Month: February 2018

Creative Writing and Toxic Masculinity: In Praise of the Dumpster Fire

Recent events at Concordia University in Montreal – the suspension of two creative writing teachers, the buzz leading up to it, and the attendant reaction – intersect with my life in several ways. I have no new revelations, but I did have friends in that creative writing department back in the 80s, when, according to some, the culture of toxic masculinity had its origin. And I knew one of the men in question quite well during the 90s. A final, recent twist is that I’ve published poems in the literary journal whose editor-in-chief is the other professor relieved of...

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“This is Not Normal:” Two Decades After Columbine

It has been almost two decades since Columbine. I remember watching those events unfold on TV with a college roommate, feeling shocked, bewildered, outraged, overwhelmed. It was not normal. It is not normal. Yet, it is normal for today’s schools to practice lockdown drills from pre-school through twelfth grade in case such terror reoccurs. Yesterday, terror returned, but, for most of us, it seems distant, far away, surreal. My first year after college, I taught at a private school and we took our students to the neighboring park every afternoon. One spring day I was watching my fourth through...

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The Memorial Project: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, Chicago, IL

A woman from a nearby office enjoys a cup of coffee, a student is immersed in reading, a man in his late-60s pauses for a few moments to remember a fallen comrade. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza on Chicago’s Riverwalk is a unique commemorative space. Unlike many public memorials, which enjoin passers to stop, look up and remember, the memorial plaza invites them to remember within the space. The plaza focuses on a memorial fountain with a slab of black granite bearing the names of almost 3,000 Illinois servicemen who died in Vietnam, arranged chronologically. The fountain is flanked by a terraced lawn where Chicagoans, descending the stairs from State Street, or strolling along the Riverwalk, can stop, and rest, and choose for themselves how, and whether to remember. It is a powerful, contemplative space, and it is unique among American memorials. It echoes Maya Lin’s design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, while simultaneously evoking the “memorials for use” – parks, schools, bridges – built in the 1940s and 1950s to mark the memory of the Second World War. Yet this was accidental, or at least it was not by design. The memorial fountain was originally located in what the Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic Blair Kamin called “a glorified traffic island on Wacker Drive,” a location at the confluence of Wabash and Wacker with “all the serenity...

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We Need to Talk: Racism and Canadian “Justice”

Dear Canada, We need to talk. Specifically, we need to talk about the racism that is so natural and so ingrained in much of the population that most of you don’t realize it is even there. We also need to talk about Colten Boushie, who was shot in the head and killed by a non-Native farmer in Saskatchewan. That farmer was found not guilty of second-degree murder by an all white jury last Friday. Boushie was from the Red Pheasant First Nation. A jury in Saskatchewan found Gerald Stanley not guilty in the August 2016 killing of the 22-year-old...

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Spring Geography and Columbia Clutch by Fred Wah

Installment 12 brings together a poem from Fred Wah’s So Far (1991), and a new one, “Columbia Clutch” (2018). Both poems enact impending shifts, abrupt unearthings. Matter breathes, reveals, holds our attention. Yet the latter piece also attends to the double-edged amalgam of awe and harnessing at the heart of our interactions with nature: “Roll on Columbia, roll on/ Your power is turning our darkness to dawn.” (Photo credit and copyright: Halcyon Ploss) *** Spring Geography Things appear suddenly not new but as they remain left over from the winter for example. dead logs caught in the brush at all angles a breathing pushes out of them a picture in the warmer air sings to the surfaces of our skin and eyes a handfull of dead fingernails I love you today like I have never before fingers and hair. dead logs heads hands twigs sticks leaves grass the suddenness and warm air shimmering off the hood of a green 47 Dodge pickup mountains come out of the clouds the road down to the lake [SF :38]   Columbia Clutch some rust maybe or an old tire on the shore but internal combustion makes no sense the shape of the current isn’t diesel though the trains get grade geology all comes down to history the nation an imitation locomotive rolling stock ‘ol “Roll On Columbia” time traces depth never thought of a...

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