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



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.



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."


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 

Thinking About the Eclipse, with poems

Until today, I hadn't thought much about the eclipse coming up. It's partial for us-- although, bonus! that means it will last longer, I hear. Even so, why was I was ignoring it? I finally realized that I already experienced the very ultimate total solar eclipse. That was in Managua, Nicaragua in 1991-- and not by design but because we just happened to be there for the year.

Up until that time, I had viewed-- and written about-- many lunar experiences, including eclipses, like this poem:


Seven star ladle
flecks into the black sky.  For
all its darkness, light.

Moon, less moon, moonless.
Still, clouds and stars. Then moon, more
moon, mooniest moon.


This poem was the first I ever won a contest (and money) for, which came with an illustration by a Cleveland artist named Julie Watkins for a poster on buses all over Cleveland, which I stole dozens of the last week it was up. It was the shortest poem I could make out of the longest moon viewing I had ever sat through.

Years later, while I was teaching at The University of Findlay, there was a partial solar eclipse one day, and we were all invited by our terrific astronomy prof, Sam Littlepage, to a rooftop to view it through special equipment, and I wrote this:


We stood on the roof                                      
at lunch time with fifty people,                     
passing the mylar glasses                             
that let you look.                                           
In front of us a machine                                  
projected the shadow                                     
of what passed on the screen                          
where we saw the moon                                 
don her gray pearls                                         
and slip over the sun,                                     
leaving a ring of light                                     
like the circular tube                                      
of a kitchen fluorescent.                                 
Everyone agreed they had really                  
seen something and then                               
went back to work.   


But experiencing that eclipse in Managua in 1991 thoroughly unnerved me--in a good way. And get this: we didn't even look at it. We had no glasses. We had been warned. So we went out to the backyard of our temporary housing, a large building with many rooms, empty that day, and backyard, so huge and walled that, while it was in the city, it was filled with tropical vegetation that seemed miles away from anything. Without ever looking up, we experienced the awe of a total eclipse.  I'll let the poem tell you the rest. But I will say this: don't worry if you can't lay hands on glasses next Monday: go out and feel the eclipse.  


            Managua, Nicaragua 1991

Maybe the doomsday part
didn’t happen just for us, or maybe
we misread, but eleventh century
Mayans predicted the 1991 event
in Nicaragua to the day
in data that scientists can decipher
now, and not just squiggles
we pretend to understand.

Surprising for our epoch,
the three Managua dailies agreed
for the first time: looking at the eclipse
would be bad news,
which it was, the day after
when each carried photos
of people looking up, aside stories
of all those blinded.

So we stood in that backyard,
looking only as high
as the papayas hanging
like orange caution signals
while the lights went down
as in a church right before
the ushers march in with candles
on Christmas Eve.

The sun foisted its absence on us
minute by minute
as the birds launched into vespers,
then awful screeching
as though rubber on pavement
that turns to crash
and instead, an enormous
hush happened as blackness fell.
We couldn’t see to return
to the house, couldn’t even
see each other, just stood
embracing in the sudden deep
silence, not knowing how soon
it would pass, feeling not doom
but a boon: feeling something
we’d never not seen before.                          


(from the Ohio Poetry Association Annual meeting, July 8, 2017:
I am reading today from In The Company of Russell Atkins: A Celebration of His Friends on His 90th Birthday, a collection of the friends' memoirs and poems. I had planned to read only the poems for this Ohio Poetry Association, but decided that the prose passages reveal much of value about friendships among poets, certainly appropriate for this group.)

When I came to Cleveland in 1976, I had been lonely to the point of suicidal for four years. I mean this quite literally. At least once, I had tried to kill myself and failed, but I thought about the possibility, felt the attraction to committing the act, on and off for a long time. Then in 1975, I learned about the poetry community in Cleveland, and I moved there and moved on, surrounded by the workshops, readings, and camaraderie in poetry that I found there.

I have often said that poetry saved my life, and it did, but if poetry saved my life, poets made it worth living.

