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A Poet's Journey: Ralph Dranow Becomes A Compassionate Witness Of Tenderloin's Homeless

Story ID:112
Written by:Michael Chacko Daniels (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Location:San Francisco USA
Person:Ralph Dranow
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A Poet's Journey: Ralph Dranow Becomes A Compassionate Witness Of Tenderloin's Homeless

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?

Poet and Oral Historian Ralph Dranow does.

Having lived, worked, and breathed bookstores for over fifteen years, he celebrated them in Sunday Ritual, which nycBigCityLit reviewer Tim Scannel believes are the "best poems about the aura and patrons of the bookstore.”

In his twenty-five poems in Sunday Ritual, Mr. Dranow drew 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, 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 this lover of bookstores, physically or mentally.

His lanky frame remains unstooped and his hazel eyes examine the world of San Francisco’s old-new, desultory-vibrant, wicked-innocent, gritty Tenderloin with compassion and a twinkle as he embarks on new voyages of discovery that challenge his heart, spirit, and mind.

I enjoyed reading Ralph Dranow's poems in his book, Tenderloin Voices, which he has dedicated to the people of San Francisco's Tenderloin and the Faithful Fools, a Tenderloin neighborhood charitable and educational organization created in 1998 “to address the existence of poverty in the midst of material wealth” in this beautiful, famously liberal city-by-the-bay. The Tenderloin—home to Glide, St. Anthony, and St. Boniface churches—has one of the densest concentrations of addiction, homeless, and other social services in the country.

I loved the flow of Mr. Dranow’s poems as they chronicle, brimful with details, the faces, voices, thoughts, feelings, and conditions of San Francisco's Tenderloin homeless. I admired the listening and observation skills, and the courage, both public and private, that these 21 poems represent. [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].

Mr. Dranow is also the author of The Woman Who Knocked Out Sugar Ray - short stories; Sure Hands Lifting Me Skyward – poetry; Voyeur of the Heart – poetry; Green Leaves For Hair - a poetry book in collaboration with Therese Baumberger.

Recently, I ventured to ask Mr. Dranow what had contributed to making him who he was.

Mr Dranow explained he had learned from his mistakes. As it so often happens, pain stimulated growth and change. He shifted from writing prose to poetry about sixteen years ago after a divorce made him realize he needed to broaden his life, take more risks, and widen his consciousness. He joined a men's group, studied tai chi, started meditating, and reading books on Buddhism.

“Writing poetry,” he added, “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.”

Mr. Dranow's poems reflect his continuing journey into awareness and reclaiming “his essential self.”

Copyright 2005 Michael Chacko Daniels. All rights reserved.

Article Source:
This article was published by EzineArticles.com for free re-production at http://ezinearticles.com/?id=143280

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Chacko Daniels is a former community worker and clown who grew up in Bombay, India. His past adventures include four years as assistant editor for The Asia Foundation's The Asian Student, five years as a Volunteer In Service To America, four as editor/publisher of the New River Free Press of Grand Rapids, MI, and 16 running the Jobs for Homeless Consortium in Berkeley and Oakland. During his years at Berkeley’s Center for Independent Living he edited and designed The Architecture of Independence series. He lives and works in San Francisco. His writing has appeared in Apollo's Lyre, Cricket Online Review, Denver Syntax, dragonfire, Eclectica, Grey Sparrow Journal, Hackwriters, Popular Ink, Quicksilver, SHALLA Magazine, and The Battered Suitcase. Writers Workshop, Calcutta, has published four of his books: Split in Two (Poetry, 2004), Anything Out of Place Is Dirt (Novel, 2004), That Damn Romantic Fool (Novel, 2005), and Morning in Santiniketan (Haiku, 2010). Website: http://indiawritingstation.com/


Michael writes (Sept. 2, 2011):

I have a new book out: a beautifully handcrafted book of 51 haiku, "Morning in Santiniketan," published by Writers Workshop, Kolkata.

In this book of fifty-one haiku, my poetic journey starts with “Morning in Santiniketan” in West Bengal, India.
Santiniketan, or abode of peace, is a small town in the Indian state of West Bengal.

There in the early 1900s, Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore started a progressive school set in a natural environment; his goal was to stimulate joy in learning.

The place and time where each of the fifty-one haiku in this book took form were a Shantiniketan for me.

~A Review excerpt~
[From the review by Melanie Daniels (no relation), April 8, 2011, in Hackwriters at the bottom of the following page: http://www.hackwriters.com/Zach.htm]

“Each evening a few of us read aloud our favorite haiku from Morning in Santiniketan to each other. When I asked one friend which one was her favorite, she replied that if she sat with any one of these haiku that it would become her favorite. That’s high praise!”