Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Poetry as Global Positioning System: A Review of Landscapes of Dissent: Guerrilla Poetry & Public Space by Jules Boykoff and Kaia Sand


Here's my review, Poetry as Global Positioning System: A Review of Landscapes of Dissent: Guerrilla Poetry & Public Space by Jules Boykoff and Kaia Sand, in the new issue of Jacket Magazine.
From the final paragraph:

We live at a moment where not only poets, but all of us, risk limiting our rhetorical address to ourselves and those like ourselves. What the guerrilla poets do, by making real the wars abroad, is to suture spaces in the public sphere where once the abyss of abstract political language existed. When the Sidewalk Blogger places the rising numbers of American soldiers dead in Iraq, or when she juxtaposes the names of local cities and Iraqi cities, she participates in the critical act of what Fredric Jameson called “cognitive mapping” — that work of making visible the invisible relations between ourselves and others, at home and abroad. Landscapes of Dissent, and the guerrilla poets it documents and heralds, challenge simultaneously the parochialism of our poetry and our politics, and provide a useful poetic “global positioning system,” by which we might locate ourselves and where we need to go from here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Reading in Racine, Wisconsin on July 2nd at the Public Library!

Poet reflects on war and peace
BY LEE B. ROBERTS
lroberts@journaltimes.com
Monday, June 29, 2009 4:19 PM CDT

The poetry of Philip Metres has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including “Best American Poetry.”

At age 38, the Chicago-raised writer, translator, scholar and activist has authored more than six books, including “Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since 1941,” and “To See the Earth”.

On Thursday Metres will share his reflections on the poetry of war and peace during a program at the Racine Public Library, which is offered in conjunction with the Racine Interfaith Coalition. The Journal Times asked him a few questions in advance of his visit.

Q: Who or what first got you interested in writing poetry?

A: Here’s a short list: my mother’s love of Wordsworth and Hopkins (“the world is charged with the grandeur of God”); my father’s love of Khalil Gibran; the lyrics of U2, R.E.M., Paul Westerberg, Husker Du, Fugazi; “Dead Poets Society”; falling in love with Jen Newman; my high school English teacher Mr. Lally; travels to Mexico and to Russia; a world that seemed alternately opaque and stunningly miraculous.

Q: What makes poetry a good literary form for expressing protest?

A: These days, I’m drawn more to a poetry that invites us to change our lives, that imagines a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. While protest is sometimes necessary and even a civic duty at certain moments, I value poetry that invites, encourages, provokes and sustains us. As Dr. King writes about nonviolence, artists and activists need to turn our heads, to invite us to conversion. That’s the kind of work that we gathered together for the anthology “Come Together: Imagine Peace”, edited by me, Larry Smith and Ann Smith.

Q: One of the questions that your class on “War and Literature” asks is “How has 9/11 changed our discussions and definitions of war?” What are some examples of how it has done so?

A: 9/11 brought war home to us in the most visibly excruciating way. Since World War II (and arguably, even during the war for civilians), war has been a distant reality, registered in the U.S. only in the wounds of returning soldiers. In my book, “Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront”, I argue that it is no longer possible to think of war as something between soldiers; given the fact that over 90 percent of casualties of war worldwide are civilians, all of us need to think hard before we rush to war, because the people who will bear the brunt are walking around just like us, living, breathing, loving, with names and histories and dreams.

Q: What essential piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to learn to write poetry?

A: Read lots of poetry. Read more poetry. Imitate what you love defiantly — it will come out distinctly yours. Read more poetry. Love the sounds and roots of words. Write every day. Share with other people. Revise. Remember that poetry is about the words, the worlds they summon; they are sufficient in themselves, and need no explanation.

If You Go:

WHAT: The Poetry of War & Peace: A book reading/discussion with Philip Metres.

WHEN: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

WHERE: Upstairs at the Racine Public Library, 75 Seventh St.

COST: Free.

INFO: For program info, call the library at (262) 619-2571. For more about Metres go to http://www.philipmetres.com.

Bruce Springsteen's "Shut Out the Light"/Springsteen's Other Vietnam Song


"About leaving home and not being able to find your way back."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fugazi: Poetics of the Holy No


Thanks to Mike Danko for teaching me how to play "Merchandise" last night on guitar.

