Dream Poet For Hire was on 6ABC Philly last weekend. Watch the full segment here: https://6abc.com/community-events/localish-presents-some-of-the-best-philly-has-to-offer/5799596/
Dream Poet For Hire was on Fox 29 Philly last night. Watch the full segment here: https://www.fox29.com/news/philadelphia-street-poet-has-a-way-with-words
Dream Poet For Hire was in the Philadelphia Inquirer last week. Read the full article here: https://www.inquirer.com/news/philadelphia/dream-poet-for-hire-marshall-james-kavanaugh-philadelphia-street-poet-20190828.html
Writing a novel has been really good for all of my other chores. I find a million and one excuses to keep me from actually sitting down and writing it. Today it was folding my laundry, fixing my bike, shoveling snow, taking a shower, and oh wow! now it’s already time for dinner. Yesterday and the day before I rearranged my room and set up my bookshelf. I even went to a Walt Whitman-inspired open mic and ended up winning runner up in a competition for $100 to see who had the best Whitman-inspired piece of poetry.
That piece was written on the same road trip that this novel is about. We started the trip reciting passages from Leaves Of Grass in the voices that Kerouac and Cassady must have used when they were traveling on the road together back in the days when the Beats were still learning how to rhyme. Eventually we were writing pieces in the same style and one of them that I read last night was judged as second best in a room of Whitman scholars.
The piece is a list of all the cows I saw on the road from here in Philadelphia all the way to San Francisco and back again. A play on the pastoral, set in every type of landscape both urban and otherworldly you can see in this country. Using this nation’s top industry to describe the beauty that these bovine often cause environmental havoc upon.
I guess for me, what stuck out about Walt Whitman is the sense that he’s always making lists. Listing the tiniest details about an odd assortment of working class people and their environment to create a collage of the industrial revolution he witnessed in his lifetime in America. He talked about both the positives and the negatives but let them speak for themselves. And in a sense there was romance in all of the things that he saw, even if some of them were terrible.
The cow piece was a fun piece to write. I had fun having a chance to let it be heard out loud. Didn’t expect much in the way of competition so was happily surprised with its reception.
Anyway, back to the novel…I think it’s a good one. I want to share it with you before it’s published. Open it up to a dialogue. Let you read the pages I’m really proud of.
Like the chapter I wrote last week about Yosemite Valley. I just read it again this afternoon. About ten or fifteen times. That’s another thing I do while writing this novel. Get hung up on chapters that I’m really proud of and then second guess myself that I’ll ever be able to write something as good again. Forget that there’s been plenty of bad novels published that have still been enjoyed by someone. The trick is to just finish them.
So yeah, I’m still writing. Today I’m starting a little later than I would’ve liked to and that’s okay because it’s a miserable winter day outside and I took care of all my other errands that were bogging me down. I’ll keep sharing my progress as it comes.
If you’d like to read the poetry about cows or that chapter about Yosemite Valley go take a look at my Patreon. You can throw me some doll hairs and read my writing. The support will motivate me to keep going on it. Maybe I can even finish it by the end of next month and get started on the next one. There are two novels in my head that have been sitting patiently while I finish writing this one. Anyway, I’d love you to see its pieces and to hear what y’all think. I have a feeling the campaign will be constantly evolving as well, so expect more announcements and other rewards to develop.
Thanks for everyone who’s taken a peek over there. I know there’s plenty of other things to support right now. Travel made me more humble and I’m content with however it all turns out, but think it’s fun to share the process.
Become a patron: http://www.patreon.com/marshalljameskavanaugh
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been playing around with old haikus. Here is a haiku I wrote while hiking in the redwoods last January.
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I jump into the fray again. This time unintentionally. When I show up to Santa Fe, I find out the republican governors from all over the country are meeting at the conference center to discuss conservative policy. Somehow I didn’t get the memo. There are protestors on every street corner. But it’s nothing like Philly in 2017 when the GOP showed up a week after the inauguration.