One of those poets was Russell Atkins, though I barely knew him. He was older, male, an African-American who cautioned me as a white woman against my going into his neighborhood. But I had a car and he didn’t, which is how we got to know each other, and that is how I memorialize our friendship in the anthology:

I first met Atkins in the mid-1970s while attending the C.S.U. poetry workshop in Cleveland. He barely spoke except on our rides home in Leonard Trawick’s yellow VW Bug, or, later, in my old red Granada, and when he did, he just cracked me up with his acerbic humor and his breathtaking, right-on honesty. So I looked up and read Here In The, and there, too, I found him darkly funny, deeply observant, wonderfully quirky. After a decade, I had to leave Cleveland, and I lost track of Russell, as did my old friend in poetry Bob McDonough, one of Russell’s biggest fans. Years later, together with Shaheed and Yaseen, we went looking for Russell and we found him, with the help of the Michael Dumanis and Kevin Prufer’s book, Russell Atkins: On the Life and Work of an American Master. Since then, we four have worked on several projects with Russell, who still makes me laugh, still wows me with his latest words.

Here is another passage of remembrance by the poet John Gabel, who died last fall in his 90s. As John notes, he began writing poetry late in life, when he was a very successful actuary. It was his success as a businessman which brought some organization to the disorganized mass of Cleveland poets:

I met Russell Atkins in the 1970s. Cleveland, at that time, had barely emerged from one of the most painful eras in its modern history, a time of great racial turmoil followed by a growing awareness and embrace of the rights of its citizenry. A time ripe for looking inward, for self-expression, for a critical appraisal of institutions. In other words, a time for poetry! Poets from all over the city found themselves, organized one another, and began presenting readings and workshops in settings as various as churches, museums, schools, parks and, on one unforgettable occasion, in a junkyard. Many voices linger in memory: Cy Dostal, Barbara Angell, Daniel Thompson, Robert Wallace, and Alberta Turner, who are no longer with us. The poetry scene was scrappy and boisterous, and, if it had a calm center, it would be Russell Atkins. A child raised decently in a troubled time, a school boy encouraged to read and, ultimately, to write. He never succumbed to the pretensions of some of the era’s louder voices. He was, to use his own words, “an outright man,” a gifted and industrious craftsman, the friend and publisher of many poets. When I first heard Russell Atkins read his poetry, he already had a national following. I was a middle-aged actuary, and I had just begun to write poetry myself. His gift, his poise, his style in poetry and in demeanor registered deeply on me. We are now both old men. I write little nowadays, but I remember the heady days of Cleveland in the 70s and 80s when many men and women began to parse the world in love and anger, and we had always the exemplary presence of Russell Atkins at the center. And I am grateful.


The book contains the words of twenty-nine men and women writers of several generations from all over the U.S. Several were youth when they met Russell’s students in the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. Many, elders read with Russell at libraries and colleges. Others, like me, knew him as an august participant in public workshops. Many writers expressed an appreciation for Russell’s writing, in John Donoghue’s case, awe:

Long before I met Russell I came across a copy of Here in The, a book that stopped me cold in my poetry-writing tracks:  “What’s the point of me writing any poetry,” I thought, “when Mr. Russell Atkins is writing poetry like this?”  His use of language was entirely original—and wonderful.  With my grammar-challenged brain I couldn’t explain to myself what he was doing, and when I tried to do it myself—I couldn’t do that either.  I still can’t explain it, or do it, but so what?  Russell does it, and his doing it puts it in the world.  Here are some examples: “where an oncoming diesel/dangerouses;” “the lively soiled dishes/pile the food cart with obstacle,” “I came upon that gate/that tracery’d gently into open,” “On one side’s a gloom of dreadful harsh,/Then brakes flash lights up sheer./There is much huge about,” “Afresh’d with paint, the shop had glare,” “came:/to sight drastic’d a lo and behold.”  It was as if he’d found a new dimension to the language of poetry, opened up a new seam in it, and I’ve often gone back to that book, that seam, not to mine it myself but to marvel at it, and be nurtured by it.

What none of us say in our tributes is that sometime in the 1990s, the local government decided that Russell was suffering dementia and they forced him to sell his family home and turn the money over to a guardian and lawyer, who went through the money posthaste. Russell was placed into government assisted housing and then, a nursing home.
When Pleiades Press Kevin Prufer found him around 2013, Russell still had seven boxes of books with all his papers, including letters from Langston Hughes (each letters worth at least $3000) and Marianne Moore (worth who knows how much). By the time I, along with three others in this book, found him in 2015, all the papers had been destroyed on the grounds that there were bugs in the boxes. We have been working ever since to pull him out of the deep depression this caused, and last week, in front of a full house at the Cleveland Museum of Art, he was given the Cleveland Art Prize for Lifetime Achievement. He received a standing ovation, the only one of the eight artists to do so. The jury felt he had been overlooked too long, and they chose to give him the award over very deserving painters, sculptors, and musicians.

