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

Artism: The World Through the Eyes of Autism


You haven’t heard much lately from Not for lack of news–I have a book & opera production coming in 2018. (More on that later.) No, I’ve been in a funk and a serious case of TMI. Social and asocial media are manageable afflictions, but sometimes one weakens.

Navigators who go off course a few degrees may arrive in Greenland rather than Georgia.  A slight displacement at the beginning of a journey results in a major transformation.  I want a displacement when I read, make, or listen to a work of words, music and images–a little shift in my frame of reference. For a little while, I am Huck Finn, or live in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town,  or hear a Greek sculptor, dead for centuries, telling me through the artistry of a god’s broken statue, “You must change your life!”

Readers of this blog-site who have read past blogs, delved into the works posted, or read my book Frameshifts (2 volumes), or attended an opera like La Rinuncia or The Fisher of the James will hear an echo.

My “Frameshifts Project” for the last 50 years has been an extended invitation to you, saying, “Shift your frame of reference a few degrees and see where it takes you!” Even if the shift lasts no longer than a poem, or song, or story, it may send your journey to a new place.

Which brings me to what brought me out of my funk:  An announcement of a new exhibition which is all about frame-shifting:


    My friend, Reid Hall, is showing his photographic images  at Art Works, 320 Hull St., Richmond, VA 23224 from November 24, 2017 through January 21, 2018. As he says, “I never really thought I saw things differently from others until the people around me said the way that I think is interesting. I hope you will come and let me know what you think about that.”

Reid's Show

I bet you have time to visit, because

“By countless steps

and endlessly

coming and going,

all things make their way

at different strides.


All things pass away,

return, step fully

in and fully out,

turn inside out,

and make their way.


Time is not part of this.

Its hours and minutes

are surrogates for framing

stride to stride,

or scale to scale.


No, in your walk,

your divine walk,

keep shifting frames.

Let steps leap nebulae

at solar strides;


or carve nucleotides

at enzymatic clip;

or lift, piece by piece,

fragments the conservator


restores. You choose.

I implore you:  choose.         .  .  .  ”


(from “Zoom In And Out”   See complete text in an earlier blog.)

“A Year’s Worth” (film review)

Stories of transformation are usually stunning and prescriptive. Scrooge makes a 180 degree turn after the ghosts visit. Self-help gurus prescribe a dozen DVDs to watch before you qualify as enlightened.

Real transformations, however, are recognized only in retrospect, and the steps you climbed to work on yourself are scantily recovered from dreams, casual comments by friends, and other imperfect records.  One never begins a transformation with “Start here.”

Joan’s transformation in A Year’s Worth is neither spectacular nor inspiring.  It is simply believable. As another stand-up comic tells her, he likes comedy because you get to tell the truth. So, also, the camera lovingly lingers on Joan’s boozy solo dance after a break-up, inviting us to watch the unflattering beginning of a pilgrimage from delusion to how things are, from sloppy half-truths to the real article. In this way, Joan moves through the precisely choreographed first steps required to wriggle from an old skin. Played by Sara Roan, a co-writer of this small-scaled production shown today at Richmond’s Byrd Theatre, Joan is an aspiring young writer employed as a dog-walker.  In this, and in another film about dog-walking, Thomas Vincent’s La Nouvelle Vie de Paul Sneijder, featured in the French Film Festival at the Byrd in March, the inner work to be done by the main character is portrayed, as in all spiritual pilgrimages, by a walk.

But Joan’s pilgrimage is not solemn. She wanders through the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, and many stores and markets familiar to Richmonders, karaoke parties, and trips to James River Park and Virginia Beach.  Roan, her husband and co-writer, John Randal Reaves, and filmmaker Eric Gilkey have made the city her friendly guide, who shows that a turn of only a few degrees is enough to change your perspective and make it possible to shake off clinging reminders of the old life.

Made from humble local materials, produced with the help of friends, and paid for by the filmmakers, this impressive film captures the life of some of today’s young people, who are often underemployed in several low-paying jobs, burdened by student loans, seeking outlets in alcoholic gatherings, uncertain of where they are going, but skeptical of the advice coming from parents and other real “adults,” as Joan calls them.  As a member of the sententious generation whose advice is suspect, I felt my own frame of reference shift a few degrees closer to Joan’s world.  With minimal verbiage and stage direction, this story advances naturally and concisely, and the worthiness of this Year’s Worth lies, for me, in the encouraging and sensible world revealed.


References: .  See also Mary Lee Clark’s review in the Richmond Times Dispatch of 5/31/2017