Wednesday, September 6, 2017


I'm one of those people who believes the arts can actually save lives, because I feel like poetry saved mine. I also believe the arts can change lives, and that as futile as writing a poem to protest politicians or governments or movements or etc. may seem, It's still worthwhile, even if it only changes one mind, or none but still bears witness to the protest.

I was fortunate to have a few poems in CAMPFIRES OF THE RESISTANCE, a poetry anthology edited by Todd Gitlin, that came out of the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s. I don't remember Hilton Obenzinger having any poems in that collection, but he should have. (You can spy him in photos of the famous 1968 Columbia University takeover by protestors.) I included his poetry in an anthology I edited in the 1970s, NONE OF THE ABOVE.

I always liked his independent spirit and critical eye and ear, and thanks to the Internet, we're back in touch. When Hilton's latest book, TREYF PESACH, was put together, he asked me for a blurb, which I will quote here as my take on it:

"Testament and testimony, Hilton Obenzinger's Treyf Pesach embraces echoes of The Old Testament/Torah, Whitman and Dickenson, Robert Frost and Rosa Parks, incorporating all that and more into the poet's bearing witness to the travails of our times in what one poem describes (referring to Frost) as 'American plain-talk verse,' verse that refuses to be silenced, watered down, placated, compromised or ignored."

There's a little more, but that'll give you the idea of why I believe, if you want some great poetic and prose takes on how to view current events and challenges, you should check out this book. I'll leave you with one of the poem/psalms in it:

Be Here
If the soldiers come, 
If the holy ones come,
If the trees come walking through the doors,
If you unscrew the locks from the doors,
If the mountains come, stumbling through the doors,
If you unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs,
If you open doors in the middle of dreams,
If you sanction love without murder,
If the refugees come, muddy and drowned,
If you have joined their stream, ready to drown,
If the Border Patrol covers the earth with shackles,
If the Border Patrol covers the earth with lost doors,
If you make miracles of simple survival,
If you resist all icy embraces,
If the Coast Guard decides there is no coast,
If you can find no doors,
If the holy ones require a forwarding address,
If love needs a place to hide,
If the soldiers come,
You can stay here,
You can hide here,
You can stay by my side,
Be here

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