Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

FAMOUS LAST WORDS

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REVOLUTION

Yes, there will be a revolution,
but one unlike any other.
It will be a revolution of the heart:
one in which we do not destroy
what we have created, nor one
in which we destroy those who
claim ownership of our creations.

Rather we will invite them
to walk among us, and live
like the rest of us, within
the justice of moderate needs

from “Revolution,” the November 2, 2005 blog by Utah Phillips.

Some people call the heart a lonely muscle. All by itself, it remembers to beat in two/four time, the simplest music. What else does it know: proverbs, the laws of anarchy and social responsibility? Can it be re-programmed after experiencing what a poet called the archives of terrible sadness? Can we call that retro-fit redemption? Now is the time to figure that out. As we attempt to repatriate lost children and lost opportunities to live in peace with one another and the world, there must be words of comfort and encouragement.

There must be poetry.

Utah Philips, the great American hobo songwriter, recently went to spirit, but he left a powerful legacy. I love the phrase "justice of moderate needs." It makes me think of the parable of the loaves. It helps me to believe that the new President of the United States has a mandate from all of us. We will overcome.

Like Obama, Utah had a charismatic personna. Many of his devotees held onto his words as if they were winning lottery numbers. I am not one who submits. Utah respected that. He liked that I knew to pick dock after being attacked by stinging nettle and that I wrote peoms addressing the justice of moderate needs, basic human dignity. He was a practical man.

The last time we saw Utah, he showed my grand-daughter how to get a free lunch in a fancy reestaurant. The old hobo dropped a plastic cockroach in his soup. She will never forget the man in the bow tie.

Utah believed in the efficacy of poetry in addressing the issues that undermine the human family. What is the justice of moderate needs and how do we find that balance? Are poems actually holy laws?

1 comment

Utah's words have left an undeniable legacy as I'm sure the hope Obama instills, will. Honouring Utah with a comparison to Obama though, is reaching. I know it is Obama-fever season but I think it's almost cheap to group Utah as another basis for comparison for the world's current obsession (not to disrespect Obama, of course).

Are you speaking about charisma that inspires? words that do? people who do not submit to words? the loss of a husband in "the archives of sadness" like the loss of Utah? or legacy? revolution? There is poetry as a thread here, but I don't think anyone mentioned is done justice, of any means.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Linda Rogers

Linda Rogers is the author of the novels Say My Name (Ekstasis Editions, 2000), Friday Water (Cormorant Books, 2003) and The Empress Letters (Cormorant Books, 2007). She has also published several collections of poetry, including Love in the Rainforest (Exile Editions, 1996), Heaven Cake (Sono Nis Press, 1997), The Saning (Sono Nis Press, 1999) and The Bursting Test (Guernica Editions, 2002).

Go to Linda Rogers’s Author Page