Thursday, January 5, 2017

HAMILTON--THE EPILOGUE

I am a little amazed at the brouhaha raised over the fact that an actor stepped  out in costume and spoke directly to the audience about a current political problem on  Broadway,  This was a practice that became expected in the theatres of London after Ben Jonson presented a spoken EPILOGUE to his play Cynthia's Revels(1600). During the Restoration  Epilogues used as political  commentaries became common  on the British stage. Epilogues were speeches  that addressed political realities and were part of the understanding that theatre formed an occasion for the political and ethical as well as emotional and  psychological education of the spectator.

Let's be accurate and recount what actually  happened after the performance of HAMILTON  when the actor playing the role of Aaron Burr stepped forward in costume and spoke to the audience  at the play's curtain. He was not rude or loud--he was asked to speak on behalf of the show's producers, he  spoke directly to Vice-President elect Pence.Here's the transcript of what Dixon said to the new vice president-elect on behalf of the Hamilton cast:
Thank you so much for joining us tonight. You know, we had a guest in the audience this evening. And Vice President-elect Pence, I see you're walking out but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There's nothing to boo here ladies and gentlemen. There's nothing to boo here, we're all here sharing a story of love.
We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out. And I encourage everybody to pull out your phones and tweet and post because this message needs to be spread far and wide, OK?
Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton: An American Musical, we really do. We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us — our planet, our children, our parents — or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.
Again, we truly thank you for sharing this show. This wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men [and] women of different colors, creeds, and orientations.
The statement, which doesn't seem "very rude" to me, was written jointly by MirandaHamilton's director Thomas Kail, and lead producer, Jeffrey Seller, according to the New York Times.

The Joy of Victory banishes the Agony of Defeat in Cleveland


Shooting water guns at an ecstatic crowd, Tristan Thompson is making his way   through the streets of Cleveland.  They are celebrating in Cleveland and I am celebrating with them. I am watching NBA TV.  What a relief to see a city celebrating instead of grieving; to see a people proud of  who they are and what they have accomplished.  This feels like a salve to the open wounds of terror and fear that have afflicted our nation,

That  National Victory means so much to Cleveland, and it means so much to me. It seems to hold  out a promise to me and to all people who  feel defeated--VICTORY IS POSSIBLE!

I wrote that last year and never posted it--when led by LeBron James  The Cavaliers were  the best team in the NBA. Now we are preparing for another celebration of another type of victory as  Donald Trump  prepares to take over the reins of the American government,  Instead of  helping our nation to heal each day we're bombarded with more sabre-rattling and threats about  nuclear  re-armament and the  un -leashing of another Arms Race.  We have the President-Elect questioning the  findings of our 17  national security organizations.  These are scary times.

I try to counter my  distress with my usual self- comforting thoughts.

1.I do not believe that we live in a malevolent universe.
2. The arc of  human  history is always towards freedom --although it seems to be flat-lining right now.
3. The arc of time is towards an eternity of Universal Restoration--that I must own is a statement of Faith.

 I choose to believe that evolution is a positive advance towards  human perfection that will unite  us with  Divine Perfection.
Or as GK Chesterton so well said--
"IF SEEDS IN THE BLACK EARTH CAN TURN INTO SUCH BEAUTIFUL ROSES, WHAT MIGHT NOT THE HEART OF MAN BECOME IN OUR LONG JOURNEY TO THE STARS?"



 


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Bridge Turns Purple for Prince

The front page of the Providence Journal recently featured a  striking photo of the new Rt 95 bridge bathed in a purple glow.   Mayor Donald Grebien had responded creatively  to the death of  one of America's greatest  musicians and performers, PRINCE.   I was struck by the beauty of the picture and the aptness of the tribute.  It was also  another  example of the  sound judgement of  Mayor Grebien and his responsiveness to the mood and  needs of  the people of  Pawtucket.

