Born on the northside of Chicago, moved to Skokie, IL at a young age, attended the Evanston School District, went to college in Dekalb, IL, came back to Chicago until ten years ago when I moved to Jefferson City, MO.
What is the greatest thing about the place you call home?
In Chicago, the poetry scene was alive, engaged and extremely healthy. In Jefferson City, it’s the library where everyone knows your name.
What turns you on creatively?
Poetry Magazine, published in Chicago, but world renowned. It’s always been on my have to be published here list.
What is your favorite word, and can you use it in a poetic sentence?
Advocate. I taught in the university and found I had to advocate for my students again and again against the politics of the English Department. The department used a software that failed students. For example, it would ask for the direct object in “Tom threw the ball” and then give the answer as Tom. Or it would ask for the adjective in: “Tom was wearing a green and yellow shirt” and give the answer Tom. (The software had a thing for Tom.) I had to advocate for the students or else the professors would give them failing grades based on the faulty software, I was always using the word, but one day I could not remember it. I would tell a student, Yes, I’ll advocate for you. Strange as it might sound, there was the word straight from my mouth, but I could not recognize it. The concluding poem in my book, A Slipknot to Somewhere Else (Cholla Needles Preiss, 2018) expresses my feelings:
The word is advocate. Three syllables. You want to say you advocate for the students, not the professors. Because you advocate for them, you become sharper, more comfortable.
The word “advocate” has become my mantra.
What is your pet peeve?
I have a few, but on the top of my list is children who rip off their parents when their parents are in need of as much financial health as they can find. My wife and I currently take care of her 92 year old mother who is suffering from a number of health issues including dementia and we have received no help from anyone in the family. In fact, we had to go to court to stop them from stealing all of her assets. They have taken her home, all of her money from the bank, even her furniture. We were told the money was in a trust to send her to a nursing home–so how do you account for the three brand new Lexus SUVs, the condos in Mexico and Michigan, the new home for one of their sons, etc. Consequences in real time. When there are no consequences for evil acts, that’s a pet peeve.
What defines Michael H. Brownstein?
Who I was and strongly believe still am–from I Was a School Teacher Once and Other Poetics (Cybernet.com, 2023)
One time I entered my classroom to discover a classroom of weapons. Almost every child had something on their desk – a thick stick, a piece of metal, rocks, one kitchen knife. “What’s going on?” I asked and was reminded that today was the day a student was transferring into our room from another class, his ten-day suspension over. My class was scared. They knew his reputation. He was dangerous; he hurt people. They reminded me how two weeks earlier he had grabbed some boys and held them hostage in the bathroom. I was the teacher who went into the bathroom, managed to reach out to the student, calm his hostages, and settle the matter with no one getting hurt. After a few weeks, I knew he really wasn’t a bully; just a victim in need of nurturing. When we in the school changed the way we dealt with him, he began the slow process of healing. At school’s end, he made a few good friends.
This is who I am–from “The Picture”, Last Stanza
Thirty-five years and your soul still writes lines of love;
when you wake and see her wonderful in sleep,
your inner spirit rejoices; and after a long day of work,
your intellect says, Relax.
Sit on your old comfortable couch.
When you do, she sits beside you,
her hand in your hand,
her head resting on your left shoulder,
and you, still IN LOVE,
maybe watching television.
I have always been a poet with a passion for poetry, words and imagery.
I am tolerant past the word “tolerance”, inclusive past the phrase “melting pot.”
I am a friend, a companion, a solver of problems, an activist, and oftentimes a guide.