Poetry, is Necessary

O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

“It’s from a poem by Walt Whitman, about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now, in my class you can either call me Mr. Keating, or, if you are slightly more daring, O Captain, my Captain.”

I always fancied myself as somewhere in the field created by the triumvirate of three fictional characters: Mr. Keating, from Dead Poet’s Society; Mr. Holland, from Mr. Holland’s Opus, and Pip, Charles Dickens’ immortal character from Great Expectations. It is a Romantic notion, and certainly could be emblazoned with self importance and inflated ego. Perhaps…. but


Anyone who had ever been in one of my English classes, either at the high school or the local community college, can immediately see the comparison to the vivacious character brought to life by the legendary Robin Williams. “In my class you will learn to think for yourselves again!” The channeling, and influence of that story, Dead Poet’s Society, made me into the educator that I was. It molded that mental platform, that paradigm that defines reality through a particular lens, and I did everything in my power to transfer it to the students. Some of them flocked to my class, empowered and inspired by a teacher definitely not cut from the same Arizona White Mountains conservative cloth. Others, were afraid, or angry, or simply… not interested. Also… similar to Keating’s class.


Teachers, in my experience really fall into two broad categories. Those who came to the profession out of passion, and those who got their certificate to have something to fall back on. I knew many teacher’s the great Paul Moro for example, who brought a fire with him into the classroom that you would have to see to believe. His classroom was the high school football field. He had offers to coach college. He had opportunities to much larger than he ever was. He loved high school kids.

Read about the legacy of a true Arizona Hero here…. and here.

I knew teachers who really wanted to be doing real-estate. They had dreams of a 100% different life, and teaching simply gave them something to do to allow them to stay in Pinetop. I knew teachers who only taught… so they could coach; so they could do drama; so they could….. do anything else that was not the actual job. And I knew teachers like me…. who came into the classroom like some sort of mutant creation from a different world where bikers were geeks that somehow grew up with a fire for old dead people. Sure, I had a novel in mind. Sure, I thought… I’m a teacher, I will have the summers off to write and create.

Laughing. My. Ass. Off. All day long.

Teachers. The passionate ones. The ones who you want around your kids. The ones who inspire them. The ones who challenge them to fill their perpetual bottles of potential. Those teachers…. do not end up with any time…. “I can’t tell you the last time that I had that was free!”

Those teachers, slugging it out, fighting the good fight, dedicating their lives to your children…. those teachers, my friends, are heroes.

And Pip. The poor lad, the forgotten child, the beat down dreamer with great expectations. The lover cursed with the soul of a poet.


The lost son, trying to figure out his place in the world… and identity. The small lad with big dreams… who through some twist of fate is launched into that world…. only to define the previous.

This comparison is perhaps the most personal.


Well, here I am. In a different life. A Ghost Writer. Trying to prove, and show through an intense and very real passion, that I love this great state of Arizona and the four corners states of the Southwest. This is my home, and this is the place… where I want to leave my footprint.


Keep the Greasy Side Down started as an online forum for me to offer articles and op ed pieces that would allow me to grow an audience and following for my other creative endeavors. It has been building strongly…. thanks all to you, my friends…. for nine months now, and I have very big plans for 2018. One of those involves a restructuring of the way that I release articles, and a branching out to bring in other Southwest voices through monthly columns and guest bloggers.


This is the first of a monthly series exploring the nature and vitality of poetry. Why it matters. Why it is necessary.

I know. I taught people…. just… like…. you.

“Nobody reads this stuff.”

Who goes out and purchases…. books of poetry? Few. They exist, these truly beautiful, unicorn souls…. but they are mystically rare. However, all of you buy music. All of you know lyrics by heart that you can sing along to in the shower. All of you….. quote poetry.

All of the time.

This series will explore that.


Allow me to introduce several new events happening here in our beautiful state, that you may want to mark on your calendar.

First, The House of Bards, located in Tucson is newly owned and renovated pub and music venue on Speedway in Tucson, Arizona. On the first Sunday of every month, at 7:00 PM, two retired profressors of poetry sponsor an amazing event. For the first hour, two featured, professional poets take the stage and read from their works, telling the stories of the poems and the twists of life that created them. After a short break, the Open Mic session begins, opened by your’s truly, where local, dreaming poets, share their tales and their own thoughts in a short, six-minute each, time frame. It is a great way to network, and take that plunge of exposing your throat to the admiration of your peers. I highly recommend attendance… you will not be disappointed.

Second, inspired very much by The House of Bards poetry event, I reached out to a dear friend of mine, the owner of 3 Kings Kasbar and Epiphany in Old Town Cottonwood. It was perfect. Her intimate venue would perfectly mirror what was being created in Tucson, and the Verde Valley, and the heart of Arizona, would gain a public, poetry experience. It was ideal for a sister event. Therefore, with no further ado, I will be starting a monthly poetry series at the 3 Kings in either April or May of this year. It will be a workshop format, where each workshop will cost $10 bucks, which is divided between the venue and the presenter – sometimes I will teach the workshop, other times I hope to bring in featured poets and teachers to share their views on the types and forms and vibrations of verse. Hopefully, with some support, and some success, these events will build to…..


Third, Ghost Writer Presents. Is a new endeavor that will only revolve around the burgeoning southwestern poetry community. It will specifically promote poetry events. However, I hope to build to where once per season, so quarterly, I bring in a featured musical guest – who will perform an acoustic, VH-1 Storytellers-esque experience: taking about an hour to share a few songs and the tales that inspired them. These special events will then be followed by a special Open Mic session, drawn from the Verde Valley Poetry Community {and partnering communities}. These special events will have a cover charge/ ticketed events… with proceeds again going to the venue and to the performing artist. Please…. keep this FACEBOOK site on your radar to help promote poetry in the great Southwest.

And finally, fourth. This ongoing series of monthly poetry is necessary articles will hopefully not all be written by me. I am looking for professional poets and teachers to help, guest blog, and participate in these poetry events and these very vital explorations of the language of human emotion. Next month’s piece will be provided to you by the illustrious poet, Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow.

Stay Tuned my Friends…..

In Memory…



And Keep the Greasy Side Down.


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