In his lifetime, Russell has written not only poetry, criticism, and plays, he wrote classical compositions for piano and other instruments and two operas. He edited a magazine Free Lance that was considered the first and most influential magazine of the Black avant garde. When he was interviewed and photographed many times the past month, every person who met him commented on how sharp, funny, and interesting he was. So much for his utter dementia, which we his friends think shows the local government’s utter incomprehension of how some artists speak and act.

Still, his daily life is not easy. This is my prose poem on one afternoon visiting him


A man shouted, “I’m here to get the body,” as he came in the door with a gurney. The door alarm went off. Russell, whose room at The Grande Pavilion Nursing and Rehabilitation is just inside this door and this alarm, looked up, and said softly, “Oh no.” Then Russell and I returned to our work, transcribing his new poem. But the alarm, which is piercing, did not stop. The man shrugged sheepishly and continued down the hall with his rattling cart. The alarm continued. It screeched on and on. I went and stood out in the hall looking desperate. An aide came into Russell’s room, grabbed a long clamp for reaching things, and whapped the alarm with it. It stopped. Moments later, the man came back with the body on the gurney, which got stuck half­way out the door, setting the alarm off again. The man wheeled the body back in, closed the door, and started over, looking at us apologetically and shrugging again as the alarm went off for the third time. An aide shouted to him to lean on the alarm and the door at the same time. As these were over three feet apart, he stood puzzling that. Finally an employee arrived and leaned on the alarm while the gurney driver leaned on the door. The door opened, the alarm stopped, the body rolled out the door. Russell and I went back to work on his new poem, the first in two years, “Rest Home.”

I’d like to end today with one more poem in my book, a double abecedarian to poets during National Poetry month, first published by Ohio Poetry Association editor Steve Abbott for the anthology Common Threads.  I hope it inspires you to write your own abcedarian, but I hope too that it captures our cameradie and affection for each other and our chatter and our process as we go about writing poetry, which I contend does save our lives and our friendships, which make them worth living.

A Double Abecedarian for NaPoWrMo 

All my poet friends and I are looking for pizazz
by working out at the pome machine each day,
counting or listing or otherwise composing, mumbling, “Lummox,
Dunderhead, dear me my pome machine seems broke, wow!”
Every idea I ever had seems, Luv,
fled from my brain, off in the bayou or, in a mumu,
getting on the bus without me, so abrupt,
hightailing away, the sonnets, haikus and glosas.
I need though, thirty days of this, altogether,
jump-starting my way from the ghazals of Iraq,
keeping at it through haiku, free verse, wishing for an APP
like those that exist for other tasks, arriving at last to


Take Heart and Mind --and Walks

Not all dementia is Alzheimer's. Previously on this blog, I  narrated my experiences in getting my father assessed by the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Geriatric Medicine seven years ago, to be told that Dad's dementia was probably vascular, caused by Dad's heart attack in the 1990's.  (See that story here .) The doctor's recommendation was that Dad walk several times a week."The chances for any dementia progressing to Alzheimer's increases exponentially every five years," Dr. Factora said.that physical activity reduces the risk of Alzheimer's.

And now, Gretchen Reynold's in "Brisk Walks May Slow Dementia" in the New York Times health column, offers clinical results that walking makes "a meaningful difference in how well the brain works" in elderly dementia patients.The study took place in Canada, which brought in about three dozen eldres with mild dementia who agreed to be studied for six months. The study began and ended with brain scans that measured particular thought skills, and then half were monitored in walking three times a week, while half sat in on education sessions. At the end, the tests showed that the walkers had distinctly better thinking skills. 

This is a very small, relatively short-term study. Eighteen people for half a year. And yet, I find it encouraging because the results are specific and verifiable. It matches the studies that Factora cites on exercise and Alzheimer's.

I just wish it would filter into the cognition of senior residency directors. 

My father and I have battled and lost in all three of his senior residences over his walking. They each said this was a great idea, that they would help him with that activity. None did. His most recent place told us that they had a "Walking Club" that met twice a week, and they pointed it out on their activities calendar. Neither Dad nor I has seen any indication that there is any such club, and it has since disappeared from the schedule. And he is one of the few people not on a walker or in a wheel chair. Recently, he has given up the activity. 

