A Poet Witness In San Francisco's Tenderloin
Sunday, October 16, 2005 at 09:16AM
Michael Chacko Daniels

 

Career Visions of People Remaking Our Small Planet: Issue #5

Dranowscan_5101683955_1.jpg

Writing Poetry,
 
Ralph Dranow

Reclaims His Essential Self

And Connects With
 
Other Living Beings

 

 

An Interview by Michael Chacko Daniels

Editor & Publisher, New River Free Press International

 

Poet and Oral Historian Ralph Dranow lived,

 

worked, and breathed bookstores for over 15

 

years. He celebrates them in Sunday Ritual,

 

which nycBigCityLit.com reviewer Tim

 

Scannel believes are the "best poems about

 

the aura and patrons of the bookstore”

[http://www.nycbigcitylit.com/may2001/contents/Reviews.html].



Career Visions' Micro Review ~By Michael Chacko Daniels~ Do you love book stores? Those orderly, little universes of paper and gloss and yesterday's ideas, facts, memories, observations, and feelings into which, from time to time, the flesh-and-blood world enters? Ralph Dranow does. In his twenty-five poems in Sunday Ritual, Mr Dranow draws from his fifteen-plus years as a bookstore clerk to narrate stories of the world shuffling in, and occasionally breaking open, outside and inside him. I found the poems by the always lucid Mr Dranow a compelling read.

[Sunday Ritual, by Ralph Dranow, First Prize Winner, 2000 Nerve Cowboy Chapbook Contest; Liquid Paper Press, P. O. Box 4973, Austin, Texas 78765; $4]

Out of the bookstore now, developing his oral

history practice in Oakland; volunteering at

the Faithful Fools in San Francisco’s Tenderloin,

where he has been a witness to the lives of

homeless persons on the streets; and reading

to residents of Piedmont Gardens Retirement

Community; it is clear the physical confines of

bookstores haven’t re-formed Mr Dranow,

physically or mentally.


His lanky frame remains unstooped and his

hazel eyes examine the world with compassion

and a twinkle as he embarks on new voyages of

discovery that challenge his heart, spirit, and mind.


Career Visions' Micro Review ~By Michael Chacko Daniels~I enjoyed reading Ralph Dranow's poems in Tenderloin Voices, which he has dedicated to the Faithful Fools and the people of San Francisco's Tenderloin. I love the poems' flow, brimful with details. Mr Dranow is an excellent chronicler of the faces, voices, thoughts, feelings, and conditions of San Francisco's Tenderloin homeless. I admire the listening and observation skills, and the courage, both public and private, that these 21 poems represent. Here is one of Mr Dranow's Tenderloin voices:



HALF MAST


St. Anthony's Dining Room,
Yellow walls adorned with
Potted plants,
Murals of beaches, lakes, meadows.
A short, scrawny black man
With a twisted face
Sits down opposite me.
He peels open his shirt,
Gingerly fingering a bloody wound
On his right bicep,
Then stares at a long white scar
Across his stomach.
My breath is ragged.
"What happened?"
"Bullet wounds," he mumbles.
After a pause,
"Who shot you?"
"I was in the way."
Like he's telling me the time,
Face blank.
"When I was in the hospital,
The guy sent me a card
Thanking me for not telling."
I shake my head.
"That's pretty cold."
"Yeah, it is.
The doctor said,
One inch deeper,"
He points to his stomach,
"And I'd be dead."
He sighs,
Eyes fluttering shut,
Head drooping.
After a minute,
I wake him up,
Tell him his food is getting cold.
He nods,
Takes a bite of
Mashed potato and meat loaf casserole,
Then his head sinks again,
A flag at half mast.

Copyright 2005 Ralph Dranow. All rights reserved.

[From: Tenderloin Voices, by Ralph Dranow; Spruce Street Press, Oakland, CA; price $5; available from The Portable Blessings Ledger, P. O. Box 21622, Piedmont, CA 94620]


The following are Mr Dranow's written responses to the Career Visions for a Small Planet interview questions:
 
A Ralph Dranow Data Bank


High School
Flushing High School, Flushing, N. Y.


College
Queens College, Flushing, N. Y.


Teacher that influenced Ralph Dranow the most
Mene, my driving teacher


Books that influenced Ralph Dranow
Winesburg, Ohio Sherwood Anderson
Short Stories of Anton Chekhov
Your Life Is Your Message Eknath Easwaran
God's Fool Julian Green


Favorite Philosopher
St. Francis


Favorite Singer
Pete Seeger


Favorite Quotation
Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

The First Stanza

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.



