Poetry

Poems of Parenthood

“Being a new parent is nice, but not always. Sure, the days are filled with tiny laughs and lots of firsts, but sometimes they’re filled with cries, and sometimes you miss the firsts because you’re off crying in your car. Nothing is always nice, but nothing is awful all the time, either. I hope these poems convey in a real, human way how it is to have an infant.” — Rich Glinnen

Free

The question “Does censorship destroy freedom?” is, of course, impossible to answer yes or no. Certainly censorship can be a tool of tyranny and oppression, as we are seeing in Myanmar and Hong Kong today. But in a society which strives to be “free,” if the censor respects his or her jurisdiction and acts as an instrument reflecting current standards and (perceived) values, then a particular act of censorship can be appropriate and harmless, at least in the long run. The wealthy and powerful tend to enjoy “more free speech” because they have the means to reach a wider audience with a bigger splash, of course.
Academics have written about the “tyranny of iambic pentameter” in English-language poetics, lasting till late in the 19th century. The expression is figurative, though, as there was no actual “tyranny”: only a centuries-old tradition of taste, a vogue, a zeitgeist. Gerard Manley Hopkins (b. 1844) is frequently credited with breaking through and “freeing” the metric line with his technique of “sprung rhythms.” But Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman were writing outside of that tradition as early as the 1830s.
Today, many literary journals refuse to publish, and professors regularly tell their students not to write, rhymed or metric poetry. These practices, too, reflect a current zeitgeist. Still, I have noticed that when editors or poetry professors say “free verse,” they really mean “unrhymed, unmetric, and non-formal.” Verse that is not free to rhyme is not really free verse at all.

How Many?

Censorship can destroy freedom, but some level of “censorship” (or oversight) can also create an environment that enables freedom to flourish for those who may otherwise be unfairly targeted by false, often hate-filled rhetoric. My piece is a reflection on what happens when we are so focused on restricting any and all forms of censorship that we allow dangerous viewpoints, often controlled by the wealthy, elite, to flood the marketplace.
Throughout history and now with the spread of fake news (actual fake news, not the kind complained of by that formerly powerful person), we can see how widespread suffering can be perpetuated by unchecked speech, i.e., through vaccine and pandemic-related disinformation, etc. We already have limitations on free speech when it comes to incitement, but as my piece points out, we often allow the political elite to get away with using their platform and resources to spread dangerous information that does not necessarily rise to incitement, and this sometimes has dire consequences. Who really knows how many lives could be saved if we didn’t allow elites to make outrageous claims that influenced public opinion? After all, slavery was once grounded in religion, Syrian refugees were likened to terrorists coming to take over countries, and anyone can see the result of massive disinformation surrounding the pandemic. Reflecting on this, it makes one wonder just how many lives could (and should) have been allowed to flourish if we would be willing to do something to combat disinformation — even if that means agreeing to some level of censorship.

Words as Weapons

Freedoms of speech and press are the unalienable factors of what constitutes a free society. They are what separate the U.S. and other free democracies from the authoritarian leadership principles held by Nazi Germany, Communist China, the U.S.S.R., and the Socialist dictatorships currently in power throughout South America. It’s what gives U.S. citizens the right to criticize our government’s actions, no matter who’s in power, without fear of repercussion or even death. I find it unequivocally revolting that there are those on the far Left in America today, including many Left-leaning poets and writers, who push for these freedoms to be stripped away from our population. Especially after the Liberal poets of the 1950s and 60s put their freedom on the line to fight for freedom of expression against the Conservative consensus culture of Cold War-era America. The idea of supporting censorship in any fashion, I believe, is a slap in the face to great poets like Allen Ginsberg and our recently lost Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who fought for these freedoms for all writers to enjoy. When the only plausible recourse against those who wish to take our freedoms from us is our voices, my words are my weapons in this war, and I refuse to be disarmed.

Losing My Dad

The following poem series describes the grief after a father’s suicide. They are part of a series in which the poet looks back at his childhood, but also to recent years when the poet estranged from his father during his deepening depression and alcoholism. Losing your parent is a hallmark of life, but suicide is not a natural event. At the time, the press announced that 21 veterans died daily in the US.

Water Striders

“Water Striders” addresses the mundane through a surreal metaphor. Focused on the abstract feeling of monotony or depression (or whatever it is the reader can find in it), “Water Striders” juxtaposes this with a fantastical realm, creating a mystical narrative of negative emotionality. Finally, when the protagonist breaks the cycle, the readers are left wondering whether this leads to something better, worse, or just different — we can’t know.

Forget-Me-Not In Broken Couplets: How Love Affects Our Souls

Experiencing love is linked to higher self-esteem, improved immune system, lower blood pressure, and various other health benefits. For many, achieving love is akin to self-actualization: it is the ultimate goal of life and synonymous with true happiness. The desire to attain love can lead to obsession, codependence, and intense fears of rejection. Without love, we feel unworthy. So, what happens when love becomes additive? When a fundamental human faculty is utilized excessively, transforming a healing experience into a damaging one? Is it better to have loved and lost, or better to have never loved at all?