Benicia Herald’s “Going the Distance” columns published in book form, now available
BENICIA > Yearning To Breathe Free is the collection of “Going the Distance” columns that ran in the Benicia Herald from April 1 through Election Day 2020.
Published by Benicia Literary Arts, the book is now available from the BLA website, http://www.benicialiteraryarts.org/ store/product/17 and at Bookshop Benicia, https://bookshopbenicia.indielite.org/book/9781735499925.
On March 23, 2020, as lives and livelihoods began shutting down due to the COVID pandemic, Mary Susan Gast emailed Galen Kusic, editor of the Benicia Herald, “As the fears grow around the coronavirus and tensions increase about ‘shelter in place,’ I’ve been imagining a column to appear in each edition of the Herald that would voice and speak to the fears, tensions, inspirations, hopes, and oddities we are experiencing.” Kusic responded with encouragement.
Gast called for contributions to the column. Poets, writers, and people who had never previously written for publication sent their material. Not every submission was published, but everyone who submitted was published at least once. Giving voice to our community was one of the purposes of the column.
More than a collection of polished poems and essays, Yearning To Breathe Free provides the sometimes raw, in-the-moment reactions and reflections that make up a collective accounting, a community journal. As then-mayor Elizabeth Patterson commented, “How did we make sense of being scared, isolated, wanting to fix what was wrong in 2020? Challenged at every level and in every corner, our community found in these writings a consistently dependable place to calm our fears, to renew our hope and courage.”
2020 was a year like no other. Now we can look back to those early days of the pandemic and acknowledge what we went through and what we’re still going through. The losses mourned, the celebrations put on hold, the wariness and well-founded fears that linger around climate crisis, embedded racism, and threats to democracy. Yearning To Breathe Free is part of that process of looking back and moving beyond.
Public Readings and Community Conversations
The first of three readings and community conversations will be held on August 28, 3-5 PM at the Benicia Public Library (via Zoom). Everyone is invited, more information at https://www.benicialibrary.org/poet/events.
Note: The column “Going the Distance” continues to appear in the Benicia Herald.