We protested for over a week, with snake marches leading to organized marches, leading to dance parties, leading to tens of thousands of people surrounding the hotel all those pigs were hiding in. Inside, the traitor in chief probably told everyone that his supporters had come to celebrate his victory, but outside the energy was livid. The marches didn’t really lead anywhere, but that was the beginning of so many activist groups finding alliances in the streets. It was a time to see each other and find hope in the multitudes that love was still possible even in tyranny.
In Santa Fe, things are a little more low key. Mostly Women’s Marchers sans pussy hats holding signs that outline that Santa Fe is a sanctuary city and accepts refugees. No action, but frankly, it’s just exciting to see so many signs walking through the streets, mixed in with the usual amount of summer tourists, heading towards relieving a group who’s held a corner for a few hours or stopping to take a bathroom break. The retired mothers of the city taking their time off to push through some progressive messages to the backwards Man, himself.
They stand outside the El Dorado hotel picketing the buses full of governors’ aides that pull in. They stand outside the Cathedral of St Francis de Assisi catching the evangelicals who want to see architectural history. Anywhere where the buses drive through, they are there to greet them.
I set up my typewriter in the plaza next to a group doing a silent vigil for the children at the border separated from their families. They hold signs with simple mantras like “Free The Children” and “Everyone Welcome”. In front of them there are a dozen or more baby shoes. The symbols there are heavy.
Meanwhile, I write poems for children about dreams of mermaids and family road trips. The dialogue being translated through poetry. It doesn’t escape me how there’s no difference between these children who get to live out their freedom and the ones currently locked up in cages, maybe never seeing their parents again.
An afternoon turns to evening and I change my location several times, till I find my prime spot for the late night dinner crowd, and that’s when it happens. I’m not quite paying attention because there’s so much going on. But out of the corner of my eye, I see one of those huge busses pull over and a dozen or more suits get off of it. They are surrounded by police and secret service, who seemingly appear out of nowhere. Suddenly, the streets around me have been cleared.
It’s Mike Pence who stops and reads my Dream Poet For Hire sign. He’s chatting to Susana Martinez, who I guess is giving them all a tour of her state’s capital.
“Write a poem about me and my wife,” he says.
Obviously, I’m boiling over with malice, but I’m the Dream Poet and with my mask on I put on a good show entertaining his midwestern interest.
The poem writes itself, keys mumbling away. It talks about how love can’t be defined by time or place, age or gender. It’s a spark that speaks beyond the limits of our patriarchal understanding. Love thy brother, love the human race in all of its manifestations, love thy mother, love this planet and all the ways she holds us in nurture. Love is love is love and hate for the love between two men or two women or two people who choose not to define themselves within a binary does not erase the divine essence within that love, something that is so magical it inspires all of us to keep living through the madness.
I fill the page and read it back to him. His icy eyes look at me with a smile that says he knows I gonzoed him, dropping the bill in my case anyway, and slipping the poem in the breast pocket of his suit jacket. He moves over for the next one, which happens to be Governor Martinez.
“Write a poem about immigrants,” she says.
Again, I smile and put on extra airs. The poem coming full throttle. I write about the state of New Mexico still being a foreign country. How families are just moving between their ancestral homes. I write about the Pueblos. How this is their land and our borders hold no power. I write about the railroads, about the white settlers, about the slave owners. I write how an elected official in a state that is still Mexico, and before that stolen land, better reflect on who she represents. Amnesty for all refugees, I write. Open the borders.
There’s a silence after I read the poem and I think I’ve gone too far. But again, there it is the bills dropped and the poem stowed away somewhere safe.
Next it’s one of their aides.
“Oh, you write haiku, I see. Write a haiku about Washington DC.”
the swamp sinking as it drains
swamp things go kerplunk.
Someone asks, “Are you related to Brett Kavanaugh?”
