Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Artless Gratitude for the Fact of Existence

Yesterday, I spent half the half-rainy day in Moscow, steeping in the crowds along Tverskaya, the city transformed since my last visit--the statue of Pushkin now crowded by huge signs for Nokia and Pepsi Co. Still, the old man stands his ground, looks down--or rather, inside. The old weird Moscow will not disappear, but you might have to get past the pomaded and bedecked youth, whose styles outstyle the European jetsetters, and hear the poetry of regular life. Here's a poem by Gandlevsky, "Stanzas," and an essay, "The Use of Poetry," to stereoscope the image a bit.

—In Memory of My Mother


Speak. But what do you want to say? Perhaps
How the barge moved along the city river, trailing sunset,
How all June until the solstice
Summer stretched on its tiptoes to the light,
How breath of linden blew through sultry squares
And how thunder rolled from all directions that July?
You once believed that speech needs an underlying cause
And a grave occasion. But that’s a lie.


Listen: the grocery store reeks of watermelon rot,
An empty crate clatters at a back door around the corner.
From the suburbs, a breeze carries the echo of a handcar
And buries the asphalt in archive leaves.
Drop the Rubik’s Cube to the ground – it’s not worth the trouble.
When all plans fail, eat grapes in the rain,
Sit in the silent yard. Just look with your own eyes.
This is what you’ll recall among the crags and crevices of hell-


So get going. Yet a naked branch – the upas
Of school texts – stubbornly touches the window
Just as it did long ago, at night, especially during rain,
Feeling the pane that mama washed.
Though I remember very little from school
I can still see each grain of sand pouring through
The narrow glass neck, an unforgettable rustle.
A primitive instrument, but what a throat for sorrow!


Strike spitefully on the floor your ever-wobbly tripod,
Haggard charlatan, not hiding your crookedness,
So that a clear specter of water streams out, smells of ozone
Under the leaking roof of a state-owned house.
The chair jolts you with static electricity,
So speak again, as if tortured, sans schools and manifestoes,
If this hopeless time and god-forsaken place
Instill in you, a total deadbeat, such love.


The widower, forty-seven year old Aizenstadt
Now roams the kitchen, can’t cop his usual downer.
Is there reason to smile at this, my friend? I think not.
Even if his funeral-black boxers hang down to his knees.
In this world, where one needs spirits to be happy,
Behind empty crates the guys who’ve seen better days
Raise a toast to Sergey Esenin or Andy Chenier,
Squander their latest check on drink by tradition.


After death I’ll go to the outskirts of the city I love,
Lift my snout to sky, throw back my antlers-
Taken by sadness, I’ll trumpet into autumn space
What human words could not express.
How the barge sailed into the wake of sunsetting day,
How iron time on my left wrist sang like a starling,
How the secret door was unlocked with a house key.
Speak. There’s nothing else you can do with this affliction.



The Use of Poetry

A prize for poetry can baffle its recipient – when a private thing, a personal predilection that’s almost a whim, is rewarded. It’s as if an inveterate mushroom-hunter or lover of ice fishing were given a prize. It’s customary to think that there are all kinds of whims but poetry is a serious and hardly useless pastime. Yet in the last twenty years, many (and certainly the best) Russain poets have recoiled from the word “use.” Like little children, poets demand that they be loved for no other reason than that they exist.

Society is correct to treat poetry with seriousness, but poetry is also correct to hold onto the bulwark of its own uselessness.

It’s good to sit in the hot sun on the grass and look at a river. But the supposition that the sun, the plants, and the water have the goal and purpose of giving us pleasure hardly enters the healthy mind; about the meaning of nature we can only guess – each person is remitted a certain amount of imagination, intelligence, and temperatment. Such is poetry; its ulimate direct aspirations are unclear and mysterious; the impressions that it produces are only the indirect consequences of its existence.

We can hope that poetry will help us, but we cannot demand help from it. Poetry is a gift, not a salary. Only when we finally take into account, when we get used to the idea that the natural responsibility of poetry is to be poetry, it is conceivable, I think, to fold down your fingers and estimate whether poetry has an earthly task. Not insisting especially on anything, I’ll offer a few thoughts.

First. Occupied primarily by words and by himself, the poet day in and day out writes his ideal self-portrait, personifies on the page a dream about himself. The tactical allegory “lyrical hero” we should understand in its original meaning – the poet “heroizes” himself, displays the most vivid attributes of his personality, subdued in daily life by routine conflict. A constant contact with the ideal twin disciplines the author, helps him not to give up. The author feels that the gap is too wide between himself and the lyrical hero – it’s disasterous for both: the devastation responds as muteness in the best instance, and in the worst, idle chatter.

But the moral return from creativity is known not only to those who write; readers feel it as well.

Poetry relates to reality like a finished manuscript to a rough draft. Art didn’t invent the drama of life. The drama is in the nature of things, but things obscure it. Poetry focuses life to a sharp clarity, and the main celebratory foundation of existence becomes visible from everyday babble. Poetry is the subjunctive mood of life, to remember how we would be, if we were not…. In short, poetry is in a position to better our morals.

Second. Everyone knows that life is not sugar; loneliness is perhaps the most bitter of its burdens. A person often cannot share his despondency, his sudden thoughts, his good moods, but he opens a book, and he’s somehow not alone. It turns out that total strangers were already here, were thinking, were happy or angry like he was, and for the same reason that he is. Suddenly, these people are no longer strange to him. That revealed spiritual likeness bothers the teenager’s feelings of his own exclusivity, but soon enough we become adults and have it up to here with our own exclusivity. In other words, art is also a communication. And poetry is the best means of communication, because it’s the most emotional.

And third. Coffee boils over on the stove just as if it’s trying to put its head through a sweater; the Russian word “train” [poezd] is already preparation for “delay” [opozdanie]; after a twenty-year intermission, the old forgotten poet appears in public in a sport coat, buttoned enthusiastically in the wrong hole. This is all the costly small change of the world, in which we for some reason awaken once and for the last time. It is shameful to be hard of hearing and half-blind. If only inattention to our small creativity, not to say anything about apathy toward Creation, or the ailment of mechanical existence offended us more than profanity! Poetry can help us to value life. Even when a poet curses the universe, he has nevertheless noticed it; it has genuinely disturbed him. “Keen observation,” Mandelstam said, “is the virtue of the lyrical poet.” I dare to add that keen observation is a kind of gratefulness. Poetry, in the end, is always the artless gratitude to the world for the fact of existence. [1997]


“Stanzas” and ‘The Use of Poetry” both from: Sergey Gandlevsky, A Kindred Orphanhood (transl. Philip Metres), 2003, Zephyr Press, Brookline, MA.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fresh Gandlevsky! Masturbating Soviet Statues!

A blog, Groundwork, recently published, for the first time, a recent memoir by poet Sergey Gandlevsky, "The Monument." While I'm in Russia, it looks like I'll miss both Gandlevsky and Lev Rubinstein, the two poets whose selected poems I've translated. Gandlevsky shows his typical lust for the everyday, his categorically comic self-portraiture, and his "critical sentimentalism" for a lost epoch, a lost age. To check out his selected poems, go here.

Sergey Gandlevsky – The Monument

UNCLE SERYOZHA has lost his marbles, and, very spryly for a man of his age, jumps onto the running board of the general conversation in order to dictate its itinerary: the storied times when sour cream was so thick a spoon would stand upright in it, and he could have dinner for a ruble and still have enough for a Belomor smoke and beer, keg beer with some heated beer poured into the cold, and salted crackers shaped like rings . . . . Now it’s all over: the hosts are embarrassed, the guests slink away. Uncle Seryozha—that’s me.

And our telephone number, my dears, was G9-13-34. One evening when our parents had gone to the movies, the neighbors’ drinking party gushed over into our living space, and Vladimir Gavrilych, in a dark-blue T-shirt, loose black trousers, and bedroom slippers on his bare feet, played the front-line song “Katyusha” on my mother’s Mühlbach piano with candelabra [old Russian upright pianos are equipped with candleholders on either side of the music rack]. Our neighbor Vladimir Gavrilych hadn’t had occasion to fight, because he had chopped off the index fingers of both hands at just the right time, which did not prevent him from pounding on the keys, yelping boldly, on May 9, 1958. It was rather frightening. “Remember this day your whole life long, Sergey,” he adjured me, while in his enforced embrace I was overcome by the smell of vodka, onions, and armpits. And I did remember. Once the prison-gangster-in-training Shurik Batashov urgently invited us neighborhood youths to his place and “spilled his seed” into a saucepan, as it is written in Holy Scripture, for our edification. It was instructive. Once my father, impassioned by a convivial Thaw-period conversation and forgetting the audibility of the communal apartment, exclaimed in the wee hours that Stalin was the spawn of Lenin. It was enough to take our breath away. As for all the rest—music school, the dominant seventh chord, God forbid, plus my quixotic extracurricular reading—Isabelle what’s her name, de Croye [from Scott’s Quentin Durward]. A mixture of intelligentsia upbringing with the studies of the street tuned the future of the lyric hero to an ambiguous harmony.

On the weekends in spring or warm autumn, my parents would pack sandwiches, a thermos of tea, and badminton rackets into a bag with a shoulder strap, and we would go to what was then the last stop on the Fili subway line and then in a bus along the Rublyovsky Highway. We would find a clearing and play badminton to a fifteen-point knockout. It was great. The rackets would moan softly under the blows, the shuttlecock would whizz, my father, his mouth open wide with happy fierceness, would foil or return my mother’s low serves, and my mother would move with the enchanting grace of a large, unathletic woman who was still full of life. My brother and I, playing dirty little tricks on each other, would wait our turn.

