THE JUDEVINE MOUNTAIN EMAILITE #36

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We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers and sisters.

–Martin Luther King



 

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WHO ARE WE NOW?WHAT ARE WE BECOMING?

 

 

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In This Issue:

David’s Notes: Four Articles and a New Blog

 

Thunderstorms and Landscapes by David Rocchio

Six Quotes

 

Budget Cuts by Madeleine Kunin

 

Untitled by Clarence Milam

 

Two Books to Recommend:
Carthage by Baron Wormser
and
Earth, My Likeness by Walt Whitman,
Edited and with an Introduction by Howard Nelson

 

Hardened Bread by Clarence Milam

 

Molly Ivins, Derrick Jackson, Bob Herbert, Joan Chittister and Gender Gappers

 

Two Poems for Cindy by Verandah Porche and David Ray

 

Contributors’ Notes

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DAVID’S NOTES:
   Four Articles

On September 9th, Bill Moyers gave a talk at Union Theological Seminary in New York. It’s one of the best, clear thinking essays on both the Islamic and Christian radical right that we’ve yet read. It is dense and thoughtful. We recommend it highly to everyone. Read it at:http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0909-36.htm

And when you are done maybe you’ll feel as we do that we should mount a campaign for BILL MOYERS FOR PRESIDENT!

He’s got all the right qualifications to take on the radical religious right and the NeoCons: he’s a Baptist minister; he’s from Texas, he’s an experienced, articulate journalist who has been covering American politics for more than 40 years and he knows what it’s like inside the beltway. For those younger readers of the JME, Bill Moyers was President Lyndon Johnson’s Special Assistant from 1963 to 1967.

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It never ceases to amaze me how someone apparently from out of nowhere inevitably emerges to lead the troops into battle against the status quo. Be it Joan of Arc, John L. Lewis, Mohandas K. Gandhi or Martin Luther King, it is always someone who is not a member of the establishment or the intelligencia. Currently this person’s name is Cindy Sheehan and she is doing for the antiwar movement what no number of articles in The New York Review of Books or The Nation could ever do.

We highly recommend her statement called “Hypocrites and Liars”–written while she was away from Camp Casey and back in California with her mother who had had a stroke. Again, as so often before, Cindy’s essay proves that the main issue here is language.

She speaks a blunt truth to the powers that be and to their maniacal desire to obfuscate everything with the language of deception. To read “Hypocrites and Liars”–first published on August 20, 2005–go to: http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/082005X.shtml

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Another essay critical to understanding the current situation and our current President is E.L. Doctorow’s meditation called “The Unfeeling President” first published in the East Hampton (NY) Star on September 9, 2004. To read Doctorow’s essay go to:http://www.easthamptonstar.com/20040909/col5.htm

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For a related analysis of The President that may or may not be an over-the-top assessment of The President’s mental state read Doug Thompson’s “Is Bush Out of Control?” at: http://www.capitolhillblue.com/artman/publish/article_7218.shtml Thompson quotes psychiatrist Dr. Justin Frank as saying that George Bush is a paranoid megalomaniac, an untreated alcoholic and someone with a lifelong streak of sadism.

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  A New Blog

Philip Baruth of Burlington, VT, has a new blog of national significance. Baruth is hard hitting, satirical and, as satire should always be, very very funny! Check him and it out at: http://vermontdailybriefing.com And don’t miss the entry for Sept. 22nd, “I Will Beer No Evil: Karl Rove Does Burlington.” (web note: this site does not load properly in all browsers)

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Finally, David Rocchio’s meditation as he sits with his son watching a real–yet also perhaps allegorical–thunderstorm approach says a lot about who we are, or at least who we were.

And don’t miss the innocuously titled essay “Budget Cuts” by former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin in which she points out that the huge and growing-huger-every-day deficit is exactly what the Shrubites and NeoCons have dreamt of. In short, nothing could thrill them more than the two recent hurricane disasters and endless war and how all that will bankrupt the government.