Ralph Dranow's Publications
The Woman Who Knocked Out Sugar Ray - Short stories
Sure Hands Lifting Me Skyward - Poetry
Voyeur of the Heart - Poetry
Tenderloin Voices - Poetry
Sunday Ritual - Poetry
Green Leaves For Hair - a poetry book
in collaboration with Therese Baumberger
Plus various poems, articles, and stories -
published in magazines and newspapers





Q____________________________

New River Free Press International:

Tell us about yourself.

What makes you who you are?

__________________________________

RalphDranow I've been compelled to learn from my mistakes in life, which means that often pain has been a stimulus for me to grow and change. After a divorce 16 years ago, I realized that my life had been too narrow, that I needed to take more risks and widen my consciousness. So I began writing poetry (previously, I'd written only prose), joined a men's group, studied tai chi, and started meditating and reading books on Buddhism. Currently, I am working with a therapist who is helping me be more present to, and aware of, my feelings and bodily sensations.

Having had parents who were political activists concerned with social justice instilled similar concerns in me.

Writing poetry has been an important way for me to reclaim my essential self, to overcome my sense of separation and instead to feel my connection with all other living beings.

Also, my second marriage, to Naomi Rose, has been a great opportunity for me to learn and grow, to see where I am off the mark and to work on coming closer, with Naomi's love, support, and wisdom.

And my work with the Faithful Fools has been inspiring; to be associated with people with generous hearts and spirits who are committed to creating more community and love in the world has been a great blessing.

Q____________________________

New River Free Press International:

What was your vision

of society that brought you

to the work you do?

____________________________

RalphDranow I had a vision of learning to be more open-hearted and compassionate to myself and others so that I could feel more fulfillment in my life and help alleviate the suffering of others and create more joy in the world.


Q____________________________

New River Free Press International:

What do you think we

should remember as we remake

the world through the work we do?

____________________________


RalphDranow To be patient and compassionate with ourselves as well as others, to take good care of ourselves so we are able to give fully to others.


Q____________________________

New River Free Press International:

Has your vision

changed as you have

participated in the

remaking of the world?

____________________________


RalphDranow I am more hopeful as I see that people like the Faithful Fools, people with wisdom, open hearts, and commitment to social change, can make a difference in the world.


Q____________________________

New River Free Press International:


What challenges do you

perceive in achieving your

vision of society?

____________________________

RalphDranow There would have to be a transformation of consciousness throughout the world, a movement from fear, greed, and hatred to compassion, generosity, and self-awareness. This will not be easy, as it will require a paradigm shift from fear to love, from our habitual conditioning to a more essential, open-hearted place.


Q____________________________

New River Free Press International:

What needs to be done

to overcome these challenges?

____________________________

RalphDranow It would involve working on ourselves individually, as well as education and social action on local and wider levels. Individually, I've worked on myself to become more open-hearted, present, and self-aware, more able to give to myself and others. And I'm volunteering for an organization called the Faithful Fools, a street ministry in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. The Fools are working to build community across conventional social barriers and to dispel myths about the homeless. Street retreats, in which people with homes walk the streets, eat in soup kitchens, sleep outdoors or in shelters, are a powerful tool for education and self-reflection. The Fools help empower low-income people in the Tenderloin through advocacy and counseling, as well as supporting the creative arts so that Tenderloin writers and artists have a forum for self-expression.


Q____________________________

New River Free Press International:

What pointers would you give

young people of the 9/11 generation

as they work in public service

assignments?

____________________________


RalphDranow It is important to be as conscious and self-aware as we can so that the public service work we do has a truly beneficial effect on other people.

Additional information about Ralph Dranow's books can be found at Naomi Rose's website essentialwriting.com:

Naomi Rose’s Website - Naomi Rose is a writer, editor, and book developer who created and teaches the “Writing from the Deeper Self” approach to writing. Her current book projects are The Blessings Ledger: The Union of Money and Compassion, and The Book that Changes Your Life Is the One You Write Yourself. She lives in Oakland, California. She can be reached at naomierose@pon.net.

www.essentialwriting.com

____________ * ____________

A Footnote On Re-connecting

by Michael Chacko Daniels

Writing about Ralph Dranow, reminds me it’s a small, small world we live in.

As in six degrees of separation?

Smaller.