And it came, the turn of youth. I was an ugly duckling but became a handsome gander. I was a pensive plant in crooked glasses but became a young Muscovite who had a high opinion of himself. And Moscow was transformed from the place where I was registered into something like the only possible milieu for habitation. The fifteen years of my early and late youth now appear to me as one continuous half-drunk nomadic wandering around the center and outskirts of the huge and unfriendly city. “The youths are on the move,” our compatriots would say as we passed, and they were right. I took part willingly and diligently in the doings and idleness of that guild of slackers known in current art-historical parlance as the “underground.” This involvement often presupposed, among other things, bohemian behavior with all its merits and defects. We were writer-rowdies, or at any rate we tried to be—that was the fashion then. Certain wild men achieved true virtuosity in the art of raising a ruckus. My talented comrade Arkady P. managed to roll a trolleybus out of the dead-end street in which it was spending the night and then sent this means of transportation, crammed with his male and female drinking buddies, freewheeling down Great Pirogovskaya Street. “They don’t make heroes like that any more!” [from Lermontov's 1837 poem "Borodino"].

The late Aleksandr Soprovsky and I never set the town on fire like that. It’s true, on one of the anniversaries of the October Revolution my reckless and of course dead-drunk comrade jumped up and tore down two or three red flags in one of the lanes of the Arbat. I, the tipsy witness of these tricks, almost lost control of my bowels. People of my generation and older are in a position to appreciate Soprovsky’s deed according to the bill of fare of the Criminal Code of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic.

And here’s a less heroic incident, but one that conveys a flavor of past Moscow times. One lovely May evening, Soprovsky and I were whiling away the time over a briefcase full of cheap port wine in a little park on what was then Herzen Street, near my beloved monument, about which I will explain a bit later. Before dark, the decorous beginning of our gathering might well have been reflected in the crooked mirror that reigned over the intersection—it’s gone now. Carried away by a conversation, we just barely managed to set off for our respective homes before the subway closed. When I called Sasha the next morning to arrange where and how we would carouse away the coming day, my comrade could hardly speak from despair: the previous evening, in his haste and drunkenness, he had left his briefcase, which contained seditious scribblings and—most important—also his address book, in the park. As a man of honor, his very first reaction was horror that he had at one stroke “ratted on” a fairly large number of acquaintances who had given him their addresses and telephone numbers. Soprovsky was inconsolable, and we agreed to meet right away. Sasha turned up at our rendezvous radiant and sparkling. After our call, a stranger had called him and said that he had found the briefcase. Judging from the contents of the briefcase, the stranger continued, it would not be in the interests of its owner for it to end up at the police station. They met, and when the touched Soprovsky offered to treat his benefactor to some “Agdam” port wine, the man dryly refused: “Young man, you need to choose your calling—either dissidence or alcoholism.”

And now, as I promised, about my beloved sculpture. At the corner of Great Nikitskaya (formerly Herzen) Street and one of the Kislovsky lanes, right opposite the zoological museum, there stands a rather ugly gray building with pilasters. If you steal up to it on tiptoe, your heart pounding, from the direction of the Manège Square, and stand at attention precisely at the third pilaster, before your eyes will appear a raptly masturbating shock-worker of Communist labor—maybe a Stakhanovite miner, maybe a hero-builder of the subway. There are aficionados who like to catch other monuments of the capital in the act of self-abuse, like say Timiryazev on Nikitsky Boulevard or Tchaikovsky by the Conservatory. But in these cases, to everyone’s regret, the depravity of the wretched hunters themselves is on display. To an unbiased eye, there is not a hint of anything blameworthy in the monuments to the scientist and the composer; I have checked repeatedly, “have looked as assiduously as possible” [quotation from Eugene Onegin, Chapter 8]. But as for my touristic attraction, it is impossible to see anything else, if you approach it from the correct angle. It’s unbelievable, but we are dealing here with a classic case of sabotage—only a ten-minute walk from the Kremlin.

Oh, how many times have you come to my rescue, obscene idol, when my enchanting companion would begin to get bored and suddenly remember mama’s nerves and papa’s heart condition, and the luckless Don Juan’s powers to distract the beauty with smooth talk were running dry! How the unimpressive little park would resound with indecent maidenly laughter, and immediately the hope would be resurrected that papa and mama would be forgotten, and the seduction would succeed! The charm of the high-relief sculpture would unfold in its fullness when you quickly compared the activity, if you’ll pardon the expression, of the exemplary factory worker with the look on his face. He would labor indefatigably, as the young ne’er-do-well Shura Batalov once did as a demonstration for the communal-apartment kids, and the monument’s profile, lifted to the heavens, would shine with inspiration, like the physiognomy of Vladimir Gavrilych, our neighbor, as he performed the army song. Or like mine right now. After all, recollection is also a sort of fornication, a useless indulgence of the imagination. . . . Time to stop.

But just one more time, the last one for today, toward the end of the play: how are things going with the family in the pine grove on the Rublyovsky Highway? How’s the game, what’s the score, who’s winning? Is everything the same? It’s the same as always, only the visibility is poor as usual, as if through dusty glass. I should have fixed them better in my memory, God knows I wasn’t a baby, already eight years old, and I already knew, even if only by hearsay, that people are mortal. But I couldn’t imagine just how mortal . . . .

And where is the ill-starred briefcase now? Isn’t its phantom visible in the twilight next to the familiar bench? And indeed something is showing dark there. But nowadays you’re afraid even to go near it, you might stumble on an incendiary device. And the monument stands as it always did, but it’s not easy to get near it because of the constant construction. By the way, the first definition of the word “monument” in Dal’s dictionary is “anything made in order to facilitate memory.” Precisely.

(Translated by Susanne Fusso)

© Sergey Gandlevsky. Published with the kind permission of the author.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Back to the U.S.S.R.! (In My Mind)

I'll be on the road (again), in far flung lands, with little desire to post anything for the next week, but in the meantime, if anything crosses your digital path on the themes of poetry, war and peacemaking, send them this way, and I'll catch up upon return.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Soldiers Who Just Say No...

Published on Monday, August 17, 2009 by Inter Press Service
Soldiers Who Just Say No
by Jon Letman

KAUAI, Hawaii - Six months into Barack Obama's presidency, the U.S. public's display of antiwar sentiment has faded to barely a whisper.

Despite Obama's vow to withdraw all combat forces from Iraq before September 2011, he plans to leave up to 50,000 troops in "training and advisory" roles. Meanwhile, nearly 130,000 troops remain in that country and more than 50,000 U.S. soldiers occupy Afghanistan, with up to an additional 18,000 approved for deployment this year.

So where is the resistance?

In independent journalist Dahr Jamail's "The Will to Resist: Soldiers who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan" (Haymarket Books), Jamail profiles what may ultimately prove to be the United States' most effective anti-war movement: the soldiers themselves.

During the early years of the Iraq war, Jamail traveled to Iraq alone and reported as an unembedded freelance journalist. Over four visits, Jamail documented the war's effects on Iraqi civilians in "Beyond the Green Zone" (2007).

Although he is a fierce critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of the U.S. mainstream media which he says served as a "cheerleader" for war, Jamail admits he was raised to admire the military. However, after covering the war from Iraq between 2003 and 2005, Jamail was enraged by what he calls "the heedless and deliberate devastation [he] saw [the U.S. military] wreak upon the people of Iraq."

Back in the U.S., traveling the country speaking out against the war, Jamail met scores of soldiers who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and found that he shared with them a "familiar anguish" which drove him to further explore their motivations as soldiers. In doing so he opens the door to a growing subculture of internal dissent that is increasingly bubbling up and spilling over the edge of an otherwise ultra-disciplined, highly-controlled military society.

"The soldiers I spoke with while working on this book are some of the most ardent anti-war activists I have ever met," Jamail told IPS. "Having experienced the war firsthand, this should not come as a surprise."

In "The Will to Resist", Jamail profiles individual acts of resistance that he envisions as the possible seeds of a broader anti-war movement. The book is filled with stories of soldiers who refuse missions deemed "suicidal", go AWOL, flee abroad, refuse to carry a loaded weapon, even arranging to be shot in the leg - and those who in a final act of desperation commit suicide.

Soldiers who refuse to deploy or follow orders risk court-martial, prison time, dishonourable discharge and loss of veteran's medical benefits, yet an increasing number of active duty soldiers and veterans are willing to do so.

Rather than accept a mission almost certain to bring death, some troops simply refuse to follow orders. Jamail describes soldiers in Iraq on "search and avoid" missions who grew adept at giving the appearance of going out on patrol when, in fact, they were lying low, catching up on sleep and trying to avoid being killed.

Jamail quotes one Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as saying, "Dissent starts as simple as saying 'this is bullshit. Why am I risking my life?'"

Soldiers tell Jamail that incidents of refusing orders are unremarkable and "pretty widespread," to which he responds, "It is also understandable why the military does not want more soldiers or the public to know about them."

"Army Specialist Victor Agosto, who served a year in Iraq, has recently publicly refused orders to deploy to Afghanistan," Jamail told IPS, "and the Army, due to the threat of more soldiers and the broader public learning of this, backed away from giving Agosto the harshest court-martial possible, to one of the lightest."

