December 2, 2016

by Eric Chaet

There are columns of advice, online & in print, even whole monthly magazines & books, on how to be a writer.

But they are like the courses that qualify one to be a teacher in public schools, or to be a doctor or therapist in one of the medical clinics, or to be an engineer in a government agency or large firm, or to be an accountant in a similar firm, or, likewise a lawyer in a big firm, or a so-called investment banker: they assume that the goal is to satisfy some mythical customer or customers, called “The Market,” & to get well paid, soon.

I need to get paid to go on living in the world the way it is, as I need air, water, & nutritious & non-toxic food.

But I aim to change the world, not to fit into it as it is.

Of course, I must fit into it, as it is, until I can change it, sufficiently to survive to do the work necessary to transform it.

(I don’t mean I can be doing it all by myself!)

There’s nothing particularly holy about being a writer. One can transform the world, or not, as a teacher, medical practitioner, engineer, lawyer, accountant, investment banker (that is, someone in charge of allocating accumulated resources to this or that project, for the benefit of these, at the expense of those), or as a member of a governing coalition, or opposition to that governing coalition.

In each case, there are those who are strengthening the way things are now, & those who are transforming it.

It’s possible to do some good strengthening the way things are now—efficiency is advantageous—or to do a lot of harm. Likewise it’s possible to do some good transforming the way things are, or to do a lot of harm. (How many revolutions led to worse tyrannies than what preceded them, at the cost of millions of lives?)

I try to do no harm, while transforming the way things are now, as a writer. If I were to regularly read a column or subscribe to a magazine for a writer like me, it would have to be called something like Pioneer Writer. I’d certainly be interested in magazines or columns for Pioneer Teachers, Medical Practitioners, Engineers, Lawyers, Accountants, Investment Bankers, Rulers, Dissidents, Mothers, too. There are already such for small farmers, & I consult them.

Like all pioneers, my first order of business has to be surviving while I organize & execute an unprecedented way to create something others recognize the value of, & pay me for, enough so I can trade for what I can’t do for myself. That is, for now, I must learn to do, & do, all I can for myself, while also producing what will contribute to transforming the way things are now, in a useful & non-toxic way, toward more justice & mercy.

There is certainly no shortage of people claiming to be increasing justice & mercy, & soliciting resources to continue their work! Most of them are claimers, not achievers, & they are diverting attention & resources. I hope I am not one such!

Pioneers must deal with the deluded, the psychopathic, fraudsters, pathogens, & parasites, as everyone must.

Those claiming to do what I am doing, & always trying to do better, are my most immediate obstacle to being attended to & effective.

It is up to you to decide whether I am doing what I am doing, &, so, worthy of your attention & support—or merely posing. And to decide how effective I am being. If I’m approximately useless, you must not waste your precious time & attention. I am always working to distance myself from the uselessness from which I emerge. I suppose, I hope you are, too.



October 1, 2016

shakinghands copy.jpg

I try to be a good “citizen,” of my partnership with my wife, of my neighborhood, of my little community with all its concentric & overlapping jurisdictions, so, township, school district, county, state, & nation, & of humanity, & of all living beings—some symbiotic or altruistic; some strictly competitive for resources or authority, for instance; & some hostile.

I resist organisms that would lessen or destroy me. I try to blunt their attacks, strategically, & developing whatever capacities are necessary. But if the only way to prevent their attacks is to make them incapable of continuing to attack me, then that’s what I must do. But that’s a last resort. I have a mind. I’m willing to be thought weak sometimes, if that’s the price of avoiding war over trifles, or over what is of subordinate importance, for now.

Syria, Congo, Korea, El Salvador, the South Side of Chicago (my boyhood neighborhood), Wall Street, the Silicon Valley, Congress & the Pentagon & Kremlin & Tienanmen Square, Tahrir Square, the migrants in the Mediterranean—are all parts of me, as are my bone marrow, nerves, & toes—or, rather, they & I are part of Something we invigorate or degrade, or both, at the same time, together.

The satisfaction of individuals’ real needs & the fulfillment of their potentials are profits. The suffering of individuals & the waste of their potentials are losses.

These so-called poems are, as calculatedly evaluated, organized, & executed as I am capable, gambits, gambles, which I don’t merely make, then watch how they’ll turn out, but which I cultivate, shepherd, manage, to the slight extent I’m capable. (And I keep working at becoming more capable.)

Many of these so-called poems have been posted or published, in the USA or elsewhere, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 years ago, or more & more recently.

But so far, their availability to the public has been more like a 3-by-5 card tacked to a bulletin board in a supermarket or post office in a small town, than like a campaign to compete with advertisements for snacks or presidential candidates or insurance policies or medicines to relieve the symptoms of this or that ailment, or to compete with Science, Reason, Economics, the religions, fierce anti-religion—engineers, doctors, lawyers, educators, left or right wing or centrist politicians—heirs, plutocrats, outcasts, earnest mowers of lawns, denizens of taverns, blabbers, & the silent—people pleasers, the sullen—financiers, entrepreneurs, those who enjoy their work & those who hate their jobs, & those no one will employ fairly or at all—fashionable arts & entertainments, customs, creeds cynically or sincerely expressed, enforced violently or cunningly, or more or less optional, true or false, useful or useless, or counterproductive, even toxic.

So far, my effort is mostly like planting seeds in the wilderness & rubble, but, believe me, I am trying to compete with the most powerful people you are aware of or are not aware of, whether currently living or what they said & did in the past having continuing effects—for the best possible outcome.

I am not setting myself aside. I hope you won’t set me aside, either.

It doesn’t seem to me that it matters in what order you read the so-called poems.

I call them “so-called poems” to signal that I am up to something, that poets, with rare exception, are not up to.

The insights embodied in these so-called poems are meant to be put into effect—thru you, by you. Of course, you must think for yourself, & use what you choose as you think best. You’ll be responsible.


I am not trying to demonstrate or prove that I am smarter than you are, or that I know more than you do. I am trying to share insights that, shared, will make us both more capable of doing what we wish to do, that isn’t at others’ expense, & that will likewise enable others, etc.