On Cosmopolitanism, the Social Writer, and the Ways We Should Move Around Us.

For those that follow me on social media, you realize that I’ve been a poet on the go the last few months. I am one of those blessed writers that gets to travel for their work and as such I’ve gotten an excellent opportunity to meet writers in communities from Chicago to Pelee Island to Ottawa to Toronto. Learning to see the world from the window seats of turboprops and the places that artists convene in their communities has done much to improve my worldview of writing as a global community. One with so many shared and similar experiences that in total honesty we as writers should never feel that alone in the world. But that loneliness starts in our own home communities. We find connection in way we move through the world and how we connect those that too move through it.

Perhaps this is a note of encouragement. The last thing we need to do as artists is tell each other that we need to get out more, do more to see the world around us, connect with those that we keep promising to do more with, to actually talk in person. Our world must be bigger than the computer and telephone screens that hold us hostage. Bridges and understanding are built by talking and meeting with others in our profession and our passions. This is the public side of being a writer that finds an unbalanced portion of our lives. The encouragement comes as this, put down what you choose to write with, ignore the your word counts or deadlines, and go to the spaces in your communities where artists go to display their work.

I recall on the many Saturday mornings I spent speaking with the late Don Belton, him speaking of the seminal importance of living a cosmopolitan life. Of course, often this was do in talking about famous Left Bank Paris or contemporary spaces such as New York or Philly, but it unfolded to discuss the way it worked at Indiana University and Bloomington, IN at the time. That cosmopolitan aspect of our writing community and that exceptional Hoosier town is something that has influenced me profoundly to this day. It shows in my work as a poet and as a publisher. It it is the direction that I feel we should all be moving in.

I currently live in a mid-size Canadian city that is renowned for its multiculturalism and its factories. I’ve generally seen these two things as mutually exclusive if only because people here orbit in their own small clusters and don’t bother to cross lines of interests or groups. Line work creates exhaustion in its moving pieces. Windsor is often referred to a huge small town because of the unwillingness of folks to move between groups and social circles. There is an unwillingness to leave the immediate social circles and likely because of that I tend to see the same handful of people at the same events week after week and year after year. Not that I don’t love many of those folks and look forward to seeing them. But we need more. We need to be more inclusive. And I’ve seen how this works in the places I’ve been.

Understand that newcomers are welcome. This fact is central to all of creation. That is one of Windsor’s real gifts. The community welcomes many into the shared physical body of the city. But it falls flat after that. At least on the artistic level and in many ways on the social level. Traveling as a poet means you see the way other communities come together, across cultural, social, and economic strata to make a bigger more diverse and welcoming community. The type of social interactions that drive artists and their work, to let them know that their is support outside of their virtual or remote social networks. Nothing is more empowering that a well attended art show, book launch, or even open mic. A city of our size, should not struggle to get more than a dozen attendees to our various events. Rather than proclaiming we are not bigger places like Chicago or Toronto, we should be ourselves. Grow our community within and change it in simple acts. Attend those functions that support your craft or your passion, support your friends and family that are artists, put down your smart phones, turn off your television and venture out to help us craft the cosmopolitan and supportive communities we laud other places for being.

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