April 22, 2016 / Posted by admin / COMMENTS (0)

He to Hecuba


When I was in high school, I memorized a speech from Hamlet, on my own time, for my own pleasure, and without a grade being on the line. Why would a teenager do this? I was a theater nerd, and I read that Hamlet was the role that a young actor had to perform to be a true artist. I was mocked by some, but mostly admired for having the initiative to learn the soliloquy, and in an effort to be cool I would sometimes bust out the speech at parties. One time I dislocated my kneecap when a buddy picked me up in a bear hug and put me down before my leg was ready.

There are many famous speeches in Hamlet, but I chose the “O What a rogue and peasant slave am I” speech from Act II Scene II. In it Hamlet reacts to watching some actors crying and wailing over a character named Hecuba, he is galled that “in a fiction, in a dream of passion” these performers could muster such emotion, while he was impotent to do anything about his father’s murder. I now see why I was so inspired. As I write, I am transported to that thing that stirred me to study something for the pleasure of it. It was what I wanted to do with my life.

As I was seeding the soil of my dreams to act, in New Jersey, Prince was blossoming with his artistry across the globe, and I draw no parallel in these two paths. It’s just that as the news broke, my present self feels sad, mourns, and my Hamlet self is fighting to say, “who is he to Hecuba, or Hecuba to he” about my feeling of loss for someone I never knew. Who is Prince to me? That’s a long boring story being told over and over on all media.

Hamlet is mad at the actors, for their ability to weep for a fictitious character, but he is mostly mad at himself, for his inaction. I think some artists are so prolific and so in tune with their creator and creative channel that they elevate their status from the group, (meaning humans) that they take on mythical proportions. They become more than men, they move us, and if they nurture their gift they produce volumes of material at a pace that feeds the mere spectator whenever they reach for it. This feeds as simple entertainment, but when it is so good and, when so much of the artist’s soul goes into the work, it becomes more, dare I say it takes on Shakespearian scope. I am an avowed Springsteen fanatic, it comes with a birth certificate in New Jersey. I know Minnesotans feel the same way about Prince, but Prince music is in heavier rotation in my life’s soundtrack. Bruce is great, but his slow jam output leaves much to be desired, if you know what I’m saying?

The easy take is that I am mourning my youth, as are many, but for me losing Prince is like losing Shakespeare, in, that, years from now we will explain that there was a time when we listened to music, and watched videos, and forgave some iffy acting, just to see him on stage where he was untouchable. Where a cross-genre virtuoso had no peer, where a talent and work ethic was singular. He told an interviewer that he shunned categories, but if he had to say, it would be to inspire. And that’s what dawned on me, he inspired me. And I mourn that I have so much to do, but that to inspire is all art’s purpose. His spirituality can’t be left out of the story. I struggle with mine. Not sure what to believe, or what to do. Like Hamlet, I have a “motive and cue for passion”, but I need to act on it more. Prince tells you it is the spirit, it is God (as you define him/her) that you look to serve, to help some people figure this shit out.

It is why I mourn a guy they say wouldn’t allow eye contact, which might have been a running gag on the world, who dressed like a bullfighter, and who knew what he was sent here to do. So, to jump on the bandwagon, but, at least quote the source, I say “Goodnight, sweet, Prince.”

September 19, 2012 / Posted by admin / COMMENTS (0)

Apology To The Poets

Grief can make you do crazy things, silly things. Grief feels like your whole psyche is seizing, like an athlete dehydrating during a race. It can also, in hindsight, make you see something in yourself that you might not be too proud of.

My father passed away two years ago. And it took every day of those two years for me to be able to type those words, say those words, and not tear-up thinking those words. That’s the grieving process, or so I’m told. Part of the process that I was most resistant to, was the idea that things would get better. I didn’t want them to get better, I wanted to honor my dad by being unable to smile and laugh and to miss him with every tick of the clock.

During the two weeks of planning services and walking around my hometown like a zombie, I had a melt-down with my family that I was powerless to stop. If a transcript existed it would be hilarious. I was having a reaction to the mention of a group of poets who might want to share their words during my father’s viewing.

After retiring from the New York Times, my dad found it tough to adjust, and was in some ways rescued by a local group of poets who met and called themselves The Red Wheelbarrow, in honor of the famous doctor poet William Carlos Williams, who lived and practiced in my hometown of Rutherford, New Jersey. My dad became a leader in many ways and found an up-tick of productivity in his writing when most people settle down. He published poems in their annual release and published his own book of poems, Zerilda’s Chair.

“You know, maybe they could say a few things.” my brother said.


Or something to that affect. I was reeling and sad, I wanted to cast myself as the person to bring the house to tears with my eulogy. Our local catholic church would not allow lay people to speak and only scripture could be read. I was angry that no one from the family would be able to use their own words.

The truth is, that, I, the professional public speaker, would not have been able to compose myself, and it was really a moot point. But, the idea that these poets would get the floor made me crazy. It was misplaced emotion to say the least.

I’m not much of a poetry fan. I love Shakespeare and I like the quotes people post from famous poets, but I don’t wrap myself in verse very often. I liked my dad’s poetry, because it was free verse and sounded like talking. I had never read anyone else’s poems in their anthologies. For that I’m sorry.

I’m also sorry that I had ill will for a group of people who helped my father find a place in the world after retirement. A group that still invites my mother to their functions and treat her like a first lady of poetry, since he’s been gone. I want to thank them all. I want to thank them for, in the words of my brother, saving my father’s life, giving him a purpose, an audience, and a community.

Long Live The Rutherford Wheelbarrow Poets. Thank you for being there for my family, and thank you for your words. For what are we without our words? We are silent, and poets don’t go out like that, they have something to say and they leave behind their words to help us navigate the rough waters of life. A lesson I am grateful to have learned.