I am a white man

It is time, before the coming Republican primaries, for me to say something I first formed 40 years ago. Before the pundits spew out the stereotype about disaffected white men voting for the likes of Trump and Cruz, let me say this, I am a white man (even an older white man), my three sons are white men, my two little grandson are budding white men and we do not support the mindless, ignorant and dangerous nonsense coming out of these two and the others in the Republican campaign. Stereotypes of all sorts are false and this one is a great and demeaning falsehood.
I have spent the last 45 years associating and working with white men who have been working for the rights of the working class, civil rights, immigrant rights, gay rights, religious freedom and understanding, women’s right, and the freedom of people’s around the world for the right not to live under the heel of economic and political subjugation. The opportunity to work with people who share these values, whether, black, women, gay, hispanic, asian or white men, gives freedom to us all. Nothing is lost rather so much is gained.
So, do not mix me and my sons in with a group that is, in fact, false from the start. To the pundits, find another more accurate and more enlightened way to account for the fear that animates so much of the people who support these demigods.
John Peterson
Here is a short list of some white men, celebrities and associates, who are not motivated by fear but by love of all people.

Peter Yarrow
Paul Stooky
Bob Dylan
Edward R. Murrow
George Clooney
Shaun Penn
Tony Bennett
John Brown
Frank Sinatra
Gregory Peck
Bill Clinton
Paul Newman
Rock Hudson
Harry Truman
James Woods
Gene Hackman
Pete Seeger
Woody Guthrie
Tony Bennett
Orson Wells
Tim McCoy in a 1932 movie
The entire cast of 12 Angry Men
Tony Curtis
Robert Ryan
Walter Reuther
Every white man at the March on Washington
Marlon Brando
Bobby Darin
Ken Hart
Craig Cherstrom
Lawrence Rouse
Ren Maby
Warren Kessler
James Downs
Ed Maupin
Rick Gold
Jack Seileman

The list is endless.  To add names to this list go to the Comments and send them to me.  I will add them.


James Downs


In an online discussion about donating to the homeless, I waited to see if any other people who had been homeless in their life responded. I find it fascinating that we as a species make judgements without even asking what that person’s experience has been. I like the person who separates their giving from the person’s use of it.
So now I will say that due to circumstances out of my control, I ended up on the street for ten months of my life. I didn’t want nor did I try to get there. But my mentality did change once I did. Your mind ratchets down until your entire focus is surviving. Large thoughts of philosophy fly out the window. A roof or a cardboard box over your head and donated food become who you are. Any little donated amenity just helps you get through the day. I never asked for money of anyone, but it was fascinating in retrospect how many people would pass you when you are, say, sitting on a building dock and actually turn their heads so they would not have to look at you.
If you have any activity, it is just in your mind…or you may go canning (I did not). But you remain shallow…depth implies safety…and it is not safe out on those streets. In those 10 months I saw more drug deals and prostitution deals go down around me then the rest of my life combined.
If you were lucky to find a mission for a night’s sleep (I did part of the time), it was not necessarily safe. You slept “with one eye open.” And for logistical reasons, the rules were demeaning…kind of like you are a number, not an individual. And the sermon a day was meant as a good thing, but it really didn’t help.
There are so many more out there these days that did not ask to get there. Yes, there are those that cannot handle the regular society and hold on to staying there. But I bet you, most of them did not ask to get there. Consider also the mother and kids now on the street to avoid the danger of an abusive husband/father. So many different examples and reasons you can find out there.
I was luckier, way luckier, than most. My family had been looking for me the whole ten months. Once I got my head in a more lucid planning type mode, I had a sister I could call…who jumped in her car and came to get me. I stayed with her and her husband. But even then, it took months to decompress…you can immediately take a person out of the street if you are compassionate enough to do so, but it is much harder to take the street out of the person.
Here I am 15 years later, with a wife and a home and step kids and grandkids…I am one of the lucky ones. But I am sure that I am a much more compassionate person than I was before and have an understanding, just a little, of what my fellow human goes through. I will never wish what I went through on anyone. But I learned a lot from having done so.
~~James Downs

You are part of the power of this country by James Downs (click here for full post)

I do believe in fairness and care for our fellows and getting rid of poverty and help the homeless. But until we solve the problems that keep us apart on core issues, we will never start down that road at all.  Those who do not want these things fixed spend a lot of money on candidates and representatives to keep things from being solved.  So, I wrote the following Editorial:

You tell me, is the issue of abortion or climate control or unreasoned fear of each other, and other divisive issues more important to you than food on your table and a roof over your head and good schools and safety from crime for your children and good healthcare and a fair shake for a job and a fair shake at your job and fairness in general?  These are the issues that the ninety-nine percent of the people of this country (and other countries, as well) worry about most.  All the other issues, called hot-button issues because someone pushes your buttons and makes you angry and you forget about the core, are just that…something to distract you from the fact that you are part of a group that could have 99% of the power.  And you could vote for good people who care for those they represent and get those core issues taken care of for you and me and all of us.

