Yesterday, my poem "Openings" appeared in the online magazine The Journal of Radical Wonder. It is not a true story about my daughter -- I cannot honestly remember when she learned the word "window" -- but it is true in spirit, as most poems are.
The title of the poem is fitting, as it marks the opening of an extraordinary new opportunity. Every Sunday, going forward, Radical Wonder will feature a poem of mine -- some new pieces, like "Openings," some from my previous five books. I would stand guilty of false modesty if I claimed not to be ecstatic, but I will temper that giddiness by noting that my work (or any one person's work, for that matter) is not the only occasion here. More than anything, I am excited to contribute to Radical Wonder, which began last year and exudes an optimism and communal spirit that justifies its name.
Every year, I teach my 8th-graders Ray Bradbury's classic science-fiction novel Fahrenheit 451. In the introduction to our edition, author Neil Gaiman writes of Bradbury, "He cared, completely and utterly, about things. He cared about toys and childhood and films. He cared about books. He cared about stories." I never met Bradbury, but I have met John Brantingham, the co-founder of Radical Wonder, and could apply the same words to him.
John, a former Southern California college professor who now lives in New York, cares about things, and books and stories, and possibly even toys and films. He has roamed art galleries and written a volume's worth of poems based on the paintings. He has served as the poet laureate of national parks. He is not addicted to electronic devices, but hosts wonderful and inclusive Zoom sessions to bring poets and artists together.
His magazine is a simple site, published on Medium, formatted in blog style with entries appearing chronologically. Scrolling down over the last few postings, I see a poem by Cynthia Bernard, an artist statement by Karla Van Vliet, an interview with short story writer Dennis Callaci. Browse further down, and there's music analysis by Kate Flannery, flash fiction by David Alcock, poems by any number of writers. Paintings often appear alongside written pieces. Helpful listings below each entry indicate how long it will take to read. The journal specializes in bite-sized chunks, momentary doses of inspiration. There's no overriding theme other than, I guess, the urge to take nothing for granted. As the editors declare on the site's "About" page:
In The Journal of Radical Wonder, we look at the world through the lens of wonder. We are looking for beauty, art, nature, humanity, truth. We fight against cynicism and try to understand the complex nature of joy. Art. Nature. Humanity. Beauty. Truth.
Wonder is, well, a wonderful word. It is the enemy of cynicism and despair. It is proof that, as the writer S.E. Hinton memorably put it, we are "staying gold" despite all discouragement. This is gold in a spiritual sense, of course. No one on Radical Wonder is out to make a fortune -- at least, not through the act of posting a painting or a poem. We are simply eager to share, to spark conversations, to inspire whoever chooses to be inspired. My own work will appear every Sunday. Scrutinizing the calendar, I think of the Commodores song that declares, "I'm easy like Sunday morning." With so much hard in life, I relish a place to be easy. I hope to see a few of you there.
This is the blog of Michael Miller, a longtime journalist, poet, publisher and teacher. Check here for musings, observations, commentary and assorted bits of gratitude.