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.




In Memory…



And Keep the Greasy Side Down.


2 thoughts on “Poetry, is Necessary

  1. Ryan, if you want to use this in a forthcoming page, feel free. Yrs, JC

    Attended the Poetry Open Mic last night (March 2) at Revolutionary Grounds in Tucson. A coupla observations:

    1. A group of Phx spoken word/slam poets showed up. I distrust spoken word because it emphasizes performance over poetic craft. My distrust was justified by the first few performers, gesturing, kneeling, dramatizing their rhyming, feel-good platitudes as their fellow performers ooed and ahhed and high-fived. The performances WERE impresssive, but the poetry pedestrian, predictable, and mawkish. As Dean Young once said, “Just what the world needs now—more actors.” And, please, someone get a clue: a skinny white boy rapping about “bitches” and “homies” is blackfacing, obnoxious as any Al Jolsen performance.

    2. However, I forgave his cohorts once the featured spoken-word performer, Jordan Bubin, started enacting his smart critiques of contemporary politics. He is one bright dude, attacking everything from corrupt globalism to our own complicity in economic injustice. Although I usually respond more to language-driven poems than subject-driven ones, Jordan’s confident and energetic handling of such complex subject matter was, dare I admit it, thrilling, despite the sometimes forced rhymes and bombastic filler. I’m considering asking him to perform for a future House of Bards reading. I might even consider memorizing my own poems, leaving myself free to “perform” them. As someone who, nodding out from boredom, has listened to hundreds of poets listlessly reading from the page, a little drama might be a good thing.

    3. The audience did not respond to my new poems about playing fetch with my cat. Was it the subject or the way I read from the page that
    anesthetized them?

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