About Me

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Jim Croteau lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with his partner of 31 years, Darryl, and their two Labrador retrievers. He grew up gay and Catholic and white in the southern United States in the 1960’s and 70’s and has spent his adult life in small non-coastal cities, mostly in the Midwest. He loved his mother very much. He began writing poetry in May 2012 at first to cope with life in times of aging and then, well, he sorta caught the poetry bug. He is still working as a professor in Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology at Western Michigan University.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Used to Not Seeing (or Everyone's Mississippi Delta)


I was honored to be asked to share this poem at the Racial Healing and Action Service at Second Baptist Church here in Kalamazoo a couple of weeks ago. The service represented the beginning of a collaboration of sorts between ISAAC and ERACCE to work together in dismantling racism.
I believe poetry can play a part in social change and is at its best when it does so.
I believe that for white folks to be able to do anti-racist work effectively over the long haul, we need to be aware of how racism hands us all kinds of privileges on the backs of people of color and we also need to be aware of how, at the same time, racism, that place of racial superiority,  robs us of our humanity. This is my attempt to address that belief in a personal and poetic way. (What follows is a version revised post that reading in June)

 Used to Not Seeing (or Everyone's Mississippi Delta)

Only low beams lit the road
as my parents drove Highway 61
south out of Memphis in route
to Cleveland, Mississippi. We passed
the Devils Crossroads in Clarksdale,
there wasn't a marker, we were blind
to more than the Blues. I barely saw
the civil rights marches, only learned later
it's not a delta at all, no mouth
until further south. It's all alluvial

plain, this place of my birth. Grandpa
disembarked in Baltimore's harbor
in 1921, moved south when
cotton was still king, but
he never planted. Instead he owned
a five and dime on Main Street
in Cleveland. I was proud
to help clerk. Sometimes he'd aim
squinted eyes my way, talk the Italian
he taught me, it translates: “follow that N____r."

"It's the longest stretch of straight road
east of the Great River," my Dad
always said as he drove with low beams
to avoid blinding the oncoming
drivers like us. We got used to not seeing
anything beyond the cotton

by the side of the road.
Even amid fields of outcries
at the murders in the streets,
in the parks, and the churches,
we whites miss the lay of the land
with our questions:
Was the officer following policy?
Was the shooter mentally ill?
Isn't the KKK really to blame?

The fertile flatness freed
by the floods of the Mississippi
and Yazoo was stolen
and exploited--Indian removal, slavery,
sharecropping, Jim Crow de jure
and now de facto. History's alive and
denied. But with my heart set
on high beams, I can see how

the land of my birth really lies,
how I could become Darren Wilson,
even Dylann Roof, if I don't feel
my conscription. If I don't feel
the white of my finger placed
every day on the trigger of the gun
I was given in my cradle, then
there's no chance of turning gun
into ploughshare, there's only
this senseless soldiering on.

Please let me know if you share this poem..

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Best Doggone Dog in the West

 Best Doggone Dog in the West--Direct Link to the Poem   

I wanted a separate posting for this poem that just came out in Melancholy Hyperbole. The poem is a tough one for me, reflecting back on the time that I had to make a decision for my mother that she was not going to return to the hospital yet again, that she was done fighting to live.

Remember Old Yeller?  I have heard many stories from folks on how tough that movie was as a kid for them when Travis had to shoot Old Yeller because he was rabid.  It was a trauma for me. And well, you'll see how it fits together.

Take a look and comment there too.

Also take a look at the e-zine in general, it is becoming one of my favorite poetry journals.

Ogunquit's Good for Poetry, Meditation, and . . . Blogging

I've been neglecting this blog. But I am back in Ogunquit---and that seems like a place I've blogged in as much as anywhere despite only spending two weeks a year here.  It is a lovely place and it has special significance for my partner, Darryl, and I as we have been coming here for 30 years including our first trip together ever.

The ocean makes a great place for meditation too. Two of the pictures are the scenes I looked at while meditating this week.  The other picture is of Frosty near the beach.

I have been writing here, and hearing good news on poetry publishing (I only mention the good news, not the rejections which outnumber the acceptances 10 to 1 of course.)

I had two poems published by Chicago Literati----Needlecast is a poem I am really liking right now.
Their link is here: Needlecast, After Mass and Harvey Milk

I also had a love poem anthologized. It is based on Darryl and I, projecting us out about a decade or two. The book looks pretty good. It has three sections on homelessness, aging, and the earth respectively. Mine is in the aging section and it is written with Whitman's Two Boys Together Clinging in mind. It is called Cover Boys and was first published in print only in Assaracus: A Journal of Gay Poetry.

 I have read through the aging section in the anthology and was moved by a lot the poems there. The PDF is free, the Kindle version is just 2.99. The paperback copy is 19.99 but all proceeds of sales is being donated to Friends of the Earth.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Check out the journal, Haibun Today, and some reflections on writing haibun

Check on the journal "Haibun Today". The editor for this issue, Melissa Allen, was great--she gave me some excellent feedback on a piece and asked me to revise and re-submit. It really pulled the piece together and was one of those rare times when I knew for sure "this is it, it is finished". I appreciate so much busy editors who take the time to help--so I thought I would plug the journal here. (My poem does not come out till March, I will post about it again then).

I am liking the haibun form and how this journal and others are "translating" the form in a way that speaks to, and registers with, folks and writing that is contemporary and Western.  I think I like it for several reasons.  First, I tend to "go prose" a lot with my writing and haibun combines prose with haiku poetry. Second, writing haiku forces me back from over-explaining which is one my (many) poetry weaknesses. The editor really got me to think of haiku as purely observational, not interpretive stuff, or at least no focus on interpretation.  Finally, I am really intrigued with the sense of "developing" the form--read through the journal and see all the differing approaches and styles---it really generated ideas for me own writing. I plan to keep writing haibun. Thanks Melissa Allen and Haibun Today!

Haibun Today