Posted by: hannah jo | September 6, 2008

Poetry can save your life

It’s been a tough week. My head is still spinning about the Republican VP choice and I’m kind of losing my mind over it. After all these years of hoping that I might see a woman become President some day, I never imagined that she might be a right-wing freak. A woman who doesn’t believe in evolution. Who doubts that global warming is happening. Who belongs to the NRA and likes to kill moose for fun. Who doesn’t believe women should EVER have the right to abortion. Who thinks that preaching abstinence is an effective form of sex education.

I told Andy that I might have to impose a media blackout on myself between now and the election. I’m losing even more sleep than normal (I’m pretty much an insomniac, anyway, but now it’s terrible). My stomach hurts. I’m in the grouchiest, meanest mood imaginable. I’m full of fear. This country just might be stupid enough to elect that completely unqualified woman and McCain into office.

So, today, I did something really smart. I went to a poetry reading at one of my libraries. It featured Washington State Poet Laureate Sam Green, as well as Kathleen Flenniken and Richard Wakefield. And, you know what? There were 50 people there, on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. We all got to experience the pure pleasure of hearing poetry read aloud by talented poets. I spoke to Sam Green afterwards and he mentioned that he grew up in Anacortes. I told him that I had lived in Oak Harbor and, wouldn’t you know it, his father graduated from the same high school that Lori and I did. We had a lovely time chatting and I was so impressed by him. It was the perfect way to stop thinking about the election and, instead, think about something that matters even more now than ever — art and its ability to save lives.

A young man was there, a would-be poet, who was a dead ringer for Jeff Tweedy, and he waited and waited till the very end, after we had started stacking the chairs and cleaning up the cookie crumbs, and he finally approached Sam Green and started talking to him about how to get published. Now, you know Sam Green probably gets these questions from people all the time and must get sick of them, but he was so gracious about talking to the young man, offering him advice and encouragement. I was moved by Mr. Green’s kindness and by the thought of what that conversation might mean to that young poet. I think it’s safe to say that poetry saved us both today.



  1. Pam and I saw Green at the Confluence Project dedication and were both impressed. The word unpretentious and poet are not necessarily always connected, but Green certainly seems very genuine. The poem he created for that event was descriptive and hit all the right notes. Yes, poetry can save the day with all this Alaska governor madness as big box churches are going to be rallying their Dalek zombies around Caribou Barbie. I have vowed to have a copy of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On nearby throughout the next 10 weeks to keep my own personal stability in check. Thanks for your dispatch here. Hang in there my friend, the far right is not as important as our stomach linings.

  2. Excellent suggestion, Bob! What’s Going On is definitely on my list of top ten favorite albums of all time and maybe even in the top five. I put it on today, in the car, and instantly felt better.

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