This is my faith: bones of a Radical Manifesto

Nothing here about petitions, phone calls or emails to “leaders” begging them to do something for us. Or supporting candidates. Or elections. This is a radical agenda. The simplest outline of a Radical Manifesto. The basics. No NGO’s. No Gov. approved non-profits. Go where permit and license not needed–or if they are, do without, and call it Resistance. Start with the basics. The foundation. Work for change from there.
In these dark times–what can we do in the world?
Ask … what matters, always, everywhere?
Medical/health care.
Education (in the broadest sense)
… and the arts: poetry, dance, music, the visual arts… because without language that has the power to remind us how to be human–we are lost.
Imagine, then, what each of these might be in the world we want to live in.
Join hands with someone. Together, begin to clear some space, small or large, for that to happen. To plant the seeds, that will become our garden… the garden we thought had been lost to us forever.
If your hand is empty now–if you are not within reach of someone whose hand you know you can grasp–acting in resistance and solidarity to make that world… how could one not but feel helpless? And if you feel helpless–so does someone else.
Find them…
They need you, as you need them. Believe in yourself–that they need you, as you need them!
Speak up. Reach out. When we find one another, we will know what to do. Trust that this is so.
That is my faith.

Philadelphia Poetry: This Place, This Time


written after a reading, August 2010, in Elfreth’s Alle

What is the concern for poetic pedigree but the archaic desire to search out the one train among all those tangled tracks that will take one’s poems into the future, whether in the echoey Grand Central Stations of sainted orthodoxy or the sidings and rickety platforms of the avant? A last gasp of the ancient infatuation with immortality. What could be less fitting for what may be the last few generations of human life on earth? What future? As for the past, if we are at the end of it all, what is there to celebrate in a lineage that’s led us lemming like to the edge of the precipice?

What I love about the interlocking circles of Philadelphia poets is their radical contemporaneity, maybe the only thing they… we… hold in common, a fierce passion for the present that I’ve come to share. A passion that finds no contradiction in flaunting an eclectic diversity of styles, in drawing freely from whatever traditions and trends succeed in exciting new work, whatever has the street smarts to survive, to stay awake, eyes wide open–and all the while, stubbornly refusing to turn off the dreams.

How like in their disregard for imagined futures the poems we read at Elfreth’s Alley–those things selected for the ‘time capsule,’ bits and scraps, memoranda and found things–covered with a layer of dirt unlikely to survive the first rain, sealed in a cookie tin a single winter will likely be enough to turn to rust. It didn’t matter. What a perfect setting for that reading, for the magic ceremony of the opening and closing moments–this colonial street, the facsimile Declaration of Independence. Words released into the summer heat. What endures, I heard—is not a fetish of the past or fancied future, but now–and not an eternal unchanging present, but its constant unfolding into this time, this place, this city of poets and the possibilities of love we can create, here and now.

When it’s cold Poetry will warm your soul and make you angry and change the world.


I was going to a poetry thing outside the Masonic Temple but woke up all snuffly and its way hard to blow one’s nose when its this cold and I didn’t want people to see a poet with icicles dangling from their nostrils so I decided to stay home and drink hot chocolate but if you see poets outside the Masonic Temple stop and listen to them and take their handouts which will be poems and not invitations to the next demonstration though I was going to put invitations like that on the back of my poem-handouts because this is a fucked up country in a fucked up world and we have to keep coming out to the streets and shouting and chanting and making people so angry they will be almost as angry as we are and will wake up and join us and change this world which is what poetry is all about waking people up and imagining a better world so if you see poets outside the Masonic Temple north of City Hall here in cold cold cold Philadelphia stop and listen and take their handouts and then invite them someplace warm and non-corporate and buy them hot chocolate because they are very brave and dedicated poets and I love them very much and am sorry that I woke up snuffly — I wish I could be with them.

Reading at the Bride: a tribute and thanks to CA Conrad

I went to a reading at the Painted Bride on Thursday. A time for remembering. For reflection. I shared a reading at the Bride in — 1966? –with the late Henry Braun. That was when the Bride was on South Street–Gerry Givnish had recently opened a gallery in what had been bridal store–hence, the name.

I was 25–a very young 25. I don’t know how I got that reading spot–it was in this bare store front space, fold up chairs. Paintings on the wall. Don’t remember if it was before or after–but I brought some of my paintings–an open invitation for artists they thought might fit their vision. I didn’t. My paintings didn’t (large oils of faces–filled the canvas–somewhat expressionist mode). I think I looked way too straight and middle class to fit in, and my paintings too over the top for their more “cool” ironic aesthetic…Philly Warhol school.

Before the reading Thursday, I took in the paintings in the gallery. Remembered. How nice, I thought–that this had come from that. A poetry reading in a gallery, surrounded by art.

Such a beautiful reading –with CA Conrad and Frank Sherlock. Not only are they both great poets, but they have exemplified with their generosity and support of poets in Philly and beyond, something as important as the poetry itself. An idea of poetry that has rejected competition, exclusion, the musical chairs of who will survive, who rise to the top–that whole fucking capitalist Darwinian struggle, refereed by literary gatekeepers. They stand for another world, another way of living and loving, the world that we dream might be. This is the poetry of the extraordinary family that I’ve come to be a part of, and I feel so fucking lucky to have lived long enough to experience and share.
I felt this deep sense of affirmation as they read–that we are committed– together– in our poems and our lives, to making a better world, to supporting one another, to a creative struggle of imagination and compassion against indifference, cruelty and submission to the lordship of money and power.

I wanted to voice my appreciation here, and my amazement, at finding myself at such a time and place, in being able to be part of this unfolding creative family.

Thank you CA Conrad, Frank Sherlock… and all the wonderful Philly poets who have informed, and transformed my life.  I love you… all of you.