom the elected serve—is watching and aware. More than two centuries after our country took its shaky first steps, the union is miles from perfection. But it is still on its feet, sometimes striding, frequently stumbling. The march goes on, and someday, not just in our dreams, we’ll make it home." --Nathan Heller