The rich and greedy behind the present representatives don’t want you to know about this.  That is why they divide us with fear of the words liberal or conservative.  That is why they do not support good schools, because then you and I would think more and question them.  That is why they support wars, to distract us from the paramount needs here.  That is why they spend money behind the scenes, without accountability, getting those who would continue to be their political henchmen elected and vote against the best interest of the country’s core issues.  And that is why they ramp up fear and hatred between us.  Because they know the one seminal thing they cannot have.  If we did vote as a block, those rich, those henchmen, would lose power and never get back in power EVER AGAIN.

Don’t vote against your own best interests in November or at any election time.  Vote for yourselves, the core issues, not the distracting, diverting hot-button issues.  Make sure where your candidate stands on jobs, economy, fairness, good schools for all, homes, the people’s safety, by as well as from, their police. You really are part of the 99%, not the 1%.  You are part of the power of this country.

Vote that way.

James Downs
“I don’t just approve this message; I believe this message.”

Feel free to respond by email at poeticmatrixpress@yahoo.com and your response will be added. Thanks for reading.

Love is the only thing. All else is unimportant or is just details.

Barnes & Noble, a problematic view of poetry

Click on above link to see entire essay.

I recently left Barnes & Noble with a problematic view of the position of poetry in the store. The poetry section in Barnes & Noble in Fresno is located towards the back of the store, right up against the children’s section, right in between bookshelves that host children’s books and children’s games, right next to the 9 to 12 age group and the 5 to 9 age group of kids. Not only is the poetry section here but also the section on Shakespeare, theater, and performing arts. Each of these sections are surrounded by the children’s section, nowhere near the other literary offerings. The other literary section offerings include fiction titles, nonfiction, travel, California, science fiction and others, this area of the store is some distance away from the selections on poetry as if poetry does not belong with literature but is for children.

Seems difficult to me as a publisher of poetry to recommend Barnes & Noble given that they give so little attention to poetry. In the poetry section most of the poetry is selected from well-known poets many of them from the past, very few contemporary poets. There are people like Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins but most of them are names that we know historically as very good poets and very good poetry and I have no problem with that but there is a dearth of contemporary poets and poetry. As a publisher of small press poetry by contemporary poets I find Barnes & Noble’s support of small press poetry essentially nil, contemporary voices that are not well known essentially nil, that makes it difficult for me to openly support Barnes & Noble as we don’t see anything on their part that would lead us to believe they care a great deal about contemporary poetry. Barnes & Noble does support poetry in their online offerings and we appreciate that and would like to see much more offerings in the store. Barnes & Noble is currently under pressure from Amazon and other online stores, and we’ve seen Barnes & Noble’s impact on community bookstores in the past.

We’ve seen the effect that Amazon particularly has had on even the big box stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. Borders is no longer with us, we watched the poetry selections in Borders dwindle from a large share of the literary section to virtually nothing before they eventually closed doors and we’re not suggesting that if you don’t sell poetry you can’t be successful but it shows a lack of love for one of the higher arts that any culture puts together. We would hope that Barnes & Noble sees the value of poetry and spends more cachet on promoting poetry and selling poetry; poetry from less well know but equally valuable contemporary poets.

The role of poetry in any society is as a gauge to where that society has been and where that society is going. Whether or not poetry is essential to society brings to mind the famous quote by William Carlos Williams, “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” We need to take poetry out and support poets and poetry and poetry books within our own community and encourage independent bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, all booksellers to put a real effort into this promotion of poetry.

To presume that this idealistic and romantic space in poetry doesn’t need to be sold because it is right there, that all we need do is place it out, “build it and they will come” but truly we also have to recognize that we live in a contemporary society where the vehicle is selling, producing and putting it out as part of our culture and we poets participate in the culture every day. To consider that we are not part of our culture but sit in some secret space is absurd; we drive cars, we go out to eat, go to movies, we buy food, we pay bills, have bank accounts just like anybody else in the society. If we are writers, if we are poets, we are also part of what it takes to sell books, to play them out where members of the populace can pick them up, read them and gain whatever beauty, truth and love might be in them.

Small poetry presses like Poetic Matrix Press are essential to the literary life of a culture. We showcase new, unknown poets. We provide them with a means of presenting their work to a wider world. We are part of a long, important history of literature. The list of small press and personally published work goes on (Stephen Crane, e.e. cummings, Benjamin Franklin, Rudyard Kipling, D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Paine, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg, George Bernard Shaw, Gertrude Stein, Henry David Thoreau and Mark Twain, to name but a few. This is the way new work and new ideas enter the world. We will continue to do our part, it would be nice if Barnes & Noble would do more to advance this most important cultural form.

John Peterson, Publisher Poetic Matrix Press