poetry

Still Joy

The COVID-19 pandemic and the recent winter storm in Texas have compounded the anxiety and helplessness many feel. Still, there are always moments of joy — no matter how small. That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Texas Standard: February 19, 2021

Getting power back? Priceless. Losing power and heat and water and basic services? What price the winter storm of 2021? Coming up, the high price of being unprepared. Economist Ray Perryman on the difficulty calculating the impact of this week’s storm. Also, who should shoulder the costs of weatherizing power plants? According to the governor, it’s the taxpayer. We’ll hear more. And with power coming back and a lot of water damage its not too soon think about your own next steps: tips for talking to the insurance company, and a massive rescue of fellow Texas residents… But where do you shelter almost 5 thousand sea turtles? Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Winter 2021

Texans have been suffering this week in the prolonged bitter cold, without power and without water. This Typewriter Rodeo poem is recognition of that suffering combined with the hope we continue to help each other through it.

Texas Standard: February 12, 2021

It’s freezing out there. We’ll get a look at weather conditions across the state and what’s to come. We’ll also check in on how the state is weathering extended economic challenges posed by COVID-19. We’ll hear from the state’s top budget official. And the energy industry plays a part in that economic outlook. New proposals aim to tax some polluting practices. Plus a lesson in Texas border history that you might not be familiar with. And we’ll also wrap up the week in Texas politics and more today on the Texas Standard:

Valentine’s Day (COVID Style)

The pandemic has affected the way we celebrate events and holidays. This Typewriter Rodeo poem imagines what might be possible if the limitations of COVID-19 were not in the way.

Getting Tired Of (Writing Poems About) COVID

The pandemic was never welcome. More than a year in, it has worn on in so many ways — including on those who are tasked with trying to produce art during it. That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Vaccines

The distribution of a vaccine is providing some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. While that light is still in the distance and what we’ll find when we get to it is still unknown, this Typewriter Rodeo poem is focused on the hope of drawing nearer to it.

Madame Vice President. Finally.

For the first time in United States history, a woman occupies the second highest position in government. That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Texas Standard: January 15, 2021

The November elections suggested it wouldn’t be business as usual at the state house, unless of course, lawmakers changed the rules, we’ll have details. Also, when republicans lost a key seat in the Texas senate, they lost their supermajority… a tool they’ve used to keep democrats from blocking their priorities. We’ll hear what a new rule change means for the status quo ante. And snow in Texas. Fun for kids, but farmers hope a harbinger of wetter and better days as they struggle with drought conditions. And the Latino voices of the pandemic in Texas. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Healing

It’s collectively been a tough week, months, nearly a year. This Typewriter Rodeo poem is a reminder to focus for a moment on your own humanity.

Texas Standard: January 8, 2021

Will prominent Texas politicians who sided with unsubstantiated election fraud claims pay a price for that position after Wednesday? And what is a coup? It’s a question many Americans are asking about and arguing over after the invasion of the capitol. We’ll talk with a Texas scholar whose focus includes authoritarian regimes. And she’s one of the few health providers for miles around in a rural part of east Texas. And right now she’s overwhelmed with demand for vaccinations, we’ll talk with her. Also the impact of the pandemic on the future of Texas public schools, the week in Texas politics and more today on the Texas Standard:

January 6, 2021

The events of this day will go down in history. How will we remember them? That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Farewell 2020

It has been a bit of a rough year. Some might say, “dumpster fire.” This Typewriter Rodeo poem is a (not-so-fond) farewell.

A Letter from Texas

If you had walked into the Neiman-Marcus store during the Christmas season in Dallas in 1939, you would have found a beautiful little book for sale titled A Letter from Texas.  The 20-page book, by the Texas poet, Townsend Miller, was commissioned by Stanley Marcus himself. He had the gifted printer Carl Hertzog publish an exquisite limited edition of the poem with the Neiman-Marcus imprint on the title page. Mr. Stanley, as Marcus came to be called, loved the Texcentric poem. He wanted to make it available in the store at Christmastime so that out-of-staters would have a unique gift to take back home or send to friends and family.. 