This was brought home to me a couple of years ago through my experience with Ralph Dranow, who I met late in 1995 when he interviewed me in Oakland, California, on assignment from the Montclarion for a story on Jobs for Homeless Consortium, an agency that I helped start in 1988.

I was looking for an editor after P. Lal of Writers Workshop, Kolkata, expressed interest in publishing second editions of my three books that he’d published in the early 1970s. I had decided I’d go ahead with second editions only if I could get a good editor to give them the type of editorial attention they hadn’t received the first time around.

But should I get? Not someone who'd trash those early works and stop me from writing another word?

Get Naomi, an inner voice suggested. Naomi? Yes, Naomi.

Back in 1988, Naomi’s constructive editing approach on a novel I had written in the 1980s had greatly impressed me.

I rang her old number.

Not hers anymore.

Nor was she in the telephone directory or in the database of Editcetera, a local resource for editors and writers. Or at least that’s what Barbara Fuller said.

Hmm, I thought, fall back on old tried-and-tested “six degrees of separation.”

I dropped Naomi’s name here and there. No luck. Finally, I mentioned her name to Kathy Kaiser who was editing for me the latest version of the novel Naomi had critiqued back in 1988. Pay dirt. Kathy knew Naomi. Better still she knew Naomi’s maiden name.

It’s truly a small world, I thought.

“She’s now Naomi Rose—her maiden name,” said Kathy.

When I called Naomi Rose, I got her machine. I began to leave a rather involved message.

“Hello, Michael,” said a familiar male voice out of the past, ending my fumbling attempts at a clarifying message. “This is Ralph Dranow. I recognized your voice.”

Ralph Dranow? How did I get Ralph? The same Ralph who had covered Jobs Consortium for the Montclarion, written a profile of me for India West and one on Mark Lee, Senior Assistant Manager of the Consortium’s Oakland Center for CAREERS & the disABLED, and volunteered at the Consortium because of his concern about homeless people.

Had I rung the wrong number? I wondered, confused.

No. The number in my hand was the one Kathy had given me for Naomi Rose.

“I’m married to Naomi,” Ralph explained.

It’s a very, very small world, I thought. We know more people who know people we know than we know we know.

Recently, I asked Ralph, when he’d first met Naomi?

“In the beginning of 2000 . . . We were introduced by a mutual friend.”

In the quicksilver world we live in, I firmly believe we know more people who know people we know, often more than we think.

So, to the old adage: Only Connect! I add: Re-connect.


____________________________
 

About the Editor: San Franciscan Michael Chacko Daniels, formerly a community worker and clown, and now a re-emerging writer and editor, grew up in Bombay. Books: Writers Workshop, Kolkata: Split in Two (1971, 2004), Anything Out of Place Is Dirt (1971, 2004), and That Damn Romantic Fool (1972, 2005). Read all about his Indian and American journey at http://indiawritingstation.com/community-service-calls/. He helped found the Jobs for Homeless Consortium in 1988 and was its executive director from 1995 till its closing in 2004.

All views expressed in the interview are those of the interviewee
and not those of the editor or this website.
 

Copyright 2005, Michael Chacko Daniels. All rights reserved.


NOTE: THIS INTERVIEW FORMAT IS THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF MICHAEL CHACKO DANIELS AND HIS ELECTRONIC PUBLICATIONS: NEW RIVER FREE PRESS INTERNATIONAL: US-INDIA WRITING STATION AND CAREER VISIONS FOR A SMALL PLANET.