"It's too hard," he told. "I don't know my way around, and I have no one to walk with." His cardiac doctor says that he is not getting enough blood to his brain and wants to operate. Dad replied, "It might help, but at age 92, I know that a lot of operations don't turn out so well." I checked with my friend who is a retired anaesthesiologist and he confirmed my dad's opinion that the elderly tend to have bad, life-threatening reactions to anaesthesia.

Dad's current situation seems more soporific than ever. I see him out twice a week, most of those times, I spring him from the residence, but I have not been able to get him walking.

For now, I can say that Dad got five good years out of the Cleveland Clinic's advice. And believe me, I am taking that advice for myself. Awhile back, I panicked when I realized that I was losing my keys having trouble recalling nouns sometimes. Then I remembered that I have always lost my keys and that my mom, who had not a shred of dementia and more mental acuity at age 87 than many teenagers also had trouble recalling nouns. Sometimes what we now call "Alzheimer's" is what previous generations called "age."

I continue to age, to take heart and walk. 

WOMEN'S MARCH, Part 3: Two Weeks Later

Marchers Continue to Reflect, to Act... to Continue

"We are mothers. We are caregivers. We are artists. We are activists. We are entrepreneurs, doctors, leaders of industry and technology. Our potential is unlimited. We rise." - Alicia Keys

The big question after any march is what will come of it. Was it just another feel-good party, or, like an earthquake, will its reverberations go on indefinitely. Six participants answer my question: two weeks later, what does it mean to you now?

Kathleen Welsch, back in PA after D.C.

Returning from D.C., I was energized. How could I not be when the crowd was so positive, when at the end of the day marchers tumbling out of trains to meet their buses filled the cavernous station with cheering, chanting, fist-pumping, and smiling faces. That sense of comradery was echoed by one young woman in our group: “After the election, I felt so alone. Now I know there are others just like me.” We were members of the popular vote that didn’t count but had certainly found each other and made our presence visible.
Traveling with a new generation of strong young women and men gave me a sense of hope. I couldn’t help but remember my own first march long ago: there were no men on our bus. I don’t remember any at the march either. But this time both young women and men came prepared with their signs and passion. I saw a little boy with his mom in D.C., marching with his arm raised and fist clenched. For me the march wasn’t a one day event: I continue to call my representatives and am involved with local fellow marchers in establishing "Indivisible We Rise - West Central PA."       

As the cascading events of this past two weeks have unfolded with one oppressive executive order after another – starting with an assault on women’s rights to sound medical care and the authority over her own body, it has been heartening – even awe-inspiring to see the number of people actively resisting. At the same time, though, I have to admit I also feel a sense of frustration like a low-hanging dark cloud. Why is it always such a battle to achieve equally, recognition, respect, and basic human decency?
Carole Elcher (l) and Kathleen Welsch (r), who worked together over 30
years ago, bumped into each other serindipitously after the march ended.

Carole  Elchert, in OH after D.C.

Here are just two of my "best remembers" of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington:

1)  A line of women, obviously our elders by their walkers and grey hair, wore a strip of photographs across their chests that revealed images of their great grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers.  For me, each one represented the lifespan and history of the moment, so I asked them why they decided to march, recognizing the physical difficulties and discomfort they were determined to overcome.  The grand leader replied:  "Why are we still marching for our rights? I consider this march the last one we should have to put up with.  Make sure of that,” she said to me.  How do you ignore such wise counsel?
2)  The police/security officers—many of whom were black women—directing the crowds that packed the Metro would give out a splendid cheer of “hurray,” inspiring the crowds to chant with them.  The subway tunnels were turned into an awesome echoing chamber of jubilation and reverberating human voices.  If the March had recorded those underground sounds, we'd have the soundtrack, which would surely move Congress to pay attention to the voices of the people, finally.

And now? Already, our Findlay/Bluffton group is organizing a Standing Rock demonstration in front of Marathon Oil Corp head offices in Findlay, OH.  I was again inspired by the number of University students from Bowling Green and the NW Ohio area as well as Native friends who participated in a street stance for the protection of the Earth.  I call these activities, “Earth Witnessing” efforts to commemorate Siddhartha Gautama’s gesture-mudra shortly before he attained enlightenment.  My wish for the millennia is that humans develop an enlightened, planetary Worldview, one that dismantles nation-political borders to achieve a species-wide, Worldwise ethics for every sentient being, as the Buddhists say of all and everything. 