As you read this issue of the JME, remember that it is the current administration that promised to bring honesty and integrity back to the White House.

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Thunderstorms and Landscapes
by
David M. Rocchio

A thunderhead climbs over a distant mountain. My son and I watch it from behind the house. The cloud stands thousands of feet above everything: us, the house, the fields, the mountain. Its top flattens into a monstrous anvil. The vast landscape is dwarfed by the pending storm. It is exciting; we will wait for it to arrive.

My little boy is thrilled by these storms. They pass over the landscape and change everything while they are here. During one storm we all sat out on the covered porch and let the rain cool us; me, my son, my little girl, my wife, and we listened to the rain and the thunder. Today my son and I lie in the grass behind the house, his head across my belly, me leaning back on my arms.

But this time, my thoughts wander. I cannot simply sit and let the storm approach. I am thinking about scenes worlds away in a parallel universe: Guantanamo Bay; Abu Graib; Bagram Air Base; US military, intelligence, law enforcement, and how government “contractors” abuse and kill Iraqi and other military prisoners. Prisoners are ridiculed, videotaped. We have seen some tapes: shock video-commentary by part-time soldiers; bold expressionism and fifteen minutes of infamy by American youth; defense of homeland. It is not how I view America. It is not how our country treats prisoners of war. What is happening? Who are we? What are we becoming? Surely we are not the people abusing prisoners. Surely we are good and right.

At the beginning of the Iraq War, I argued with my wife about whether it was right or wrong. Our goals are benign and noble, I said. We have an imperative to confront dictators, an obligation to give people a chance to live free. We are trying to help people feel as safe as we used to feel. We want people to be as comfortable with each other as we are. The war will make the world better. The war will make us safe.

“How naïve, arrogant, and immoral,” she said. We stopped talking about the war.

The storm is closer now. The hot air is stirring a bit and the birds are quiet. My son and I can no longer see all of the cloud; its crown is out of sight, its belly is a dark blue and black and gray. My son is excited and worried. It is a big storm. We move to the covered porch, he cradles in my arms and we just sit. We are living proof of what America is.

In a coffee shop one day, the man behind the counter, an actor or a writer probably but just this day a guy selling coffee in a coffee shop, wore an interesting tattoo. Wrapping his lean bicep were words, Hope. Work. Patience. Think. Love. Do. Other words, too. I asked him why he’d had such statements tattooed onto his arm. He pulled up the sleeve of his t-shirt to give me a good look. Each time I face a challenge, or something happens to me, I wear a new word.

  Maybe you should get a pad or a notebook or something, I joked.

  Maybe when I run out of arm, he deadpanned. How American.

We wear our feelings not just on our sleeves; we burn them into our arms. Expressive, irrepressible. The size of the land itself, the vast scale of it, creates optimism. Boundless, unstoppable. The music, the food, the cultural diversity, the ease with which we move about, create an energy and drive that is relentlessly exciting. Italian-American; African-American; Irish-American; Chinese-American. We are more the American than the other.

The summer of 1984 I was in Leningrad. One night a group of Russians grabbed me and a friend and, using sign language and smiles, took us to their home for a party. We have Americans in our apartment, they said into the phone. Someone who spoke English joined us, more friends came, we drank Vietnamese vodka all night long. We answered their questions. We made out with Russian girls. We ate smoked eels. We got drunk, drunk, drunk. They loved us. We were rock stars, Americans, Kings of The World.

Twenty years later, I cannot imagine a place on the globe where Americans would feel so welcome. In 1945 E.B. White wrote in the New Yorker about how the World looked up to America and why: 

The United States is regarded by people everywhere as a dream come true, a sort of world state in miniature. Here dwell the world’s emigrants under one law, and the law is: Thou shalt not push thy neighbor around. By some curious divinity which in him lies, Man, in this experiment of mixed races and mixed creeds, has turned out more good than bad, more right than wrong, more kind than cruel, and more sinned against than sinning. This is the world’s hope and its chance.

Who are we now?

