life, teaching, Uncategorized

The Value and Relevance of Home

EmilyHouseIf you have been following this blog for the last few days (or longer), you know about my campaign to help save one of my brightest students and her mom from the homeless shelter this holiday season. In running this one-man show, I have had to give a lot of thought to the psychology and meaning that the word “home” generates.

After all, we are in the midst of a holiday season rife with songs about the joys and pleasures of being at home, whether it’s “I’ll be Home for Christmas” or “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays.” In our greatest literature, home is portrayed as that point of both psychological and physical relief: When a character is at home, he or she is at rest, completely at ease, and ideally, right with the world.

Of course, there are plenty of homes in literature where the above is not true, whether it’s in short stories like Aryn Kyle’s “Allegiance,” or Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” or whether it’s in longer novels (see multiple works by Stephen King or any other author who capitalizes on family dysfunction).

But even when an author or character comes from a home with “chronic angers” (Hayden) or faults and fissures (Poe), home as a concept still resonates with the expectation of peace. When that expectation is unfulfilled, conflict results.

But what about the nomad? The archetypal wanderer may fill our minds with romantic notions, but in reality, the soul without a home is oppressed. Such is the case with my student and her mother. Life at the shelter is not so different from jail: No visitors beyond the lobby, curfew is 6 p.m., and countless other restrictions give families the impression that they are not so much being housed as confined. That’s no way to spend Christmas.

As our minds fill with warm images and remembrances of home, may we all realize in this season that there are many wonderful, intelligent, and moral people without such a place. Let us give so that others may know the comfort and joy that our seasonal carols promise. Once again, here’s the link to donate:



poetry, Uncategorized

The Poet as Father

OK, I admit it. I’d like to have a writing room. Ever since I heard novelist Michael Connelly talk about his during the last residency of my MFA in Creative Writing program at University of Tampa, I’ve been somewhat envious. It seems that Connelly has blackout blinds, soundproof walls, acoustic “dead zones” and other cool features in the room where he does all his writing. His family understands that when he goes into the special room, he is “at work,” and is not to be disturbed.

Even as I write this, my wife is asking me, “Honey, where did you put the boys’ gummies (those fruit-flavored gummy treat things)?” Granted, I wish I could focus on blogging in peace, but excluding myself from family life seems selfish, even irresponsible to a degree. “They’re in that narrow cabinet beside the stove,” I respond, and keep tappity-tap-tapping away at this keyboard.

In my house, we have a place called “The Quiet Room.” It serves as a library/study/creative workspace, and its view is fantastic. I’ll have to post a photo sometime. Through our large front window, I look out over our neighboring lake and beyond to the dotted houses, palm trees, and other charming features along the opposite shore’s landscape. The view changes based on wind, weather, season, and other factors, but its constancy is reassuring simultaneously. I guess you could say it has sort of a dynamic stability about it. Back in the seventies when this place was built, this room was considered the “formal living room,” that stuffy, pretentious room where you took guests that you considered high-class so you could impress them with your earth-tone hardwood furniture and extensive, gilt-edged encyclopedia sets. Today, that idea is outmoded (to say the least), and thus, the creation of a re-purposed space for reading, writing, and creative endeavors.

I know that The Quiet Room is the closest I’m going to come to a writing room anytime soon, and I’m good with that. It has no real doors to speak of, so my sons come and visit once in a while, usually just to see what I’m up to, and that’s okay with me. In the grand scheme of things, if I have to trade a Pulitzer Prize for attention given to my boys, I’ll gladly do so. My family, after all, is the greater priority. Flights of fancy and creative sparks come and go, but the value of these bonds forged in our home far surpasses any fleeting glory I may attain as a poet. The last thing I want is to be one of those authors who, when PBS makes their documentary, is described as a literary genius but a lousy dad. There are plenty of others out there who have made that mistake, and I’d prefer so stay out of their league. I’d love to write some more about this, but it’s playtime, readers. I have a plastic swordfight to go lose against two keen opponents. En garde!