The Blob vs. The Blog

I realize that a blog is meant to establish my brand. This realization comes late.  My original intention was simply to share my words and music. Turns out that you must have a presence on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and frequently say and show more of yourself than a prey animal would ever recommend. Brandishing my brand also means showing and reading my books:


. . . at book festivals in Petersburg

RLR at Petersburg stall

. . . Richmond’s Book Lovers Festival

Booklovers Stall.jpg

. . . Charlottesville’s Blue Ridge Festival

My stall at Blue Ridge Festival.jpg

and then back in Richmond for the Virginia Writers Club Symposium and James River Writers Conference.  By the way, tonight (11/7/2018) I’ll be at an engagement at Stir Crazy Cafe on MacArthur Ave. in Richmond at 7 p.m.  It may later be broadcast on WRIR as part of the Prose&Cons program. Here’s an interview from that program that aired earlier in the year:  

Okay. Enough brand-ishing.

Election results are encouraging, but it remains to be seen whether folks can behave with civility and acknowledge that the public good is served through compassionate compromises.

Little gets said about actually attending to the magnitude and urgency of the socio-environmental issues of  climate, population, and industrialization.

It reminds me that the Blob is still frozen in the Arctic.

You know about the Blob, right?

The film documentary was made in 1958. We may not be concerned about climate science, but given that enough of Greenland and the Arctic have disappeared to encourage Russia to claim territory, shouldn’t we also be concerned about the return of the Blob?

This is supposed to be a rant, but like Emily’s complaints, it comes out slant–

Melting, and Other Slips of State

“How do you get people to protect themselves against something they don’t believe in?” and “I don’t think it can be killed, but at least we’ve got it stopped—as long as the Arctic stays cold.” —from The Blob, a movie in 1958


How do you get people to protect themselves

against something they don’t believe in?

A light’s required to see the Thing

against background light as the Thing is—

white on white, Malevich’s hand in it,

or Malewicz on Malevich, with Stalin’s hand.


White is the art. Arctic is its abstract grip

on cold ideals believed in

so much northern light conceals—

wedged, bowsprit jammed

down, a dory tipped and emptied—the scene

in grating ice, the ship of state.


I like to bear down on existence and coexistence by setting thoughts into the compressed and spiny, sea-urchin-like multiple prickly references of a poem whose comprehension requires the reader to spend some time with it–maybe even diagramming a sentence or two. The rant’s there, but it isn’t breathless or venomous.

Instead, I put together the elements of the script-line from The Blob, the  art & politics of Malewicz, the effects of climate change, the analogy of how insistent self-delusion is like trying to see white on white or like being distracted by a personal light-show like the aurora borealis, and the comparison of the sinking dory to our denied slow-motion environmental disaster.

I know, it’s all a bit much.

But this is the kind of problem poets set themselves.

Not brandishing–or ranting.

Not a page-turner but a page-pauser.

A poem combines diverse elements to make a work that conveys an experience both in what it says and in how it says it.  In its completed gesture, it’s like a good meal or the musical experience from a pick-up group that brings everyone into the circle–like Barry Bless’s group at Crossroads Cafe on Friday mornings.

Or like a country that finds its strength in the trust and human treasures of all its people.

Crossroads w Billy dancing




Truths, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Updates, & Links for the Frameshifts Project


Truths, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Updates, & Links

Living with a truth is like living with a teenager. Argument does not weaken him; nor is he moved to pity. He sullenly presumes your betrayal. Singing “And who can abide the day of his coming?” Truth will never let you off.

For example, it is true that humans are interdependent with each other and with other living beings. In a letter of condolence, Albert Einstein once called the sense of separation an “optical delusion of consciousness.” And, also speaking of separation, James Baldwin observed that some people, “because they think that they are white” bring “humanity to the edge of oblivion.”

Argue that separation is inevitable or sometimes beneficial: Truth simply shakes his head. Seek a concession or grandfather clause: He offers no loopholes.

Living with Truth in the house means that you must take a drive if you want to return to your Dream. But when you go back into the house, Truth is still there.

So, when Ta-Nehisi Coates, in Between the world and Me, writes to his son that America’s achievements derive from racist brutality, lynching, and looting, he is simply telling the truth.  And when Coates takes a drive around the block he finds the “gorgeous dream” of America. “It is perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The Dream is a tree house and cub scouts  .  . . (a dream that) persists by warring with the known world.”

It is a dream of how we choose to think about ourselves. Go back into the house. Just over the threshold, Truth is waiting.

Like the Departures and Arrivals Gate at the airport, the threshold between different frames of reference is always available. Shifting frames of reference is not a comfort.  Frequently trying on different frames of reference, like choosing shoes, may be annoying, but it does offer one benefit: it offers just enough depth to put your life in relief and lead you to ask, “Now what do I do with my life?”

