Jack Ridl was the Honorary Chancellor for the Poetry Society of Michigan 2014-2016. He was chosen for the high quality and beauty of his poetry. The appointment is in recognition of his participation and support of the Poetry Society of Michigan and for his advocacy of Michigan poets and his generous work as a mentor and teacher. Mr. Ridl is the author of five poetry collections and three chapbooks. He co-edited Poetry in Michigan /Michigan in Poetry (New Issues Poetry & Prose) with William Olsen. This anthology was awarded a 2014 Michigan Notable Book Award. Learn more about Jack Ridl at his website.
To be honored by you who love poetry for the right reasons will sustain me always. Your inviting me to hold this honor has been an affirmation of what I believe about poetry and of what I have tried always to do in its behalf. I am and will ever be joyfully grateful to you.
I admit to feeling very wistful about having to leave. The honor has been something I have, without a twitch of self-consciousness, announced with a feeling of great pride.
After Reading Dom John Chapman, Benedictine Abbot
“Pray as you can; not as you can’t.”
My prayers will sit on the backs
of bedraggled donkeys, in the sidecars
of Harleys, in the pockets of night
watchmen, on the laps of widows.
They will be the stones I walk by,
the smudges I leave on anything I touch,
the last place the last snow melts. They
will be brown, weekdays, potato pancakes.
They will stick to the undersides of porches,
docks, dog paws, and carpets. When I’m sick,
my cough will carry them. When you leave
in the morning, they will sink into the bed,
the sofa, every towel. I will carry them
in the modesty of my feet. Everything
will be praying: My dog will be petitioning
for mercy when he stops to sniff a post.
Every window in our house will be
an offering for supplication. The birds
at the feeder will be twitching
for my sins. I will say my prayers
are bread dough, doorknobs, golf tees,
any small and nameless change of heart.
When I forget my prayers, they will
bundle up and go out on their own
across the street, down into the basement,
into a small town with no mayor where
there is a single swing in the park. When
I forget, they’ll know I was watching TV,
the sky, or listening to Basie, remembering
the way my mother and father jitterbugged
to the big band station, he pulling her close,
then spinning her out across the green kitchen floor.