Friday, June 16, 2017

Hard Times revised

Hard Times “These are times that try men’s souls.” Yes, a Sanders Democrat shot some Republicans on a ballfield in Virginia yesterday and was shot and killed for his efforts. No, in this country we don’t want people shooting each other for any reason. But who is primarily responsible for easy access to firearms, people of the left like yesterday’s shooter or people on the right who have fetishized the Second Amendment to prop up the most liberal gun laws in the industrialized world? I’ve read and heard today (June 15) so much apologist hand-wringing by liberals in the press and on social media that I must remind my fellow lefties that just one leftwing nut job was guilty of yesterday’s shooting and that every day Republicans in office wage war on the common people of America. Who else but Republicans are conspiring in secret to write a partisan health-care bill that does away with our health care, abandoning protection of the critically wounded environment, designing a tax reform bill that redistributes wealth upward, denying women the right to choose how they manage their own lives and bodies, delaying the urgent need to repair our infrastructure, ignoring the daily toll of violence on black Americans, exacerbating the daily trials of Spanish-speaking immigrants working to better their and their children’s lives? In almost every area of government concern, elected Republicans pursue policies to aid the affluent and to hurt the rest of the country. They don’t need guns to prosecute their war on common people, because they have political power and loads of money to back it up. While we must deplore the use of weapons, the Left needs to be more militant in working to retake political power. We must not tolerate yesterday’s shooting, but we should not act as if we are somehow culpable for the increased violence in America, especially when Donald Trump on the stump egged on his followers to commit violent acts upon protesters in their midst. The rightwing has a disproportionately large role in the escalating violence around us, while we of the Left must continue the non-violent struggle for social, political, and economic justice for all.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Post-Election Outlook

While the Trump victory seems deplorable to some folks, it's a well-deserved comeuppance for the ineffectual and snotty crew who have been leading the Dems down this election losers' trail: D. Wasserman-Schultz and Donna Brazile, Robbie Mook and Joel Benenson, and Old Bill Clinton. Who are the strategists who saw to it that Hillary never visited Wisconsin, which she lost, during the campaign, who failed to insist that she offer a clear alternative to Obamacare, who let her endlessly and tediously attack Trump instead of offering her vision of the future (assuming she has one)? Why did she avoid the conflict over the pipeline in North Dakota and ignore the costs to the ecosystem of fracking? Also sharing the blame for her loss are the legions of feminists who put their desire for a woman president above the national interest and thus defeated the Dems' best hope, Bernie, in the primaries.

For years we have needed a new party, an aggregation of the “minorities” who reject the two-party system—and find Bernie and/or Trump attractive alternatives—the disaffected of all identities and persuasions whose focus is unity, not individual causes. And how about a parliamentary democracy, sans electoral college, as a form of government? Most free modern nations have one. Without multiple parties espousing essential issues, like our perishing environment, that the two-party system ignores or downplays, we will blunder on while the rich get richer, the poor poorer, under the status quo.

Friday, September 9, 2016

9/11 Poem

Below is my poem "That Tuesday Night," which I wrote not long after 9/11. It's in my chapbook Bleak Splendor (Muddy River Books, 2016) and first appeared in the anthology An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind: Poets on 9/11 (2002).

That Tuesday Night

That Tuesday night, after the towers

burned & fell down-

town, after watching them crumble—

unlike the one Paul Newman

saved in Towering Inferno

from the plaza in front of Rosenthal

Library, after walking home

from the subway in the yellow

summer twilight, gagging

on the acrid air and looking

at the thick sooty column rising

downtown where the towers

had loomed Gargantuan on the skyline

for over three decades,

I went to wash my face,

as though cold water and soap

would wake me from this dream

of violence and violation,

and I saw that man in the mirror,

red-rimmed eyes, yes, but

the same sagging wrinkled

skin, the same thinning,

graying hair above the same lined

forehead, and I knew that he

was lucky to have lived

to sixty-five—too young for WW II

and Korea, too old for Viet Nam

lucky to have lived his soft

American life without much fear

from abroad, except spotting airplanes

as a kid and catching a breath or two

as JFK stood down the Russians in ’62,

and in the glare of the bathroom light,

the sirens screaming just up the street

at St. Vincent’s, I knew nothing

could ever make me

safe again.