Just don’t be too quick to answer the question with someone else’s idea of Three Easy Steps.  The only worthwhile answer to how we are to live with the truth that we are not separate must come from the work we do on ourselves–trying to master our own materials first, in our own studios (whatever they are), one step at a time.

In this way, Ta-Nehisi Coates answers his own version of the question: “How do I live free in this black body?”  Always a curious observer, and working on himself, he finds that the “greatest reward of this constant interrogation, of confrontation with the brutality of my country, is that it has freed me from ghosts and girded me against the sheer terror of disembodiment.”

The Frameshifts project is dedicated to shifting your frame of reference through stories, poems, and music. When we shift frames, we think differently about ourselves and others. We may even question unchanging ideas about how things are and should be and reconsider the unbidden systems we received at birth. Let ghosts go on their way.


INTERVIEWS:   Listen to the interviews of authors Richard Rose and Bill Sizemore on Monday July 23, 2018 on WRIR 97.3fm at 11:00 a.m. (Afterwards, it will be available on podcast at ). This features a short performance based on:  COMING AROUND,  released for sale on August 6, 2018. In nonfiction and poetry, both authors address their families’ past involvement with slavery and consider the present-day consequences. Sizemore’s book release will be at Chop Suey Book Store in Richmond on September 5, 2018.  Both books are published by Brandylane Publishing in Richmond.

PERFORMANCES:   Also, check out the performances of some of Rose’s operas on his YouTube channel. Included are the April 2018 performances by Capitol Opera Richmond of “Monte and Pinky” at the Black History Museum and “Strike the Rock!” at the Church of the Holy Comforter.  “Monte & Pinky” is the musical companion of Coming AroundThe character “Pinky” first appeared in the first volume of Frameshifts, a book of poems and stories published in two volumes in 2011.  For the recorded performances, link to Rose’s YouTube channel:


THE BOOK TOUR: Two more stops on Richard Rose’s book tour for Coming Around are:

The Local Authors Expo: Over 30 authors will be present on Saturday, August 4, 2018 at Petersburg Main Library on 201 W. Washington from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to discuss, sign and sell their books.

The BookPeople Re-Opening Event: Richard Rose will present a performance based on Coming Around for the re-opening of a remodeled BookPeople in Richmond on Saturday, September 1, 2018, from 1:00 to 2:30.  Book People (536 Granite Ave # A, Richmond, VA 23226).

Recently, the online Piedmont Journal has published an issue in hard copy, which includes Rose’s series of poems entitled “Stops along Route 15.” Link:


To see more work by Richard Rose, see or to subscribe to the blog and website, at

Launch from the Lawn: A new book, a book tour, and another Fourth of July


ComAro Cover Final

Launch from the Lawn: A new book, a book tour, and another Fourth of July

             Saturday morning, I cut the grass. Time to think. Lawns are a microcosm of culture: managed, monetized, mechanized, monocultural media of unminded conspicuous consumption. Thorstein Veblen would say even more.

As one whose feelings come out in words and music, I can only report on how culture makes me feel.  Processing plants of all kinds—except for real plants—work on specialization, through-put, sampling and correction, unit-design and replication, efficiencies of scale, automation, and just-in-time expediting, inventory, and delivery. What appeals to us in making battleships or bottlecaps in this way is the possibility of arranging our personal and social lives in the same way.  Such engineered practices have a long history but the current culture of immediate communication seems to offer the greatest possibility that humans have ever had to create such a society and standard of personal life. Nazism could only go so far; now we have the internet.

Speaking of plants, and back to grass-cutting, I suppose that one could argue that cellular organization is like a factory. That’s how we teach it: a cytochrome system is like an assembly line, for example.  But don’t we use such analogies to simplify events so interdependent and intimately responsive that we have no conceivable equivalents? Were humans as adeptly responsive to their surroundings—and their surroundings as exquisitely suited to them—as organelles in a cytoplasmic matrix, our grasp of our experience would be within a different frame of reference. Certainly, we would not need to refer to factories.  We’re not there yet.

As one who is suited to making words and music, I simply watch the robins descend on the lawn to do their work and return to my studio to do my own work. Maybe in comparison to someone with ten talents, like Geoffrey Hill (See Paul Batchelor’s review in the current Poetry.), my single talent is minimal. I prefer to think that each of us is singular and our talents are not units but powers of ten.

