Is Poetry Important? Well, It’s Saved My Life.

There once was a fairly popular jazz singer from New York named Susannah McCorkle. She recorded quite a few albums, performed all over the place, and had a steady gig at the Algonguin Hotel at 59 W. 44th St. in Manhattan. (Yes, I’ve stayed there before. Gorgeous private wet bar in my room). But, you know how it is with businesses – out with the old, in with the new. As the Algonquin started hiring new, younger vocalists, the writing was on the wall – Susannah was about to go the way of the dodo bird.

Susannah had been a singer, and primarily just a singer, since she discovered Billie Holiday. She was in her early 20’s at the time. Dedicating her life to interpretation of the classics, she gained a bit of notoriety. All of that came crashing down when the management of Algonquin told her, when she was around 54 years old, to clear out her locker. A breast cancer survivor, and plagued for years by depression, she did what a lot of folks did with no other foreseeable source of income – take a flying leap out of their window. In her case, it was the 18th floor of her flat at 41 West 86th St. (Side note: I used to live at 313 West 81st St., eight blocks from her place).

Which brings us to poetry. There are all types of it: traditional, free verse, haiku, rhyming, ghazal, experimental, prose, etc. It’s almost endless. When you’ve lived for a fairly long time, believe me, the amount of stories you can tell is endless. And that’s what I’m finding out. As I’ve said in earlier posts, I started writing poems in earnest in the middle of February of this year, and so far, I’ve written about 220 poems. That’s quite a lot of stories, and I don’t even feel like I’m done.

Which brings us back to Susannah McCorkle. If I could could back in time, I’d tell her these things:

  1. Homelessness is not the end of the world. It’s just a temporary setback that, in time, will pass.
  2. Write poems about your life, your experiences, your loves and hates, but keep that ink flowing as if your life depended on it, because it does.
  3. Forget the naysayers who say you don’t have the gift of Shakespeare, Whitman, or Longfellow. Forge your own path. Let them keep up with you. In that sense, you’ve won. And congratulations from me.
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So…This Is What Complacency Feels Like.

After a late winter snow storm, Grosvenor Park, North Bethesda, MD, USA.

Yawn. I don’t know if I can get used to this. Let’s see. I’m 56 years old. In a sense, I’ve been to hell and back. I’ve suffered a stroke. I’ve been a drug addict. I’ve been homeless for years. I’ve been stabbed (left forearm) and shot (left shin). I’ve had my life threatened by a crazy drug dealer in L.A. and have hanged out with the worse people in the worst places in NY, Nashville, LA and Seattle. I’ve owned many musical instruments over the years which I eventually sold to pawn shops for a pittance. Did I mention I’ve been homeless in Rhode Island, NY, Nashville, LA and Seattle? I’ve been hospitalized for psychotic breaks and am now diagnosed as being autistic, diabetic, and suffering from PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, obstructive sleep apnea and gouty arthritis. Yes, I have abandonment issues and I’ve made one serious suicide attempt which landed me in a now-defunct psychiatric hospital (Creedmor) for two months. I’ve also been a tortured, miserable nurse for about 30 years and have had my share of near-death experiences driving a cab in snowy weather. Hell, I wanted to end it all when I became ultra-dehydrated and weak from riding my old, clothes-laden bike for two days (about 100 miles) in the hot sun from White Plains, NY to Saugerties, NY. Through it all, I somehow managed to study Jainism, play in bands, record a few albums, drive around the country, and write and publish some novels, screenplays, audio books, short stories, and so on.

Then, two days ago, everything stopped.

I’m complacent now. Thanks to SSDI, I don ‘t have to worry about food or a place to live. As a matter of fact, I’m in my dream home – an adult community in a safe, quiet, artistic, progressive town on the waterfront. I have good doctors and, even though I don’t have a car anymore, the bus service is pretty adequate around here. And even though I should, I don’t get out as much as I’d like – except to the food bank every week – because I have a big ass ROKU TV and Android TV to entertain me, as well as two computers (including this one month old, spanking brand new HP), a new 88-note semi-weighted keyboard, new audio monitors, and enough audio creation software, music, movies and games to keep me busy for the next 20 years or so. So what have I been doing for the past two days? Sleeping.

Maybe I miss the days when danger was just a few steps down the way, when, at any given moment, the police could suddenly roll up on me as they’ve done several times in NY, LA and Seattle. Maybe I miss freezing to near death in my car and then being forced against my will to do crazy things like break into a bank, a church, an abandoned building, or a police station. Maybe I miss the decrepit, dangerous, dark crack houses dotting the thorniest places from coast to coast. Sigh. I do miss ambling about naked in public parks and supermarkets, but that was my bipolar talking, not me. As it stands, technically, I don’t have to write books or music to try to make a living anymore; I’m already there. I suppose I can just get wasted every day and watch the world go by. Somehow, that doesn’t seem to be too thrilling, though. I hope all this complacency is just my depression, and our rainy/snowy winter weather, talking. If not, I don’t think I could last too long this way.

I Lost A Dear Friend Yesterday

july287No, it’s not what you’re thinking. I’m referring to my Staples backpack. I found a Sketchers backpack in the street yesterday. It was ripped but its condition was still much better than my worn out Staples, so I transferred the contents from my Staples to the Sketchers then threw the old Staples away. It’s a bittersweet loss because I’ve had that backpack for about 12 years. We’ve went through a lot, my backpack and me. I bought it for $2.95 from Staples, Kingston, NY when I used to live with my then girlfriend, Janeane. After Kingston, my backpack went with me to Nashville, then after Nashville, we came to Seattle. If that backpack could talk it’ll tell you the horror it’s seen with me over the past 12 years. Goodbye, old friend. We had some good and bad times. We did a lot of traveling and saw a lot of things.