All This Vanishing Brilliance: Personal Loss and Cultural Shifts

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  1. It's been a rough past few weeks for poetry, with the loss of John Gardiner, Keith Roach and – as I just learned yesterday –Marilyn Johnson. I was blessed to have known them all, if only slightly for Keith and Marilyn, and they've all had an influence on me as a person and as a writer.
  2. John I knew best, of course. That was a long relationship, and as I said before, one where we periodically butted heads. Keith and Marilyn I didn't know as well, but I enjoyed their work and their conversation. They were also both people who had a bigger impact than people realized. Keith as slammaster at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Marilyn as one of the editors of Pearl Magazine ... they both shaped poets and tastes far more than might be easily observed. They certainly helped shape my world.
  3. I feel I'm still struggling with what to say with all this loss, and I also find myself thinking about Chuck Mosley, the former lead singer of Faith No More, who just recently died. I almost saw him just a few weeks ago at Ralph's Rock Diner, but I decided not to go. Regret that now. It's one of those stark reminders of how you never know if something will be your last chance to see ... anything. Anyone. It's far too easy to take the world for granted. There's so much brilliance, and most of it we never see.
  4. Faith No More - We Care A Lot
  5. Observing brilliance has, in a way, been my life's work. It's been my privilege to encounter many great artists over the years, to talk to them, see them perform and to write about their art. Sometimes, the knowledge that there's still so much beauty and passion to be found is a small grace for a world which seems to be ready to rot from within from corruption.
  6. The news is a horror show, but it has its lessons: The sexual harassment//assault scandals, for example, have been heartbreaking, but now we've come to see just how much that corrosion has eaten away at every aspect of our society. Likewise, the Paradise Papers scandals teach us just how disingenuous the wealthy have been about hiding their money. We've learned that there are direct connections between domestic abuse and the rash of shootings we've been plagued by, and the more that gets dragged out into the light, the more we learn and understand:
  7. Because the goal of all this revelation, protest and naming of predators isn't just spite. It's about building a better world: Maybe one where women don't live with constant fear of harassment in the workplace, or where people of color don't have to see a routine interaction with the police as being potentially deadly, or where no one has to live with wild, unpredictable explosions of violence that end in massacres. Where the wealthy don't hide their riches while schools fail and any government program worth talking about is decimated.
  8. All of these lies and acts of oppression have made us weak. How amazing would the world be if every person, regardless of gender, color or any other factor, were able to live up to their real potential. How much has been lost by people being marginalized, or by their not having the opportunities or resources to succeed? How much damage has been done because we only pay lip service to the American Dream?
  9. This moment is an opportunity, a chance to clear away the deadwood of yesterday and make something better. I'll admit, I'm not optimistic, but I am, as ever, to paraphrase the great Desmond Tutu, a prisoner of hope.
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