Jamail also dedicates two chapters to soldiers who stand up to systemic misogyny and homophobia in the military. Extensive interviews with female soldiers detail a pervasive culture of institutionalised "command rape," harassment, abuse and assault which, in a number of high-profile cases (and many more unknown) end in ostracism, coercion, demotion, suicide and murder.

Citing studies from professional medical journals that offer a grim assessment of sexual intimidation and abuse within the U.S. military, Jamail writes, "According to the group Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, one in six women in the United States will be a victim of sexual assault in her lifetime. In the military, at least two in five will. In either case, at least 60 percent of the cases go unreported."

As Jamail recounts horrific cases of violence toward women in the military, he notes the irony of frequent claims that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are "liberating" women of those Muslim countries.

Like female soldiers, gay and lesbian service men and women are targeted for harassment and abuse. Jamail meets soldiers who, under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, must conceal their true identity, falsely posing as straight while battling internal conflicts about their own roles in the military.

In the blunt language of the soldiers, Jamail describes the military experience as a process of dehumanisation. "The primary objective appeared to be to mistreat and dehumanise your guys [fellow soldiers]," one Marine says. "I could not do it, not to my men and not to those people. I like the Iraqis, I like the Afghanis. Why were we treating them like shit?...That is when I really started questioning what the hell was going on."

For many soldiers however, the pain of war is simply too much to bear and so they choose their own final discharge: suicide. In an emotionally exhausting chapter, Jamail cites statistics from the Army Suicide Event Report which states active duty military suicides have risen to their highest rates since the Army started tracking self-inflicted deaths in 1980, and the numbers are growing.

Documenting the phenomenon of "suicide by cop," Jamail quotes from a Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome (PTSD)-wracked veteran's pre-"suicide" internet article in which he wrote, "…We come home from war trying to put our lives back together but some cannot stand the memories and decide that death is better. We kill ourselves because we are so haunted by seeing children killed and whole families wiped out."

Contemplating the long-term implications of the more than 1.8 million military personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jamail points out that the United States, for many years to come, will be faced with caring for tens of thousands of veterans whose lives are permanently marred by grave physical and traumatic brain injuries, psychological scars, PTSD, and a host of associated problems ranging from divorce and substance abuse to domestic violence, homelessness and run-ins with the law.

Other soldiers manage to cope somehow and, perhaps in a sense, recover. Following their discharge, some veterans profiled by Jamail seek to make peace with themselves by educating others about the realities they experienced in war.

The most successful and constructive of military efforts to resist war are made by those who turn their experiences into teaching tools and therapeutic exercises like music, video, theater, painting, books, blogs, photographic and art exhibitions, performance art and even making paper out of old military uniforms.

In a chapter titled 'Cyber Resistance,' Jamail contends the Internet "is probably the first time that we have available to us an inexpensive and extremely inclusive means to communicate and thereby advocate sustained resistance to unjust military action, at an international scale without losing any gestation time."

Websites like YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Blogspot and countless alternative news sources have given soldiers and veterans both a voice and the means to connect with those Jamail calls "fence-sitters, members of the silent majority and well-intentioned but resource-less individuals to participate in the promise of a historical transformation."

"While we don't have an organised GI resistance movement today that is anywhere close to that which helped end the Vietnam war," Jamail said, "the seeds for one are there, and they are continuing to sprout amidst a soil that is becoming all the more fertile by the escalation of troops in Afghanistan, the lack of withdrawal in Iraq, and an increasingly over-stretched military."

© 2009 IPS North America

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Of Plimoth Plantation, Pawtuxet, and Palestine

We spent the day walking around the "living museum" of Plimoth Plantation--site of the literary William Bradford and Pilgrims of yore, and what was formerly Pawtuxet, the Wampanoag village that had been wiped out by disease just prior to the landing of the Mayflower, by previous European incursions. Thus, the Pilgrims could say, only half-truthfully, that they had come to an empty land that God ordained for them.

The Hobbamock homesite, named after the Wampanoag who was assigned to live near the settlers, is a relatively recent addition to the site, and the people there, we are told by signs, are not re-enacters. But when we walk around, and talk to the people, we find them dressed in traditional, re-enacted dress, and oscillate between ritual re-enactment and rather contemporary discussion of how they got the bark for the roof from a place in Rhode Island.

The website has a list of FAQs, among them, this:
6. Is there any special way to talk to the Native People on your staff?

There are several important things to keep in mind when talking with Native staff. First of all, you should be respectful of their culture, traditions and history. Please avoid questions or comments that are based on stereotypes, such as war whooping or saying "How" as a greeting. Remember that Native staff members are talking from a modern perspective, in their own words, and are not role playing "characters" from the past. They welcome questions about the history and culture of their People, however, please do not ask them personal questions about their lives. For more information about asking questions with sensitivity, please go to our Cultural Sensitivity page.


Ask lots of questions.
Look and listen in on other visitors' conversations (it's OK to eavesdrop here).
At the Wampanoag (Wampanoag) Homesite you will be learning about a different culture, so don't be afraid to ask the Native staff members to repeat something or to explain a word or idea if you don't understand.

In a sense, the staff are also re-enactors, even though their re-enactment carries some kernel of ritual action, of living tradition. Still, that made asking questions all the harder for me. I felt more able to talk to the same guy in the gift shop picking up a soda than the same guy in a loin cloth fixing the bark roof back at the site. He, of course, was off the clock and wanted a few minutes to himself.

At Plimoth, I was struck by the oddity of talking through history with the re-enacters, who well know the history but who are stuck, strangely, in a kind of unknowing. They meld their minds with a distant historical present. Do you know, I wanted to ask, what will happen? Is there any way to stop this genocide? Or are we all foreordained to follow blind our ways to their bitter end?

Indigenous Youth Delegation Lands in Palestine
By Karen Yi and Jaisal Noor
August 12, 2009 | Posted in IndyBlog , Jaisal Noor | Email this article
Eighteen indigenous youth from across the United States are in the midst of a two week trip to Palestine sharing tribal histories, learning strategies of preserving culture, and connecting their similar struggles against displacement and oppression.

The Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation is one that Native Americans can easily draw parallels. From targeting of civilian populations with overwhelming military force, to forced displacement, restricted travel and the eradication of a people’s history and way of life are all too familiar for Native Americans living in the United States.

More than 500 years ago, the indigenous peoples of America experienced similar scenes of displacement and colonization at the hands of European settlers.

The Israeli government has rejected the Obama administration’s continued demands to cease settlement expansion. Israel continues to reject Arab offers for a peace plan in return for the withdrawal from the occupied territories, while the United States continues to provide $3 billion dollars in military aid to Israel anually.

Today’s indigenous youth are taking matters into their own hands.

Natalia Faviola García, a 19 year old grassroots organizer with the Bay Area based group Huaxtec hopes the trip will forge lasting ties. “By building personal connections learning from experiences of Palestinian youth, we have tools not just to help raise awareness and build support locally for Palestinian and other causes internationality, but to understand the historical forces and process that have lead to our every day reality,” she said.

Palestinians have lived under occupation for the last 41 years. In the past weeks Israeli settlers went on a rampage attacking Palestinain land and destroying over 1500 Olive trees. Israel recently announced it would ban the Palestinian term “nakba” from textbooks in Israeli schools. Palestinians refer to Israel’s 1948 war of independence as the “nakba,” or “catastrophe,” since it caused the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and left them without a state.

Three representatives each from Haskell Indians Nation University, Seventh Native American Generation (SNAG) magazine and Huaxtec a youth-led Chicana organization in California, spent weeks fundraising through hip hop shows, film screenings, poetry readings, t-shirt selling and grassroot volunteeer collectives. Members from partner organizations such as the Palestinian Education Project and the Middle East Chilren’s Alliance are attending in support.

The delegation is traveling to refugee camps, villages and youth centers, using grassroots media and creative forms of art and expression, like music and poetry to build solidarity and learn from each other’s struggles.”For us to draw those parallels and to connect with people with similar struggles,” says Melissa Franklin, an undergrad at Haskell University, who will travel to Palestine, “we can start building a foundation of what can we do now.”

Aurora Castellanos, a member of Huaxtec says she is not only representing her indigenous roots, but also the immigrant community. She explains that the checkpoints and movement restrictions in Palestine, “is really similar to what many immigrants face in the U.S.” “Like my family, we walk around the street not knowing whether they’re going to have a checkpoint or whether they are going to be checking our licenses, or they’re going to get detained for being undocumented,” she said.

The delegation is blogging at:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Where are the Pegboys of Yesteryear?

I'm on vacation, which means basking in sun and nostalgia in equal parts. Here's some early 1990s Chicago punk, from the folks who brought you Naked Raygun, but with a bit more of jock cockiness.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Online Barber College"--the band that will sock your knocks off

Online Barber College, featuring Mike Danko on bass, Phil Metres on guitar, and Adele on drums. Strumming to a cage near you.

Friday, August 7, 2009

More P.W. Singer and those Pesky Robots That Will Be Fighting Our Wars

"The Americans look at us like insects." Why robots perpetuate the idea that we don't give a shit about Afghanis (or anybody else we "liberate" and bomb, for that matter).

