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About Stubborn Pine

About Stubborn Pine

Drawing of pine tree

All I hope to achieve in this website -- which went online in September 2001 -- is to put my work before you. The core of it you'll find on the menu page for Poetry, Novels, Short Fiction, Essays. The initial offerings there sample my work in all those forms, and include the opening chapters from two novels, Comrades and Joey-O, the former completed, the latter a work in progress.

As did Dickens, I plan to publish additional chapters of both works here on a regular basis, eventually completing them online. I've also just published my second book of poems, Earl Coleman Greatest Hits 1960-2003, so I'm including a sampling of those poems and ordering information.

I've started to compile a bibliography of my published writings over the years, primarily for my own reference. Because that may lead you to other work of mine, I'll post it here as it evolves. It, too, is a work in progress. I've included both an artist's statement of sorts and a short, more formal biography, to give you some idea of the life experience from which all this emerges.

For decades I've run writers' workshops, and participated in them as well. I believe in the workshop as a sacred space for writers and writing. Right now I teach one for kids, in my own community. I'm considering establishing a workshop for adult writers once again. For my thoughts on the writers' workshop as a function of craft, click here.

Finally, I've included a Links page, to connect you to some sites I find variously relevant and valuable -- including those of some of the publications wherein my work has appeared, and even a few pieces of mine that have made their way online elsewhere.

I'd love to hear from anyone who responds strongly to this site and my work, either pro or con. You can always reach me at

About My Work
(September 2001)

I’m 85, which taken by itself is no big thing. It doesn’t make me smarter or wiser or better or anything except older. But I do retain some of what I’ve experienced which most people still alive have either forgotten or never known. I may therefore be able to offer you some nuggets with a special shine, plus I retain some facts, long since distorted, inverted or lost in the sweep of history.

As I was growing up large vocabularies were not unusual. It may seem in these times that mine is huge. It’s not. My son Allan’s is bigger than mine. I hope you’ll approach my words with an eye to finding me entertaining or not, informative or not. Wonderful would be you’d find me exciting and even witty. But you’ll know soon enough if I’m your cup of tea.

I write to be read. That may seem tautological but it’s not. Many write for themselves, as reinforcement for their fantasies, a perverse snobbery. In these obscurantist days many write for just a close circle of friends with all kinds of arcane allusions in their work which they and few others can follow. I don’t exactly write for the slob on the block but I do try to make myself and my words accessible. My reasoning is: If you’re a writer and you’re not accessible why would you expect someone to burrow through the silt to find what may, but only may be there? I think accessibility is a golden rule.

Another golden rule is -- you must have something to say. In these days of yellow smiling, sunny faces, where bad news has been abolished forever, and even the bad news that does get through gets a good spin, telling it like is as they say really goes against the tide. But if you have nothing to say who cares if you’re accessible? So: the demand I make on myself is to write on what I consider to be important subjects. As Evita says, that’s what you’re gonna get in me. Does it take hubris to say of one’s writing -- hey -- this is about an important subject. Well of course it does. First of all a writer would have to be crazy not to have hubris, faced with only a blank piece of paper and his own mind with almost no chance for gaining materially from what he’ll labor at without stint. He’d better have healthy hubris or he won’t sustain his own momentum. Besides -- the trick in being a writer is to say to the reader -- you’re in good hands with All State. Once the reader doubts the writer, forget it, he’ll close the page. So an important instant task for the writer is to make sure the reader will and has come along for the ride and will remain on board or else the writer really is writing for himself.

Another demand I make on myself is to say what I have to say not only clearly but artistically. That last is a stumbling block for many in these days when poetry must slam to be heard, where va-voom rules. After all, receptivity to art is subjective. Van Gogh never sold a painting while he lived. Talk about hubris. He did it anyway. Why? Because he had to. There may be the key. So I work hard, sometimes dozens of rewrites to be clear and artistic at the same time, for no recompense, but because I have to. If you don’t like it or don’t get it -- hey -- tough luck for me. Do I think I’m Van Gogh? Not yet. Might never get there. But the thrust is the same. The artist does it because he must. Surely not for money.

