Further thoughts on the cultural labor of poetry and art. Not merely "is it good?," but "what has it accomplished?"...reviews of recent poetry collections; selected poems and art dealing with war/peace/social change; reviews of poetry readings; links to political commentary (particularly on conflicts in the Middle East); youtubed performances of music, demos, and other audio-video nuggets dealing with peaceful change, dissent and resistance.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Sand Opera Lenten Journey Day 30: Punk Means Homeschool
Opera Lenten Journey Day 30: Punk Means Homeschool
search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.
The Gospel of John Chapter 5
the above moment from the Gospel of John, Jesus is having an original “come to
Jesus moment”—saying that we keep looking for something in holy writ but we’re
not willing to commit to the real life—to him. I can relate to that sense of
resistance, wanting a short cut to an eternal life, and also wanting not to
give up my self. It’s one of the things that attracted me to second-wave punk
rock, back in the late 1980s—bands like Fugazi proposed an alternate way of living,
not related to the logo on your shirt or the amount in your wallet, but how you
carved your own way. My friend Jim Doppke and I started a secret band called
Wrist, following in the tradition of thousands of garage and bedroom and
basement kids who just wanted to make our own music.
lot of conversation about punk focused on its provocations or its style, but
that totally missed the point. To be punk meant to do things your own way and
by your own means (DIY—Do It Yourself), to listen to your gut and the music in
your head, not follow what others told you was cool. He wrote a song, after
being harassed on the road by an aggressive driver, called “Punk Rokkers Drive
Slow.” We listened to Tsunami sing “Punk Means Cuddle,” all of which I shared
with my own punk rokk girlfriend, Amy Breau, who hadn’t listened to punk but
was punk all the same. She did things her own way. She still does.
watched “The Punk Singer” last night, about the riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna (of
Bikini Kill and Le Tigre), and that’s what got me to thinking again about punk
rock. Hanna struggled against a constant resistance to and even hatred of the
truths that she had to tell, the fact that she felt as if she, alongside so
many other women, were always doubted, their authority always questioned, their
truths belittled or dismissed. Hanna sings: “If you could see / but were always
taught / That what you saw wasn’t real. HOW DOES THAT FEEL? IT FEELS BLIND.”
the time of wars, Amy Breau and I raised our children our own way, responding
to their needs and ours as best we could, homeschooling and trying to perform
that difficult balance between challenging and nurturing, between protecting
and exposing them to the world. Every day—and sometimes moment by moment—we were
challenged to figure out how to do this thing, to raise these new lives. The
poem below from Sand Opera, and Amy’s essay, “Playing Into The Wind” explore
“Hung Lyres” (Sand Opera)
I had no names
to blazon their tender
so took the
ones we inherit: auricle
to name the
what does it mean, amputee?
that listens to the oracle
world: canal & drum
the oceanic home
are elliptical & circular
there such a thing as “orphan”?
& we host a
motion labyrinth, a squid.
stapes. Cover your ears
your cartilage is not yet hard—
it’s too soon
to know to hear is to bend.
purses will sow the wind.
shells haul their own ocean.
Into the Wind” by Amy Breau (first appeared in Cleveland Magazine)
We started off as reluctant home-schoolers, unable to find a
kindergarten fit for our eldest. When
Adele was 4, my husband, Phil, nodded toward my nightstand. "The titles
grow increasingly dire." Where once sat a dog-eared copy ofThe Fussy Baby
Book, now there was a stack: The Highly Sensitive Child, Raising Your Spirited
Child, The Explosive Child.
None of us were sleeping. We had a newborn, and Adele still woke
several times a night. Her run-ins with food dye were case studies on why Red
No. 40 is banned in Europe. Once, after I'd abandoned a full grocery cart at
Heinen's to get her home, kicking and screaming, she scaled a bookshelf and
declared, wide-eyed, "There are holes in the walls, and I'm walking
We had to sort things out. I was exhausted, handling tantrums and
fielding phone calls from her pre-K teacher. What was I going to do about my
daughter's refusal to put her sitting bones on the story rug or wear her coat
when it was 50 degrees? Was she kidding?