So, with the lawn finally cut for the Fourth, I’m finally ready to put up information about the new book, the book tour, and—

Oh, I didn’t mention Ted Steinberg’s book, American Green, about our obsession with lawns. This source and others claim that 2-4-D, glyphosate, chlorpyrifos, and other residues affect us and our pets in various ways. Other sources make different claims. I discussed most of this in an earlier blog (See ),  but am buoyed by encouraging words from Pope Francis in A Man of His Word and Fred Rogers in Won’t you be my neighbor?  Fred said that his work and ours is Tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase meaning “repair of the world.” ( BTW, The modern understanding of this phrase is more expansive than the original meaning.)

More generally, the Lawn As Microcosm of Culture is an example of a deep confrontation that has little to do with blue and red politics. Is life concerned with perfecting the customization of the world to human beings or with humans working on themselves to become more adept at adaptation and accommodation to the world and to others? Are family meals, for example, about “what would you like, honey?” or are they about learning to share the same food—which is to say, to share a common life? Is civilization better characterized by enthusiasts proposing the Anthropocene, the Free Market, or the Half Earth? Questions not for philosophers but parents.

Just as parenthood may be defined as the time to discover one’s principles and to learn to practice them, so adulthood may be defined as the time to live into one’s human responsibility and learn to practice life. Saying “to practice life” is a way of hinting that one works on oneself to approach life intentionally rather than to assume that life only happens to you. Part of that practice is finding out what you’re suited for and working on it.

Even if it’s the power of one talent, you are acting responsibly.

Even if it’s as corny as my new video for July 4. (See )

Even if it’s writing and promoting a book of poems, like Coming Around, and starting a book tour with a podcast interview by Ben Krumwiede and Dominique James of WRIR, airing at 11 a.m. on July 23, 2018, which will thereafter be available online at

Even if it’s like my coming presentations at BookPeople   (See: )  and other places, as advertised on this site.  (See Coming Events at )

The practice of life:  it’s all about rehearsals. It’s about working in your own studio to master your own materials first, so that your own experience may speak. As my blog’s side-bar says, “you are not obliged to be admired… just don’t stand pat.” We may not all have the high exponential power of Fred Rogers or Pope Francis, but each of us is a singularity. As Fred repeated daily, “there is no one else like you.”

Meanwhile, if you’re planning a July 4th lunch on the lawn, please use a blanket.



MONTE & PINKY at BHMVA . . . and COMING AROUND at Tottering Tea Cup

Some Links to what’s coming up:

On Saturday, April 7, 2018, the opera Monte & Pinky, featuring Erin Wind as Monte and Del Sykes as Pinky,  will be performed by Richmond Concert Opera (  at the Black History Museum in Richmond ( at 2:00 p.m.

It will be followed by dramatic readings featuring Del Sykes, Diana Carver, and Richard Rose on the lives of domestic workers during the Great Migration.

Besides the reading, another companion to Monte & Pinky is the publication of Coming Around, a poetry collection by Richard Rose.  Although the general release will be in August, some advanced copies will be available for some upcoming events.  Rose will speak during the RVA Literary Crawl (2018_RVALitCrawl ) at the Tottering Teacup (  with other poets on April 21 at 5:00 pm:

On April 22, both Monte & Pinky and Amber  will be produced as STRIKE THE ROCK! in a concert reading at the Church of the Holy Comforter ( at 2:00 p.m.

An extended reading from Coming Around is planned for late April or early May.  Details TBD.

STRIKE THE ROCK! opens at the Gellman Room, Richmond Main Library


WINGS . . . and other invitations

Ten years ago this May, Susie and I returned to Virginia in a small plane flown by a friend of my sister in Oklahoma.  Following ten days of hospital treatment for pneumonia, Susie was propped by the window for the take-off.  Nine years of Alzheimer’s had left her without speech and unable to sit up, but when we lifted off, she looked at the sky and smiled.  It was the last time I saw her enjoy herself.


Like Susie, Emily Stilson flew many times with her father in small planes, but Emily walked on the wings of bi-planes. Her wing-walking over crowds in cornfields and state fairs forms the background for WINGS, the current production at Richmond’s Firehouse Theatre ( ). A 1992 adaptation by composer Jeffrey Lunden and lyricist Arthur Perlman of the play by Arthur Kopit, the story begins with Emily’s debilitating stroke, from which she never fully recovers–an unlikely premise for a musical.

But we are the beings who see beyond the worlds and wounds we have created–the beings with imagination. As Kopit was writing the play, his father had a stroke.  He took the invitation to imagine his father’s experience.

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor described her stroke as feeling like a liquid, in some ways like the “flow” or absorption felt when we are creatively engaged (see Csikszentmihalyi’s book, cited below) or like the uncensored “ejaculatory speech” of a person with Tourette’s syndrome, as described by Oliver Sacks: a flow of sounds and words uncensored and unmodulated by speech centers; a flow of images flooding the visual centers. With speech disabled, one recruits first-responders from other parts of the cortex; as more former associates appear on the scene, they bring lost words and new connections.  Given gentle care, time, and opportunities for little awakenings through participation in arts, one may even imagine herself back into the same reality that others imagine. Emily, however, never quite lands again in the acceptably imagined world.