“No relation. The Kavanaugh’s are a proud clan of peacemakers. No way he’s really one of them.”
And then that’s it. They get bored and move on. And I’m left there wondering if it really was even them, or perhaps just another tour group of Texans.
COMPASSION IS CONTAGIOUS
I’m brought back to my time in North Dakota, holding space with the indigenous protectors of sacred waters. Another long drive through miles of agriculture to a point of interest in the middle of nowhere to meet as a clan of rainbow people and stand up against injustice.
This time we are calling for the protection of families and individual children. The corporations are not digging up death and employing the black snake to transport it beneath our feet under sacred waterways. No, they’ve decided to put death out in the open, this time utilizing the form of a tent city to detain hundreds of children in 100° desert temperatures.
A local representative comments on the audacity of this current administration using taxpayer dollars to build these concentration camps, doing so seemingly overnight. He goes further expressing how adequate aid still hasn’t been provided for our citizenry in Puerto Rico recovering from Hurricane Maria, and yet they build these “detention centers” so quickly. Saying we must look in the mirror as a nation. This presidency is conscious of the acts of genocide it is committing. It is continuing an American tradition.
“Open borders,” a sign reads.
“Yes, we care,” in white painted on the back of a green silk coat.
“Si, se puede,” she chants. The audience goes wild and moves closer to get a better view. Bobby Kennedy’s daughter moves to the side after introducing the esteemed labor activist, Dolores Huerta.
“Si, se puede!”
Huerta encourages everyone in the crowd not to give up. She says we must keep marching. That this administration has already backed down after rising public pressure. We must keep the pressure on. She recants slogans from her days as a young labor activist saying a democracy fails without a strong middle class. We must empower the workers of the middle class. Goes on to say we must be marching every day. Says everything but “seize the means of production”. But she says that too, only in her own way.
The woman who coined the catchphrase, “Yes, we can” has no doubt that the people can unite and thwart their oppressors.
I am struck by how there is a difference in cadence between the politicians’ way of talking and the activists ability to rally. Politicians with their lines well-rehearsed and a controlled pattern of when and how to gauge a rise from the audience.
On the other hand, activists move straight from the heart. Their words are not always smooth and well-versed, but they move the audience deeper into feeling what’s right from the blood to the breath. Mothers and teachers talking about the issues from personal experience. And the more seasoned the activist, the more their heartspeak is a spell cast that wraps the audience up in a swirl of synergy between heart, mind, and spirit.
“Dreamers are not illegal.”
“No illegals, on stolen land.”
“Love Trumps Hate.”
A few thousand feet away, behind several rows of chainlink fence, you can see the pointed tops of several canvas tents baking in the hot sun.
Speakers from the Border Network for Human Rights remind the audience that these children are refugees running from struggles that America’s foreign policy has created. They speak in terms of compassion pointing out that many of these families are not victims. They are strong people who stood up to the gangs and corrupt politicians of their homelands and as a result were pushed to flee.
They remind us that not all of these children are just from the American continents. ICE and border patrol have been going after dreamers from all different backgrounds. The policies that go after the most at risk are based in white supremacist ideology.
In this last group of activists, who have worked so closely with the refugees that are detained, I see how we have yet to hear from the actual refugees themselves in the mainstream media. In the coverage of this debacle, these very real people have been dehumanized to numbers and mere statistics.
All of their stories are yet to be told. We must use our own hearts to understand what they must be going through. To understand what it must be like to be separated from your child, and told by an ICE agent you’ll never see them again.
All of it feels unreal and because it is so real, we must continue to fight. We must unify under one banner. Many speakers during the rally emphasized voting in November. But it goes beyond that. It goes beyond calling your elected representatives. It goes beyond marching in the streets and planning direct actions. It’ll take a radical shift in every aspect of American life to curb the monstrosity we have empowered. But, Si, se puede! We are alive at this time to do exactly that.
Only apathy will hold us back.