When we have nothing left to give
There will be no reason for us to live
But when we have nothing left to lose
You will have nothing left to use
We owe you nothing you have no control
Merchandise keeps us in line
Common sense says it's by design
What could a businessman ever want more
than to have us sucking in his store
We owe you nothing
You have no control
You are not what you own

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Poetic Tension: A Review of Poets for Palestine


Poetic Tension: A Review of Poets for Palestine
By Jacob Scheier
From the June 26, 2009 issue of THE INDYPENDENT
Poets For Palestine
Edited By Remi Kanazi
Al Jisser Group, 2008

There is often a fear among critics of literature that overtly “political” poetry, in trying to both educate and aesthetically please, will succeed at neither. While Poets for Palestine at times demonstrates the reason for such concerns, more often the collection acts as a testament to the role of art in bringing us into the emotional, meditative and metaphorical landscapes of a people facing injustice.

The anthology was compiled and edited by Palestinian-American poet and journalist Remi Kanazi and features works by several Palestinian poets, as well as writers of other nationalities including Syrians, Lebanese and Sudanese. While focusing on the continued occupation of Palestine, the poets take on social justice struggles around the world. The range of voices and topics represents how, in Kanazi’s words, “the basic appeal for justice … transcends designations such as Arab and Christian and black. It is a fundamentally, irreducibly human appeal.” Palestinian artwork, often depicting — realistically or abstractly — conditions under Israeli occupation, is reprinted throughout the anthology.

While the inclusion of spoken word poetry broadens the anthology’s stylistic scope, these poems tend to illustrate the grounds for critics’ fears of political poetry. For instance, Nizar Wattad’s (a.k.a Ragtop) “Free the P” is essentially a list of injustices, stylistically connected through the use of alliteration, such as “Politicians getting Paid to Put People in Prison.” There is no unique perspective offered here, nor concrete details or metaphor to make one viscerally feel the impact of these injustices. In addition, nothing particularly interesting happens on the level of form.

The same criticism can be leveled at the succession of rhyming couplets (the standard aabbccddee rhyme scheme that is often the basis for spoken word poetry) in the N.O.M.A.D.S. “Moot.” These spoken word pieces, including Junichi P. Semitsu’s “Palestine in Athens,” in which the speaker states, “I want the Olympic Congregation/ to recognize a nation/ named/Palestine,” offer didactic and singular messages, which, like protest slogans, get the point across clearly, but are neither intellectually nor aesthetically very interesting. If these poems seem one-dimensional, it could be in part because the other dimensions cannot be expressed on the page. The listener at a spoken word performance could have a very different experience than the reader. Perhaps a CD should have been included with the anthology, or recordings of the poems made available online.

This shows how difficult it is to write artistically about social injustices, and gives all the more reason to marvel at the many successful poems in this anthology. For instance, in Hayan Charara’s “Hamza Aweiwi, a Shoemaker in Hebron,” the reader is introduced to a man who “admits he does not wash his clothes” and a young girl who “knows grown men/should not smell this way.” We are not told this is unjust, we literally smell it, reminding us that politics is not above life, but rather is life.

There are also poems that make declarations in powerful and nondidactic ways, like Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Kindness.” “Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,/you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.” Nye’s work here is reminiscent of the great Persian mystic poets like Hafez and Rumi, offering profound and layered messages with simple statements. Also bordering on the mystical, though in a far more contemporary way, Mahmoud Darwish’s poems in this anthology show why he was, and continues to be, so beloved in Palestine and throughout the world (his 2008 funeral was attended by thousands of Palestinians). In his poem “Another Day Will Come,” he presents a simple yet profound vision of the future (presumably free of occupation): “later/we will grow older. We have enough time/ to grow older after this day…”

The voices of the concerned people outside the occupation of Palestine deliver a powerful impact. American poet Philip Metres shows a compassionate awareness in “Letter to My Sister,” in which he describes a photograph in a newspaper: “a staggering crowd, arms entwined/and straining, as if to hold something back./It could be us, facing danger constantly/offscreen. No, we were born here.”

There are, as well, poems by a few notable Jewish-American poets, such as Kathy Engel, Alicia Ostriker and Marilyn Hacker. Unfortunately, however, none of these poets really engages the tension between the Jewish people’s history of victimization and a Jewish state that uses that history to justify its oppressive policies.

