“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” Maya Angelou
A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it
is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe
of the vegetation.
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the
same, I receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother’s laps,
And here you are the mother’s laps.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and
They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.
All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and
– Walt Whitman
Thanks to Craig Morris of the Grass Roots Poetry Group for citing this poem in honor of Michael Rothenberg’s 100TPC 2018 Global initiative, Read a Poem to a Child.
Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded. I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, Second Light, I Am Not a Silent Poet, Meta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read byNorthern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”
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When I started The Bardo Group, now The Bardo Group Beguines (publishers of The BeZine), back in February 2011, I had in mind the human union in sacred space (common ground) as it is expressed through the arts and the sharing of work that is representative of universal human values however differently they might bloom in our varied religions and cultures. I feel that our art and our Internet-facilitated social connection offer a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters, and not as “other.” They also offer a means to get some other good things done.
I have written about:
English poet and musician, John Anstie and the Grass Roots Poetry Group, that was founded through Twitter friendships and that published a collection to raise funds for UNICEF;
Dorothy Yamamoto, a poet and editor who brought a group of A-list English poets together to create a collecton, Hands & Wings, to raise funds for the rehabilitation and support of torture victims seeking protection in the U.K.; and,
Silva Merjanian who – along with her publisher – has donated procedes from the sale of her collection Rumor to fund assistance for Armenians escaping violence in Syria. The last time I spoke with her $5,000 was raised.
LET’S TALK ABOUT IT: Special for our Silicon Valley/South Bay friends, a workshop hosted by Jazz Singer Candice Hawley as part of her church’s Good Works Project: Let’s Talk About It is a free and open discussion of Anxiety and Depression, Chemical Imbalances and overall Mental Health. Candice says, “you’ll hear stories of lived experience, see a presentation by Tanya Pekker, MFT, on anxiety and depression, engage in a Q&A with all participants and more . . .” Saturday, October 28, 10 am – Noon, Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula, Moldaw-Zaffaroni Clubhouse, 2031 Pulgas Avenue, East Palo Alto, CA. Register HERE.
Note: Among other things, Terri Stewart and colleagues are holding peacemaking circles with youth who have been picked up on possession of firearms. Recently the success of these circles was acknowledged by the Seattle Times HERE.
The July issue of The BeZine covered prison culture and restorative justice. Learn about peacemaking circles in this excerpt from July’s The BeZine.
JUSTICE IN NEW-OLD WAY
Today, we sat in the King County Youth Service Center lobby that had been turned into a courtroom for the sentencing of one of the youth we have been working with. I am a member of the King County Peacemaking Coordinating Team (PCT). We apply the principles of Peacemaking Circles, an ancient process taught to us by the Tagish and Tlingit First Nation people to modern court cases. A new-old way.
Today, we heard from the judge, the prosecution, the defense, the PCT…and then the respondent (person who did harm) spoke. And then the victim’s mother spoke.
We were all blubbering and sniffling by the end of it. But not because it was hurtful. The tears were because of the witness of transformation and hope. To see a genuinely healed person extend their hand to honor the victim. To see the victim’s family stand up and say, “Do more of this.”
There are some flaws to work out but that is because we are human. And this process is all about becoming more completely human.
In this particular case, the respondent had committed felony harassment. This charge on a juvenile record could irrevocably alter his future. It would limit his housing, loans, educational opportunities and more. I don’t know if we really understand what we do to juveniles when we hang felonies around their neck during a time in their life when their brain is not fully formed. But I digress.
I remember the mother of the victim looking at the respondent and saying (paraphrase), “It is so good to see you this way. Before, all I had as an image of you was the threat on social media where you had a gun and were threatening my boy’s life. You were scary. Now you are human.”
During the Peacemaking Circle process that took about 8 months, we discovered how similar the respondent and victim were. They were both from homes going through divorce. They both loved photography. They were both kids being sunk by the social systems around them. One responded by acting out. The other by withdrawing. In this case, working towards healing the family systems healed the crime. It helped everyone remember that they were human. And that we are all human.
I share below with you the recommendation from the PCT and the joy in a complete dismissal of charges against the respondent. (I’ve removed the names of the young people involved).
Can I get an Amen?!
Summary and Final Recommendations for Referral #4
July 7, 2017
Good afternoon, my name is Safia Ahmed and I am a member of the King County Peacemaking Coordinating Team. I have the honor of speaking on behalf of the team to share the work that has been done in this case and our recommendations for sentencing.