"Let's Not Demonize Violence": Slavoj Zizek on Violences (Mythic, Divine, etc.), and Gandhi's Violence

Slavoj Zizek explores the nature of violence and power, and, in the second video, why nonviolent activists are, in fact, committing acts of violence. Zizek leaps over the typical self-congratulation among nonviolent advocates for being morally superior to the jack-booted thugs who use tear gas, rubber bullets, and worse; for Zizek, the great power of nonviolence is not its lack of violence, but its lack of physical, mythic violence that sanctifies the state. For Zizek, nonviolence is a kind of "symbolic" violence, or "divine violence." Gandhi and MLK are name-checked therein.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Afghanistan is the margins of our poem, our poems are the margins of our empire

To those familiar with anti-imperial critiques of U.S. foreign policy, who know your Noam Chomskys, Howard Zinns, Edward Hermans, etc., William Blum's arguments here may be nothing new.

William Blum Speech delivered at the "Building a new world" conference at Radford University, Virginia, May 23, 2008

My assignment here today, as I understand it, is to enlighten you all on how to quickly end the war in Iraq. And how to prevent the United States from attacking Iran. Or Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia. In short, how to put an end to the American empire.

Also, how to impeach Bush and Cheney.

And, while I'm at it, maybe, how to end poverty once and for all, how to save the environment, and how to legalize marijuana.

Well, good luck to us all.

Actually, as fanciful as all that sounds, I think that if the radical left had abundant access to the mass media, for a year or so, we could do it. It wouldn't even have to be sole access, just as much time on radio and TV networks as the conservatives and NPR-type centrists and liberals have.

As some of you may recall, two years ago Osama bin Laden, in one of his audio messages, recommended that Americans should read my book Rogue State. Within hours I was swamped by the media and soon appeared on many of the leading TV news shows, dozens of radio programs, and a long profile in the Washington Post. In the previous 10 years I had sent in dozens of letters to the Post mainly commenting on their less-than-ideal coverage of US foreign policy. Not one was printed. Now my photo was on page one.

A few people who called into the TV and radio programs I was on attacked me as if I and bin Laden were friends and I had asked him for the endorsement. I had to point out that he and I were not really friends; in fact, I hadn't spoken to him in months.

Some of the media hosts wanted me to say that I was repulsed by bin Laden's "endorsement". But I did not say I was repulsed, because I wasn't. What I said was: "There are two elements, involved here: On the one hand, I totally despise any kind of religious fundamentalism and the societies spawned by such, like the Taliban in Afghanistan. On the other hand, I'm a member of a movement which has the very ambitious goal of slowing down, if not stopping, the American Empire, to keep it from continuing to go round the world doing things like bombings, invasions, overthrowing governments, and torture. To have any success, we need to reach the American people with our message. And to reach the American people we need to have access to the mass media. What has just happened has given me the opportunity to reach millions of people I would otherwise never reach. Why should I not be glad about that? How could I let such an opportunity go to waste?"

But many, perhaps most, of those who called in were not hostile. During a 45-minute interview on C-Span and on some radio programs, several people called in to say how delighted they were to hear views expressed that they had never heard before on that station, or had never heard anywhere. I received more than 1000 emails from people I had never been in contact with before, most of which were supportive. I estimate that I sold about 20,000 copies of my book because of my increased exposure.

In summary, I think that there's a very large audience of Americans out there just waiting for us to reach them. Many of them very much suspect that there are things seriously wrong with what the media, the White House, and the Pentagon tell them, but they don't know enough to really be sure or to try to influence others. And they're weighed down by the myths, the myths surrounding US foreign policy. I've gotten quite a few emails from people who tell me about friends and family who simply refuse to be swayed by the facts in my books or other sources. No matter how much these people are shown that what they believe is fallacious, they still refuse to reconsider their views. They say that the author must be quoting out of context or they simply don't care what the argument is.

Now why is that? Are these people just stupid? I think a better answer is that they have certain preconceptions; consciously or unconsciously, they have certain basic beliefs about US foreign policy, and if you don't deal with those basic beliefs you'll be talking to a stone wall. Here are what I think are eight of those basic beliefs, or they can as well be called "myths":

(1) US foreign policy "means well". American leaders may make mistakes, they may blunder, they may lie, they may even on the odd occasion cause more harm than good, but they do mean well. Their intentions are honorable, if not divinely inspired. Of that most Americans are certain. They genuinely wonder why the rest of the world can't see how benevolent and self-sacrificing America has been. The idea that the United States is seeking to dominate the world, and exploit it economically, and is prepared to use any means necessary, is not something that's easy for most Americans to swallow. They see our leaders on TV and their photos in the press, they see them smiling or laughing, telling jokes; see them with their families, hear them speak of God and love, of peace and law, of democracy and freedom, of human rights and justice and even baseball ... How can such people be called immoral or war criminals?

They have names like George and Dick and Donald, not a single Mohammed or Abdullah in the bunch. And they speak English. Well, George almost does. People named Mohammed or Abdullah cut off an arm or a leg as punishment for theft. We know that that's horrible. We're too civilized for that. But we don't consider that people named George and Dick and Donald drop millions of cluster bombs on cities and villages, and the many unexploded ones become land mines, and before very long a child picks one up or steps on one of them and loses an arm or leg, sometimes worse.

I like to ask the question: What does US foreign policy have in common with Mae West, the Hollywood sexpot of the 1940s? The story is told of a visitor to her mansion, who looked around and said: "My goodness, what a beautiful home you have." And Mae West replied: "Goodness has nothing to do with it."

That's one of the important points you have to make about US foreign policy -- goodness has nothing to do with it.

If I were to write a book called The American Empire for Dummies, page one would say: Don't ever look for the moral factor. US foreign policy has no moral factor built into its DNA. Clear your mind of that baggage which only gets in the way of seeing beyond the clichés and the platitudes they feed us all.

So when American officials state or imply benevolent motivations behind their foreign policy, we should not let them get away with claiming such intentions. Supporters of US policies have that rationale profoundly embedded in their thinking, and I find it very useful in discussions with such people to raise moral questions about the government's motivations. These people are not used to hearing such an argument. The media almost never mentions it. It's almost disorienting for Americans. Or I sometimes ask them what the United States would have to do abroad to lose their support? What for them would be too much? Try that.

(2) The United States is really concerned with this thing called "democracy". Even though in the past 60 years, the US has attempted to overthrow literally dozens of democratically-elected governments, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, and grossly interfered in as many democratic elections in every corner of the world. Moreover, it would be difficult to name a brutal dictatorship of the second half of the 20th century that was not supported by the United States. Not just supported, but put into power, and kept in power, against the wishes of the population.

The question is: What do the Busheviks mean by "democracy"?

Well, the first thing they have in mind is making sure the country in question is hospitable to corporate globalization and American military bases; and if this means forcing a regime change, so be it. The last thing they have in mind is any kind of economic democracy, the closing of the gap between the desperate poor and those for whom too much is not enough.

(3) Anti-American sentiment in the Middle East comes from hatred of our alleged freedom and democracy, or our wealth, or our secular government, or our culture. George W. has declared this many times. But polls taken in many Middle East countries in recent years, by respected international polling organizations, show again and again that the great majority of those people really admire American society. There's no clash of civilizations. It's much simpler. What bothers them about the United States are the decades of appalling things done to their homelands by US foreign policy. That's what motivates anti-American terrorists. It's not the sex in American films and TV; it's the American bombs dropping on their homes and schools. It's not the alcohol and the miniskirts. It's the American invasions and occupations; American torture; support of Middle East dictators; unmitigated support of Israel.

It works the same all over the world. In the period of the 1950s to the 1980s in Latin America, in response to a long succession of Washington's awful policies, there were countless acts of terrorism against US diplomatic and military targets as well as the offices of US corporations. No one likes being invaded or bombed or tortured or having their government overthrown by a foreign power. Why should there be any doubt about this? But Americans have to be reminded of it.

I don't think, by the way, that poverty plays much of a role in creating terrorists. The 9-11 hijackers, or alleged hijackers, were not a bunch of poor peasants; they were largely middle and upper class, and educated. Bin Laden himself is, or was, a millionaire. So we shouldn't confuse terrorism with revolution.

(4) The United States has been pursuing a War on Terror. But the fact is the US is not actually against terrorism per se, they're against only those terrorists who are not allies of the American empire. For example, there is a lengthy and infamous history of Washington's support for numerous anti-Castro terrorists, even when their terrorist acts were committed in the United States. At this moment, Luis Posada Carriles remains protected by the US government in Florida, though he masterminded the blowing up of a Cuban airplane that killed 73 people. Venezuela, a key location in this murder plot, has asked Washington to return Posada to Caracas. But the US has refused. He's but one of hundreds of anti-Castro terrorists who've been given haven in the United States over the years along with many other terrorists from Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, and other countries.

The United States has also provided support of terrorists in Kosovo, Bosnia, Iran, Iraq, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere, including those with known connections to al Qaeda. All to further foreign policy goals more important than fighting terrorism. What's happened is that the War on Terror has served as a cover for the expansion of the empire.

Supporters of the War on Terror tell us that it's been a success because there hasn't been a terrorist attack in the US in the six -plus years since 9-11. Well, there wasn't a terrorist attack in the US in the six-plus years before 9-11 either. So what does that prove? More importantly, since the first American bombs fell on Afghanistan in October 2001 there have been scores of terrorist attacks against American institutions in the Middle East, South Asia and the Pacific -- military, civilian, Christian, and other targets associated with the United States, including two very major attacks in Indonesia with large loss of life.

But the worst failure of the War on Terror is that American actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, including all the torture, have probably created thousands of new anti-American terrorists. We'll be hearing from them for a terribly long time.

