Hard times without discernible end? Hard work that stingily, precariously gives back rent food lights if that much? That’s always felt like business-though systematically unjust business- as usual to me. The Great Recession simply brings it to-or unmasks it in-quarters where it has been little felt or recognized before.
Although I got an education on scholarship, I have lived almost all my life as a (by US standards) low-income person in and around a majority Black, majority poor urban community. I have multiple disabilities that are immiscible with something the Social Security Administration calls “substantial gainful activity.”
Before the current downturn, I already had learned how to wear the same winter coat for a decade, string along hospital billing systems, educate and entertain a child at little to no cost, tell which furniture is safe to fetch from the dumpster and which only brings trouble home, live in an apartment and yet grow sizeable amounts of fresh organic vegetables, have confidence that needed public benefits are one’s right not one’s shame.
The shame goes instead on this economic setup and what it does to millions, billions, especially the global poor whose poverty is beyond what I can ever truly fathom as an American with degrees, a heated apartment in winter, pounds of food in her pantry, a spouse with a job and a lifesaving health plan, and two instances in her life (so far) of ability to travel to another continent and read her poetry there.
HOW HAS THE GREAT RECESSION AFFECTED YOUR POETRY?
I persist in writing poetry, though, as usual, I must set aside a lot of my energy for whatever paid gigs I can find. I morbidly wonder how I will lug around my laptop and journals and protect them from the snow and rain if I ever become homeless.
One thing the recession has changed for me personally: I despair even more that I will ever find a publisher for the chapbooks I have completed, or the full length collection I have almost finished. So many poets, so many presses, so many cutbacks. Maybe I should post my work to friends on Facebook and call it a day?
PLEASE SHARE A POEM(S) ADDRESSING YOUR GREAT RECESSION EXPERIENCE:
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, SINGLE MOM EDITION
Haha! I love it, how my son
saw an ornament on his grandma’s shelf
and asked, “Hey! Who’s that? Is it
that red guy from Christmas, what’s
that red guy’s name?” Believe me
I never want him
to learn any more about Santa than that!
Those "lots of" train sets. Those candy canes.
My son told me “please-thank” already for. Me.
Myself. I, I am the one
who bought them
through my swollen feet,
my ringing headache
from ringing up highend crowds
of $50 wine bottle drinkers,
so-classy folks, how they
push at and curse me, throw and
thrash tantrums worse than my son’s.
Reporting live here
from just about my last nerve:
last thing I want
my son to believe
is that gifts all get here
from some old white dude
in a loud red suit
who breaks and enters,
breaks and enters
all the damned night long,
that’s a Class 3 Felony,
ABOUT THE POET:
Mary Krane Derr is a poet, writer, musician, eco-activist, and human rights advocate from Chicago. Her poetry has been nominated for a Best of the Web Award, Best American Poetry, and Best Spiritual Writing. She was featured at India’s 2011 Kritya International Poetry Festival. She has contributed to literary magazines in the U.S., Ireland, Great Britain, and India as well as anthologies like Hunger Enough: Living Spiritually in a Consumer Society (Pudding House).