Sunday, November 25, 2012

Comet Scar by James Harms

The Poetry Book Discussion Group will take up James Harms's Comet Scar the first Tues. of Dec.

Jim is a master of the observed, even when his landscapes are created. 

At dawn the third
dimension gradually returns,
a scent like salt
in the wind. The ocean
is a sound at the edge
of sleep, easily mistaken
for leaves gathering in
the courtyard corners,
and the leading edge
of light slips loose of
palm trees and jacaranda,
rattles like dice on the terra-
cotta tiles.

from "Keep My Word"

I'm taken with his linebreaks, his sound-fulness and the small boxes full of stories.

Kudzu on the cover. A song
wrapped in wax paper, all stammer and prayer
and the low, little sounds
of bugs scratching screens.

from "Murmur R.E.M."

I love his love songs and the sad good night. 

Walt wore green trousers to school today,
a little tattered and short but baggy enough
to get by, his ankles sharp wings above
his shoes, Hermes delivering his little
sister to kindergarten, who's in a green cardigan
over green t-shirt; she hates to be pinched.

from "March 17th" 

If you're in Youngstown, come down to the Lemon Grove and we'll marvel at these poems over mugs of Christmas Ale. We waited all year for this. 


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Post-Election Optimism

This election has me feeling optimistic, a point of view I thought I had given up on. I lay down my doomsday scenario predictions, that post-Citizens United America would never see the success of a non-neocon. I will continue to hope for the nomination and election of rational, informed liberals and conservatives so we can have reasoned debate about the serious issues facing us. I long for a democratic process free of corporate money. But today, I applaud the fabulous diversity of the newly elected, who bring Congress closer to a representation of our population. I hope those lamenting the end of the rule of lily white (men) wake up and realize that white Americans are descendents of immigrants (often penniless) from northern Europe, that is all, and only those whose parents didn’t procreate with one of the descents of immigrants from anywhere else. I raise my coffee to my grandmother who said that if we intermarried, we’d all have a nice tan. I think that breaks down the idea of race quite beautifully.

So now that reason has made a comeback, let’s get real issues into the spotlight. Energy is first on my list since I am living in the shale gas crosshairs of the monsterish gas and oil industry. Let’s change the way we do everything. We need a nimble grid so buildings can feed energy into the system, and so that mutant storms don’t take out power for a whole swath of neighborhoods. We need good public transportation and bike paths, and public service ads that show how expensive and unhealthy the car is for us, personally, and our communities and countries. Let’s examine the way we use energy in industry. Let’s put solar panels on everything, and windmills down the center of highways, along every shore, along hedgerows of farm fields. Let’s power new buildings with geothermal, and require energy companies to fund homeowners’ and businesses’ installation of green energy and weatherization technology, to be repaid over time.And come on, America. Get off the single-use drink containers and plastic bags.

I see progress everywhere – certainly the local food movement is thriving here, and the energy it saves by not growing produce in petroleum-based fertilizer and shipping fruits and vegetables an average of 1500 miles is powerful to contemplate. But we are so very far from being able to claim that natural gas will help us transition from dirty coal and foreign oil. We are energy addicts, and gas is our new fix. It will kill us just as quickly, which is bad enough, but if we take the air, soil, water and climate with us, that adds a whole dimension of irresponsible horror. To those who say we can’t afford do to these things, I ask: Are you kidding me? What we’re doing now is costing us everything. Taking these steps will save a fortune in the cost of health care, military protection of foreign oil resources, environmental cleanup, highway maintenance, and in the case of fracking, water that has first been radiated, then taken completely out of the water table. It will also put people to work in fields with a real future.