Friday, October 23, 2015

President Obama: Public Intellectual

President Obama: Public Intellectual

The November 5 issue of The New York Review leads off with the first of a two-part conversation between Marilynne Robinson, the distinguished novelist and theologian, and President Obama. The setting is Des Moines, September 2015. The subject is American citizenship and the role of Christian thought in a democracy, now fraught subjects because of growing sectarianism and exclusiveness in this country. 

               As the President and Ms. Robinson converse, they sound earnest and thoughtful. Robinson speaks of “a terrible darkening of the national outlook” as a result of growing “in-group” distrust of “the other,” while Mr. Obama looks at the longer term: “I’m always trying to push a little more optimism,” and to allay her discouragement, he says, “Well, we go through these moments.” He shows an easy familiarity with Robinson’s writing, suggesting that the characters in her novels show that it’s not “easy for them to be good Christians.”

               Early in their conversation, it becomes clear that both the writer and the politician, who is also a good writer, share a Midwestern low-Protestant background, so that that when she describes her upbringing in Idaho, he says it “sounded really familiar to me when I think about my grandparents who grew up in Kansas.” They share a “sense of homespun virtues.” This Obama is one that is often obscured by the snide, bigoted rejection of him as nonnative, Muslim, and black. But he is after all half-white and a Protestant. When he reads Robinson’s novel Gilead, he recognizes that she is “thinking about American democracy, or, for that matter, Christianity …” and treating “the issue of ‘the other.’”

               I look forward to the continuation of this conversation in the next issue of The New York Review, and I heartily recommend this first part for two reasons. One is that it shows we have a President as conversant with the writing and ideas of his time as any president of France. Our Obama is an articulate public intellectual. And second, the conversational form allows him to be both professorial and empathic in talking with another prominent public intellectual, Marilynne Robinson. (Her initials, by the way, match those of Mrs. Obama, née Michelle Robinson.) As chief executive, President Obama sometimes falters by sounding too professorial, intellectually detached, pensive as Hamlet. But in conversation with an intellectual equal, President Obama reveals a compelling grasp of significant issues in our troubled republic and in doing so, deserves our attention.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

New Poems Online

If you are still following me, I apologize for a long absence from this blog. I have read, by the way, that the blog is obsolete, superseded by social media. Do you agree? In any case, a new poetry chapbook of mine, Bleak Splendor, is soon to be released by Muddy River Books, in Brookline, MA, and two of the poems included are now up at Five Willows Literary Review:

Another pair of poems is at Literary Matters: 

on pages 34 and 36 of this pdf publication. Please check them out.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The New Devil's Dictionary

Here's a link to new work of mine at Five Willows Literary Review:

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Haiku Workshop

I'll be giving my fourth haiku workshop at the South Fork Natural History Museum, Bridgehampton, NY, on Saturday, 26 July, at 10 AM. If you can attend, that would be great. Here are the details:
Writing a Haiku Poem with George Held

7/26/2014 · 10 am - Saturday
Bridgehampton, SoFo
Leader: George Held

In this small group workshop George Held, who has published more than 100 haiku and 18 poetry books, will teach the philosophy and practice of the haiku, a concise Japanese form of verse that is written widely throughout the world today. Because the haiku focuses on an instant in nature, the SoFo Museum and adjacent field and woods will offer many opportunities for a "haiku moment": this occurs when the writer sees a natural object and has an insight into it that can be expressed in about 12-17 syllables. Only a pen or pencil, a small notepad, sharp eyes and a clear mind are needed. Limited enrollment.

Photo: Writing

To make a reservation for this program, please call the museum at 631-537-9735

377 Bridgehampton / Sag Harbor Turnpike
P.O. Box 455
Bridgehampton, NY 11932-0455