One night, making dinner, I heard a story on NPR about imaginative
play, how children galloping like horses aren't just engaging in — well,
child's play. Imaginative play in childhood develops higher reasoning,
flexibility and problem-solving in adults.
I put down the spatula. Pretty much every unwanted outcome —
dropping out of school, crime, drug use — is associated with difficulties in
these abilities to self-regulate. Those results weren't hard to imagine with
our preschooler hepped up on food dye.
Was that what she needed? More time to play, run herself ragged in
the woods, work out her being-in-the-world?
The first year of home school was the best we'd had as a family.
We had time — to paraphrase Theodore Roethke — to learn by going where we had
Out of paper and newfound freedom, our 5-year-old constructed a
toilet with a raiseable lid and a cart with functional wheels. She illustrated
Russian fairy tales and embraced history books as invitations to costume and
role-play. But what she loved, above all, was mucking about with home-school
friends at Horseshoe Lake in Shaker Heights.
That year, as she played, Phil and I discovered our girl had a
food intolerance. Once we put her on a low-histamine diet — avoiding aged and fermented
foods such as cheese, yogurt and sausage — five years of intractable sleep
issues resolved overnight.
There was more to sort out. But once we'd made the choice to step
off the rails, what seemed at first a darkened field lit up, spokes of gleaming
possibility stretching before us.
Another year like that? Yes. Please.
Several years later, with friends, our girls spent hours crafting
an oversized kite. They worked out questions of material, aerodynamics and
design, not to mention collaboration and leadership.
The kite never flew.
Somehow, I restrained myself as they duct-taped kebab skewers to a
torn-up bedsheet, then swapped the skewers for thick branches. They floated
hypotheses, kept alternating materials. It was downright empirical, that
testing of physical boundaries, that sensory immersion of childhood that shapes
how we understand the physical world.
In September, home-schoolers gather on Lake Erie's shore for
not-back-to-school parties. A diverse and lively community — unschoolers and
education professors opting for play-based learning; families concerned about
bullying or academics; folks who planned to home-school from birth, and those
who dip in briefly between schools, jobs, medical procedures.
Last spring, our friend Audrey orchestrated Medieval Day for
home-schoolers at Squire's Castle. Bagpipes roused us from the 21st century
through the bannered stone archway one family built with power tools, wood and
paint. When we reached the castle, the Venerable Bede (sporting Phil's
graduation robe and cap) rallied the knights, in medieval verse, to enter the
Other families set up archery targets and a homemade catapult,
bocce, badminton, fencing demonstrations and tables where kids could illuminate
This fall, as Adele enters eighth-grade in a brick-and-mortar
school for the first time, I'm amazed at the person she's become. It's less
parental pride than gratitude, and wonder at the increasingly realized sketch
of herself she's drawing into the world.
My former kindergartner, who once charged into Shaker Lakes
wetlands that first year of home schooling, spent last year researching factors
that influence reptile and amphibian populations at the Cleveland Metroparks
Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation. I picked her up one evening, only to find her
covered in sulfurous, inky swamp. Wader malfunction, she grinned.
Home schooling changed us as parents too. Our emphasis shifted, at
some point, from assignments we gave our girls to the real work they assign
themselves. We learned to trust our children's development and ourselves as
parents along the way.
When our girl was struggling, I couldn't see how to let her go. It
was easier to keep her close, manage whatever we could. But now, we're all so
remember, as she learned to skate, contorting myself to prop her up around the
Eventually, she wobbled off on her own. I watched how her
careening turned to rhythm, the way she'd leaned on me transformed into leaning
lightly into the wind.
She was fine. I quit watching. I stretched my shoulders and set
off around the rink.