Carole Elchert, PO 572, Findlay, OH  45839 CELL:  567-208-3127

Rosemary Starace, with the community in Pittsfield, MA

Before and after the election, inauguration, and Women's March, I grew increasingly upset with political conversations, news, and even calls to action. Since the March, I have unsubscribed from WOM-PO (after 11 years!) and withdrew from Facebook by deleting the app from my phone and iPad. (Now I look at my notifications once a day on my computer.) I want to find out how my life is without (much) Internet and to discover my own response to the frightening situation we are in. I have written notes to Congress on a few of the million issues we face and I find that terse declarative sentences and short quotes from  poems make me feel strong. Will anyone read them, and will these tiny actions have an effect? I also want very much to respond with art and writing and to be able to share the same in a meaningful outward-reaching forum.
In terms of the March itself, I find myself very inspired by Aja Monet's poem, “My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter,” so lush and fierce, which she recited at the D.C. March and which I witnessed sitting in the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield with a thousand others.  (I have pre-ordered Monet's book of the
same title, which is coming out in May.)

"A movement is much more than a march. A movement is that different space between our reality and our vision. Our liberation depends on all of us." - Janet Mock

Peggy Nelson, in CT after Boston

I am still feeling empowered from the march.  And of course lots has happened from the Whitehouse that makes my commitment strong.   I've been calling my senators and congresswoman about issues as they arise (mostly to say thank you because they're amazing!) and have made phone calls to out of state senators as well.  I plan to stay active and connected  so I can keep going at this crazy world that keeps unfolding. Each time I tell the story of my experience at the Boston March - as I did the last few days while in Vermont with one of my sons - I feel the energy. And, like you, I will be donating to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

Courtney Peralta ONeal, in Atlanta

My thoughts about the march:
Marching alongside thousands of others representing countless causes was inspiring, empowering, and showed me that there's still hope. Seeing so many people from tiny villages, to big cities across the world standing up and walking in solidarity against all that is wrong about this administration, confirmed for me that we really do have legitimate concerns. Millions of people can't be wrong. We aren't whiners. We are genuinely concerned about the future of America and the tsunami of trouble that could be felt around the world as that bully and his Ikea-quality cabinet continue to wreak havoc on our constitution.
I will continue to march on, more resolute than ever. 

"Remember, the Constitution doesn’t begin with, 'I, the President.' It begins with, 'We, the people.'" - Gloria Steinem

Laurie Kincer, after Cleveland

So, post-march, I have hope and it’s grown stronger in the aftermath. I have made calls, sent postcards, and joined
a local group called "Action Together Lakewood Area."  The meeting I went to had so many people that the restaurant had to keep bringing in chairs.  I can listen to and read news (which I couldn’t do from 11/9 to 1/20), though I have nearly weaned myself from TV.  (I cut my cable back to about a dozen channels, so I don’t have the 24-hour news channels anyway.  But, post-election, I quit watching and now hardly ever turn it on.) My mother gave me a subscription to The Funny Times, which is the print equivalent of the weekly Saturday Night Live. I re-subscribed to The New Yorker on Inauguration Day, mainly because it employs Andy Borowitz and has smart commentary on contemporary events.
I know that I’m not alone, that the world hasn’t lost its mind, that not everyone has drunk the Kool-Aid. There’s so much more I could say but you get the idea.  I’m sorry that you experienced negative blowback.  I haven’t any firsthand knowledge of that. But I’ve got to say that it’s caused me to rethink many of my acquaintances.  I have only one close friend who isn’t rabidly up in arms.  My extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins) are DJT supporters, but they’re a lost cause.  I have found that I have exactly 2 first cousins out of about 20 who didn’t drink the Kool-Aid either.  One is a doctor’s wife with 4 boys and she just took her boys to their 1st demonstration against the immigration ban.  I am so proud of her.
I warn you, that's the way things are:
                                          This is my final lifetime.
--Anna Akhmatova



Photo: Lisa Nardi

(and Back, and broken down on the road but not broken)

In D.C., Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta, Ann Arbor, Pittsfield, and Portland

On Saturday, I parked in front of the TV watching the D.C. Women's March on C-Span. As a high school drummer with a blue State of Ohio medal in drumming in 1966, I was thrilled to see the event kicked off by a Native American woman drummer, thrilled by many of the speakers which many of those present couldn't see or hear. But most excited to be hearing from my friends.

