Ending Hunger in America One Poem at a Time

Pictured is Paul Kempner, he has worked 22 years as a conductor for the Metro-North Railroad in New York, Photo by Stephen Wilkes, used with permission

My work was first published later in life, at age 70, to be exact; I had won a poetry prize way back when, which should have been encouraging, but I had other fish to fry. I married, started a family, took up marketing communications and advertising — copywriting is writing, I said to myself. I also had ambitions as a young man to write songs. I haunted some of the same coffee houses where a fellow named Deutschendorf plied his trade, aka John Denver. At some point, I even sent a demo tape to Nashville. Never heard back. I kept on the working man’s track. No regrets. Then the muse started gnawing at me, I started writing again. Graves said “There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.” It has paid off, not in coin of the realm, but rather in finding that my creative endeavors have moved people, have sounded at least a few virtual chords. It has been said poetry is the music of language. If so, I do write songs. A recurring theme in my work is that enunciated in the thought of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907–1954): “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” My interest in this theme in general is sparked by the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926–2004). She had this to say on the subject: “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.”

After spending the past fifty plus years in the field of communications, with recognitions including a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Educational Press Association of America, I resumed my creative pursuits. I consider myself a poet, writer, photographer, sometime artist, musician, and yes, singer-songwriter. I received an Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Award in 2015. My essays, fiction, and poetry appear internationally in numerous publications from The Galway Review to On Being in which appears my essay “The Poetry of Bearing Witness.” Google it. My photography will be found in select publications, including in Rattle online as “Ekphrastic Challenge” artist and guest editor. My full-length volume Gallery: A Collection of Pictures and Words (Scarlet Leaf Publishing), is a 2017 Best Book Awards and 2018 Book Excellence Awards recipient. My chapbook Political (Cyberwit Press) is the 2021 American Writing Awards winner in poetry. I am co-editor of New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust forthcoming from Valentine Mitchell of London, publisher of the first English language edition of Anne Frank’s diary. I earned a listing in the Poets & Writers Directory. What more could I possibly want?

I want you to donate to Feeding America, and I’ll make it worth your while.

In September of 2020, with the pandemic raging all around, I collaborated with the brilliant and noted New York photographer Stephen Wilkes, combining his remarkable photo of a true American hero, Metro-North Railroad conductor Paul Kempner with my poem about his tenacity in the face of suffering. The piece is titled “The Trains Must Run on Time Even if the Cars Are Empty” and was published by Silver Birch Press in a series featuring those in all walks of life who responded to the urgent need of our times.

Stephen and I decided to offer a poster version, called in literary circles a broadside, for free to anyone making a donation to the nonprofit organization Feeding America.

Why Feeding America? Because the pandemic showed the tremendous food insecurity prevalent in this country, the good old U.S. of A. — many, including millions of children go hungry here everyday. That’s unconscionable.

So go to the TrainsMustRun website and put 5 dollars (or more) towards a worthy cause and get something back, a really good feeling and a thank you by way of a stunning photo capsulizing the pandemic we have lived with and a few words trying to make a point about what it all means to live together as human beings.

TrainsMustRun Broadside facsimile

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Recipient, 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards, his chapbook Political is the 2021 American Writing Awards winner in poetry; see https://bit.ly/3MHXYQO

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Howard Richard Debs

Howard Richard Debs

Recipient, 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards, his chapbook Political is the 2021 American Writing Awards winner in poetry; see https://bit.ly/3MHXYQO

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