September 25, 2010


I will not even claim to be an expert on this...

More than 15 years ago, I once tried to write about hope in a graduation speech. I had an easy motivator for this: I was recently broken up with and was hoping it was not truly ended. Well, it did, it was, I needed to deal. But I spoke on the topic anyway. My memory's hazy, and since it was pre-laptop I do not have a good archive of the speech; yet, I remember certainly I included two hope references.

First was the movie Shawshank Redemption. What's strange is that I barely remember seeing this movie at that time. I remember watching it years later in the Breese Hall lobby (a building that now does not exist...sad day). It was one of those rare dorm nights where a few folks started watching it casually, and slowly more people accrued. Eventually, there were about forty people in that cramped lobby. Dudes and ladies, frosh and seniors, all majors, differing backgrounds and viewpoints. Some tears, some not.

My friend Abby cried that night. The movie sparked something in her, a memory, of a tragedy that had happen a year before but was definitely shitty in scope and lingered awfully in her heart and brain. Abby found her hope in chance occurrences that happened later...and she was patient, and it paid off. But did she know that night it would? Was she certain?

The second is the great myth of Pandora. Having pissed off the gods, Pandora actually got a bit of a raw deal. Zeus decided to give her this great box (really a jar) filled with all the evils of the world, with a warning of "Don't open it." (Cause, you know, we have a whole human history of being told about what we should not be curious about only to have our curiosity to infest itself more so?) Tragically, it was opened and out spilled every vicious thing that we still know to this day. Only one thing was left inside: hope.

This metaphorical tale is one which is spun in many ways...well, it shows that hope is the last straw...well, it shows that we are inherently hopeful...well, it shows the fault of our lack faith. F that. You know what it really shows? That hope, all bottled up with every evil, was the only good thing in that jar...all by itself. If you've ever been ganged up before, you know this feeling. It sucks. And it's pitch dark in that jar. Hope can't see shit.

Hope is tough, hope is courageous, hope is patience.

I am fortunate enough in my life to be able to teach and currently teach Poetry. That's like getting up every day to talk about comics...except that it's poetry. Poetry is not something familiar to the masses. We still think of Shakespeare...or someone dressed in all black, smoking a cig, and pronouncing every syllable obnoxiously. That is poetry. But just like 31 flavors, that represents Elephant Tracks and Rocky Road...there's a shit ton of other flavors, styles, forms, perspectives, voices, approaches to poetry.

The class has recently had a discussion about political poetry. This is tricky. Poetry, is meant to be political. Or at least it's a great to deal so. Every slogan that you now see for every election is poetic. Or has poetic roots. "Yes we can." Three syllables, two consonant sounds that are easy going crescendoing into a hard "c" giving the listener a sense of concreteness and confidence? You're damn well right "Yes we can."

But most political poets who talk about the ills and atrocities, about the shit that's gone wrong in our country or our world most often end their poetry with hope. They don't end it with a standard line, but usually an image or metaphor showing the reader that after the poem's end, there's a reality, there's a hopeful reality, there's a hopeful reality we have the chance to make the most of.

And it ain't easy.

Of course it ain't easy. But you can sit around and whine about it, or get your ass up and do something about it. For yourself...for others...for family...for friends...for God/Allah/Yaweh/etc....for, well, just for shits and grins.

When you get up tomorrow, spread some hope.

And when you go to bed, imagine some hope.

And in the middle of the day, invite hope into your house, for a cup of coffee, talk with hope, fear not hope, and have hope be a part of your conversations with others.