(5) If Saddam Hussein had in fact possessed all the terrible weapons the US claimed he had, the invasion and occupation of Iraq would then have been justified. Of the numerous lies we've been told about the war in Iraq, this is the biggest one, this is the most insidious, the necessary foundation for all the other lies. Think about it -- What possible reason could Saddam Hussein have had for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? Because that's what would have followed an Iraqi attack on the US or Israel -- if not a nuclear devastation of Iraq, then a non-nuclear devastation of Iraq. But if in fact Iraq was not a threat to attack the US or Israel, then all we've been told about the war, before it began, and afterwards, is totally meaningless; all the accusations and discussions about whether the intelligence was right or wrong about this or that, or whether the Democrats also believed the lies, all meaningless.

And keep in mind, the same question applies to Iran: What possible reason could Iran have for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? Of course, what worries Tel Aviv and Washington is not so much the danger of such an attack, but the fact that some day Israel might not be the only nuclear power in the Middle East, a serious loss of their ability to dominate.

Sometimes, when I have a discussion with a person who supports the war in Iraq, and the person has no other argument left to defend US policy there he may say something like: "Well, just tell me one thing, are you glad that Saddam Hussein was overthrown?"

And I say "No".

And he says "No?"

And I say: Tell me, if you went into surgery to correct a knee problem and the surgeon mistakenly amputated your entire leg, what would you think if someone asked you afterward: Well, aren't you glad that you no longer have a knee problem? It's the same with the Iraqi people. They no longer have a Saddam Hussein problem. In general, the great majority of Iraqis had a much better life under Saddam Hussein than they've had under US occupation. That's been confirmed again and again.

(6) There are many who believe that invading and occupying Iraq has been a horrible mistake, but that doing the same in Afghanistan has been justified. Afghanistan has become "the good war". It was to revenge the deaths of September 11, 2001, was it not? Of course -- in a rational world -- revenge should be taken against those responsible for what happened on that infamous date. But of the tens of thousands of people killed by the US and its allies in Afghanistan the past six-plus years, how many, can it be said, had anything to do with the events of September 11? My rough estimate is ... none. So what kind of revenge is that?

Yes, Osama bin Laden had been living in Afghanistan and that's where the attack had been partially planned. But consider ... If Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the terrible bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, had not been quickly caught, would the government have bombed the state of Michigan or any of the other places McVeigh had called home and where he had planned his attack?

Whatever one thinks of the appalling society the Taliban created, they had not really been associated with terrorist acts, and the masses of Taliban supporters shouldn't have been held responsible if their leader, Mohammed Omar, one person, allowed foreign terrorists into the country, any more than I would want to be held responsible for all the Cuban terrorists in Miami. And most of the foreigners had probably come to Afghanistan in the 1990s to help the Taliban in their civil war -- a religious mission for them -- nothing the US government should have been concerned about. And remember, Mohammed Omar offered to turn bin Laden over to the United States if Washington presented proof of bin Laden's involvement in 9-11. The United States did not accept the offer.

(7) In the Cold War, the United States defeated what was known as the International Communist Conspiracy. The legacy of the Cold War is still with us; it keeps coming up, often used by conservatives in one way or another as an argument in support of the War on Terror.

Let me take you back a bit now. If you think what you have now is government lying and deceit, let me tell you that in my day, during the cold war, the big lie, the big huge lie they pounded into our heads from childhood on was that there was something out there called The International Communist Conspiracy, headquarters in Moscow, and active in every country of the world, looking to subvert everything that was decent and holy, looking to enslave us all. That's what they taught us, in our schools, our churches, on radio, TV, newspapers, in our comic books -- The Communist Menace, the red menace, more dangerous than al Qaeda is presented to us today.

The Communist Menace was international, you couldn't escape it. And almost every American believed this message unquestioningly. I was a good, loyal anti-communist until I was past the age of 30. In fact, in the 1960s I was working at the State Department planning on becoming a foreign service officer so I could join the battle against communism, until a thing called Vietnam came along and changed my mind, and my life.

It was all a con game. There was never any such animal as The International Communist Conspiracy. What there was, was people all over the Third World fighting for economic and political changes which didn't coincide with the needs of the American power elite, and so the US moved to crush those governments and those movements, even though the Soviet Union was playing hardly any role at all in those scenarios.

Washington officials of course couldn't say that they were intervening somewhere to block social change, so they called it fighting communism, fighting a communist conspiracy, and of course fighting for freedom and democracy. Just like now the White House can't say that it invaded Iraq to expand the empire, or for the oil, or for the corporations, or for Israel, so it says it's fighting terrorism.

Remember: The cold war ended in 1991 ... the International Communist Conspiracy was no more ... no more red threat ... and nothing changed in American foreign policy. Since that time the US has been intervening, bombing, and overthrowing governments just as often as during the cold war. What does that tell you? It tells me that the so-called "communist threat" was just a ploy, an excuse for American imperialism.

Keep this in mind:
Following its bombing of Iraq in 1991 -- after the cold war was ended -- the United States wound up with military bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Following its bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the United States wound up with military bases in Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Hungary, Bosnia and Croatia.

Following its bombing of Afghanistan in 2001-2, the United States wound up with military bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Yemen and Djibouti.

Following its bombing and invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States wound up with Iraq.

This is not very subtle foreign policy. It's certainly not covert. The men who run the American Empire are not easily embarrassed.

And that's the way the empire grows -- a base in every region, ready to be mobilized to put down any threat to imperial rule, real or imagined. 63 years after World War II ended, the United States still has major bases in Germany and Japan; 55 years after the end of the Korean War, tens of thousands of American armed forces continue to be stationed in South Korea.

(8) The last myth I'd like to mention has to do with the media, and it affects the political views of Americans as much as any of the previously mentioned myths. It's the idea that conservatives and liberals are ideological polar opposites. In actuality, conservatives, especially of the neo- kind, are far to the right on the political spectrum, while liberals are ever so slightly to the left of center. Yet, we are led to believe that a radio or TV talk show on foreign policy with a conservative and a liberal is offering a "balanced" point of view. But a more appropriate balance to a neo-conservative would be a left-wing radical or progressive. American liberals are typically closer to conservatives on foreign policy than they are to these groups on the left, and the educational value of such supposedly balanced media can be more harmful than beneficial as far as seeing through the empire's actions and motives. The listener thinks he's getting more or less a full range of opinion on the topic and doesn't realize that there's a whole world outside the narrow box he's being placed in.

The fundamental political difference between liberalism and Marxism is that liberalism sees a problem -- such as America's role as the world's bully -- simply as bad policy, while the Marxist sees it as something that flows out logically from US economic and military interests.

When a liberal sees a beggar, he says the system isn't working. When a Marxist sees a beggar, he says the system is working.

Ideology is a very important concept and I think that most people are rather confused by it, which is due in no small measure to the fact that the media are confused by it, or they at least pretend to be confused. The official ideology of the American media is that they don't have any ideology.

So all this I hope is ammunition you can use in trying to win over new recruits for the cause. And don't be shy about raising such points even when "preaching to the choir" or "preaching to the converted". That's what speakers and writers are often scoffed at for doing -- saying the same old thing to the same old people, just spinning their wheels. That's what some would say I'm doing at this very moment. You are part of the choir, are you not?

But long experience as speaker, writer and activist in the area of foreign policy tells me it just ain't so. From the questions and comments I often get from my audiences, in person and via email, and from other people's audiences as well, I can plainly see that there are numerous significant information gaps and misconceptions in the choir's thinking, often leaving them unable to see through the newest government lie or propaganda scheme. They're unknowing or forgetful of what happened in the past that illuminates the present. Or they may know the facts but are unable to apply them at the appropriate moment. Or they're vulnerable to being confused by the next person who comes along with a specious argument that opposes what they currently believe, or think they believe. In short, the choir needs to be frequently reminded and enlightened.

So that's your assignment. Go out there and educate, and agitate, and subvert. There's no magical tactic, only persistence. As the Quakers are fond of saying: If not now, when? If not here, where? If not you, who?

I thank you very much.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"Litany's Citizen: An Interview with Michael Dumanis" by Philip Metres

“Litany’s Citizen:
An Interview with Michael Dumanis” (2007)
By Philip Metres

(This interview was taken at John Carroll University in October 2007, as part of a conversation with undergraduate writing students. Special thanks to Rhiannon Lathy for her help transcribing. Below, Metres' questions will appear in italics, Dumanis' answers in regular font.)

One of the things I find so interesting about your book My Soviet Union is the way in which it is driven by hectic language play and yet is pervaded by a melancholy. I’m thinking of poems like “Directions to the Brothel:” you have words then also lonely/You have dark you have always/You have death so they tell you/You have breath and the faces of babies/You were once inside you along with whatever.”

The poems are almost a way out of the melancholy. I have been called a maximalist because of how I try to pack as many things as possible into a poem. I feel that the engine that you create in your poem is what drives you into some kind of communication with somebody else. I’ve always been interested in litanies, and I have a lot in My Soviet Union—poems that gather energy through repetition of certain words and certain structures. What I love about litanies is that a litany staves off death. Litanies push against solitude by not ending or by extending themselves as far as they can to avert a kind of ending.

For me, poetry is inherently a verbal act, a sonic act, a musical act. I came to poetry through a Russian father who would stand up in the middle of dinner and pick up a volume of Robert Burns’ poetry in Russian and make us all sit there and listen to him declaim it. The poem rarely had anything to do with what we were talking about, but the tone of voice that he was using had everything to do with it. I always thought of poetry as creating this container or creating this machine made out of words. And I think that resists melancholy. I associate minimalism with melancholy, with silence. To me, poetry is the rage that forms on behalf of the speaker in resisting the surrounding darkness.