Sixty years after E.B. White wrote his essay for the New Yorker, how many Americans agree with his assessment of this country as a “dream come true”? Is America’s idealized self image a mirage?

An English friend believes that during this war, under this President, Americans have lost the best of who we are. Americans have always been naïvely optimistic and it was always so endearing and admirable, she said. But you cannot be naïve any longer. Willful ignorance is not naiveté.

Respectful, thoughtful, kind; expansive, naïve, optimistic; motivated, curious, proud; expressive, giving, hopeful; driven, irrepressible, unstoppable; loving, dedicated, resourceful; ethical, moral, compassionate; inventive, creative, welcoming; inclusive, decisive, brave; understanding, temperate, colorful. Naïve, arrogant, immoral.

My son and I remain on the porch. The storm is now approaching, shuddering the ground with rolls of thunder, pushing languid, thick air out of its way. We watch the flashes of light eagerly and begin a count. “One, Mississippi; two, Mississippi; three, Mississippi …” We time the roars of thunder, establishing the pace of the storm. Soon it will hit.

We pull the chairs to the edge of the porch. The world starts to go dark. We listen to individual raindrops strike leaves, the roof, the ground. The wind picks up. And now the rain comes in sheets. It makes us nervous, fearful.

As we sit facing east, watching the storm roil above us, from behind us, from the west, the sun drops below the cloud line, casting a warm light into the storm. The sun turns what was a torrent of rain into a kaleidoscope of flashing and streaking individual drops of water. And now a rainbow arches across the entire sky along the ridge across our valley.

My son’s eyes widen. A magnificent grin splays across his face. He leans forward out of the chair. “Look, Daddy! A rainbow! Can we go get the pot of gold?!”

He is so hopeful, optimistic, naïve.

I do not know what to say.

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Six Quotes

Quote #1:

There is no history of ethnic strife in Iraq.

– Paul Wolfowitz, The New York Times, February 28, 2003

Quote #2:

I don’t do quagmires.

–Donald Rumsfeld, July 2003

Quote #3:

If you fall on the side that is pro-George and pro-war, you get your ass over to Iraq, and take the place of somebody who wants to come home. And if you fall on the side that is against this war and against George Bush, stand up and speak out.

–Cindy Sheehan, “Hypocrites and Liars,”
August 20, 2005

Quote #4:

Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

– British MP George Galloway addressing U.S. Senator Norm Colman, 17 May 2005

Quote #5:

The American occupation of Iraq is something new, but the fundamental error of the United States has a long pedigree. It is the imprisonment of the human mind in ideology backed by violence.

–Jonathan Schell in The Nation, 4 July 2005

Quote #6:

There is still no indication that the Bush administration recognizes the utter folly of its war in Iraq, which has been like a constant spray of gasoline on the fire of global terrorism.

–Bob Herbert, The New York Times, 25 July 2005

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Budget Cuts
by
Madeline Kunin
 

“Starve the Beast” is the jargon used by conservatives to cut programs that help children, schools, the environment, health care and the poor. The “beast”, of course, is the federal government; starvation is necessary because the deficit has eaten up all the money.

The problem with this rationale is that the budget cuts don’t do much to reduce the deficit. Over five years, these cuts would save about 66 billion per year, reducing the deficit by one-sixth. Meanwhile, further tax breaks for high-income Americans would continue to be expanded.

Program cuts are not about cutting programs to reduce the deficit. Program cuts are about a fundamental policy shift in the role of government itself. Programs such as child care, Head Start and health care for veterans can be cut because they are non-essential, according to Bush policy. The Bush-created deficit is seen, not as a problem to be fixed, but as an opportunity to be seized to downsize government to bare essentials – namely, the military and national security.

The same argument may be applied to privatizing social security. First offered as a fix to a long-term problem of a shrinking social security pie to be served to a growing social security population, it turns out that the privatization scheme is no fix at all. In fact, it aggravates the financial problems faced by social security and the national deficit.

What privatizing social security would achieve is a major change in government policy. We would move from real social security – a check in the mail you can count on after retirement – to a check which may or may not be there, depending on the ups and downs of the market. Government would not have the responsibility of helping you out in your old age; you would have to take the risk by managing the money yourself.