Regardless, this anthology deserves to be recognized as an important book, all the more so because its contentious subject matter makes it likely to be ignored for review in most (if not all) mainstream publications. The anthology provides an important service of introducing more Western readers (particularly in the Palestinian rights activist community in the United States) to the writing of Middle Eastern poets, many of whom are not widely translated into English. Yes, some of the poems could not quite carry the burden of their difficult subject matter. But these slip easily from memory, while the poems that tackle social injustice artfully, inspiring us with the human necessity to create, despite some of the most inhuman acts and conditions imaginable, are difficult to forget.

Jacob Scheier is the author of the poetry collection More to Keep us Warm (ECW Press), which was awarded Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry in 2008 by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"OLD WAR POEM FOR OUR TIME" by Anthony Tripi

OLD WAR POEM FOR OUR TIME by Anthony Tripi


Tu Fu made his way through fields of bones,
weeds pushing through the mud of bodies,
soldiers rotting where they fell, shrill of hawks,
wild cats, rats running the trampled earth.
Near dawn in rain sounds the quiet grieving of old ghosts,
no one has come to get their bones.
In Vietnam we bundled the dead in their own ponchos,
lugged bodies out of the field, threw away boots,
junked fatigues, scrubbed off the tattoos of war,
sprayed and medaled the wasted, washed their feet,
got rid of the rot, quick shit and a shave, fast trim,
packed them in aluminum frozen in rank and shipped out
for the whiplash of flags, ceremonial words
spitshining the gash in his flesh, years of a life
bunched in a body bag, flag draped stumps
bugled into the ground, no reason to moan
like Tu Fu’s dead whose bones under the clash
of wind and rain cracked to dust
until at last ghost sounds quieted.


from the book STARE INTO HER CRY, a volume of poems about war, spanning from Vietnam to the present, by Anthony Tripi, U.S. veteran.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cynthia Ozick's Blindspot

Everyone has blind spots. No one is immune to selective sight, even brilliant writers such as Cynthia Ozick. To wit: this is from an interview with Cynthia Ozick, The Writer's Chronicle (May/Summer 2009), p 13.
What you've said is profoundly pertinent--the European destiny of Jews and the American destiny of Jews. How different. Even at this very moment, anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, and there is a mean-spirited effort in Britain to smash academic freedom and intellectual international intercourse through boycotts of Israeli scholars and universities. Europe is a particular problem for us because we love European culture. It's ours. America is a European offspring. Culturally, we are Europeans. The difference is that America has offered us a country without kinship rules.

I often see a parallel, as a matter of fact, between the notion of Torah, a set of moral and juridical principles open to anyone who chooses them, and the American Constitution. In other words, you don't commit to a bloodline in this country. We're all different. We all have different origins in terms of "blood." We all commit to an idea, a system of values. Europe has not had that ever because essentially they have been ethnic nations. If were a German, you were a German. If you were a Swede, you were a Swede. Of course, this is changing now. Europe is having a lot of multicultural trouble and they look to us to see how we have done it--or how the genius of our Founding Fathers has done it. We are all spokes that can feed into and draw nourishment from that central concept.

To live as a nation by an idea is enormously important, and it is so different from the old European idea that you lived as a nation through some kind of blood kinship, fraternal, maternal, paternal. These are European words--fatherland, motherland. We don't use them. We we saw fathers we think of the Founding Fathers, and they lead to the idea, the Constitutional idea. So the American difference for Jews is the same difference as for everybody--that we all belong.

My question is, to circle back to her original worry over the boycotts of Israeli scholars and universities--is not Israel a continuation, in crucial respects, of the idea of the nation "through some kind of blood kinship"? Certainly, there are differences, but her admiration for committing to an idea, a system of values, (i.e. citizenship based on common core values and race-blind laws and practices) may be in tension with her desire to support a Jewish state. Am I missing something?

Monday, June 22, 2009

"The Future of the Anti-War and Peace Movements": A Talk by Cindy Sheehan

The Future of the Anti-war and Peace Movements
Cindy Sheehan speaks in Cleveland Thursday, July 9
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cindy Sheehan is an American anti-war activist whose son was killed during his service in the Iraq War on April 4, 2004. She attracted national and international media attention in August 2005 for her extended anti-war protest at a makeshift camp outside President George W. Bush's Texas ranch - a stand which drew both passionate support and angry criticism.

