Hi folks, hope you are keeping well, mounting stressors notwithstanding. I’ve had an interesting week so far, wearing my publisher’s hat. I have had a lot of curious jobs and roles over the years, but right now my primary occupation is caregiver for my dear ailing wife – the heaviest duty, but also that most effortlessly lifted.
But I am also trying to behave as if the world means to keep on turning awhile – which means overcoming an old bias of my own, in order to communicate more effectively. I adore books, the knowledge within them and the physical artefacts themselves, so as a writer I have long resisted putting my long works into electronic form. I prefer to deliver a classic and carefully designed aesthetic experience. But while books kept me company on many a streetcar or subway ride over the years, things like phones and tablets do that now for almost everyone. The real point is to meet people where their eyes are used to looking, and then do my best to take them somewhere new.
So – I am presently reworking my first three books for Ebook versions, and also preparing to release my next two books (long delayed) in both physical and electronic form simultaneously. I finished the high polish on “Structural Happiness” just yesterday, and it was a delight to come back a few years later to tweak a few things that still bothered me about this tribute to some of my weirdest and most beautiful teachers – but even better, to see that the tone and message are even more relevant now than when I first went to press.
I have oddly specific testing standards to check my old works for new value. When it comes to books and essays, I ask myself whether they could still be of help to curious wide-open young people seeking to enrich their hearts and thinking.
When it comes to testing old songs, I look for a special feeling just behind my eyes – as if I want to cry with fierce passion, because I still mean the lyrics so damned much.
When it comes to political and philosophical poems, I ask myself whether they have found new relationships to the world, or in any other way grown in meaning over time, to reach well beyond my initial fumbling intentions.
Many of the pieces in my poetry collection “Night Song for Cigar-Box Banjo” were written during Obama’s presidency, reflecting on the cultural schism W forced open, and Obama was unwilling or unable to confront effectively.
The fact that so many of them mean a hundred things more than they used to, thanks to recent political excesses and pestilence panic, gives my writer head a very nice glow – and it makes my publisher head happy too. Good hire!
This poem in particular is one of a whole series I wrote about a dear friend who wanted nothing but good and beauty for the world, and ultimately took her own life because she felt unable to make any effective contribution.
Some people ask me how I can believe in classic left principles, and yet insist on questioning modern leftist dogma and mobilized anger in general (even though the spiritual danger there has always been obvious). I often find myself wanting to remind them how many lives they take on their own side, with their uncompromising compassionless and furious rhetoric.
I’m just not sure I could restrain the rest, if I started into it at all. Y’know?