To begin, the Peacemaking Coordinating Team would like to honor and thank the victim and his family who gave their courageous support for this case to be referred. Their support and willingness to participate was instrumental in this restorative process to promote healing and partnership between King County, community based organizations, faith based communities, and the youth, families and communities of King County.
We received a referral for the respondent’s case on October 11, 2016 from Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jimmy Hung. A home visit was conducted with the respondent and his family to determine the suitability of this referral for the Peacemaking Circle process. In addition, a home visit was also conducted with the victim and the victim’s family to share an overview of the Peacemaking Circle process, answer any questions and gain an understanding of what level of participation in the Peacemaking Circle process they may want to have.
After completing both home visits, the Peacemaking Coordinating Team accepted the case. The following summarizes the work done since accepting the case in December 2016 until July 1, 2017.
Five Healing Circles with the respondent, the respondent’s family and community members who wanted to show support. Each circle was on average 3 to 4 hours long. These circles were to promote healing, peace and reconciliation and as preparation to meet with the victim and the victim’s family since they indicated their openness to actively participating in the Peacemaking Circle process.
The respondent and his parents participated in an all-day community circle with King County Executive Dow Constantine and other King County leaders on March 11, 2017.
The respondent’s mother attended a 3-Day Introductory Peacemaking Circle Training from April 26-28, 2017
One Pre-sentencing Circle and One Sentencing Circle that included the presence of the victim’s mother along with criminal justice stakeholders; friends and family from both parties.
Approximately 8 hours of check-ins via phone and text with the victim’s mother and her family, keeping them apprised of the respondent’s progress with the Peacemaking Circle process.
Ongoing check-ins with the Criminal Justice stakeholders involved in the respondent’s case, keeping them apprised of the respondent’s progress.
One home visit and approximately 20-25 hours of check-ins via phone and text with the respondent over the course of 7 months.
The following outline was agreed upon in the Sentencing Circle as a conclusion to this case:
Reimbursement to the victim’s family for 8 of the 12 counseling sessions the victim partook in for self-care and healing work. Each session cost $120 for a total of $960
2 sessions paid by the respondent
3 sessions paid by the respondent’s family
3 sessions paid from funds provided by the community and the Peacemaking Coordinating Team
The respondent’s father kindly agreed to show support to the victim and the victim’s mother by offering to pay for a trip as an opportunity to spend time with each other to rebuild their relationship along with having a positive experience coming from the respondent and his family.
In addition the Peacemaking Coordinating Team also recommends the following:
6 months of volunteer work with the Peacemaking Coordinating Team as a way to give back and pay it forward that includes:
Attending the Peacemaking Coordinating Team meetings once a month
Participate and help lead a monthly Young Men’s Circle in support of other young people who are going through similar situations.
The respondent, with the support of his brothers and parents, has agreed to these recommendations as a way to heal the harm he has caused to the victim, the victim’s family and to the community at large.
The Peacemaking Coordinating Team would like to conclude our review and recommendations to this case by again expressing our heartfelt gratitude to the victim and the victim’s family who graciously permitted the respondent and his family to participate in the Peacemaking Circle process even while contending with the harm inflicted by the respondent’s actions. It is our belief that their generosity and commitment to restorative practices have given space for the healing process to begin for both families. We would also like to express our appreciation to the court, our criminal justice partners and the community for the continued support of our work.
Shalom and Amen,
Currently Terri is raising money for the King County Peacemaking Teams. As I write this $1,555 of $2,000 has been raised. Details and to donate link HERE.
Not only do some poets use their work to raise the general consciousness but they often donate their work to help fund worthy efforts. Here are three collections that have been featured here before in greater depth. I believe you’ll appreciate should you decide to read them.
A bit of research reveals there are many other such published collections or anthologies in process. As just two examples, I found one for asthma awareness and another to help support a local ambulance service.
If there’s a cause you’d like to support through poetry, rummage around the Internet or consider producing a collection or anthology yourself. Not easy work, I know, but you might enjoy it and it would surely be rewarding.
One day some time ago a few books arrived in my mailbox from Anne Stewart ofpoetry p f and Second Light Network of Women Poets Founder, Dilys Wood. Among the books was an anthology that deserved special attention: Hands & Wings, Poems for Freedom from Torture (White Rat Press, 2015). For information to purchase contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dorothy Yamamoto is a poet and the editor of this collection. The poems in it are freely shared by A-list poets. The proceeds from the sale of the collection go to help with the rehabilitation and support of torture victims seeking protection in the U.K.