AGREEMENT: NEW RIVER FREE PRESS INTERNATIONAL/US-INDIA WRITING STATION/AND/OR CAREER VISIONS FOR A SMALL PLANET WILL RETAIN THE FOLLOWING RIGHTS: ALL RIGHTS TO PUBLISH THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW, OR PART(S) OF IT, IN ELECTRONIC, AUDIO, VIDEO, AND/OR PRINT VERSIONS; ALL RIGHTS TO RETAIN IT IN ITS PUBLIC AND PRIVATE ARCHIVES INDEFINITELY; AND ALL RIGHTS TO INCLUDE IT IN FUTURE PRINTED COMPENDIUMS AND BOOKS. THE EDITOR RETAINS THE EDITOR'S PREROGATIVE TO EDIT THE INTERVIEW FOR GRAMMAR, STYLE, CONTENT, AND LENGTH. THE INTERVIEWEE FULLY UNDERSTANDS THAT HE/SHE WILL NOT RECEIVE ANY PAYMENT, EITHER NOW, OR IN THE FUTURE, FOR PARTICIPATING IN THIS INTERVIEW. BY SUBMITTING WRITTEN AND/OR ORAL RESPONSES TO THE ABOVE QUESTIONS BY ANY METHOD, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, ELECTRONIC, TELEPHONIC, MANUAL, AND/OR POSTAL METHODS, THE INTERVIEWEE AGREES TO THE ABOVE CONDITIONS AND STIPULATIONS. AFTER FIRST PUBLICATION BY NEW RIVER FREE PRESS INTERNATIONAL/ US-INDIA WRITING STATION/AND/OR CAREER VISIONS FOR A SMALL PLANET, THE INTERVIEWEE RETAINS THE RIGHT TO USE HER/HIS IDEAS AND WORDS THAT ARE CONTAINED IN HER/HIS RESPONSES IN THE INTERVIEW FOR ANY PURPOSE WITHOUT RESTRICTIONS. THE FORMAT OF THE INTERVIEW AND THE QUESTIONS WILL REMAIN THE PROPERTY OF THE EDITOR AND PUBLISHER.



PRIVACY STATEMENT: I always balk at the idea of registering, no matter where the location--on the street, indoors, or on the web. So I have designed this site with no registration requirements.


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-End-

 

Click here to read the artile on Google Base.

 

______ * ______

Signed, Limited Editions

An avid reader's comment about

Michael Chacko Daniels'

handcrafted books:


"The books are beautiful,

they look like little treasures."

--Brenda Coleman


Each copy is

a work of art in itself.

Click here to read more about
 
 Michael Chacko Daniels' books.
 
 

Click here to view a digital version of


Anything Out of Place Is Dirt
 
on Google Book Search 
 

Click here to view a digital version of


Split in Two
 
on Google Book Search

 

______   *   ______ 

 

Have you visited the rest of

Michael Chacko Daniels' website,

US-India Writing Station?

If not, please do and be sure to

bookmark it. If you wish to

refer others to it, here's the URL:



http://indiawritingstation.squarespace.com/



Feel free to visit, and explore: Fiction, Poetry, Community Service, Homeless, Commentary, & Discussion On The Road To Remaking The World We Live In . . . San Francisco, Grand Rapids, Evanston, Bombay, Kerala, Oakland, Berkeley, Monterey, Bangalore, Calcutta . . .

Feel free to share the above link with others.
____________________________


Have you read Michael Chacko Daniels' flash fiction story,
Sing an Indian Name,
on Denver Syntax's free online magazine?
If not, here's the URL:


http://www.denversyntax.com/issue5/fiction/daniels/indian.html

Feel free to share the above link with others.
_________________________
 

You are invited to visit

New River Free Press International's

Career Visions for a Small Planet

Check Out the Visions of
People Remaking Our Planet


Issue #1: Valerie Street

Issue #2: Hong Hunt

Issue #3: Ian C. Dawkins Moore

Issue #4: Peter Lee Kline

Issue #5: Ralph Dranow

Issue #6: Joseph Kaval

Issue #7: Quentine Acharya


Issue #8: Narendra Jadhav


Issue #9: Trash Pickers of Grand Rapids

Issue #10: Amanda Gerrie

Issue #11 Brenda L. Coleman

Issue #12 E. P. Menon
  
Issue #13 Tricia Holloway
 
Issue #14 Judith Anne Buchman 
 
Issue # 15 Richa 
 
Issue # 16 Mona Lee
 
Issue # 17 Prakash Joshi 
 
Issue # 18 Neil Marcus 
 

  

And the following

Popular History Pages

/housing-conspiracies-michigan/

/open-housing-grand-rapids-1976/

/saving-a-house-michigan/

/cities-survival-william-thrall/

/faith-society-father-ed-monroe/

/faith-society-praying-polish/

/zoo-cruelty-animals-michigan/

/food-coops-for-a-small-planet/

/organic-farmer-carmody-1976/

/saving-bridges-back-to-future/


 
 
 

____________ * ____________

 

A Grand Rapids Popular History

 

Pages from New River Free Press, 1973 to 1977

 

Your Friendly Guide to Urban Survival & Improvement:

 

grhistory.blogspot.com/

 
 

 

Article originally appeared on New River Free Press International: Visions of Survival & Improvement by People Remaking Our Small Planet (http://indiawritingstation.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.