Goodbye 2011 – It’s Been Good to Know Ya!

Every year, I find the transition from one year to the next unsettling. Perspectives change just in the passage of a day into another year. It is odd. This year, Samoa is losing a whole day as they switch to a time zone that is more in keeping with their primary trade partners. That is how elusive and malleable time is, because it is an arbitrary construct that suits the mood of humanity more than the cycles of the moon or the turn of the seasons. Time makes things convenient and provides agreement among our species, as well as conflict and guilt. This is proven every time we are late for any appointment.
The end of the year is the review time for many of us. I enter every year saying, “Next year is my turnaround time…the challenges will ease…I will make my breakthrough to stability…” Then, each year gives me many blessings and a wrath of challenges to adjust to as I journey through the calendar.
As I entered 2011, I was extremely optimistic. I knew it was the year that Our Difficult Sunlight was going to be released, after 3 years in the making. I appreciate Teachers & Writers Collaborative for publishing the book, taking the risk on our proposal. 

This book was going to open many doors and further my career, as well as provide new opportunities for my coauthor, Quraysh Ali Lansana. Somehow and with many bumps and trials, the book was made manifest, starting as a thought and a list of ideas nearly 6 years ago. It is a remarkable accomplishment. What I did not anticipate was that promoting it was going to be so dependent on the efforts of Q and myself. But we know how to do that. We have been promoting our own books of poetry for years. So we rolled up our sleeves and got busy. Most of our promotional efforts is through personal contacts and the internet; we are building our market and the books are getting into the hands of those who benefit from our pedagogy, even if at a slower pace than we anticipated. 

I have lost one of my major contracts in the 2011-12 school year due to the impact of the economy on school districts. It is a travesty what our leaders is permitting and actually orchestrating in the realm of American education. I could go on for a long time about this issue. I Tweet about it regularly. And now it affects me directly.

With the rug pulled out from under me again, I have been scraping together what I can to get through these past 6 months until I could redefine my work profile and recreate the sources of income to replace that work now gone. I have been in a dark place in all of this but I have also responded by stretching beyond the boundaries I have previously recognized or created. What has come of that is a confidence in my work and capacity that I did not possess before this. I see myself as a mature artist with a body of work as a foundation that gives me pride and a hope for all the new work that is lined up in my brain and in various files on my computer like planes on the tarmac at O’Hare.

I am 2 months behind on almost all of my bills. I am shuffling funds to meet the most crucial need any given day and sometimes arguing with bill collectors as to why I cannot agree to their suggestions for the payments they want at that moment. I have found that if the employees on the other end of the line are American, they almost always understand my frustrations. They live here and they are talking to hundreds of people like me every week. I will get through. I know this. When I am most frightened, I remind myself that I will get through because I am resourceful, resilient, and relentless. And because I always have…why would it change now?

I have a wonderful part-time job working at the Downtown Writer’s Center as workshop coordinator. I follow in the footsteps of Jennifer Pashley in this role and hold a hearty commitment to this organization, now in its 11th year. I have taught there since the beginning and now we are planning for new programs that will continue to build that community of writers in the Central NY region. I also continue to teach there, which is a delightful experience in supporting other writers achieve their own capacity. After all, we teach what we want to learn!
Quraysh and I developed a number of trainings throughout 2011 that were exhilarating as they unfolded, including a day with educators at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum last winter. We attended several conferences to offer panels and workshops, all of them a tremendous success. We met many teachers and teaching artists who are striving to connect with our nation’s youth throughout the country and in spite of the many limitations. We celebrate them all for their efforts.
We both visited colleges and universities to share the book and our own creative work as poets. I look forward to many more opportunities in the realm of higher education. But I am very grateful for those thus far, especially our trip to the University of New Haven, and my visit to Waynesburg University this fall.

We have applied for a nomination for an NAACP Image Award. We have so many to thank for this past year for welcoming us and helping promote our book. We are hoping for much recognition and continued support of our book to develop and grow its market, now that the snowball has started its roll down from the mountaintop. We will endeavor to find ways of sharing our pedagogy, as presented in ODS and, hopefully, we will realize great success for the efforts.

I am personally hoping for several other opportunities for which I have made application. I am often reminded by my dear friend, Dale Davis, of the advice of the great Al Poulin, founder of BOA Editions, Ltd.; she tells me that Al would often say that you have to launch many balloons into the air. At some point, the more options one pursues, the more likely success will unfold. Then we must also remember: it is a waiting game as well. To wait with optimism and accepting that I am of the caliber of candidate for any grant, fellowship, consulting gig, or other career opportunity but without attachment to the outcome in the waiting. This is the most difficult aspect of facing the future. 

School projects start in a couple of weeks. I will return to one of my favorite schools, the Watkins Glen Middle School. I will also be introduced to two new schools in Horseheads, NY, in a collaborative arts-in-ed project with the Arnot Art Museum in Elmira, NY. This is a gem of a cultural experience in a small city, a surprise and a treasure trove of art.

I am also creating programming with the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn, NY, another fabulous museum and arts community in another small city. Art is everywhere and often undervalued, but, like school reform, another lengthy and emotional discussion.

I also continue with my efforts as managing editor of the Comstock Review. I have been very tardy in the publishing schedule as I learn how to integrate this important job into my life but we have come through our 25th anniversary and I am planning for the future while I catch up on the backlog. I only hope that all the poets will continue to be patient and forgive for the delays. I also anticipate that the quality of the issues will be satisfaction enough. I am proud of our journal and it is an honor to facilitate the publication of so many talented writers. Here’s to many more years but that, again, is a lengthy discussion regarding building that future and all that it involves. 

I have other projects that are brewing, other potential sources of income and career development. I will repeat my New Year’s rituals of meditation in the 30 minutes leading up to the turn at midnight from one reality to the next. I will ring the bell 108 times, as I have been doing since I first visited the West Coast and sat in the zendo at the Hartford Street Zen Center in the late 1980s. Then I will take all of the little prayer requests I have written and placed in a special receptacle throughout the year and burn them in my chiminea with some lavender and rosemary. I will release my fears and disappointments and petition the universe to move me forward and answer my prayers. I will wake later that morning feeling refreshed and I will continue to put one foot in front of the next as I progress through the year. Here’s hoping…my fingers are crossed…

I am filled with gratitude for the countless blessings of this year, too many to cite here but clearly cataloged in my gratitude journal and etched on my heart. This miracle of life, even at its darkest, astounds me.
Thanks for reading my blog throughout this year and I hope you will continue to return. Please share my link with friends. Consider purchasing Our Difficult Sunlight, either for yourself or for a friend who teaches. I am entrenched in the progressive education reform tweeting world. Find me on Twitter if you do that sort of thing: @gappoet. It is always a spirited exchange!
Have a happy and safe New Year. Be well in all ways. Have a happy and safe New Year. I will see you in 2012. Proceed and be bold. I will see you in 2012.
Thanks again for following my blog. I appreciate your consideration of my words and thoughts.

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