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Showing posts from April, 2007

The Warrior Poet

National Poetry Month comes to an end today. While others may have begun National Poetry Month with great fanfare, I would like to end it with same--my fan fare for a great poet, teacher, and friend, James Hoggard.

James Hoggard is the author of sixteen books, including six collections of translations, three of them of collections of poems by Oscar Hahn (b. 1938, Chile). The winner of numerous awards, including an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship and the Soeurette Diehl Fraser Award for Literary Translation, he has published six collections of poems, as well as two collections of stories, a novel, and a volume of nonfiction. He is the Perkins-Prothro Distinguished Professor of English at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. His work has appeared in Harvard Review, Massachusetts Review, Ohio Review, Southwest Review, Partisan Review, Translation Quarterly, and numerous other journals and anthologies.

That's one official bio, but it leaves out the factor of context, or …

Speaking Up for Gun Control: The Easy Way

Walking through a housewares shop today, I saw a blender called "Magic Bullet." In the wake of the many articles published after the Virginia Tech killings, I've been paying more attention to our everyday speech. Gun references abound.

"Hit me with your best shot. Fire away." Have a double-shot of Starbucks expresso. Go to a photography shoot. Is your old car shot? Drink Coors, the Silver Bullet, or buy a Silver Bullet Comic Book. Buy a Bullet Skateboard, or update your computer with Bulletproof Software. Perhaps, you're gunning for your next promotion; you've discovered a sure-fire way to succeed. Or, your economic state may force you to live in a "shotgun shack." We place design "bullets" at the end of articles or use bullet-point lists in our MS Word or WordPerfect documents. When it's time to do something important, we say, it's time to "bite the bullet."

Take our everyday expressions a step further, and we go i…

Every Day is Earth Day: Musings

On a practical note, I believe that if everyone had to dispose of their own trash in their own back yard, we would long ago have made recycling routine, stopped purchasing unnecessary packaging, and sworn off plastic bags. Imagine your back yard if, for the last five to 10 years, all your and your family's trash were deposited there. We never see the mountainous trash dump, and so, we never "know what we do."

On a poetic note, Gerard Manley Hopkins's poem Binsey Poplars calls us to recognize--and feel--what we do and do not do, to and with the earth. What will the "after-comers" (our children and grandchildren) see and know of our natural world? Is the landmark documentary Planet Earthonly that--a documentary meant to preserve the memory of our world? Some have said it is. It can also be a celebration of our natural world that inspires us to care for it and all upon and within it. We need only feel for Mother Earth what Hopkins felt for these beautiful …

The Poet's Part

The service at Virginia Tech today was brought to conclusion by poet Nikki Giovanni, a Virginia Tech alum. Here is an excerpt from her speech:

“We are sad today and we will be sad for quite awhile. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning. We are strong enough to know when to cry and sad enough to know we must laugh again. We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did not deserve it but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, but neither do the invisible children walking the night to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for ivory; neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy. We are Virginia Tech. The Hokier Nation embraces our own with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong and brave a…

Blood in the Mind, Part 2

Now we know. The gunman was mentally ill. His creative writing teacher had notified all the authorities that she could. But, according to law, no one could take "action" until Cho Seung-Hui had threatened to harm someone. Not likely from a young man who did not even say hello when greeted by his classmates or neighbors. In fact, Cho Seung-Hui never said anything at all to his own college roommate. Remember dorm rooms? Those cubicles with bunk beds or some other arrangement that maximizes limited space? Can you imagine being in close quarters like that and never saying a word to the person with whom you shared them? He had not verbally threatened anyone, although his creative writing was full of violence and threatening content. But he had set fire to his dorm room earlier. Is that not considered threatening behavior?

There needs to be a way to address the dangers caused by mental illness before physical threats are made, before fires burn out of control. The law …

The Blood in the Mind

The news is harder than ever to hear today.
32 dead, gunned down inside a classroom inside a building whose doors the gunman had chained shut. But these were not the first to die this morning on the Virginia Tech campus. The first were a man and a woman inside a dorm. At this moment, the (understandably) cryptic remarks from the Virginia Tech Campus Police Chief lead us to believe that the evidence indicates that there were two, not one, gunmen; and, that the two shootings were unrelated. Although we have yet to know the verified particulars on the classroom gunman, first impressions by witnesses indicate someone under age 21.

Already the media is tackling the gun control issue, as well they should. But there is another issue, one that does not get discussed nearly enough.

The issue is this: We do not pay enough attention to mental illness. We act as though it is abstract and fuzzy--until someone who is mentally ill harms or kills someone else. We write off abusive behavior, excuse ve…

National Poetry Month in the US

Does it matter?
More than ever.

It's National Poetry Month in the US. While poetry may not stop the war in Iraq or immediately put foods in the mouths of hungry children, at its best it stands as a clear counterpoint to the world's ills. Poetry moves, informs, enlightens, and reminds us of the upper reaches and sacred depths to which and through which humankind is capable of traveling. You can find a lot of poetic celebration at the American Academy of Poets website. And more to come soon on this blog. . . . .