She stays in the territory of what Robinson Jeffers called “edgeless dreams.” The loss of nouns (anomia), the struggle with consonant clusters, nonsense rhymes, gibberish, and sudden memory lapses, and failure to recognize faces: these impediments are like a torn cowling or swathe of fabric ripped up and plastered against the visor and the pilot’s face. The plane flies on; Emily’s identity is intact. Recovery is slow and incomplete, her dreams as real as her daily routine in various institutions.

But how do you portray this in a musical?

Firehouse Theatre willingly takes on such projects, such as the challenge it met earlier in the month with the successful production of Walter Braxton’s To Damascus. In the production of Wings, Lunden’s score for keyboard, flute, ‘cello, and  samples lays down a tentative landscape for the territory Emily inhabits. Maddening, confusing, elusive, her conflicting emotions sink and soar in a spare but lyrical idiom under the capable musical direction of pianist Kim Fox.  Director Kerrigan Sullivan and Scenic and Lighting Designers Vinnie Gonzalez and Bill Miller use minimal staging to create a space seamlessly transformed into hospital, airfield with landing lights, rest home, barn, bi-plane, and the cloudy, unnamed regions that Emily inhabits with doctors, nurses, attendants, and other patients. Supporting roles are  played by the flexible cast of four  actors: Andrew Colletti, Lauren Elens, Lucinda McDermott, and Landon Nagel.

For eighty minutes, Bianca Bryan is center-stage as Emily Stilson in a remarkable performance.  In a part that requires not only singing and acting but also speaking gibberish, she is completely convincing–whether playing the disabled Emily frustrated with others’ inability to understand her or the intact individual beneath all the afflictions who grasps new insights about the feel of the mind coming through clouds.

Invitations announce themselves in many ways. Grief asks you what you will make of it. Confusion and conflict ask you to discover the roles and realms available to you. We want to get outside our old eyes, our old world, our maddening wounds, and imagine ourselves into a new reality:  Dangerous territory.  Emily wondered whether she’d crashed somewhere.  So much to take in–and what does one make of it?

The invitation is to choose something for yourself–not to have it chosen for you, by the way. Choose how to imagine yourself. Both your world and dream-world are imaginative works. To take on an imaginative work is to breathe capaciously, to hold and examine the potential of it, to release and give shape to it, and then to hold the absence of it, the grief of it, which always becomes a new invitation.

That Last Rites are a Lift-Off


Set meters to aught.

Let sorrows depart.



Let go.

Instruments zero.

Forget what you know.

Let go.


Pierce eyes.

Fly with your heart.

Let sorrows depart.

Pierce eyes.


The poem was written in 2008 after our last ride, coming home in a Piper. Jill Bolte Taylor’s book is My Stroke of Insight (2006). Oliver Sacks’ last book is The River of Consciousness (2017).  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book is Flow (1990).  Joel Bassin is the Producing Artistic Director of the Firehouse Theatre, where Wings continues for several more weeks.  Amber will be at the Firehouse on April 10 for a one-night concert performance.  (See “Coming Performances.”)







Strike the Rock! COMES AROUND to Richmond

To find out what these performers have in common, see STR by COR 2018

And watch this site for news about the book tour for Coming Around, a new book of poetry by Richard Rose, published this spring by Brandylane/ Belle Isle Publishers.

Rejuvenation & the 8-fold path



This year I will be making a series of blogs concerning the musical production, Strike the Rock! and the publication of Coming Around, a book of poems that is a companion work to the musical production.  Before launching the series, however, I’d like to share an earlier essay by Robert Rose, “Rejuvenation,” because its message is another way of saying what I shall present in music and poetry:  REJUVENATION by Robt. Rose 20161113

Hear Five Poets at Book People

January 20, 2018  A day of celebrations, some marched. Not much of a marcher, I continued to work on a different kind of demonstration for this spring:


Then I took a break to join the crowd listening to five poets in a small bookstore in Richmond, BookPeople, which is currently doing a GoFundMe drive:  Perhaps you’d like to join us.

Here’s the shop:

2. BookPeople

The poets spoke behind this bay window:

3. Bookpeople


Here’s some of the crowd behind the window.0. Cover shot


There were many notables present–



Susan Hankla read first. I missed part of her presentation, but this will give you an idea.

Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda:

Then Joanna Lee:

The inimitable Derek Kannemeyer:

Last, Elizabeth Seydel Morgan:

Glad you could make it!  If you’d like to send me a message or to post some of your own work on this blog-site, contact me at