These policy shifts in the role of government in American society are worthy of debate. It is healthy, from time to time, to reconsider the proper role of government. But let’s be honest about the debate and not pretend that we are cutting social programs to reduce the deficit, or pretend that we’re cutting taxes to help middle-income Americans, or pretend that we’re changing social security to make it solvent – when, in fact, we are doing just the opposite: cutting down the size of government into a starved skeletal structure that will have no strength to uplift, motivate or sustain those who look to it for security in their old age, or opportunity in their youth.

—–
This essay first appeared as a commentary on Vermont Public Radio on February 23, 2005. © Copyright 2005, VPR

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Untitled

Politics as usual
the shuffling of egos
leave men on the edge
here so far
from Cold Mountain

  Clarence Milam

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TWO BOOKS TO RECOMMEND:
Carthage by Baron Wormser
and
Earth, My Likeness by Walt Whitman
Edited and with an Introduction by Howard Nelson
In a collection of essays by Albert Camus called Resistance, Rebellion and Death, Camus writes in an essay called “The Artist and His Time: The Wager of Our Generation”:

The artist of today becomes unreal if he remains in his ivory tower or sterilized if he spends his time galloping around the political arena. Yet between the two lies the arduous way of true art. It seems to me that the writer must be fully aware of the dramas of his time and that he must take sides every time he can or knows how to do so. But he must also maintain or resume from time to time a certain distance in relation to our history.

Carthage and Earth: My Likeness taken together make for a bracing pair of books demonstrating both aspects of what Camus sees as the artist’s calling.

Carthage by Baron Wormser

Baron Wormser, the poet laureate of Maine, has written an arresting, insightful and ultimately heart-breaking series of poems about a man named Carthage who is president of a very powerful country. Carthage, as Stephen Dunn has said about these new poems, is “befuddled by events he’s helped create.” Carthage is, I believe, a book Albert Camus would like.

Carthage likes to fly in airplanes, get away from it all, way up there where you don’t even see the rain.

Carthage wishes his life were simpler. He sees a coven of crows/ . . . sparring with one another over the delectable innards/Of a mashed squirrel as if/Death were a birthday party. Carthage wishes he could take out his twenty-two/And put a couple of them down, . . . . He knows, though, that . . ./Presidents have better things to do./The world always needs fixing.

Carthage likes to watch himself on television. It isn’t vanity./On the contrary, his staring stems/From an almost metaphysical doubt./When you live in front of others/You misplace yourself.

Carthage worries about his significance, his importance, his place in history. He’s keeping a diary. Each day finds Carthage loitering/In the vestibules of significance. He thinks about writing in his diary about the waffles he had for breakfast. He has to confess that seems trivial./Everyone eats waffles./He’s given orders to invade a few countries./That’s not something everyone has done./It doesn’t feel like much, though. You’re excited for a few days/And then you’re back to thinking about waffles.

People don’t think much of Carthage’s intelligence. Each day Carthage sees his advisors./They know more than he does but are polite about it./They smile handsomely; their voices are intelligent honey./Carthage gets sick of it./He can make audiences of patriots/And rich Christians go crazy but he gets tired of listening/Like some kind of half-educated monkey.

In “Carthage Plays Cards”–my favorite poem in the series–Carthage plays poker with the boys. He’s just a regular guy. There’s beer and chips and pictures of naked women on the backs of the playing cards. It’s fun. Nothing feels this good.

These poems create a searing and ultimately pitiful portrait of a president lost in a world he’d kind of rather not be in. Well, no, actually, he’s glad to be there. Yes, he’s glad to be there. After all, The world always needs fixing.

Highly recommended. Carthage is available for $10.00, plus 2.25 for shipping and handling directly from Baron Wormser, 3 Getchell Lane, Hallowell, ME 04347.

