Monthly Archives: September 2013

When Teachers Were Lions

Sadly, I passed on taking a writing workshop from Raymond Carver when the American Checkov was still alive. I heard he was a bit of a terror but raw and real, like his short stories.

And I arrived too late at the University of a Washington to learn to write and to appreciate poetry from Theodore Roethke in his legendary poetry classes.

But I did learn something about history and public responsibility from one of Roethke’s contemporaries, Giovanni Costigan.

Costigan was a tiny, elderly titan of learning and disciplined thought. People would leave other classes and sit in the aisles and pack the room to the walls if they heard he was lecturing. I watched him bring 300 people to awe and some to tears when he spoke about what fairies and the animist spirit life meant to William Butler Yeats and to the soul of the Irish people.

Costigan also publicly debated Wliiiam F. Buckley for two and a half hours on the ill-advised US foreign policy in Vietnam. The debate was televised and drew more viewers than that nights Sonics game. It was like watching Muhammad Ali stick and move while Joe Frazier just bullied and bashed.

Where have such mighty teachers gone? Where are our lions?

P.S. I do know one. Elizabeth Warren. She went to the Senate to take on the corruption head on. I hope she runs for President.

Remembering Ken Kesey

The erudite wild man of American letters came to speak at my small college in Vancouver, Washington in the early 70’s. It was a few years past the Merry Pranksters and the bus and the acid tests.

He called his talk “The Venusians, the Egyptians and Washingtonians.”

He seemed tired but the wizard of wonder slowly got his own ram shackled bus of a mind up to cruising speed—

crossing light years of imagination, crawling over the wreckage of Kerouac, the naive excesses of the 60s, the “celestial books” that LSD gave you brutal access to, and the wisdom of the ancients who speak through the millennia in coded signs and semiotica, the bull necked ex-wrestler really had only one message for us: wake up. Think for yourself.

Thanks, Ken. For everything.

Message received.

Note to Young People on Leadership and “Leaders”

We all have bad instincts.
Some people have good instincts.
People are more easily lead by their bad instincts.

As Pete Seeger says,
“That is the way it is in life. Those who know must lead. Just make sure you know who knows.”

Call if you have questions.

What it Takes

I like mountain gear. Always have. Your life depends on it so it’s no place to go cheap.
This is the gear you need for five days of mixed snow and rock route in the North Cascades. Weather permitting, we will do the north ridge of Forbidden Peak. If the weather gods are having a bad hair day or two, we will move over to the drier side of the range and do something else.


Poem For Joel

“In the east fame is won.
In the west deeds are done.”
–Henry David Thoreau

All fathers and sons
feud at times

If not aloud
then in silence

It’s Nature’s way
of passing the torch

Like King David in the bible
You are a wrestler with life

He partied like a rock star too
and became one of God’s favorites

Do your deeds in the east
If that is where Fate has taken you

The west, and I
aren’t going anywhere

Poem For Jenna

Inherit my smile, my thundering joy
a tone ring of banjo, a remnant of sin
that you may sing like a blues woman

We are not what we imagined
penny whistle marks
on southering gales

You with almond eyes
who listens like the biblical Mary
to what leans in from far Cassiopeia

taking a pounding in the waves
you are meant for greatness of heart
like the lion-hearted woman who gave you to us

Tell Me

(First published by Dead Snakes.)

Tell me I’m late.
Tell me the house isn’t burning down.
Tell me again how selfish I am.

Clouds carry rivers across the sky.
Marines carry their dead home. Always.
Do you carry more than a hat and gloves?

A City of Poets

I live in Portland, Oregon where you can hardly swing a cat without hitting a poet. Here are a some poems people have written on the sidewalks in my neighborhood.