This is not the first time that the Mayor has shown good sense and sensitivity. His nuanced and  well-timed response to the  Pawtucket Red Sox and their threatened departure from  Pawtucket resulted in a renewal of the attempts to persuade  the Red Sox  to stay  on and  consider  upgrading the landmark McCoy Stadium. Symbolically,  Grebien threw out the first pitch on opening day  and that gesture to "PLAY BALL" seemed to  promise renewed efforts to  raise the loyalty of  the city population  to the ball team and the team to the city.

 One of the reactions I had to the news that came crashing down last year that the Red Sox were going  to move out of McCoy was a sadness and sense of injustice that our small  but important city, a  place that once had pioneered so much,  has been stripped of so many of its assets. Now on  bleak days it seems like a blighted shell of its former industrial and merantile glory--a city that could hardly sustain another loss.

Now another loss is  underway.  We have been told recently of a  plan to close down the historic Memorial Hospital  in the guise of   efficiency and cost saving. This announcement has raised the specter that this  city  will lose  a hospital that has served for over a century the  needs of the area that includes Pawtucket, Central Falls and Valley Falls, The Sayles family that  provided the initial funds  created a hospital that was a touchstone for  Pawtucket pride and well being.  I remember  walking in the grounds  when I was a child and admiring the young nursing students  in their crisp uniforms and dramatic capes  who lived in the   gracious Nursing School residence  --still visible on the Pond Street side of the  hospital campus. The people of Pawtucket  and Central Falls deserve a full service  hospital  near where they live as the  founders of the Hospital intended.

Yes, Pawtucket  has some major assets still intact but the city's greatest asset is its diverse and  enterprising population.  Seeing that  photo of the bridge bathed in a magic purple glow  also made me aware that something new and praise worthy has been added to the assets of  the city of Pawtucket.   See how we are still growing and evolving under the able leadership of Donald Grebien?


   

Friday, April 1, 2016

WARMEST AND COOLEST

Well just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, here came the logo and slogan  for JAWS IV. Spawned here in the warmest and coolest waters of Narragansett Bay. And if we don't like  the new ways that Gina and the Guys on the Hill have come up with to spend our tax dollars, we are branded as NEGATIVE.  Mark Patinkin need never fear--he will not  run out of material here in RHODE ICELAND,
I must say that I do like the way we have grabbed national attention again.  We should  just embrace the  reality of our  twisted souls--like Idaho chose FAMOUS POTATOES for their  motto.
You want negative? Try these on for size---

1, RHODE  2. ISLAND--TWO LIES FOR THE PRICE OF ONE.

RHODE ISLAND--WE'LL MAKE YOU AN OFFER YOU CAN'T REFUSE.

OOPS!  I just thought of another apt slogan--

RHODE ISLAND--A CHICKEN IN EVERY POTHOLE
or

RHODE ISLAND-A WILD TURKEY IN EVERY SENATE SEAT

or

ROGUES ISLAND-DON'T SAY WE DIDN'T WARN YOU

Friday, February 5, 2016

KEEP POUNDING IN THE BUCKET

Maybe like a lot of you, I sort of lost interest in the Super Bowl once the Patriots were no longer in the picture.  But even I am not immune to the hype and I must confess that I am  sensitive to Manning's position as a more limited but still brilliant quarterback. And I also see the charm of the prowess and youthful energy of Cam Newton. So I have paid  more attention. Today two stories that centered on  coaching caught  my eye.  The PROJO  discusses the  amazing  success of Kubiak with his history of a mini-stroke  being hired by the Broncos.  That story attests  to some loyalty in a world where coaches and players  are discarded daily with the mantra--nothing personal.  But I guess that  between Elway and Kubiak there was a personal bond of friendship which Elway honored,   On my own I did admire the way  Kubiak brought  Peyton Manning back to his position  part way  through a game where temporary QB Osweiler was faltering. Peyton turned the debacle back into a  triumph and the relief of the team and fans to have Manning back was palpable.