Because I also had my laptop open, watching Twitter and Facebook for their posts and watching the stream from the Sister City marches. I responded and listened, downloaded and saved. The panoramas of the many hundreds of thousands of marchers was inspiring, so many that the mainstream media finally had to step up and cover it. You could see that. If you're here, what you will see is a report on what my friends found important, including some of their images. Next week, I am going to ask them what they think it means in reflection and in the future. For now, let the good times roll:

(Notes: 1) To see the backstory of many of the people featured here, see my first post here. 2) A "WomPo" is someone I know from the Women Poets List Serve)

from The D.C. March
Patricia, Carole, Kathleen, Laura, Julia, and Lisa

...snapped lots of shots of buses and these three photos that I love: two Native American women-- I think the two who spoke at the end-- and for her friends in Hawaii, the Wahine sign, then one of her, at the end, looking, as I told her "exhausted and exhilarated." She replied, "I was." And she still had the long ride back to Newburyport, MA, then a drive home from there.

Carole Elchert and Kathleen Welsch
Beginning in the mid-1980s, I worked with these two at a university in Ohio until Kathleen left in 1988 to complete her PhD. Here was their message at the end of the day: "What a great way to end such a great day -- running into to Carol at the metro as we prepared to board buses and head home. Haven't seen this gal since 1988, but it felt like just yesterday. PERFECT even though I lost my phone and can't post other photos of Washington March at this time. Yes, the phone was found -- by a woman from Boston who will return it by mail. All's well that ends well!"

Laura one of my two friends (see Peggy in Boston) who got stuck in transit. Here's her story, in four Facebook posts, one after the other:

5:20 a.m. - Our busload of 55 DC-bound marchers from Oberlin [OH]  now at the side of the road waiting for a mechanic.

8:53 a.m. Aaand our rally bus is still broken on the side of the road. It's been nearly four hours now. Most of our passengers were picked up by buses with open seats. 12 of us left. My jokes about similarities to disaster movies are likely only amusing to me.

(Meanwhile, confusing her with our mutual friend, Laurie, I kept reporting that she had broken down on the way to Cleveland, and she kept correcting me, "No, I am going to D.C." Then, finally:)

10:59 a.m. – The Bus is moving at last!

8:00 p.m. - - Arrived about 2:00 p.m. This has been amazing. The whole city has been alive and connected. Residents even stood outside their homes smiling, waving, saying "thank you." The bus left late after our driver helped three young woman find the right bus to get them home despite a dark parking lot with hundreds of these vehicles. It wouldn't have mattered. The roads are slow-moving rivers of buses, a heartening sign of our solidarity.

Julia Lisella
I never realized that Wompo Julia was going to D.C. till I spotted her pics with her crew from Medford on Saturday morning, and great pics they are.

Lisa Nardi a writer, erstwhile teacher, and college administrator, who is her total lack of spare time has become one of the best photographers I know. She posted 40 excellent photos from the March, all professional quality. If you know anyone who needs that kind, let me put you in touch with her. Here are just a few of hers.


To see my friends who marched in Boston and Cleveland, go here.
To see those who marched in Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Pittsfield, and Portland, go here.

Women's March II: Boston and Cleveland

MY FRIENDS REPORT from the FRONT (and Back, and broken down on the road but not broken) 

In Boston and Cleveland


Peggy Nelson Laura (see D.C.) had travel adventures. She drove from Connecticut, which for the geographically impaired, is south of Boston to Beverly, which is north of Boston, to meet up with a high school friend and take the train south again to Boston from there. Except the train station was jammed with women, who all felt they were going nowhere and posited that the city was saving extra cars for the Pats game on Sunday. For those of you who like visuals, you can see Peggy's route here. As you can see, so close and yet so far away if you have to hoof it. And yet, finally, finally, Peggy got one of her most exciting moments of the day, a seat on the train to Boston:

And photos of signs and the high school friend mentioned in last week's blog that she would be marching with.


From Boston Magazine


Laura Cherry   

I was very tickled by an image out of Boston earlier this week of some of my    favorite characters who live across from the Commons getting ready for the March, so then just as pleased to see Wompo Laura Cherry there with her daughter also in the pink hats that have been a sign of the resistance:

 Meanwhile, in Cleveland

...Larry Smith

editor of Bottom Dog, poet and writer, marched with his wife Ann and posed with one of Ohio's terrific Congresswoman from the 9th District, Marci Kaptur

....Laurie Kincer,

a  poet and my very favorite librarian, took the #55 bus to Public Square, from whence she reported that as an introvert on her very first march, she appreciated this sign most of all

Tweeted by Susan Kauffman

For photos and stories from Atlanta, Ann Arbor, Pittsfield, Portland, and Philadelphia, go here.