There are a lot of examples of writers who do this, who mix humor and comic disjunctiveness with very grave moments, with moments of despair. If you look at Beckett’s Waiting For Godot, it’s comedy in the face of an existential purgatory, right? I think No Exit, the Sartre play, is pretty funny, and funny at its most disturbing moments.

Can you say more about your Russian immigrant background, and how that impacted your poetry?

We didn’t leave Russia, we were in the Soviet Union, and now the Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore. So I come from a country that doesn’t exist. So the citizenship my parents renounced when they sent their passports into the Soviet Embassy in Washington back in 1981, they renounced their citizenship of something that no longer exists. Growing up, I would feel a conflicting set of identities—Soviet Immigrant identity, and the American identity of a kid in Buffalo. There’s also the very vague Jewish identity of my parents, who as refugees never really thought about being Jewish. Once they got here, they suddenly thought about being very Jewish, but I never quite felt comfortable with it. As Soviet Jews, they would say, “well we’re not Russian,” because Russians are the government, and “we’re not Jewish by religion, we’re Jewish by nationality.” So I went to Hebrew school, not to learn anything about the religion, but because you’d go to an Italian school if you were Italian.

This is going to sound like a mini-victimization narrative, but I grew up in the 1980s at a time of heightened tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, which hit its peak right before Gorbachev came to power. I was in third grade being chased around a bush in Buffalo, by several kids in my class shouting, “U.S.A! U.S.A.! U.S.S.R., GO HOME!” Russia was very active in the American imagination, and it was very hard to meet anyone without their bringing up the fact that I was Russian. I remember visiting the school psychologist and the first thing he said was, “so what do you think about this miniseries ‘Amerika’ on TV right now?” (a show about the destruction of the United States by the Soviet Union). I constantly would be asked about Red Dawn, a similar movie. I was thrust into this, as a kid, not really understanding what was going on. I was very eager to assimilate, I was always proud of being able to really eliminate any trace of an accent. Or to graft on the accent of whatever area I happened to be living in. For years, I would try to avoid any mention of anything that could point someone to knowing I was Russian, or to knowing that I was an immigrant even, where I felt that that was irrelevant and immaterial and an accident as opposed to poetic identity. I guess I’ve changed my mind about that over that past few years.

So how did you find your way to literature, and poetry in particular?

I read a lot when I was growing up, usually books translated into Russian. Literature was definitely a cultural value in my house. My parents’ background was in the sciences, but there was a definite sense that literature was an important thing. For Russians, literature is not a vocation, it’s a hobby, it’s an avocation for people who are in the sciences. We had a lot of books and most of them were in Russian. So I you know, when I was bored, since we didn’t have a TV for a few years, I would try to read what I could read… and poetry was held up as much as any other kind of literary genre.

I’m kind of mortified remembering this but when I was in eighth grade, I had to give a presentation—it could be a speech or a monologue of some sort. My father insisted that my presentation be a Robert Louis Stevenson poem, a terrible ballad called “The Secret of Heather Ale,” about honor and valor and the destruction of the Picts by the Scots. And I did it, right in front of my class and nobody knew what I was talking about. Having to memorize this really bad nineteenth century ballad, I knew it was poetry by its sound. Because obviously it wasn’t the content.

I happened to go to a high school with a really good creative writing class. I didn’t think I was very good, but I went to Johns Hopkins, which has a creative writing major and thought, I’m going to major in writing, because I can’t imagine what else I would do. Honestly it was like the last major on the list. At the time, Hopkins made you check off a major in order to give you an advisor when you entered. So I signed up for it, and I thought, well, I’m obviously not going to be good enough to do this. I had this definite idol worship of writers. I thought I’d do this for a while and when I couldn’t do it anymore, maybe go into publishing or editing.

And just by luck, a poet that I loved when I was in high school came to teach at Hopkins: Mark Strand.

I was miserable in college, and I didn’t do all that well for the first couple of years. I went out of my way to just get by. Then, I went into Strand’s class—it was this very old-school class where you’d have thirty-five people in the room, and you’d get up recite your poem and he’d tell you what he thought. I was in awe of him. He’s very Clint Eastwood-like. He was a wonderful teacher and I was very cocky. I remember walking up to him and saying I don’t really want to be a class with thirty five people; can we do an independent study? And he said, you know what, for you, yeah. And I didn’t realize that he had just agreed to meet with me once a week for an hour and expected one or more poems every time. Often I would come in and he wouldn’t like what I wrote and he would cast it to the side and say, I don’t want to talk about this. And my goal became, please Mark Strand. So I would go home and write other poems. Then, suddenly, he wanted to talk to me about grad school. That was my real formative experience with studying writing.

I remember asking him what I should read for the independent study and he said, read all of John Ashbery, read all of Jorie Graham, read all of Wallace Stevens, and nothing else, and when you’re done with the Wallace Stevens, go back to the John Ashbery and go through that cycle again. Comments he made I now catch myself saying to students, such as “when you’re writing a poem, don’t worry about the ideas, the ideas will come.” The words are important the ideas are not important when you’re writing. “Don’t worry about making sense.” And “the first line in your poem gets the reader’s attention; it’s the second line of the poem that really holds the reader in.”

I did the semester with him and by the end of that semester, every poem I wrote was in the portfolio that I sent to grad school.

Which writers did you idolize back then?

I think anyone you idolize when you’re in high school or college you continue to idolizing at some level. I remember reading Slaughterhouse-Five in Russian before reading it in English. I don’t think I ever really liked anything else by Vonnegut, but that shaped me. When I was in college, I started reading Wallace Stevens and John Berryman for the first time. I loved Berryman. You look at photos of him and you think, he looks kind of homeless. There’s a famous photo of Berryman and Lowell at an Academy of American Poets reading, and Lowell looks very conservative and prim and proper and Berryman has his hands up in the air and his beard off to the side and he’s clearly ranting about something. And I always loved that image of him. In terms of his poems, The Dream Songs fractures his persona into three, where he speaks as Henry, Henry Pussycat is a character he created… he speaks as this kind of Death figure, Mr. Bones, or superego figure, Mr. Bones, and as an “I.” That split of persona is very interesting to me. That’s an example by the way of a poet who I think is very funny in expressing his despair while being quite formal and quite attentive to meter and syllable and the line.

My sense of what is real is comes to life with an early memory of reading Gogol’s “The Nose.” In it, a man accidentally cuts off his nose in a shaving accident, and the nose takes on a life of its own. The nose starts traveling through the city in a carriage and casting himself as this very important figure while the protagonist is nose-less. That kind of weird sense of villainy really appealed to me when I was growing up.

I do see your work in that kind of fabular tradition—Gogol, Vonnegut, Berryman. What do you hope to give in terms of permission to writers reading your book?

I think that a poem can do anything as long as it sets up its own rules. You know, that I don’t like putting any restriction on a writer.

How do you create the rules for each of your poems?

When I was a student what I was most invested in was doing the things that I hated. If I came across a word I couldn’t stand seeing in a poem, I would find a way to use it in a poem and like how I used it. If I was really resistant to a writer, I would imitate that writer, because I knew that by the time I imitated that writer, enough of me would filter in and I would just be using the ghost of their poem. I would give myself permission to write on certain topics that I wouldn’t have been able to write about without those kinds of imitations.

Now your question was a little different than that. I’m interested in the reader reacting to a series of effects of a poem. I think that a big struggle in teaching poetry from the 1950s on is to get students to read poetry not necessarily as a product but as a process. To not have people think, I don’t understand this poem because I don’t get the narrative through-line on it, but to have people look at every individual effect and to appreciate the sum of the effects; to appreciate the architecture of something, how you attach one part of the building or house of your poem to the rest of it. I want people to hear it. I want people to be able to look at the subject matter of the poem in a different way than they did before they read the poem.

Given the fact that you don’t rely on “traditional” forms and given the fact that you often don’t have a linear sense of narrative, how do you find a way to create sort of central organizing principle around which you can build these poems? For example, today we read “Professional Extra” in class and noted the powerful music of its amphibrachs, and its imagination of this subjectivity of periphery—which is to say, how to imagine oneself as peripheral and yet also part of the big picture. Do you find that the poems come to being in different ways? Is there always some kind of central question around which the whole thing accrues?

I think it all goes back to creating a speaker who you want to listen to. I would think of myself writing this book as mainly a ventriloquist, where I created every poem as a dummy I’m speaking through. Let’s say that I’ve been told that I don’t have a unified voice, and I think, well I do have a unified voice, I’m just picking up different dummies to speak through, but creating a dummy you want to listen to. A voice you want to listen to. I think of my poems as very performative and very boisterous. I’m always aware of an audience—asking myself, how will this resonate? What is the effect of the small line? I see it as a performance. It’s not, I’m trying to express something, what is the best way to express it? It’s, I’ve been given the stage, I have to earn my keep. And I feel like there’s an element of that through my work. I’m very interested, maybe more than I should be in my reader. How will the reader react to something? In terms of setting up rules, I think that I am setting up somewhat metrical rules. I know as I’m starting a poem, what was the breaking of the stanzas, or if this was going to be one long thing, or I’m going to be very plain-spoken here, I’m going to be very arch here. I’m mixing registers most of the time. But I think of it as musical composition also, a composition of instrumental music. I’m trying to align various moods, various tones, and various sounds in a way that will interest somebody.