Earth, My Likeness by Walt Whitman
Edited and with an Introduction by Howard Nelson

And another poet who knew the truth of Camus’s edict, even though he was born practically a century before Camus, is Walt Whitman. Here now is Earth, My Likeness, a new anthology–selections, a compilation of “pieces”–of Whitman’s effusive outpouring from editor and Whitman expert Howard Nelson, who is also a sometimes contributor to the JME.

Nelson’s brilliant Introduction talks about Whitman as the great embracer of everything. The guy with the enormous bear-hug for the entire, the-way-it-is world. In this regard, Whitman, it seems to me, is the American writer most like Lao Tzu. Certainly Whitman created his own American-Taoist view of the world. His desire for natural persons, as Whitman put it, his vision that saw, as Nelson puts it, human beings as every bit as natural as an oak-tree or a warbling bird is pure Wu Wei.

Yet this ability to embrace everything allows Whitman to uncritically celebrate the industrialization of America, and the death of the redwood forests in order to make way for a swarming and busy race settling and organizing everywhere . . . for the flashing and golden pageant of California. Ah, would that Walt could come back and take a ride on an L.A. freeway.

Nelson connects Whitman to his contemporaries Thoreau and Melville saying how all three men were “water writers”–Thoreau: the pond, Melville: the ocean and Whitman: the writer of the places where water and land meet–seashore, creek and river bank.

Whitman delights in his own sexuality, his sexiness, and Nelson delights in it also. John Greenleaf Whittier threw Whitman’s poems in the fire he was so offended by them. Emerson tried to get Whitman to take the sex out of Leaves of Grass. It was left to Gerard Manley Hopkins, an Episcopal priest, to really understand the intensity and worthiness of Whitman’s sexual writing and to recognize in Whitman something wild, elemental, pre-Christian as Nelson says.

Eros and nature are richly tangled in a wet, lush bouquet. . . . quoting Nelson again, Writing about sex as nature and nature as sex is more than a strategy or technique for Whitman. It is a measure of his happiness in being open to and in touch with the ground, the green world, animals, the water, the air and the stars.

I wonder if anyone has ever compared the poetry of Walt Whitman to Hafiz. They are surely brothers across time and cultures.

Both Whitman and his champion Howard Nelson understand that, as Nelson says, Sexuality is a great, flowing force. We don’t have it so much as it has us. In that way it is like the earth, and the instinctual life that we share with the animals.

We don’t have it so much as it has us. Ah, is it not so?

People know by now that Walt Whitman’s political writing makes most of us so-called contemporary left wing radical poets sound like Casper Milquetoast. Whitman can win any in-your-face radical poet slam anytime, anywhere.

Yet here in Earth, My Likeness we have Walt Whitman the great lover of everything: the sky, the ocean, the ferry boat crossing the river, the crush and press of flesh on a Manhattan street, the ox and the ox driver, the dying soldier, the young boys he lusted after, a blade of grass, the compost pile, a blackberry, a wood thrush–this great bear-hug embrace of everything alive in the world, and the embrace of death as well.

Earth, My Likeness is a worthy and necessary antidote to too much NPR, The New York TimesThe Nation and The Judevine Mountain Emailite.

Earth, My Likeness is published by Heron Dance Press and is available for $12.00 at: http://www.herondance.org/studiostore/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=art&Product_Code=6071&Product_Count=&Category_Code

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Hardened Bread

My desk is cluttered,
piled high with papers and pictures.
Rhetoric of doomsayers.
Quoting dictators, naming villains.

I take refuge in the poetry of T’ang,
Han-Shan, Li Po, Tu Fu.
This country is so young.
There are no new subjects for poems.

I will rise on Sunday mornings.
Light my sandalwood incense,
nestled in my meditation grove. Return again
and again to Cold Mountain,

amid sweet smell
of wisteria blossoms.
Feed the bluejay sunflower seeds,
and bits of my family’s hardened bread.

Clarence Milam


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Molly Ivins, Derrick Jackson, Bob Herbert,
Joan Chittister and Gender Gappers
Walt Whitman liked best the penny newspapers–the cheap ones–in New York City because of their lively style. He said, I like limber, lashing, fierce words… strong, cutting, beautiful, rude words.

