Interview with David Nile Chase – First Friday Poetry Open Mic at Dagny’s – November 3, 2023

David Nile Chase took us on a journey from the turbulent 1960s to the tumultuous 2020s as he recited his poems by heart.  Other Open Mic participants were Jill England, Carla Joy Martin, Suzanne Weller, Charla Anderson, Don Thompson and Heather Ponek.

Here is one of the poems David shared with us that evening:

The Great Divide

I’m driving down an endless highway shrouded by the darkness and the rain
Where the off ramps go to different places but the franchises are all the same
Where you’re more alone among strangers than you really are alone
Where people don’t know their neighbors and their friends on their phones
I search within the emptiness of the kind of humanity that I find
Where the society’s become a projection of the wasteland in our minds
Where imaginary rivers run in all directions across the great divide
And the people feel the pressure to identify with some sort of tribe
Where Wood sang about a land that belonged to you and me
While the powers that be are now decimating Mother Nature from sea to
shining sea
When our leaders seek a solution, they, they always come away chagrined
And just like it was a time before, the answer is still blowing in the wind

Q.  What inspired you to write this poem?  What is its backstory?

A.  I love the song “Across the Great Divide” on Nancy Griffin’s wonderful album “Other Voices/Other Rooms,”and particularly the line, “Now I find myself on the mountainside where the rivers change in all directions across the great divide.”  The song is about the geographic Continental Divide, but the concept dovetails into the present-day great divide created due to the inequality of wealth in the United States which has led to a great divide in the standard of living, opportunity, and justice among people in this country.

Using that as a theme, I first thought up an opening couplet: “Driving down an endless highway”and ending in “the franchises are all the same.”  In the same spirit of the American genre as the song, I wanted to incorporate some well-known literary references to familiar folk songs.  Then I kind of “built” this poem line by line and managed to work in “This Land is Your Land,”” America the Beautiful,” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.”  It really came together much more seamlessly than most of my other poems.  That was a pleasant surprise.