That makes me want to circle back to this question of identity. You wanted to escape from any sort of essential sense of yourself as an émigré or as a Russian, maybe even as American. American writing is always trying to do is un-invent itself at every point, so there’s something incredibly Franklinian about your project. You invent these selves through which you are going to speak your work rather than taking it for granted that one can rely on identity alone.

I think that in a very New Critical way, the speaker is not the writer, ever. You know, that it’s always a dummy, that it’s always something filtered from the self.

Do you believe that strategically (i.e., for the span of the poem) or philosophically? In other words, do you believe that in order for yourself to be able to write whatever you need to write about—

No, I think that the self is never genuinely represented in a poem. I believe that both from personal experience and from my reading. I remember as child wanting to keep a diary, and knowing that this was a fool’s error because what I would put in the diary was what I wanted to project of myself. I wouldn’t discuss certain things and I would always make myself seem much better than I really was. Well, you’re creating a persona, you’re creating a voice. To me it’s always mediated in some way. It’s what I choose to represent. It’s always about creating the speaker. At the same time, in terms of how I philosophically approach poetry, I was always struck by something Rodney Jones said, where he claimed that poetry was a way for one’s interiority, one’s soul to communicate with another’s interiority, another soul, through space and time. And that you couldn’t do that with any other medium. So it’s not one person speaking to another, but it’s one’s interior speaking to another interior. I’ve thought about that a lot.

It’s actually tremendously liberating not to feel like you have to represent an authentic self at every moment. And I’ve seen many contemporary poets do it in a way that makes them seem better than they are—“this is my best self”—but it renders the poem sort of uninteresting because it becomes so safe in how they represent themselves.

When you’re a ventriloquist and you say things to your dummy, you don’t have your dummy say things that you don’t really mean. Right? You’re creating a distance, you’re complicating the conversation, but you’re still speaking what you believe. I’m not trying to take my corporeal self and put it in the poem. If I was to name myself, I would still change details. Sylvia Plath changed details, Robert Lowell did. Both of them would argue that their poetry is not autobiographical. People tend to mistake Sylvia Plath’s speaker for Sylvia Plath. It’s not Sylvia Plath. And when Sylvia Plath died we started taking the fact that she committed suicide for example to read the poems differently than before she committed suicide. I once heard the poet Dean Young remark that, had she not killed herself, Sylvia Plath’s Ariel would have been seen as the second book of poems in the arc of a career, with a lot of dark subject matter, with a lot of commentary about suicide, but not the suicide book of poems that it’s thought about. The happenstance of her actual suicide completely affects how we read that book.

You probably already know the controversy about how Ted Hughes ordered the poems in a way that made her suicide seem as if there were no other way out. And one of the ordering possibilities that she could have intended suggests a narrative of survival, of making it through. The last line would have been: “The bees are flying. They taste the spring.” In Hughes’ selection, the second-to-last poem begins: “The woman is perfected./Her dead//body wears the smile of accomplishment.” It’s totally different. I still can’t quite get my mind the dance that we play where we become fascinated with the potential collapse of our own life. In other words, I can imagine Plath and Lowell getting a lot of energy courting the relative distance between the speaker of the poem and the life. I think even of Kurt Cobain, who seemed to buy the myth of his own suffering subjectivity. So I see your writing as a way of avoiding that problem that always happens with autobiographical writing.

This is maybe my own failing but I’m never interested as much in the details of a life as I am in the falls that come from it.

So you don’t watch E! True Hollywood Stories?

You know, I have, plenty of times. The only thing I remember from the E! True Hollywood Story of the drag queen Divine, who starred in those John Waters movies, is that the day that he died, Divine was seen—this large man in drag—was seen on a balcony in Rome, singing “Arrivederci Roma.” I’m interested in the occasion of him doing that. But that’s not about Divine, it’s about humanity. And it’s about the sight of this enormous man in a dress singing “Arrivederci Roma” shortly before he died that moves me. I’m not interested in all the details of a life, I’m not interested in who did what when and where, I’m interested in the effect of it on them. I’m interested in their emotional reaction. I’m interested in their mind. And I’m interested in what people can do with language and what they can do to order the world around them. But I don’t really care whether or not Robert Lowell was in a mental hospital, I care about his saying in “Waking in the Blue,” “we are all old-timers/ each of us holds a locked razor.” That’s powerful to me, but I don’t need the context for it. All of us holding a locked razor—I don’t need to be in the poem in a mental hospital to be affected by that. It’s the line that I love.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Whither AWP? Toward the Yawp or the Yawn? The Big Tent or the Circus?

Susan Schultz, who was on my (rejected) panel proposal, blogged yesterday on the rejection of two panels, and made a call for guerrilla poetry actions, a call that I'd like to answer if I can make it to the AWP conference in Colorado.

Just for fun, I asked my facebook friends to report if they also had rejected panels, and I was surprised to find a number of really interesting ones.

Here's Danit Brown's, author of Ask for a Convertible, an excellent book of short stories:

Danit Brown,
Rebecca Meacham, Kelly Magee, Diana Joseph, and Michelle Herman.


Why Every Writer Needs a Wife and What to Do If You Don’t Have One: Balancing the demands of Writing, Academia, and Motherhood.

Writing takes time and psychological privacy, which can be at a premium for parents. Women especially may find themselves unable to reconcile being a Good Mom (selfless, present, makes own baby food) and a Good Academic (selfless, present, does committee work, mentors students) with the conventional image of the Real Writer (typing away alone in the attic). Panelists discuss their experiences as writers, academics, and mothers, and share strategies they’ve used to stay focused and keep writing.


Social scientists have long observed that men in academia find it easier to balance the demands of career and parenthood, while women are more likely to be single and childless, and/or keep quiet any conflicted feelings towards career and motherhood. This panel seeks to bring this conversation out into the open, and to expand the definitions of Good Mother and Real Writer so they are more inclusive and less dependent on gender roles and stereotypes.

Here's poet and editor Cate Marvin's.

Cate, plus
Victoria Chang
Erin Belieu
Brenda Shaughnessy
Beth Ann Fennelly
Robin Beth

Arsenic Icing: Sentiment as Threat in Contemporary American Women's Poetry


Six contemporary female American poets explore how sentimentality is deployed in twenty-first century women’s poetry, with regard to both content and rhetoric, as a means to counter traditional assumptions regarding female desire and identity. What personal and political alchemies occur when the affectionate address verges on acerbic? What transformations are sought when a female speaker, once familiar as mother, daughter, sister, wife, or lover, employs sentiment to reveal herself as Other?


The first female American poets to be respected for their intellect, Marianne Moore and her protégé, Elizabeth Bishop, were careful not to express an excess of sentiment; poets Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath would make a stark departure from this mode by channeling emotional extremity. It is now important to explore how twenty-first century American women poets understand and reinvent these opposing traditions
in their work.

By the way: I had a stellar group of panelists (VARIED and FAMOUS) lined up for this.

As I stood rolling my socks into balls and shoving folded shirts into drawers (warning: dangerously clumsy use of heavily figurative language in use: the women are the clothes, get it?? Being shoved into drawers, i.e. repressed!), I considered how another panel proposal I was on was accepted. It concerns the uses of criticism, harkening back to the New Critics, Eliot in particular. Nothing WRONG with that . . . but hasn't it been done?

And I thought, too, of how often I see more men's names in prominent magazines than women's, how I see men getting prizes more often than women, how even though female students would love to read newer work by female writers, they are rarely taught the work of women-- except for the usual suspects.

And I thought about how a male poet friend of mine discouraged me from getting involved with editing a book of feminist poets/poems from the past two decades because it would be "dangerous" and "divisive."

Now, there's no reason why one should, on the basis of these two panel rejections, assume that there is a bias against feminist perspectives on literature at AWP, but it will be interesting to see whether there are indeed panels of similar concern or frame, and to figure out why those were chosen (if, indeed, they exist). Barrett Watten emailed to say that Carla Harryman's panels also went by the wayside.

Of course, I received other rejected panel proposals, also of interest:

David Daniels.
"Crossing the Great Divide: Creative Fallout from Teaching Composition"

Statement of Merit
In an interview with composition theorist David Bartholomae, Charles Bernstein suggests that teaching composition can be useful for the creative writer. Viewing these disciplines as inimical, Bernstein argues, hurts both. Past AWP panels suggested ways of incorporating creative-writing practices into the composition classroom. This panel adds to that rich conversation by examining ways in which teaching composition can complement one’s creative process. The panel thus offers an alternative vision of composition as enriching rather than threatening to creative writing.

Event Description
For many beginning creative writers, the reality of teaching composition is greeted with sorrow and distress, but does this need to be the case? How might teaching composition deepen rather than disrupt one’s creative process, enrich rather than jeopardize one’s creative output? This panel, composed of poets, playwrights, fiction writers and literary editors, will explore the positive, creative fallout from teaching composition and examine how the view of composition as inimical to creative writing actually threatens to hurt both disciplines.

Particpants: David J. Daniels, Heather Martin, Carol Samson, Blake Sanz

And this, from Jake Adam York:
Two panels I was on were rejected (waiting to hear about a third). The first was about Writing About Racial Violence, with Anthony Grooms (coordinator), Amaud Jamaul Johnson, Ravi Howard, and myself. The second was called "Whose Disaster?" and was to discuss the ethics of writing about human disasters in which the author did not participate/suffer, with Colin Rafferty, Nicole Cooley, Sheryl St. Germaine, and Carly Sachs.