Cindy will appear in Cleveland, with special guest, Cleveland's Own Troubadour, Charlie Mosbrook, Thursday, July 9, 7:00-9:00pm at St. Colman's Church Parish Hall, 2027 W. 65th Street, Cleveland, Oh 44102. Parking
 
at 
Zone 
Recreation, 
W.
65th
 &
 Lorain 
which
 is 
about 

1/2
 blocks south of
 the
 church
 hall details.

Sheehan was one of the nine founding members of Gold Star Families for Peace, an
organization created in January 2005 that sought to end the U.S. occupation of
Iraq, and provides support for families of soldiers killed in Iraq.
Sheehan has been active in the US peace movements over the last several years —
speaking, writing, and organizing across the US and overseas.

Free and open to the public

The Future of the Anti-war and Peace Movements
Sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Anti-war Coalition and Cleveland Peace Action
For More Information call: 216-736-4716

Friday, June 19, 2009

Why Josh Ritter Just Might Be The Next Bob Dylan

Thanks to Andrew Summerson for sharing Josh Ritter's tunes with me; both of these have this Dyanlesque (and Bragg-esque) way of weaving the personal and political into an art that is difficult to summarize. Of course, you Dylan lovers from the 60s will find his voice too clean, or his playing too straight, but just on the level of storytelling, Ritter is a bard to watch, and listen to.

Peter said to Paul
"All those words that we wrote
Are just the rules of the game and the rules are the first to go"
But now talkin' to God is Laurel beggin' Hardy for a gun
I gotta girl in the war, man I wonder what it is we done

Paul said to Petey
"You gotta rock yourself a little harder;
Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire"
And I got a girl in the war, Paul the only thing I know to do
Is turn up the music and pray that she makes it through

Because the keys to the kingdom got locked inside the kingdom
And the angels fly around in there, but we can't see them
And I gotta girl in the war, Paul I know that they can hear me yell
If they can't find a way to help, they can go to Hell
If they can't find a way to help her, they can go to Hell

Paul to Petey "you gotta rock yourself a little harder;
Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire"
But I gotta girl in the war, Paul her eyes are like champagne
They sparkle, bubble over, in the morning all you got is rain
Sparkle, bubble over, in the morning all you got is rain
They sparkle, bubble over, in the morning all you got is rain



If this was the Cold War we could keep each other warm
I said on the first occasion that I met Marie
We were crawling through the hatch that was the missile silo door
And I don't think that she really thought that much of me

I never had to learn to love her like I learned to love the Bomb
She just came along and started to ignore me
But as we waited for the Big One
I started singing her my songs
And I think she started feeling something for me

We passed the time with crosswords that she thought to bring inside
What five letters spell "apocalypse" she asked me
I won her over singin "W.W.I.I.I."
She smiled and we both knew that she'd misjudged me

Oh Marie it was so easy to fall in love with you
It felt almost like a home of sorts or something
And you would keep the warhead missile silo good as new
And I'd watch you with my thumb above the button

Then one night you found me in my army issue cot
And you told me of your flash of inspiration
You said fusion was the broken heart that's lonely's only thought
And all night long you drove me wild with your equations

Oh Marie do you remember all the time we used to take
We'd make our love and then ransack the rations
I think about you leaving now and the avalanche cascades
And my eyes get washed away in chain reactions

Oh Marie if you would stay then we could stick pins in the map
Of all the places where you thought that love would be found
But I would only need one pin to show where my love's at
In a top secret location three hundred feet under the ground

We could hold each other close and stay up every night
Looking up into the dark like it's the night sky
And pretend this giant missile is an old oak tree instead
And carve our name in hearts into the warhead

Oh Marie there's something tells me things just won't work out above
That our love would live a half-life on the surface
So at night while you are sleeping
I hold you closer just because
As our time grows short I get a little nervous

I think about the Big One, W.W.I.I.I.
Would we ever really care the world had ended
You could hold me here forever like you're holding me tonight
I think about that great big button and I'm tempted

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jason Jones in Iran: "The Entire Country is Evil"

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jason Jones in Iran: Behind the Veil - Minarets of Menace
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

"Weaving a Web" from The Unpredictability of Light by Marguerite Bouvard


I recently read The Unpredictability of Light (2009) by Marguerite Bouvard, a poet and scholar whose work has included a broad range of subjects, from confronting chronic illness to chronicling women's activism in the Third World. In the constant shifting wonder that is the Internet, I've found myself in touch with people who for reasons of illness or geographical distance I would never have met; Marguerite is one such connection.

