Well now, if all goes well, this post will give you a quick ticket to some highlights of the Walla Walla Poetry Party 2005 videos that I recently uploaded to YouTube. My last post was similar, but announced uploads of WWPP ’03, so these are brand new, just for you.
Snooze alarm! The end of every one of these new uploads finishes with the exact same set of credits accompanied by the exact same music track, including the exact same set of audience hoots and chortles. Don’t let it put you off poetry for life. Read the credits once and enjoy the tune, and on subsequent viewings of the ’05 poets, just click away when you hear Bobcat’s plaintive “There’s some trophies on the shelf in the bedroom”.
Now there are folks out there scratching between those two hairs left on their heads and wondering, “Just what the hey does this so-called Familographer have to do with family, anyways?” I guess its only fair and righ that I put a few (very) words in here, in an attempt to respond to that perfectly reasonable question.
Everything is about family when, and the way I think about it. I write about it hoping to bring others around to do some thinking on it with me, because some of you (DON’T say it!) are smarter than I am. This is how I was raised, or rather the way I was raised to be, by my parents. But I embraced some mistaken notions about what a family really is, until comparatively late in my life. This may be true for others, as well. My biggest error was in the acceptance of a conceptual membrane between my perception of the traditional family set, i.e. consanguinal (blood) and affinal (marriage), when in fact there is really no line at all, unless you want to draw an encircling, inclusive line that countenances persons of the same general turn of mind on important issues, and in some cases even adversaries in practical activities, amiable or otherwise. A lot of family of family lawyers, if they ever read this, will be saying “I’ve got news for you”, and I say “No, I’ve got news for YOU”. Keep reading, and you’ll see what I mean, I hope.
Admittedly, family starts with blood and marriage, and those ties are much on our minds growing up, conscious or not. If we’re lucky, our families teach us the meaning of love. Here’s an example from WWPP ’05.
When it comes to brothers, this rings a bell with me. I like to think I have a million brothers, with the closest in all ways being my three male siblings. Same for sisters, of which there are two siblings, and I feel closer to them than they to me, but I’d be hard pressed to explain how the calculation is made. Back to brothers, I don’t have a big brother, like Janice King’s obviously is, but I do have a bigger one.
Some of our brothers and sisters are, (alas, in too many cases) locked up, which is to say that their bodies are in cages, not unlike zoo animals, which get more visitors. This is something I don’t approve of; I dislike it intensely, in fact. There are a lot of reasons, starting with those alleged to be the cause of incarceration. The great majority of inmates were drunk, stoned or both when they committed the offense that caused their grabbing. It’s fair to say that a lot more such crimes go unpunished than those for which a “perp” is nabbed, falsely or for real. It is one of those realities that benefits workers in the vast law enforcement system economically far more than the the crimes cost to society. Thus, it is unlikely that the great number of lawyer-legislators are likely to do more than nod and wink at the need to improve on it. But poets notice these things, and it takes more than a riot of lawyers to shut down a strong poetic voice, even when the physical body that emits it is all the time racked with tremors.
Janine Pommy Vega is one the too few but most precious of family members: the Elder Sister. She is one of the original Beat Generation women (See Bill Morgan’s excellent biography of Allen Ginsberg, “I Celebrate Myself”). I don’t know where to look for a most trustworthy voice on the subject of the overriding importance of individual freedom to human dignity.
The more I think about family the way I do, the better I like it. It permits me, for example, to relate me to people who, when I couldn’t claim the family relationship as I do, made me feel inferior just thinking about their accomplishments. It could make one downright resentful unless one could claim propinquity, at which point it becomes uplifting as hell.
“I don’t know Jimmy Carter personally, but he’s like a father to me”, I might say, and it would make me feel like I am actually somebody. It kind of takes one out of the running joke category “If everybody has to be somebody, why can’t somebody else be me?” and puts one up there, if not on the pedestal, at least close enough to rest an elbow and a beer mug on it. Of course even Jimmy Carter struggled with these issues, in the time before he got so old he couldn’t have the kind of fantasies a certain branch of the congregation regard as infidelity if not adultery. Sex can be a problem in families this big, when the animal has sex on the brain pretty much 24-7. Uncle Jimmy admitted “I committed adultery in my heart”. Of course most of us know the difference between the wet dream and the real thing, and some of us just hallucinate under anaesthesia, and are blameless.
Poets like to write about body parts. There’s a whole big piece of http://www.poets.org about it. Some of the poems are very nice. Maybe too nice, unless you believe in a family that reproduces asexually, a notion your Familographer will happily debunk for you here and now, or let a couple or three poets do it for him.
Next, lest we forget the “hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone“.
And lest anyone think that the man of the family is its master, an extraordinary poet has thoroughly debunked that conceit for all time:
And finally, because it’s Sunday and so many in this family admit to feeling awash on that day with feelings that infidels (your Familographer) honestly share, to the extent that such feelings include one’s hopes for a better world with happier, healthier families, there are the words of poets incomparable in the depth and range of their genuine and sincere faith, whatever name they give it.
That’s all for today’s service, family. Soon I’ll be drawing on the wisdom of some younger poets to explore some of the issues relating to less traditional, but every bit as important configurations of families.
“May the longtime sun shine on you,
All love surround you
And the clear light within you
guide your way home”
-anonymous [meaning I don’t remember where I got it]