This collection can be read as an eclectic response to what it means to possess Shakespeare. It contains essays, poems, autobiographical reflections, and a musical composition. Some of the pieces were written specifically for this volume and directly address elements or ideas found in Shakespeareâ€™s plays; others make no direct mention of his work or influence, and in fact were originally written and published for very different reasons. Nonetheless, what these pieces have in common is that they were written in â€œpossession of Shakespeare.â€ The contributors, by the very nature of who they are and what they have written and done, â€œown,â€ â€œare owned by,â€ and â€œoweâ€ some debt to Shakespeare.
The Catholic Worker Jeff Dietrich has fed the homeless and poor on Los Angelesâ€™ Skid Row for more than forty years and written about his experiences doing so. ï¿½He has stood on the heath with them, as the title of his essay suggests. ï¿½
The essayist, cultural critic, and poet Lewis Hyde has spent a lifetime thinking about what it means to be an artist. ï¿½His interest in the influence of artists upon one another, of ideas that are â€œas common as air,â€ is the very premise of this book, which is that ï¿½Shakespeare himself is â€œcommon as air.â€ Like Shakespeare, Lewis Hyde knows that the quality essential to all creative work first and foremost begins by borrowing.
Arnal Kennedy, homeless for some twenty years, has been an active member of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker ever since he left the streets. He cares for the poor on a daily basis by serving meals and washing dishes; he is also a poet. While his work is an expression of the deepest suffering and loss, his poetry also holds out the saving adage of Shakespeareâ€™s understanding of redemption.
Logan Metz and Lincoln Mendell are collaborators, poet/musicians in the lyrical tradition of Shakespeareâ€™s Feste or Ariel. ï¿½Logan Metz teaches Shakespeare and music to young children in underprivileged schools in Los Angeles.ï¿½
Wole Soyinka is a poet, essayist, novelist, satirist, journalist, critic, writer of memoirs, a wordsmith (quite literally, â€œa maker of wordsâ€), and occasionally a composerâ€”but first and foremost (perhaps), he is a playwright. And in this capacity he shares more than his initials with his predecessor, William Shakespeare. ï¿½ ï¿½ï¿½
The poet Gail Wronsky ï¿½has written many books of poetry, two of which nestle in Shakespeare. Like Shakespeare, she writes about doubles, herself and himself, Bottom and Vishnu, as the â€œtrading of dreams.â€
Theresia de Vroom has been thinking about Shakespeare since the sixth grade, when she saw a performance of A Midsummer Nightâ€™s Dream and Hamlet in the same week.