Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah — it’s Emily

Posted in Justice, poetry on January 4th, 2017 by admin – Be the first to comment

The big story about Emily Dickinson isn’t simply that she was a foodie and well-reputed bakerbut who was in the kitchen with her.

Revealing a truly American tale,  the poet-daughter of a Yankee lawyer, of English stock, rubs elbows daily in the kitchen with immigrants, the descendants of slaves, and with Native American maids, laborers, gardeners, and seamstresses.

Among them was Margaret Maher, an Irish immigrant who, as cook and maid, spent 17 years sharing the kitchen with baker Emily.

At the top left of this Kelley family portrait — almost all of whom worked for the poet — is Tom Kelley, the man Emily requested as her chief pallbearer. Below is Native man and Dickinson laborer Henry Hawkins with his Native-African American granddaughter Helen in a snapshot taken in their backyard. Below them (on some but not all platforms) is a studio portrait of Henry’s mother-in-law, Eliza Thompson, who was often hired to serve guests at the Dickinson’s annual summer gatherings.

The well-loved myth of the recluse erases what was really going on — from maids and laborers exerting linguistic influences on her language to actually saving her poems from planned destruction.

For more drop in and tune up to the Kitchen Sisters upcoming show on Emily D’s hidden kitchen.

Emily’s Hidden Kitchen Sisters

Posted in Justice, poetry on December 28th, 2016 by admin – Be the first to comment

Excellent podcast by the Kitchen Sisters on Emily D. as prolific baker with cameos by Jean Mudge and Chris Benfey and Brenda Hillman. They even covered the issue of the poet getting her poems completely changed by editors during her lifetime and afterward.

To deepen the story of prolific baker and writer ED, let’s add the image of a teen Emily feeling urgency about her writing and bleak despair over the burden of dishes and family care — then doing serious lobbying of the parents to get a maid. She succeeded when her parents hired her a kitchen-sister — otherwise all we’d have are some fabulous recipes and a much meager literary output.

Interesting? Check out Maid as Muse

Emily Dickinson’s Birthday in Ferguson

Posted in Justice on December 8th, 2014 by admin – Be the first to comment

There’s a trend to look forward, not back, when it comes to race.

This is what we are urged to do now.

It was equally true in the decades after emancipation.

Emily Dickinson, born 184 years ago this December 10, is a good example.

The poet wrote powerfully about the Civil War and slavery. Yet, twenty years after emancipation she denigrated a new African American gardener that had just been hired by her family; something she would not have done before emancipation.

And she had plenty of opportunity. Many of those hired by her family — as gardeners, couriers, household helpers, stable hands –  and upon the Dickinsons depended over the years were of African descent.

Emily Dickinson’s evolution on race is a good starting place to examine origins for the mess we are in with Ferguson & an epidemic of copycat crimes.

Watermelon & Whiskey

Posted in Justice on November 26th, 2014 by admin – Be the first to comment

Thank you Daniel Handler for reminding me I can wallow my face in the sweet pulp of a watermelon and nobody observing my annual rite of summer is going to ascribe it to anything but pleasure or gluttony or both. White privilege.

Full disclosure: I can’t tolerate alcohol and I am of Irish descent.

Did you forget Mr. Handler — when you made that hurtful watermelon comment while congratulating Ms.Woodson on her National Book Award win for her memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming — you were not in the progressive bubble of San Francisco where so much is said ironically? (Is that what happened?)

On MLK, Jr Day come this January, how about we all read some Paul Dunbar and Nikki Finney. When March 17 rolls around, the day everyone is Irish, how about re-reading The Country Girls or a play by Mark O Rowe.

Just let that sink in our minds.

Slavery Ever Present for Emily Dickinson

Posted in Justice on February 28th, 2014 by admin – Be the first to comment

We don’t usually associate Emily Dickinson with slavery or legally enforced human trafficking.

Emily was 22 when Solomon Northup’s book appeared about his twelve years in human bondage. In that same period of time a number of the people who worked on the poet’s property as stable hands, gardeners, and household workers were free Blacks.

Slavery was thus present for it posed a constant threat to those free black workers. Anyone could be tricked and sold like Solomon Northrup.

Slavery was so pervasive that it became the metaphorical, or actual, subject of many of Emily Dickinson’s poems — proof that those distant from the slave states were changed by a system that knew no borders.

Read more in my The Bay State Banner opinion.

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!

Posted in Justice on February 20th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Plunge right through that lie!
Run the pickets to the statehouse,
A victory sure this time.
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Fight for our families
Our Rights! People! – fight, fight, fight!
We’ll win this time

If it can happen in Tunis and Cairo, then let it happen in Madison

…and across the nation.

Democracy for America is a great idea. Let’s take back the country from the insurance companies and bankers – and their allies like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Hey Tea Party, move out of the way.

For too many years every day working Americans have contributed to the communal wealth of this country. We’ve given and what we gave has been hijacked.

If unions, pensions and health care — and what could be more precious than protecting our livelihoods, our elders, and the health of our families — are considered the culprit in runaway spending, let’s look at the banks and insurance companies that have their tight fists around our necks.

Let’s look at the billions that get sent overseas to nations that sit atop oil fields and exploitable markets.

Let’s open the books of the mortgage companies and the banks that have foreclosed families. Tell us what you owe us.

Meanwhile our schools are left to rot. What happened to critical thinking – better we have dulled minds so we won’t notice we are being robbed by the banks, the insurance companies, and the military propping up corporate interests abroad.

Scott Walker and Company want us to believe collective bargaining & unions are the problem? That’s our only line of defense.

Take a look at those budgets and make up your own mind. For my part, my heart is in Madison, Tunis, and Cairo.

Democracy abroad – yeah sure, good idea – but how sweet is the idea of the of democracy right here at home.

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Stand up, rebels, sing!
“Forward” is our driving spirit,
Rebel voices ring.
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Raise her glowing flame
Stand, People, let us now
Salute her name!


Paul Krugman on the Wisconsin power play

NPR on compromise

Latest Huffington Post on key union rights at stake

Friends Mikko & Emma with high school buds fighting on our behalf