Also I learned something about the origins of the KEEP POUNDING  war cry of the Panthers.  That  phrase  originated with a sick and dying coach, Sam Mills.  There is no recording of the speech which  gives it the power of legend, but it seems that the ailing coach  transmitted his own indomitable fighting  spirit to his team when he described the  ways he was pounding back at the incurable cancer that was destroying him.  A Panther player who heard the talk reports that it was so powerful that "grown men wept," I was moved also by the longevity and power of this story and how it continues to inspire the team. One player remembered the message as "No matter what the circumstance is; no matter what the situation is, no matter what the score is, you continue to just keep going, and keep pounding. You don't give up," 

As I read these testimonies, I could not help but feel their power and  energy.
I thought about  my recent  low  points; made worse  by two deaths  since Christmas--my wonderful cousin Grace and my dearest friend Nick. A mourning spirit has stolen my energy and lowered my sense of my own  health and possibilities.  I stopped pounding--I was awash in grief and frequent tears.  But somehow  the  words of Coach Mills  to his team  brought me  up short.

How can I keep pounding here in Pawtucket?  How can I both honor the dead and include  their  struggle and their fighting spirit  into my life?
I don't have the answers yet to those questions, but I do know that by asking that question every day I will discover what  my answer is and what KEEP POUNDING means in the Bucket.  


Monday, January 4, 2016

Playing the Mug's Game in the Bucket


"[Poetry] may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves." "Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality." "As things are, and as fundamentally they must always be, poetry is not a career, but a mug's game. No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written: He may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing. "

These words above were written not by someone who hated poetry  but by one of the greatest of modern poets--T.S.  Eliot

They deserve our close attention and our respect.Mickey Coleman who visited me  recently from Ireland left behind a CD with songs that he has written and he performs.  HE HAS A   GOOD VOICE AND HE ALSO  HAS A POET'S TOUCH WITH THE LYRICS.
I have played his CD now  several times over and I  am reminded again that I come from a family of poets, singers, bards. 


My first memory of poetry besides the nursery rhymes that my mother read to me and I recited back to her is my love for the poem THE HIGHWAYMAN. She read it to me once and after that I asked for it every night. I started to memorize the melodic opening lines and I would sit with the book on our couch and recite it to the book and believed that I was reading it. I did this several times a day and was relentless in it . When my mother saw and heard she sat with me and just pointed to each word as I recited it and after many tries I suddenly got the connection and I was reading it. And I believe that I taught myself to read because I so loved the poem and wanted to read it any time that I wanted and not need to wait for someone to read it to me.
Listen to the wonderful cadences of the opening lines

The Highwayman

PART ONE

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.   
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.   
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   
And the highwayman came riding—
         Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.


I loved the word pictures and when I looked at a moon in a cloudy sky, I said the line from the poem.
Since I knew it by heart it became a kind of party piece—I could recite it to friends and amaze them.
Also I loved the sad romance of the lovely Bess who dies to warn her lover of the waiting Redcoats.

My second favorite romantic poem was the tale of Fair Ellen and the gallant Lochinvar. Here is the text of that pom which I also memorized and would recite often at the request of my Uncle Joe.

Lochinvar

O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none,
He rode all unarm’d, and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,


There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.


I suppose that the real daily source of my love of poetry and lyric was my mother's devotion to the voice of the Irish tenor, John McCormick. Every day she played a record of him singing such lyrics as those for I Hear You Calling Me and some of the melodies and words of the immortal Irish poet Tom Moore: Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms and Oft In the Stilly Night or The Last Rose of Summer. She would sing those gorgeous lyrics and the sound of her and her beloved Irish Count would fill the rooms of our Pawtucket tenement with their tender verses.

When I think of all the ways she encouraged poetry I wonder how I could not be a poet. When I was seven years old and began to go to the library by myself, I discovered and fell in love with the poetry of Lord Byron. I was so besotted with him and his male beauty that I cut his picture from the frontspiece of many volumes that I borrowed and put them on my bedroom wall.
I read and reread them and added some to my repertoire, such as:

WHEN WE TWO PARTED

When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.
The dew of the morning
Sank chill on my brow--
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.
They name thee before me,
A knell in mine ear;
A shudder come o'er me--
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well--
Long, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.
In secret we met--
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?--
With silence and tears.


