Joe Chaney

Michiana Chronicler

Joe Chaney is a poet living quietly in South Bend. He is director of the Master of Liberal Studies Program, an interdisciplinary degree for community leaders, life-long learners, public intellectuals, and people with a range of academic ambitions, at IU South Bend. Whenever possible, he travels to far-away places.

"Why Bad Art is Bad"

Sep 18, 2015

This is the script of Joe Chaney.

We Are Caitlyn

Jun 5, 2015
ABC News.

I wonder if people will look back on this moment in history and say that this was the week when transgender people began to be understood and respected around the world. Caitlyn Jenner has completed her public transformation from “he” to “she,” after a long process of struggle and change that was grounded in personal truth. The event of her self-presentation in Vanity Fair seems comparable to Magic Johnson's 1991 HIV announcement. That event universalized the AIDS epidemic and made it possible for people to see the unfolding tragedy as something that belonged to all of us.

Joe Chaney

Two winters ago on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i I met a man in his mid-thirties, a Midwestern loner who’d been kicking around on the island for five years. He was from one of those wheat-growing plains states with stubble fields caked in snow to the horizons, and he didn’t talk much, but I kept nudging the conversation along, speaking of the beauty of the island, saying how nice it must be to live there. Dreaming of a life in paradise but clinging to my pessimism, I ventured the supposition that jobs were hard to come by.

Christmas Caroling

Dec 19, 2014

As my wife and I were strolling through the neighborhood this week, we noticed a group of people walking toward us along the street. Most were teenagers, and they all seemed to be carrying sheets of paper. I said, “They must be Christmas carolers.” My wife said, “People don’t do that anymore, do they?” But as they were passing us, one of the adults said, “We’re going caroling. Would you like to join us?” He was obviously the youth minister, and it was clear to us now that they had come from the church at the end of the block.

Our Masquerade

Oct 31, 2014

Judging just by its economic impact, Halloween is the second-most popular holiday in the U.S. It's the day when you get to be someone else, and that someone indulges in sweets of all kinds without any concern for the consequences. Perfectly respectable citizens dress as ghouls and turn their front lawns into graveyards, playgrounds for ghosts and devils, and bloody crime scenes. On Halloween we get to try on a different role, perhaps becoming what we secretly wish we could be, in a world without real consequences.

It Was Nothing

Sep 5, 2014

Amid so much news of international conflict and human loss (Ferguson, Missouri; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; civil wars in Ukraine, Libya, Syria, and Iraq), Americans were heartened this morning to learn that peace had returned to the houses of Salisbury and Derby with the sudden resolution Thursday of a misunderstanding between Thomas Montagu, Earl of Salisbury and Frederick Stanley, Earl of Derby. Addressing Lord Derby, Lord Salisbury wrote:

Dear sir,

Cabin Pressure

Aug 1, 2014

The obesity epidemic became more real to me during my travels last weekend. My return flight was fully booked, and I boarded late only to discover that my seat was already partly occupied by the bulging left side of an especially large man. Although he sat with his arms tightly crossed, his side and shoulders swelled well beyond the invisible frame marked by the armrest. His leg extended at a sharp angle onto my seat. I’m not a big man, but airplane seats are narrow enough these days that I wasn’t able to place my back squarely against the seat back.

Last week, my wife and I, feeling restless in South Bend, took a self-guided tour of the natural history of our region. We wanted to see the remaining local traces of the Grand Kankakee Marsh, the wetland that once dominated Northern Indiana the way the Everglades still dominate South Florida. Today the Kankakee River is almost invisible. It is a series of small canals (drainage ditches, really) running southwest from the “cooling pond” at the old ethanol plant.

Sugar Camp Days

Apr 11, 2014

Ah, the sweetness of springtime! The almost-budding trees! The slowly warming air! And, warmest of all, the pancakes! There’s nothing like a pancake breakfast to get you through the final frosty days. For people who want to confront this problem head-on, there’s “Sugar Camp Days” at Bendix Woods County Park.