So the concern remains, as I wrote to Susan Schultz, that the AWP is not a big enough tent--that how the AWP panel judging understands and applies the notion of diversity--part of the criteria for panels--needs to be examined by members and more clearly articulated by the organization. It is too soon to decry the AWP for 2010, though I know that critical analysis of the organization has been done in the past.

What it suggests, at the very least, from a "member" point of view, is that we need to agitate for ever more transparent judging and clearer criteria and application of criteria.

Further, as Susan points out in her piece, there is an implicit tension between the aim to be representative in a democratic sense and to be patrons of the arts--i.e., an art that is democratically funded, organized, and legitimated, and an art that is aristocratically funded, organized, and legitimated (though here, I'm simplifying).

What we need to ask of the AWP, at the very minimum, is a fuller report of judging criteria, a revamped system of application which would include full abstracts--as every other conference does--rather than name-dropping participants, catchy titling, and a few sentences about why people should care. Though I have been impressed by the substance and range of a good many AWP panels, still far too many AWP panels are shoddily presented, thinly argued book- and self-promotions.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

new Big Bridge now out

The giantic digital annual, Big Bridge, is open for travelers. Bypass rush hour at print journals and head directly out of town. Check out this year's installment of the War Papers, where you'll find features by John Bradley (on Abu Ghraib), Francesco Levato ("War Rug" poems), and my introduction to Come Together: Imagine Peace.


A Time in Fragments
Poem by Clark Coolidge; Drawings by Nancy Victoria Davis


Slow Poetry
Edited by Dale Smith
One of the most refreshing and promising developments in poetry in recent years, Slow Poetry does not propose another sectarian or clique position, but rather methods of reading and attitudes toward production which could apply to most genres in the current scene or likely to emerge in the near future. The approach has a strong base in concepts and needs made more apparent than ever by current ecological and economic concerns.

Beauty Came Groveling Forward:
Selected South African Poems and Stories
edited by Gary Cummiskey
This collection was meant to show the diversity and spirited character of current South African writing. It contains work by some celebrated writers, and some whose work has not received wide circulation even in its home country. Without the problems caused by canon formation or trying to be totally comprehensive, this group of poems and stories is free to work outside the stereotypes and preconceptions of South Africa and allow the participants to show what they can do as individuals.

All This Strangeness:
A Garland for George Oppen
Edited by Eric Hoffman
Commentary on Oppen has grown slowly, unobtrusively, and steadily, until it now forms a major body in itself. This collection of essays evaluates that body of criticism in less partisan terms than many of its predecessors, seeking to focus on individual poems and prosody in a broad historical context, going beyond the dichotomies that dominated the 20th Century and making room for further types of relevance in current literary and social dispensations.

Sephardic Proverbs
Collected and translated by Michael Castro
Proverbs act on many of the same principles as other miniatures, such as haiku. Like stand-alone couplets and quatrains used in everything from toasts to insults, they also include a strong element of collaboration and evolution. As a look at a tradition or a type of poem, this collection can stay with a reader a long time.

Post-Beat Anthology
Reprint from the Chinese anthology, with brief intro
Edited by Vernon Frazer
How would you edit a collection of poems with that title for a Chinese audience? Probably not the same way Frazer has. That's one of the things that makes it interesting and refreshing.

as per Le Roman de la Rose, for example
An Anthology of Middle East Genocide Edited by Arpine Konyalian Grenier
How does the cruel and unusual work for you through art, whether it comes from direct experience or direct/indirect memory. Be Genet, for example; lemon to lemonade, for example. How does one turn to Le Roman de la Rose (a Middle Ages Poem) when one is mired in or sorting out or faced with what happened or what is happening that is cruel and unusual due to human intolerance: racial religious cultural gender related and other.

Charles Olson and the Nature of Destructive Humanism
by Craig Stormont

One Man Blues:
Remembering Thomas Chapin
Reminiscence by Vernon Frazer

Excerpt from
by David Bromige

The India Journals
by John Brandi

Genius and Heroin:
by Michael Largo
In this essay, the author reviews his own book. The themes of psycho-chemistry may stretch back to pristine civilizations in China, Egypt, and Mexico, but they seem inexhaustible. Perhaps associate chemicals with genius is because our brains produce such sophisticated bases to start with, and self-review also finds a base in that phenomenon.

Poems and essays against war.
Sub-features by John Bradley, Joel Lewis, Philip Metres, Vincent Katz, Francesco Levato, and Louise Landes Levi, plus reflections from around the world on the election of Barack Obama, and, of course, Halvard Johnson's continuing anthology of anti-war poems.

A Retrospective of the Publication Work of Karl Young



ROCKPILE is a collaboration between David Meltzer — poet, musician, essayist, and more — and Michael Rothenberg of Big Bridge Press. David and Michael will journey through eight cities in the U.S. to perform poetry and prose, composed while on the road, with local musicians and artists in each city. ROCKPILE will serve to educate and preserve as well as to create a history of collaboration. It will help to reinforce the tradition of the troubadour of all generations, central to the cultural upheaval and identity politics that reawakened poets, artists, musicians, and songwriters in the mid-1960s through the 1970s. The project will end with a final multimedia performance in San Francisco. Check out the ROCKPILE Blog for calendar and discussion!

Still Coming to Big Bridge this Year:

Big Bridge New Orleans Sturm und Drang Anthology
edited by Dave Brinks and Bill Lavender
Introductory notes for work by 30 artists and 90 writers whose work will double the size of this issue when it appears at the end of summer.

Perfiles de la Noche / Profiles of Night
Mujeres poetas de Venezuela/Women Poets of Venezuela
A Selection from the Bi-lingual Anthology
Original complete text selected and translated by Rowena Hill
Co-edited by Pen de Venezuela and bid & co.
Selection for online edition by Terri Carrion

Poetry by
María Auxiliadora Álvarez, Edda Armas, Enriqueta Arvelo Larriva, María calcaño, Laura Cracco, Ida Gramcko, Patricia Guzmán, Veronica Jaffe, Maritza Jiménez, Rowena Hill, Martha Kornblith, Luz machado, María Isabel Novillo, Cecilia Ortiz, Hanni Ossott, Yolanda Pantin, Emira Rodríguez, Margara Russotto, María Clara Salas, Elizabeth Schön, Blanca Strepponi, Ana Enriqueta Terán, Alicia Torres, Elena Vera, Carmen Verde Arocha, Miyo Vestrin

Tri-lingual Anthology of Galician Writers
Compiled, edited, and translated from Galician to Spanish by F.R. Lavandeira.
Translated from Spanish to English by Terri Carrion.

Poetry and Prose by
A.Nerium, María do Cebreiro, Estíbaliz Espinosa, Miro Villar, Olga Novo, F.R Lavandeira, Antón Riveiro Coello, Anxos Sumai, Diego Ameixeiras, Inma López Silva,


paintings by Jim Spitzer
As a regular contributor to Big Bridge, these paintings, variations on an enigmatic theme, show Spitzer's continuing evolution, as well as being koan-like meditations in their own right.

The Kingdom of Madison:
Photographs from Madison County, North Carolina
by Rob Amberg
Selections from three sets of photos, exploring a still relatively isolated place, where landscape still has functional meaning. When Amberg arrived, not as a tourist, but as one seeking community: "Planting was still done by the signs of the moon. Water came from springs and heat from forests" and traditional music still part of daily life. These photos add to the tradition begun in the WPA projects of the Great Depression, but decidedly retain an identity of their own.

These Are My Angels
by Tasha Robbins
Small paintings done in Brooklyn on found cardboard by one of the Post-Katrina diaspora. Celebrating the C-Train stop at Franklin + Fulton Avenues, as the artist writes, they "kept my heart, eye + hand moving with a spirit of life close to the timbre and vibration of the Crescent City, still healing. . .

Lectura en Tránsito
Project Created and Directed by Carmen Gloria Berríos
Set based on combination of public art and poetry from Santiago de Chile.
Poems translated by Terri Carrion and Carmen Gloria Berríos.

Animal Night Photography
by Felicia Murray; notes by Louise Landes Levi
New techniques in photography allow us to make photographic images of phenomena we could only imagine in previous eras. We might debate whether the nature of cameras and software brings us any closer to the spiritual world, but these haunting images of animals should make us feel less alone, and more in touch with the continuum of life.

12 Collages
by John Brandi
These colages can be read as a non-verbal counterpart and extension of his India Journal and related work.


Fiction by
Mel Freilicher, Eric Beeny, Stefani Christova, Lynda Schor, David Madgalene, Stephen-Paul Martin, Mark Wallace, Susan Smith Nash, Kirpal gordon, Richard Martin, Peter Conners, Ann Bogle, Jeffrey Hansen, Carol Novack


Reviews of:
Wanda Phipps, Lewis Warsh, Simon Pettet, Larissa Shmailo, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Ed Sanders, Bill Berkson, Colter Jacobsen, Mark Young, John Roche, Philip Gounis, Rich Kruse, Michael Rumaker, Annie Le Brun, George Kimball, and Ashis Gupta.

Reviewed by:
Kirpal Gordon; Svitlana Matviyenko, Garry Parrish, Jackie Sheeler, Jim Feast, Allan Graubard, Charles Thorne, Barbara Henning, Tom Hibbard, Steve Elmer, Stephen Lewandowski, Joe Wetteroth, Vernon Frazer, Leverett T. Smith, and Katherine Hastings.


Plastic Ocean
Green Dragon
Untamed Ink