Community Stories: Jim Lichtenberg, The Art in Innovation

Jim Lichtenberg, writer & Library For All Board Member

Jim Lichtenberg, writer & Library For All Board Member

This week, which honored World Poetry Day, we'd like to spotlight a piece from one of our highly regarded community members, Jim Lichtenberg. A native of New York City, writer Jim Lichtenberg, sits as a member of Library For All’s Board, and now lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife, 2 cats and a LOT of books. 

The book that opened my eyes, as a boy, to the rest of the world was Homer’s Odyssey.  Poetry, I guess, was always in my veins.  

In college I had the chance to study with some of the great poets of the day, including Robert Lowell and Archibald MacLeish, and was awarded the Harvard Advocate Poetry Prize my senior year.

 

Primavera

The sun, like a smooth, pale
Moon, breaches low clouds.

Caught in an icy estuary,
The bull-rushes no longer wave.

Blanched and broken, a thick trunk rests, 
A frozen seal, on gray river stones.

Ah, to be a bear, breathing lowered
To the occasional throb of the heart

In zen-like winter meditation, lost deep
In a cave of warm embracing leaves,

Dreaming, perhaps, of spring,
Of Primavera, the "first truth."  

What an enchanted way to awaken:
To sunlight and soft breezes of the first truth.

 

Jim and some of the team testing books on various devices using Library For All's digital library platform

Jim and some of the team testing books on various devices using Library For All's digital library platform

Having spent the last 20 years as a consultant on the digital and innovation side of book publishing, it is a delight and honor to work with co-founders Rebecca McDonald, Tanyella Evans, and their gifted and tireless staff at Library For All (LFA). LFA has a global mission that is at once so obvious, and for which there is still so much need … reading as the gateway to personal growth and economic recovery. 

 

By the Roadside

Busy highway, SUVs,
and semi’s roaring.
The lanes dip and curve, 
Crossing the bridge.   
As the roads rise,
Lying curled by the inner
Median, a raccoon? A possum?  
Hard to tell at this speed.
Clearly it has been struck,
Now unable to move.

Even if you wanted to, 
No shoulder to pull over on,
No way to stop
With everyone doing 60.

Yet the way it raised its head,
Turning slightly, 
As if still in hope
For its life.  No anger,
No struggle, no apparent
Anguish.  In its eyes only
A tender bewilderment.

And you speed
Away but your heart's left
Beside that creature.
And you know
In some countries people
Are left to die by the roadside.
Yet in that moment, 
That one little life is
Dear and sweet, and lost.

 

The day after graduation I was on one of the last propeller airplane flights to Europe, and with a moonshot’s worth of good luck, landed a job as a writer and translator for a movie company in Rome, Italy.   I never would have guessed it, but those three years taught me as much about America as they did about Italy… which I consider my second home.

America is a great country… no “again” needed.   The unique and endless variety of its peoples, its vast, evolving scientific and economic opportunity, the wealth of its resources and innovation, the beauty of the land… BUT, we still display a sad lack of concern for the struggles of the rest of the world.  And as scientists almost daily discover planets, in our galaxy and beyond, that hold the possibility of life, the time has come for us to pull together as one globe.

 

Starlight

An umbrella above me blocks the sky.
New light from the city floods my eyes.
Should the stars vanish, would I cry?
Starlight is old.  Just passing by.

 

Which is why the mission of using digital technologies to deliver, to both children and adults, content for learning and reading in parts of the world where there are far fewer resources than we enjoy — and where geography, politics, and lack of infrastructure makes delivery of print materials so difficult — makes working on behalf of LFA so inspiring to me, even poetic.

 

A Poet’s Dream
    
Awake, I sit alone — it’s
A happy place —
And wander through
A grove of words, or
A thicket of brambles,
Not sure which turn
To take, or if here’s
A turn at all.  And it’s alright.

Asleep, I dream just as
You dream, about missing
The flight, or an opportunity.
Or I dream about doing
Something with someone
That, awake, I’d never do —
Or think I’d never do.

Sleep saves its knitting
For the rag-tag cloth of worry,
But dreaming opens
Pandora’s carved chest
From which spin out what
Is dreadful and what desired,
The undigested matter
Of the mind,
In storybook pictures
Weirder than the Brothers
Grimm.  Yet, if one dares,
And peers into that messy
Chiaroscuro, into the dark
And light of fear and wish,
There lies, strangely, the muck
That nourishes all the seedlings
In the garden of art.

In my dream state --
I dream awake,
“Dormisveglia,” an Italian poet
Called it — I extend
My hand, and a poem
Seems to lift off and float
To you on it’s own.
And you are stopped
In your tracks, are enchanted,
Have to read it again, or maybe
Several times, and your eyes,
Now shining, look up at me
In surprise, and also
A bit taken aback, that I,
Actually, can make
Words do what they do
In my poem.  In my
Dream.