When last I chatted with Silva Zanoyan Merjanian, she’d raised $682.70 for Mer Doon Inc. from the proceeds of Rumor (Cold Water Press, 2015). Mer Doon is an organization that houses orphaned eighteen-year-old girls aging out of care. This support gives the girls a chance to become financially independent and safe from human traffickers. So far the sales of Rumor have generated over $5,000 for charities. Quite remarkable. If you buy the book directly from Silva’s site (as opposed to Amazon), all proceeds go to these charities. Rumor won the 2015 Best Book Award in the poetry category from the NABE. Three poems from the book were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. It is Silva’s second published collection.
“I always had this notion that you earned your living and that poetry was a grace.” Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), Irish, poet, playwright, translator, educator and Nobel Prize winner
I’m sure my friend, John Anstie, poet and renaissance man, The Bardo Group core team member, and editor of and contributor to Petrichor Rising (eBook and paperback), a 2013 poetry collection of The Grass Roots Poetry Group (GRPG), would prefer that I focused on the poems and the collection. The feature-writer in me loves a good story though. (Forgive me, John!) The coming together of this group and the publication of their collection is as good a story as any and better than most … and hence, I break my usual self-imposed word limit on posts. Read on … You may recognize yourself in some of this …
“I do accounting. I am a writer.” an employee corrected me when I introduced him as an accountant.
I spent many years in the employment and training field, serving in sundry positions and writing columns, feature articles and journal pieces ad nauseam about recruiting and job search, chosing careers, assessing post-secondary vocational education programs, structuring community programs for at-risk populations (read the poor and marginalized), as well as writing about labor and job market trends including changes evolving out of advances in technology.
Wherever I worked whether it was counseling, placing executives in career positions or teaching career development and job search to ex-offenders or people transitioning off welfare, I found the same thing. Scratch the surface of almost anyone and you will find an artist. Several of the poets to this anthology earn or have earned their living doing something other than writing. John Anstie talks about discovering his “inner poet.” At core, we are creators. This is a great truth about human beings.
It used to be that most evidence of creativity ended in storage somewhere: dresser drawers, file cabinets, attics or garages … until the accessibility of social networking and self-publishing via blogs, videos, blog radio and other venues. Now creatives have easy means to deliver their work independently and to find their own audiences, modest but genuine. No longer unknown, these poets and artists join the ranks of lesser-knows. They also have a wider opportunity to meet others with the same interests and values. Put the mix together – a wonderous serendipity – and the birth of productive collaborations …
“As far as I recall, it all started with freshly-baked lemon drizzle cake . . . ‘@peterwilkin1: Good Morning. Coffee & lemon drizzle cake, anyone?’ …. One may be forgiven for thinking the GRPG is an international social network-based association for the deep appreciation and virtual consumption of cyber cake and other comestibles. Indeed this is what they do, but they also do something else remarkable – they write poetry – delightful, delicious, scrumptious, tasty, and delectable at that, poetry.” Introduction, Craig Morris
And thus it began, with friendly – often quick-witted – Twitter chat and an affinity evolved. Two years later Petrichor Rising was born and featured artwork by one, the Introduction by another, and the poetry of the rest. How did they pull it all together?
Interview with John Anstie
JAMIE: Expanding on your piece about editing Petrichor Rising (posted this evening on The Bardo Group): Learning to use language gracefully and words accurately is a lifelong challenge (and a pleasure); but editing English when the works are from such diverse regions of the world throws extra spice into the mix. There are many variations on the themes of grammar, spelling, and on syllable accent and speech inflection, how did you approach that particular challenge?
JOHN: Your first question is not a question, it is several questions, which, as you imply, could take me a lifetime (and possibly a few pages) to answer! But the simplest way I can answer this is to be entirely honest. By and large, I took each piece as it was presented and interpreted it as it was written. Grammar and spelling was not really a problem, since I left the words spelled as they were presented; my two North American friends, Jackie and Joe, if they used American English spelling, that’s how it stayed, of course. There were few issues in the grammar department. As for syllable stress and speech inflection, I had little issue with the effects of these on scansion, since almost all of the poems, except some of my own, were pretty much in the ‘free verse’ form. But you certainly have raised a valid issue for editors of international poetry collections.
JAMIE: How did you work out the collaboration? The book is admirably unified and surely there must have been some back-and-forth about which poems to use from each poet and how to organize the sequence.
