Volume 9 Winter 2022 Issue 4
Life of the Spirit
fuel for change
Cover art: Photo of Michael Rotenberg (1951–2022) Performing Poetry | Photo from Facebook Profile
Life of the spirit
fuel for change
So much seems off course—climate crisis, Ukraine war, rising fascism, depleted energy for resisting—where do we find fuel to keep up the struggle for change? In the pages of this issue glimmer hopes, stars in dark nights, dreams—alongside outrage, compassion, and the fire that makes us all (as Youssef Alaoui says early in this issue). That star-sun-moon fire—the Holy Spirit to some, the light of Creation to others, stardust to many, Enlightenment shining forth for still others—this spirit moves us all to love, to care for our siblings and cousins, to awaken and rise up from ashes of despair and sing our songs.
The political right attacks “woke” and wields the word as a weapon against “…any left-leaning policy that it [wants] to condemn,” Professor Esau McCaulley writes when discussing the last Sunday sermon given by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” Prof. McCaulley tells us that “…although King doesn’t say the word ‘woke,’ he uses the concept as it was understood by many Black folks then…” (NYTimes “The Kind of Revolution That Martin Luther King Jr. Envisioned” 13 Jan 2023).
Citing the story of Rip Van Winkle, Dr. King points out that a little noticed sign in the story is of great importance. When he goes up to the mountains to sleep, it shows King George III; when he comes down it shows George Washington. The change leaves him feeling lost and confused, not knowing the world. Rip Van Winkle slept through a revolution that changed that world. King warns that too many people are sleeping through three revolutions—technological change, weapons of mass destruction, and the social revolution of human rights.
While Dr. King talks about how in 1968 the geological world had shrunk and time quickened through modern jet travel, how our word balanced on the brink of nuclear destruction, but also how a great outcry for freedom was being heard around the globe. He reminds us that our neighbors had become global, not just down the street. That we had to care for our neighbors everywhere there was oppression and injustice.
Today the world has shrunk even smaller, with instantaneous communication and live video connections worldwide. New war technologies are deadlier, from more powerful nuclear bombs to precision missiles to drones—and nuclear sabre-rattling again clanks in our collective ears. Yet, the rising fascism, nationalism, and autocracy we see, while looming dark and dangerous, is also a strong reaction to the “great revolution” Dr. King spoke of. The revolution continues to grow and spread. And reactionary forces, out of fear or hate, push back, seeking to repress, to protect inequalities of wealth and power that benefit them (or to create new ones that will benefit them), and to go back to the past. There are even those who have recently extolled slavery in the US political right (see for examples: These Politicians Praise Slavery, US Senator Tom Cotton defends slavery remarks, and The rightwing US textbooks that teach slavery as ‘black immigration’).
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave that sermon at Washington National Cathedral on March 31, 1968. A few days later, he was murdered in Memphis, TN, April 4, 1968. Many of the issues he addressed, such as economic reparations (in the US and globally) remain hotly contested and difficult to address. It will be 55 years this April since Dr. King died. We must remain awake. As tired as I feel, and right now I feel weary to the bone, we must awaken. We must stay awake. We must embrace “woke,” not as a label, but as action of mind, body, and soul. We must not let the darkness numb us into decades of sleep. In that wakening, we will find energy—from the light of creation within the world and within us.
A YouTube video of the sermon is embedded in this issue of The BeZine.
Remembering Michael Rothenberg
Michael Rothenberg and his partner, Terri Carrion, founded 100 Thousand Poets for Change (100TPC). From early in the (almost decade) of The BeZine’s existence, we have participated in the annual celebration of activism in poetry. Our three recurring focusing themes: Peace, Sustainability, and Social Justice come directly from the 2015 100TPC World Conference in 2015. I attended that conference and reported about it here and elsewhere on my return. These three themes already were throughout The BeZine, along with an ecumencal and inclusive theme of life of the spirit. We chose to focus on the three 100TPC themes in solidarity with 100TPC, and added our own, Life of the Spirit and Activism.
Michael left this world 21 November 2022. He was tireless as an activist, a writer, a friend, a performer, and an organizer. He remained awake to the very end, creating when he could, working collaboratively with others, and caring for others even as his life slipped away. We open this issue with 7 poems and an essay by some of his (and my) friends who were in Salerno in 2015, dedicated to Michael’s memory and delivered here with love for him and for Terri. I introduce that section separately, with my own personal thoughts written a few days after he moved on from this world. At the end of the In Memory of Michael Rothenberg section, there is a YouTube from a Zoom reading that many of us from the Salerno World Conference participated in to remember and honor Michael together.
Yes, this issue was late—and we could use some help
What can I say? From election deniers and mid-term results in the U.S., to the most right-wing government newly elected in Israel (where I live), to Michael’s loss, to war, to climate crisis…sometimes it all overwhelms. But I was also busy with a major project which had a deadline that conflicted with our production schedule, and this was good. This is the winter issue, and it is indeed still winter. But it is more than a month later than usual. My personal apologies.
We have a new editor joining to help us, beginning with the next issue. And we would like to invite contributors and readers to become more involved. We get occasional offers to review books, and would like to do this (particularly, but not only, for contributors). We could use help proofreading online. We could use help with the blog (contributing and editing). This is all volunteer work; none of us gets paid. If you have interest in joining our team, look over the submissions guidelines and mission statement to get a better idea of what we try to do here. Use the submission email to contact me—provide a paragraph or two of introduction about your experience, why you would like to help, and what you would like to help with. A resume is optional. Put “I’d like to join The BeZine Team” in the subject line, so I know you are applying. And I will get back to you as quickly as I can.
Editor, The BeZine
Table of Contents
Your Portfolio Archive currently has no entries. You can start creating them on your dashboard.
Be Inspired…Be Creative…Be Peace…Be
- The BeZine 100TPC, Group – Featuring Best Practices
- The BeZine Arts and Humanities, Group – not just for poetry
- The Bardo Group Beguines, Page
2 thoughts on “Contents V9N4”
Michael, you have done a brilliant job with this issue. It hits the mark with its theme. It is perhaps made more poignant by the loss of yet another significant character in the life of the BeZine. It has gathered together some very notable contributions from both new and established contributors. And for once I seem to be reading it with fresh eyes; as a reader, not as an occasional contributing assistant editor. It has re-opened my eyes to what we need to do in this messed up World. Thank you for keeping the lights shining that have always been such an important part of and the purpose of Jamie’s and Michael R’s vision. We do have to stop sleep walking through our lives.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you, John. Your words are very kind. You are also part of The BeZine energy, through your moral support and ideas, as well as your contributions and editing.