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« Frequency North, Slam Poetry in Albany and Other Readings-Type Things [Daniel Nester] | Main | The Poetry of Philip Levine: Is a Working Class Hero Something to Be? By Earle Hitchner »

October 26, 2011


I met Doug in Amherst MA when he was a teacher at Hampshire and I was a student at Mt Holyoke -- and we were both in a play at Smith! (A classic Pioneer Valley experience). It's been fun to re-encounter him in the virtual world -- And Leslie, since I work outside academia I too find I keep up with other writers mainly via facebook these days. I can well imagine how reassuring it would be to go outside and share something public like that with "virtual" buddies. Nice post. Thanks.

Hi Amy,
I love the idea of you and Doug onstage!

I never get over, despite how vociferous and complex it seems, how small the poetry world is. Doug's just about to move back to that area.

Sometimes I wonder what the effect of social networking sites will have on our literature. It certainly *is* reassuring to be able to be in contact with our peers, to broaden our group of friends, and to venture back out into "the land of flesh" as I've come to call it.

Leslie, thank you for this extraordinary post, and for giving Doug and Alfred the chance to also offer their own responses.

I love your sign, encouraging the 1% to "Occupy Empathy." Just so.

In NYC, last week, after my Poets House craft talk, I wanted to go see OWS at Zuccotti Park. It was my only chance to do that, on a quick trip in and out of the city. A board member emerita walked me over. It was late, almost midnight, and windy, raining, cold. She told me about the library, the kitchen, the drumming she'd seen on previous visits. When we arrived, what we found were mostly mounds of plastic tarps. Under some, people. Under some, the kitchen, the library, the "Comfort Station" (supplies of sleeping bags and such, I later learned). A few people stood quietly, talking, still up. I felt as if I'd come into a living room uninvited, that late night, uncharismatic hour. I didn't feel right about asking many questions. I just went from person to person and said "Thank you for what you are doing."

One man (in homemade plastic raincoat in the photo I asked permission to take), I did ask, "Have you been here since the beginning?" Yes, he had.

Here are some not very good photos of what I saw:

I read this blog post after having watched on TV news last night the removal of Occupy Oakland. Tear gas and blows. It looked terrifying. What the Occupy people were chanting to the police: "Who are you protecting?" I couldn't help but think-- this is the same thing that people in Syria are now chanting to the army.

I hope the values of peace will outweigh the impulse for violence, as these demonstrations continue. The balance is precarious, always, in transferring balances of power. But all over the world now people are asking, "What kind of country do we want?" Asking in Europe, in China, in Burma, in Somalia, in Mexico. Also in Bhutan, and in Denmark. Whatever the culture, it's being made by answering that question.

I would like a country--and a planet--that answers by saying, among other things, that it chooses respect, dignity, health care, housing, education, equity, for each of its persons. I believe this is what the founders of this country wanted--some of them, even then, wanted for every single one of this country's citizens, without exception. I still sign on to that vision, and am grateful to all of those who are stepping out of their regular lives, far more fully, to do that.

I thank you again for this post, Leslie, Alfred, and Doug.

What a joy to see you here, Jane, and to read this beautiful reply to this morning's post. How timely that I was able to get it online the morning the police began to "crack down" on demonstrations in Oakland and Atlanta. I'm hoping the demonstrators, many of whom appear to be educated in the practice of nonviolent protest, will continue that tactics, even as they meet fear and, yes, violence. I love the thought of Syrians, like the Libyans and Egyptians before them, all asking much the same question, "Who are you protecting?" of their governments and police forces. And now the question is being asked in more and more languages across the world.

I can't help but think about the hundreds of thousands of people who, like me, are stepping out from the ether to see what's happening and think anew about dignity, and yes, empathy.

I smiled while I looked through your photos. Would it be too cheeky too suggest you *not* quit your day job and turn to photography?

With love and gratitude.

Aww. Oakland is my stomping ground (and Jane's done time in the East Bay too, right? Can recall you reading a poem on a session with krasny on the juxtaposition of pyracantha berries and plum blossoms that's very east bay hills....). and it's been a bummer to see how things have played out in that case. Oakland has, I think, a form of collective ptsd from a long history of protests that were not especially peaceful. While i personally (don't hit me!) think Frank Ogawa Plaza is a pretty stupid place to Occupy (there's virtually no Wall Street presence in Oakland, from whom are we trying to take the place back?) the police response has been ten times stupider. hopefully last night was as bad as that one's going to get. Oakland's a rough time of it. They don't need any more violence -- not the citizens OR the cops.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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