JOHN: Over the two years of its gestation, there were a few changes of poems. Some of the original poems submitted were withdrawn, because of submissions elsewhere and a handful were edited and resubmitted for inclusion. The sequence was the greatest challenge for me. Initially, I asked each poet to attach key words or tags to each of their own poems, from which I intended to attempt dividing the whole body of work into sections. That didn’t work, simply because I inevitably ended up with too many key words. In the end, after we’d decided on the title, I felt it important that any themed sections should reflect the theme of the title in some way. So I worked through the whole collection of sixty-five or so poems and categorised them myself. The three sections were the end result of that part of my work on the book.
JAMIE: Have you had the opportunity to speak by phone or meet in person with any of the members of the Group? If so, what was that experience like.
JOHN: Five of us live in the UK. It was Louise, who bravely blazed a trail to Yorkshire to stay with Peter and his wife for a week. I guess she judged him to be trustworthy enough (and not the mad axe murderer he might have been!). I journeyed up to meet them both on neutral ground. We spent a fruitful and enjoyable day in each other’s company. Shan and Abi were the next to visit Yorkshire. I’ve lost count of how many times we met after that, including a couple of poetry readings at Ally Wilkin’s shop “Crystal Space” (one of the locations in Peter’s and Marsha’s joint publication, “Brianca and The Crystal Dragons”). All of this was capped in a confluence in May 2012, when the five of us from the UK, along with Joe and Quirina, who flew in from Albany, New York and Germany, came together in London – photos of this are in my Facebook album of that day HERE.
It was a very happy day, but one that wasn’t long enough for us all. Finally, last June, Marsha came to the UK for a conference in Leeds. She lodged with Peter and Ally for the first part of her stay and with me for the last part. It was very special to meet her too. So, in answer to your question, I’ve met nearly all of them; only Jackie in New York and Craig in South Africa have yet to meet us. Quite incredible, considering we only met on Twitter two and a half years ago! One final twist to this tale, to cut a long story short, is that Abigail turns out to be the daughter of an old school friend of mine, whom I had very recently met up with again along with another friend! It’s a very small world!
JAMIE: What made you choose print-on-demand over ebook? Does the GRPG plan to offer the book in ebook format? It a lovely volume, and I think would make a fine addition to anyone’s poetry library. These days, though, many appreciate ebooks for their portability as well as the saving grace of saving shelf-space.
JOHN: Print on demand, in the end, seems like a very sensible choice. Self publishing would have been difficult, deciding how big a print run dramatically affects the cost-per-unit economies. However, it was the publisher, Aquillrelle, who determined the route to print and we chose them, because they had published Marsha’s collection, “Spinning”, and she was very impressed with their service and attention to detail. It proved to be a good choice for me, as their Chief Editor, did have a keen eye for detail. As for the ebook, Amazon should have produced one by now, but it’s not happened yet. I suspected it might be a demand thing; I’m not sure. Even though I own an iPad Mini, which is, of course, a perfect ebook reader, it has to be said that I prefer to have a real book in my hands.
Note: I see that Lulu has an eBook available since we did this interview. The link is above in the opening paragraph. Jamie
JAMIE: Would you do it all again and if so, why?
JOHN: I think the answer is yes, probably, but not in the same way. What would I do differently? I couldn’t answer that until I saw the material I was working with. However, there are two more projects on my horizon before another anthology comes along. The first is going to be some kind of account of the story of an historic house, gardens and estate, for which my wife and I are members of the volunteer teams. The second may be my own first full collection. Then, for the sake of my family history, maybe I ought to complete my own autobiography.
Book Review in Brief
Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.
I dislike using the word “accessible.” There have been times when I’ve wondered if that is code for a lack of intricacy or profundity. The work here is comprehensible but still complex. The poems move from nostalgia to appreciation, from the beauty of nature to the frailties of humanity, from sorrow to hope. From Craig Morris’ Introduction, which sets the mood, to Joe Hesch’s theme poem Petrichor, which closes the book, it’s a joy. Well organized with the weather metaphor as the through line, the sections are The Drought, Gathering Storm, and The Rain. Its hallmark is the show of humanity at its best.
This morning I will cast open the curtains, chasing the fear away and hold this crystal up to the sunlight, releasing my soul to fly
– Prism, Abigal Baker
…. and at its worst
Haunted by proper thoughts of his wife at home he wryly recollects how he told her before friends and family on their silver anniversary “I love every wrinkle, every scar I celebrate, such wonderous depths are etched upon your body a cartography of our marriage I love the silver in the gold of our hair” then renewed his marriage vows his fingers crossed, avoiding his own reflection in the mirror
– Cracks of Angst: A Portrait of an Unhappy Man, Marsha Berry
Both my thumbs up on this one. There’s still time to order Petrichor Rising for the holidays and profits go to UNICEF, making it a definite win-win.