For my money it’s Molly Ivins, Derrick Jackson, Bob Herbert, Joan Chittister and Gender Gappers–more on them below–who are doing Whitman’s work.

Is it a coincidence that in the list of Ivins, Jackson, Hebert, Chittister and Gender Gappers, there are four women and two black men? What!

All of these tell it like it is, speak truth to power, because they are blunt, direct, and short. As Walt Whitman says, Limber, lashing, fierce words… strong, cutting, beautiful, rude words.

Molly Ivins is a Texas Observer and AlterNet columnist and author of Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush. Her columns are available at: http://www.alternet.org/columnists/1406

Derrick Jackson is an African American, OpEd columnist for The Boston Globe. His columns are archived at: http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/jackson

Bob Herbert is an African American, OpEd columnist for The New York Times. His columns are archived at: http://www.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/bobherbert

Joan Chittister is a Benedictine nun from Erie, Pennsylvania, and the creator of “From Where I Stand” a weekly column supplied as a free service of the National Catholic Reporter. Her columns are available at: http://nationalcatholicreporter.org/fwis

Gender Gappers is an occasional, short, pithy, hard hitting, no-holds-barred, truth-to-power blog created and sustained by two women known collectively as Twanda. Highly recommended. To subscribe and view archives go to: http://www.gendergappers.org

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Two Poems for Cindy

FIRST LADY: LAST DITCH DELIVERY

No ambush, stand-off, sniper.
No smile in the crosshairs.

Laura Bush,
in your posh compound.

Beyond the concertina wire
a mother who spelled
sacrifice correctly

gets the Gold Star:
a fire scar.

Face her.

Verandah Porche


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LONESOME MOM
for Cindy SheehanA president has to protect himself from emotional predators.
Edmund Morris, “Conservative Compassion,” The New York Times, August 17, 2005

Between Grief and Nothing, I’ll take the Grief.
William Faulkner, The Wild Palms

Camped by the roadside four miles 

from the President’s ranch, 

as close as the public’s allowed 

(after all, we’re only paying the bills) 

you stand by your sign and your ribbon 

with its message, BRING OUR TROOPS 

HOME NOW. Thee speaks my mind 

and that of millions of others, and to me 

you are the Rosa Parks who has boarded 

the bus that George Bush is driving. 

You demand to be heard and respected, 

face to face, an I-Thou encounter, 

although that may not be possible 

with a man who stands by his lies 

and is oblivious to all reason. 

When he showed up for a closed-door 

session with a few families like yours 

he did not know your son Casey’s name, 

although he called you “Mom” as if 

he could for a few minutes replace him. 

Should you not then be satisfied, 

flattered, honored? A chummy, genial 

fellow is our President, addressing 

bouquets of you generic Moms and Dads, 

nothing special, a nuisance, as un- 

welcome a sight as flag-covered 

coffins. After all, now that there are 

nearly two thousand fallen troops 

he can’t recall all their names, and 

a voluntary propagandist, of which 

there are many, now makes a virtue 

of callousness, as if even mothers 

of those he has sent to their deaths 

are nothing but “emotional predators.” 

Then so are we all, and let us proclaim 

our pride in having some feelings left. 

  David Ray

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Contributors’ Notes

David Rocchio (drocchio@threepercentproductions.com) is a free lance writer, film maker and lawyer who lives in Vermont.

Madeleine Kunin (mkunin@smcvt.edu) is a former Governor of Vermont.

Baron Wormser (baronw@gwi.net) is the poet laureate of Maine.

Howard Nelson (nelsonh33@hotmail.com) is a poet and a teacher living in upstate New York.

Clarence Milam (CCmilam@aol.com) is a poet who lives in Lubbock, Texas.

Verandah Porche (http://www.sover.net/~verandah/intro.html) is a poet who lives near Brattleboro, Vermont.

David Ray (www.davidraypoet.com) is a poet who lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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