It should be clear to you that as I place demands on me I place demands on you. When we read Ulysses we can all get the story, Homer’s tale, set in Dublin 1920 or so. Nice conceit. But if we know the allusions -- ah, the plays on words, sometimes on foreign words -- well -- the more we bring to it of course the more we get. And many of those allusions are not hard to come by at all for anyone who is what used to be called a well-read person. That demand on you is implicit in my work. Oh, I’m accessible anyway, even if you bring little to it. But there are layers there that you’ll appreciate if you come to it with something of your own.

For a notion of the kind of thing I write and my attempt at communication, here’s one from my new book, Stubborn Pine in a Stiff Wind. There’s nothing for it, as the poem says, but to make a partnership, you and I. You may tire of me, find me tendentious, lecture-y, over-political, intense. Well -- you’ll walk away. (I’m told I can be funny.) But if we stay as partners I assure you I will bust my head to bring you garden fresh each day.

-- Earl Coleman

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I’m human -- there’s the whole of it. Does it diminish me that in my mind, my affect, my life I have no ethnicity, no class, no color, no country, no belief in the hereafter or in a power higher than my own humanity? My own blood replenishes my cells. My own brain steers me through my days. My right or wrong isn’t arrived at via some compass I’ve been given with a trembly arrow guided by some other entity pointing to their version of True North. As I believe in nothing else and nothing less than Self I don’t believe in Death with a capital D or fear it, as I fear no deity or icons on a plinth or on a wall. I look to music, words and paint to feed my mind and spirit, their mixture of the heart and brain, to help me toward my right and wrong. My passions point me to perceptions of the good and bad in how I live my life.

At my four score and six of course I’m weaker, slower, feel more pain, and have become less agile than I used to be. The same is true of all machines (Hamlet called his body a machine) -- my toaster needs my coaxing to pop up, my TV picture starts off dark, my plumbing sometimes doesn’t work. Machines like me and mine break down. Why wouldn’t they? Nothing lasts forever. If I drop the sturdiest artifact I’ll have no choice but sweep the pieces up and glue them back together if I want to keep the piece. If I should fall they’ll have to pick me up and glue my hip, or rivet it, if it should come to that. No force will make me fall or fix its magic eye on me to make me fall, or will my fall. If I fall, (and have I ever fallen), I was and will be responsible for that fall. My genes and my alertness will be tested every day. The fault, dear reader, should I fall, will always be my own.

When we roll the dice we pass or we crap out. The odds of chance take care of that. No intervention except the hand of man can change the outcome of that roll. I’m free of cant, of toeing some else’s moral line. I have no need of nostrums, solace, fairy tales, or platitudes, not even for a lessened pain. Pain helps me write. Just as joy helps me write. Just as my eroticism, passions, angers, loves, connections with words, music, paint, help me write. I’m not an island -- I’m part of you and your humanity. Nor are we as a whole an island. We’re the honest goods, the thing itself, the stuff.

When we are self-dependent, daring to face mirrors or face life, why that’s our straight line to the stars, those chunks of real matter orbiting other bits of real matter as this real matter, our Earth, is busy orbiting. Our Earth. Our center of our gravity. No secrets in it we will not discover at some time. No discoveries of which we are not capable. We’re mankind! We have resources we’ve never tapped and will develop others, replenishing ourselves as my cells replenish my blood.

We are the very apex of the animal kingdom as well as the life force and when we are defeated or set back we have only ourselves to blame for temporary blindness, lack of nerve, slowed growth toward that next stage (and always the one after that) -- just as we’re victorious only through our own efforts in concert with all other human beings. When we are fearless, searching for the best in ourselves, there are no heights that we shall not achieve.

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© Copyright 2001 by Earl Coleman except as indicated. All rights reserved.
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