I happen to have a copy of Miller’s book. The poem is a letter to his friend, John. In it, Miller shares his passionate love for Texas with a kind of contagious exuberance: 

     John, it is a strange land.  John it is hard to describe.  

          But perhaps try this. Hold up your right hand, palm outward,

          And break the last three fingers down from the joint.

          And there you have it.  The westering thumb.

          The silent bleak land, the silent mesas

          Big Bend and the great canyons at its end

          El Paso, the Northern Pass, and they came down through it. 

          Southward and east, the slow hot river moving

          River of Palms, Grande del Norte, and over the wrist,

          To Brownsville, and it empties into the vast blue waters

 

Miller describes each part of the state using the geography of his hand as a model of the Texas.  He says “the tongue staggers” to describe the state’s  size.  

Miller was best known for the country music column he wrote for the Austin American-Statesman from 1972-to-1984.  He was less of a critic and more of a promoter of the then-nascent music scene in and around Austin – his hometown for most of his life. 

In his letter-poem to his friend John, Miller also writes:

Austin, the central city, and she is crowned with the sun

And twice-crowned westward with violet hills,

John, the thick roses swarming over the wall.

The moon in the white courts, the quivering mornings. 

 

Of the Llano Estacado Miller writes: 

And here I think is the heart of it;  

Here you begin to sense it, the size, the silence;

This is the land, empty under enormous sky,

In wide enormous air, nothing of man. 

 

Miller’s poem is the sort of letter we write when we want to convince a friend to move here. 

He concludes this way. 

So now tonight in the central city Texas lies around me.

All silent to the stars; so I write of it. 

Remembering the slow dusk of the Rio Grande

Remembering the high hawks of the violet hills

Remembering the dark eyes in the Calle de Flores,

And the breeze comes up from the Gulf and in the court

Pink oleanders brush on the white wall

And the moon at flood over the westering hills

And my heart is full of it and I send it to you. 

 

Mr. Stanley always had fine aesthetic tastes, especially for Christmas gifts.  His offering of this book long ago still holds up nicely as a gift idea today, if you can find a copy, which you can with some ambitious searching.  Might make a perfect gift for Tesla’s Elon Musk. Welcome to Texas, Elon.

Softness Surrounding

It’s been said many times over that 2020 has been a tough year. This Typewriter Rodeo poem is a reminder to be kind to yourself.

Guacamole Chalupa With Beans, Please

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a widespread economic impact. Many small businesses have had to close their doors. This Typewriter Rodeo poem remembers one.

Texas Standard: December 4, 2020

As hospital ICU units statewide again fill with COVID-19 patients, new restrictions are taking hold. Judge Clay Jenkins of Dallas county issues new orders curbing business activity, but admits it won’t be enough and calls on Texans to embrace a wartime patriotism to combat the virus. Our conversation with him coming up. Also, some Houston families in limbo as their loved ones remain locked up in Venezuela, the latest chapter in the story of the CITGO 6. And Selena returns to screen, this time with a distinctly Texan flavor, thanks to a producer who hails from The Valley. Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: November 20, 2020

Is the presidential contest still a real contest? Texas’ senior senator says it’s still too close to call, we’ll have the latest. Also, he pledged to heal the soul of the nation, but when it comes to immigration, some wonder why that topic doesn’t make it too Joe Biden’s top 5 list of policy priorities. We’ll hear about the concerns of advocates of immigration reform. And airlines may be hard hit by the pandemic, but some Texas towns with ties to the skies are taking off. We’ll hear why. Plus the week in Texas politics with the Texas Tribune and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

Perspective

The ongoing reckoning over racism in the United States inspired this Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Texas Standard: November 13, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to tear through El Paso, an appellate judge lifts shutdown orders and more Texans pin their hopes on news about a vaccine. With hopes building around word of a covid vaccine said to be 90 percent effective, what’s next? A closer look at next steps and a realistic timetable. Also, not Biden his time: concession or no, the president elect must move forward with assembling a new administration and cabinet. Any Lone Stars set to make the short list? And in a season like no other, can the homecoming mum, and the many businesses built up around the tradition survive 2020? Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard: