Hold It All


Category: Correspondence


It’s a practice
I’m pretty average at it

But compared to what
Or to whom?

Take Chomsky, for instance:
In the 1990s

He said that he spent
20-25 hours a week

Writing letters
This was in addition

To carrying on his linguistics work
And to doing all his political activities Read the rest of this entry »

The Power of Hummus and Hospitality

My friend Lindsey Weston sent me this letter in November of last year.  I am happy to share it with you.

lindsey-w1 Read the rest of this entry »

Preparing for “Hope and Holiness”–A Letter from Andrew Wimmer

Dear Friends,

John Gabriel wrote last week that he plans to meet with the archbishop to gain clarity.  As I pointed out in my email to faculty on January 11, there is nothing ambiguous about the position of the archdiocese.  They laid it out last spring in a document entitled Hope and Holiness.  You would do well to read it.

I sum up the document in one word.  Abuse.  Why?  The powerful (or so they would fashion themselves) tell the disesteemed how they will experience reality, how they will name themselves, and how they will be lovingly cared for in their disorderedness.
Read the rest of this entry »

American Fangs

Dear Carla

Twice I read Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram
Because of your enthusiastic recommendation

I was captivated
I was crestfallen

Thuy’s diary revealed her commitment
Comparable to that of Lan

The ardent Buddhist social worker whom I had read before
And assigned in my classes

But Thuy was overtly political
An unabashed Communist

Lan was committed to the Noble Eightfold Path
Which included Right Speech Read the rest of this entry »

Text Message Exchange with Dr. Nima Sheth Who Resides in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Sheth: We need to plan which weekend you can come to DC …
I want to book ur ticket to come here
We really want to see you

I:  Any time after third week of May

Dr. Sheth: OK

I: How long can I come for?

Dr. Sheth: Forever

Note from Claire

“To say ‘silence’
in Spanish, you
have to say, ‘yes’
twice. Accept
it. Just as it
sounds without
into it.”


Claire was recently on a five-day Silent Retreat.

You Are My Hero

“… le dur désir de durer…”
–Paul Eluard

“You are my Hero”
Yes, that’s what I inscribed

In your copy of
The Book of Mev

No, I am not putting you on a pedestal
Proclaiming you a paragon

Who needs that?
Not me. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Not Wait Till We’re Dead

Over poetry, you didn’t gush. You read it. You read it with the tongue. You lived it. You felt how it moved you, changed you. How it contributed to giving your own life  a from, a color, a melody. You didn’t talk about it and you certainly didn’t make it into the cannon fodder of an academic career.

Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Dear Carol,

Allen Ginsberg died in 1997 and still the books keep coming. 2016 saw a volume published of his uncollected poems, Wait Till I’m Dead. Ginsberg’s devoted archivist and biographer Bill Morgan provides extensive notes, Rachel Zucker adds an introduction (his poems encourage her “to keep writing, to write longer, to write messier, to write more authentically, with more ego and more humility, with everything I have and about everything I am”), and one of Ginsberg’s photographs grace each decade of poesy.

There are plenty of these poems that deserve only one read, never to return to again (unlike, for me, poems like his “Cosmopolitan Greetings,” “Yes and It’s Hopeless,” “Improvisation in Beijing,” “Peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” “War Profit Litany,” “Plutonian Ode,” “Howl,” and “September on Jessore Road”). Still, several may provide some consolation or a goad in these times when our war-making state and corporate predators show signs of ramping up their rapacity. Read the rest of this entry »

“To Love Others Is All We Can Do” by Rachel Nass

Rachel 1

Rachel 2

Dear Randa

6 September 2009

Dear Randa,

Given how busy you must be, I can’t imagine that you would have brought along with you Robert Fisk’s The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. I regret that we didn’t have nearly enough time to discuss this book while you were here in St. Louis, so I thought I would send you an occasional “rereading” of that heart-breaking, illuminating, and disturbing tome. Perhaps next summer we can resume such discussions in cafes around St. Louis.

Since his youth, Fisk had long aspired to be a foreign correspondent, and he mentions that when he was 29, he received a letter from one of the higher-ups at The Times, in which he was told: “Paul Martin has requested to be moved from the Middle East. His wife has had more than enough, and I don’t blame her. I am offering him the number two job in Paris, Richard Wigg Lisbon—and to you I offer the Middle East. Let me know if you want it… It would be a splendid opportunity for you, with good stories, lots of travel and sunshine…” [xix]

In Fisk’s preface, he quotes Israeli journalist Amira Hass as saying that the journalist’s role is to “to monitor the centers of power,” the power that invades other countries, the power that sends people to be tortured, the power that conceives of genocide and implements it, the power that draws borders of the lands of others in its interests, the power that is drunk with its own dizzying rhetoric of rectitude, the power that predictably invites “blowback,” the power that acts as if it is above the law, with a quasi-divine right to disturb the lives and worlds of others. Read the rest of this entry »