I would also like to see a national discussion of personal responsibility, which is now code for cutting the safety net and not requiring corporations to pay a living wage. What can we reasonably expect of individuals? Let’s expect that. Where is the system rigged against the individual? Half of Americans live near the poverty line. Life expectancy can be predicted by zip code. Our own sense of agency is pathologically skewed when we live paycheck to paycheck, knowing we’ll lose everything with any ordinary disaster. The lion’s share of people in my generation are heading into retirement with very little savings, having lived through the loss of value of their wages, homes and pensions. The generation coming up will see all of their economic gains funneled into the repayment of student loans, which may take their entire lifetimes. We act like we’ve been hit by a tsunami, when in reality, we were hit by a redistribution of wealth. Let’s see some serious discussion on this, inside and outside of Capitol Hill.

I look forward to a reasoned and informed discussion on health care (to those businesses stroking out over the future projected cost of Obamacare – yes! let’s get the cost of health care entirely off the back of business), and foreign policy. Central should be our closest ally’s heartbreaking oppression of the Palestinians, a failure of Jewish teaching as much as our military violence is a failure of Christian teaching. Noam Chomsky’s moving piece about what life is really like in Gaza, which he calls the world’s largest open air prison, is here. And for the love of god, no more drones.  Let’s live up to our own rhetoric of peace, freedom and due process.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Youngstown Cash Mob gets all artsy

Youngstown gets its arts on for the holidays, and the Youngstown Cash Mob will be there.

Our November cash mob event will visit the holiday sale of the Artists of the Mahoning Commons in the historic Ward Bakery building, 1024 Mahoning Ave. This former bread factory will be creaking with painted silk scarves and pillows, small and large sculpture, jewelry, pottery, watercolor painting, photography, Christmas decorations, handmade hats, mittens, cupcakes, maple syrup, granola… 
The Youngstown Cash Mob day will be Sat. 17 Nov. noon to five, although the sale will continue the following Sat. and Sun. noon to five. An extra treat for us will be the performance of the Youngstown Complaints Choir! Conductor-composer-poet Kelly Bancroft collected complaints of Youngstown residents and set them to music. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if our complaints were always accompanied by music?  

We have added a free raffle to the cash mob days. This month’s winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate for The Health Food Center at 6015 Market St. The free tickets will be available at the Cash Mob table – stop by and say hello! You don’t have to be there when we draw the winning ticket at the end of the day. Congratulations to last month’s recipient of a gift certificate for Joe Maxx Coffee!

Instead of a formal December cash mob, we’re focusing the whole month on buying local for the holidays. Here are some gift ideas:
  • For someone who cares about skin: Lovely, handcrafted soaps from bodygoodies.
  • For someone who entertains: An antique dish from Joshua Tree full of retro candy from Touch the Moon Candy Saloon.
  • For the foodies in your life: A gift card for artisan bread from The Bread Chef and handcrafted jams from the Northside Farmer’s Market.
  • For someone having a big event this year: A coupon for the most beautiful birthday/graduation/baby shower cake ever from Clarencedale Cake or Sugar Showcase.
  • For parents or kids: A parents’ date night, including babysitting and a gift card from one of our wonderfully locally owned restaurants, or a kids’ day out at Oh Wow! science center and a stop at Maggie’s Magic Muffins.
  • For householders: A gift card for Uhrain Greenhouses, Girard Hardware, déjà vu décor, Star Supply or Mahoning Valley Vacuum.
  • For the love of your life: A gift card from Massage Café and Underdog Records.
  • For someone who has moved away: Youngstown t-shirt or memorabilia from Youngstown Nation.
  • For a reader: a stack of current fiction from Dorian Books.
We are so lucky to have these unique shops in our community, and they would appreciate your support. In a nutshell, think local these holidays! If you buy something wonderful and would be willing to send us a photo, we'll post it on our facebook page.

Our January cash mob will be at a business that’s younger than three years old. How can you nominate? Join our facebook page. Our nominations day is Sun. 2 December. We look forward to learning about the new kids on the block, so we can stop by and give them plenty of support. Our new businesses don’t have the advantage of million dollar ad campaigns and national name recognition. That’s where we come in!

Thanks for helping us spread the word.