WITH THESE  GORGEOUS LINES  I signed onto the Mug's game.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

THEY BROUGHT THE BABY TO THE BUCKET!


I want to write about a Visitation   in the Bucket yesterday.

I had been reading about recent discoveries about the Irish and  ancient  Celtic DNA.  Some  of it just showed up on my doorstep yesterday. MICKEY COLEMAN --He sent me an email and then a phone call saying that he was  coming to Providence from NY  and wondered if I would meet him on such short notice.  He had heard of me in Ardboe --the site of an ancient HIGH CROSS planted by Saint Colmain and the original home of my mother's parents, Joseph Coleman and Jane Conlon. It seems that  his great grandfather John Coleman was the brother  who did not leave Ireland in the  first part of the 20th century when Joe Coleman and his brother Big George  left Ardboe and sailed from Derry to  Boston.  I  agreed to meet and he showed up yesterday with his wife Erin and their 11 month old son Micheal,  He is a musician and he  gave me his CD which has a song that he wrote and sings about  my grand father's trip from Ardboe  it is called THE PATH TO PROVIDENCE.
We talked for a couple of hours and  I  felt so  happy to have  a new  and younger connection to  that half of my heritage.  He is only 30 so he never met  Margaret and Uncle Joe when  they re-discovered their family in trips that I took with them to  County Tyrone in the 1970s.  But he knew  about me and then he saw a picture that my mother sent to the Lough Shore News that showed her father Joe and George and their  friend Peter Coyle n Cumberland.
He is a person who takes an interest in his ancestors and  is moved by all they  suffered and endured to try to find a better life.
So it was very moving to me.  I had met so many of the old timers in  my visits in the 70s that he never met because they were  no longer alive.  I mentioned names  that I could recall and he filled in their details and was so glad that I  met them and could tell him how they had  seemed in their last years.  He is a writer of his own music and he  left some  copies of the CD with me. He has a website  www.  MICKEYCOLEMAN  
I do feel grateful that  he sought me out and I saw so much of  Margaret Coleman and Johnny Devlin's curiosity and ferocious intelligence and spirit in him.  
This seems  like a fine New Year's harbinger. Especially when they handed me the  baby boy--it felt like he  represented the  light that all babies bring into  the world and the special light of the Christ Child.  Also he seemed in his baby strength and energy to be a  signal of the possibilities of the NEW YEAR 2016.  After all the  New Year  is often shown as a baby in diapers chasing out the old year.
It reminded me of that lovely image from the poem of Sir Patrick Spence
Yestreen, I saw the  new moon
With the old moon in her arms.
So the young  usher us out --if we are lucky. 

 I also  got a call from my best friend  in Ireland Christine Hobson--so the  Gaelic  ghosts and  connections are gathering for the NEW YEAR,

Strangely  about three weeks ago I wrote a poem for the online Wisconsin poetry workshop  that surprised me 


I KNOW MINE


Fingers of ground fog
pushed through the window
seeped into my dream

like the miasma
of the bog
where I once
stood to dig peat
with my cousin Gerard,
who chortled as he showed
the visiting Yank
how to cut and stack the ancient fuel.

That wet wind cracks the code
of sucking mud, mold, compost,

waves of earthy decay

wash away the lingering undertone
of last night's
passing skunk.
Eyes wide open now
I inhale the scent of sod
that covers my dead.

It seems  this  writing and  recalling and honoring  our ancestors is in our DNA 

We know that the Coleman's are descendants of Saint Colmain of  Ardboe and  were a sept of the O'Neill clan. They were the  advisers to the Chieftain and also the bards who celebrated the victories and lamented the death s and defeats of the clan.  So we  know this  urge  even duty to write has  persisted for centuries we see it in John Coleman of Mullinahoe  a poet in the late 19th century, in Margaret Coleman,, in me, -we share a bardic hereditary tradition.