Auld Lang Syne

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Loss and how spring might help

The sun is breaking through an otherwise grey and grim day. At long last there is no snow in the forecast. It is 46 degrees. I keep a row of colored bottles and jars on my office windowsill so that there is sparkle whenever the least ray of light comes through. They are shining today: blue, yellow, green. I really need the sparkle.

Loss is inevitable in every aspect of life. It is a fact that people and things come and they go. If we are paying attention, we learn how to grieve the losses and find our way out of the darkness. We don’t forget, but we forbear.

I am dealing with some artisitc losses right now that are hard. I am cheered by the fact that spring is here (mostly) and summer is on the way. But the losses are still losses. I must figure out how to forbear.

Loss #1

The lingering death of Poetry Month Rockland has been difficult. I established Poetry Month Rockland in 2010 with the coperation of Steve Donoso and the public library. It was designed to be part of the National Poetry Month festivites and celebration. Our first ever Poet Laureate, Kendall Merriam was appointed and served for two years. I was appointed in 2012 and served 2 terms (four years). We appointed our 4th laureate, Joanna Hynd, in 2016. She has served for 2 years.

I put my heart, soul, (and education) into the office of Poet Laureate with a multitude of activities and events which brought poetry to life in our city. On average, one event or activity per month. I was more than visible and ready to engage anyone with poetry at any time. Poetry Month was a big deal, always ending with our Swarm of Poets, something Steve Donoso and I conceived of in 2010. A room full of poets, reading their work. Contest winners getting their prizes (usually sacks of books of poetry) and reading in public for perhaps the very first time. There were poems all over town in various places and ways. It was nothing short of festive!

It all began to die in 2016. I saw it happening, and there was nothing I could do. Of course it was not at all about me…it was and remains all about poetry and bringing it to the people. It was and is about making people realize that poetry is for everyone. Now it is all about something else, perhaps about there being too much work involved (I offered my help and was turned away) … or maybe it is about cashing in on poetry via the Millay House and its for-profit festival in the fall.

When I was asked to do a workshop in April, one of two things happening for “poetry month,”I was told by the current laureate that the Swarm was going to be different this year, focusing more on contest winners. There is no swarm on the last Thursday in April as it has for 8 years. The contest begins in April and ends in August with winners to read at the Millay festival, part deux which will be in September. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a rocket sonnet-ist) to see what is happening.

I have never asked to be in charge of anything with the Millay group. I don’t want to be in charge. I do want to help. Why not allow a person with experience and education in the area of poetry and the time and willingness to lend a hand? I don’t know because I have been shut out of the conversation, ghosted as it were. I have offered for the last time. Message received loud and clear.

At any rate, Poetry Month Rockland is no more a thing we do in April. I am grieving the death of poetry month. I am angry too, but that is going away, leaving instead sadness and disappointment… but leaving also RESOLVE.

Poetry is more important to me than to let it get run over by lack of intitative or by indifference, so I am preparing to create something in place of poetry month, something that will not be killed off so easily by someone else. So far, my idea is to create a Foundation for the Writing Arts. I will likely crowdfund and seek donations and other forms of financial support. I will locate the Foundation and it activities in a place conducive to its business and functioning. I want to bring something to this community that will last, as I thought Poetry Month would last. Poetry is for everyone and ought to be readily available to everyone, all the time.  The foundation will make it so.

Through the loss and the grieving, there is hope. The sunlight will continue to stream though the glass jars on my windowsill and I will stop feeling so sad.

Loss #2

Winter is a time of loss in many ways. This winter I have experienced the loss of the poetry group of which I have been part for many years. In fact, for the past few years I was the last one of the original group which I joined in 2009.

This death too has been a slow process. Despite all attempts by some of us to save it, others were not dedicated to poetry or not dedicated enough to save the group. Some let their commitment slide, some were too thin-skinned to take critique as being about the poem, not about the person. Inevitably, personalities derailed the whole group. Details here are irrelevant. Even a carefully worded mission statement did not sustain us.

I will miss the sharing. I will miss the poems of some of the group members who have worked hard to hone their skills in making poems. I will miss the thoughtful comments/critiques of my poems by most of the members. I will miss these very much. But I cannot do anything to make this group last another single minute. It is not at all up to me. I did my part. I would do it all over again, in a heartbeat.

So now, another loss becomes another opportunity. I will grieve and move on. I will forbear.

GOING ON apr├Ęs mort:

On the horizon is a spring day, leading to another and another until it will be summer. I am cheered by that. I look forward to days at the beach with a book and a notebook in my bag. I look forward to more writing time. I have two new books, another in the works, and another finished except for fine-tuned editing. I will not be deterred from my life’s work. I will continue to bring poetry to as many people as I can in my short time here on this planet.

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