Check out these great photos that Cleveland Public Library took while I was downtown this summer writing poems for their First Folio exhibit!
The Cleveland Public Library asked me to come do Poetry 4 Free in the Eastman Reading Garden on a couple of dates this summer as part of their celebration of the Folger Shakespeare Library First Folio exhibit.
I had fun — it’s been a couple of years since I was downtown writing poetry on the fly for folks, but I pretty much took right back to it. I wrote 11 Shakespeare-inspired poems in 2 hours. Folks could either give me a favorite passage, or pick from a few that I had selected.
— Free Poetry (@Poetry4Free) June 28, 2016
Some folks had no idea who Shakespeare was, and others related horrified anecdotes from college. A few people just grabbed a quote and took off without letting me write a poem for them. Everybody seemed like they were having a good time.
— Cleveland Digital PL (@ClevDPL) June 28, 2016
What will I remember about today, in this city that takes every punch, unflinching, on our chins; that rises up from every blow, standing tall, cut-mouthed against the world? I’ll remember that this day is like every other day this city working doubles while you slept on it this city skipping vacation to get the job done this city, laconic, intractable where we bow to no king no, not even our own this city of redemption where we always welcome our sons home Today, today is for YOU to remember: this city can always say it left it all on the floor this city where every stand is a last stand this city where we pull for each other, exchange blood-stained grins and sing loudest for the unsung. You had forgotten what we’ve always known Cleveland is the city filled with champions and tomorrow, we get back to work.
About a week ago I was contacted by Bill at Fox8 who had remembered my previous Fox8 appearance about my Poetry 4 Free project. His idea was to make a piece about how Clevelanders were reacting to the Cavs being in the finals & he wanted me to come up with something that would help tie it all together. I think he did a great job considering he had to plan the piece to work for victory or defeat. Clevelanders tend to be good at that kind of planning. Here’s the piece:
I also anticipated the possibility of needing two outcomes. My full poem is below. I only gave a couple of hours to it, so it isn’t as revised as I would like, but I knew it was going to be a small part of a larger whole, so I tried to structure it for both coherence and reorganization. I only had to change the first line of the last stanza to change the tone of the poem. Efficiency!
What will I remember about today, in this city that takes every punch, unflinching, on our chins; that rises up from every blow, standing tall, cut-mouthed against the world? I’ll remember that this day is like every other day this city working doubles while you slept on it this city skipping vacation to get the job done this city, laconic, intractable where we bow to no king no, not even our own this city of redemption where we always welcome our sons home Today, today is for YOU to remember: this city can always say it left it all on the floor this city where every stand is a last stand this city where we pull for each other, exchange blood-stained grins and sing loudest for the unsung. You have forgotten (or) One day you’ll learn what we’ve always known Cleveland is the city filled with champions and tomorrow, we get back to work.
I created a Twitter bot named @CLEHelperBot. It retweets the hashtag #WhereInCleveland. That’s all it does. What’s the point?
My thought process:
- I frequently don’t know where to find stuff in Cleveland. Stuff like gaffer’s tape, a decent tailor, an old-school barbershop, a date.
- How do I find people who know the answers to these questions?
- How can I make this useful for other folks?
For the bot to be useful, two things need to happen:
- Many Cleveland folks need to follow @CLEHelperBot and reply with answers to the #WhereInCleveland tweets it retweets.
- People need to use #WhereInCleveland when they want to find something around here.
I’m trying to crowdsource local knowledge to help out visitors & residents alike. If you use Twitter & live in Cleveland, I’d appreciate your help getting this off the ground.
Walk to Public Square, while you live, and sing the victims roughly shoved between lath and beam — the dead women — sealed in walls, scratching under the floor of Imperial Avenue. The Seymour attic decade, three women in chains a half mile from my home the raped child’s rape child on the same playground as my son sit down on Public Square while you live, and sing the victims your fingers in the holes left by one hundred and thirty-seven police bullets your body policed upon the asphalt so hard it stops your twelve years of life split open by a police sidearm. stand up on Public Square while you live, and sing the victims of men of police men of institutions of men, whose words are worse than silence. stand up on Public Square and tear it down.
despite the heat advisory, I brought my son to swim. ninety-four degrees on July 4th and Cleveland has been grilling ribs since 9AM and bottle rocket blasting since June 15th. My son runs off — but Antonio, thumbprinted mark of Cain beshouldered, ever-belligerent, redmopped stutterer with metal-backed teeth — comes to spit self-conscious impudence. He may sway to full-bore bully in annum but now the question growling in his seven-year skull remains unanswered. I father at him, a learned herding, outflank, astray, askance, a thwart to de-rile his style. Girls with fresh breasts, too shy to show their bikinis under shirt, come tell me how cute my son is. Girls not much younger take turns sitting on spout of fountainspray, hands trickling down… ever all-pursued by some omnipresent brown brawl of boys, stumble-tongued and puppy-eager. And I feel my age as the only parent here — adrift of vigor — cross-legged on a threadbare blanket palms flat into ground grit — A tart magnanimity, and all these young running to be old. As children suspect we withhold — I clutch this. It is right to keep from them. The patrimony, my first taste of entropy as cool lemonade. I died when my life became my child’s. Already my blood only heats between hot concrete and sky blaze. As something done grown, I watch this pack of growing things. A soggy neon ellipsis with spirals of water flung as it flies. A poor throw brings the ball to the feet of Antonio and the children all shout his name. All shout his name. A bend and I see fingers squeeze water; drops stutter poolside, the metal creak of the lifeguard stand. ALL shout his name. A choice made but inept arm betrays — launched in the general vicinity of no one. An eruption of water and from the scrum suddenly the whole pool is playing catch. Old men and lifeguards, my son astride my shoulders arms aloft and we all shout his name. All brought to life for what I’ll remember as — amid sun and the shadows of lost dogs — the moment when Antonio was king.