Her book of poems is a clear-sighted yet tender exploration of human violence and betrayal, balanced against our longings and rituals to make peace. From the first section of poems, "The World That Flames Around Us," where wars, violence, and human misery predominate, to the latter sections, "The Hymn Beginning and Ending with Our Naked Flesh" and "View from the Future," Bouvard moves into the pleasures of sensual being, the solaces of nature, grandchildren, and life after life. Here's one of the poems, "Weaving a Web," from the first section, that establishes her sense of connection to the wars both near and far.

WEAVING A WEB by Marguerite Bouvard


A spider is working diligently before me
this Sunday morning. Long silken threads stretch
from its mouth, waving in each gust of air.
It’s like the game of hide and seek where
only a burst of unexpected light reveals the intricate,
ever changing pattern. It’s skill is in
its invisibility so that we can walk
through our morning without seeing
its handwork as we turn our attention
to the World Cup soccer match. Meanwhile
Iman Abou Omar is snatched from the sidewalk
as he walks home from his mosque in Milan,
vanished in the web that stretches
from Cairo to Amman, to Timisoara, Kabul,
Islamabad and Guantanamo. No one ever
sees this network of secret renditions
and detentions, an underworld
that pulses beneath our secured houses:
thousands hurled outside of time.


One of the things that fascinated me about this poem was that I discovered an early draft of the piece online, which elaborates on one of her secret themes--the forgetting of history--those stories that connect and anchor us to whatever we call home. Here's the way the original version ends:
thousands hooded, naked and hurled outside of time.
I remember meeting a young German in the early 70s
when the history books were still cleansed.
I asked him about Auschwitz, Buchenwald,
and Dora Nordhausen. He looked at me
bewildered, answering What Camps?

In some sense, what Bouvard proposes is that, contrary to the idea of literary immortality (another form of being "hurled outside of time"), we need ways of imbricating ourselves in our time, to know our (collective) moment. In this sense, it is part of that globalist poetic that I wrote about in relation to "Children of Men."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Judith Weisman's hard testimony plus poem, "Lamentation"

"Like a man traveling in foggy weather..."


I've been thinking of the delusions that we each have, how we each think we have some kind of clarity of perspective, and came upon this quote from Jeff Gundy's Walker in the Fog:

"Like a man traveling in foggy weather, those at some distance before him on the road he sees wrapped up in the fog, as well as those behind him, and also the people in the fields on each side, but near him all appears clear, though in truth he is as much in the fog as any of them."

--Benjamin Franklin, from his Autobiography, chapter 8, (written 1771-90)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Children of Men as the Art of the Future (Toward a Globalist Poetics)

I was amazed and disturbed to discover Children of Men (2006) last night, thanks to Mike Croley, a dystopian science fictional film that hides in its "nativity" action story a heightened or hyperreal representation of the obscenity of global inequalities, exploitation, walls, ecological disaster.

For poetry and art fans, there are also a saliva-inducing number of allusions to great works of art and poetry (including Eliot's The Waste Land, another text about infertility, social breakdown, and the longing for transformation, though the poem is far more pessimistic and isolationist).

It also alludes to Abu Ghraib, the Holocaust, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among many other historical traumas--all embedded in the frame of this rather conventional story.

This is the sort of art that we need, and one which is almost entirely absent in our poetry. It highlights how far our poetry is from a truly globalist awareness, how hermetic it remains, how bourgeois, how dangerous. I cannot claim to have reached this level of consciousness, even if it were possible, but the largeness of vision demonstrated in this film is the sort of thing I admire in great globalist poets like William Blake, Walt Whitman, among others.

The extras of the film are almost worth the rental fee. Here is one of them, philosopher Slavoj Zizek's reading of the film.
Another provides a kind of theoretical background for the film; it's in four parts, available on youtube, with such luminaries as Zizek, Tsvetan Todorov, James Lovelock, Naomi Klein, John Gray, Saskia Sassen, among others... Be forewarned, it might play upon your apocalyptic paranoia.



Thursday, June 11, 2009

Meet Ezra Nawi


I received this from Jewish Voice for Peace. When you watch the video, Ezra shows himself to be a rather wily person, in addition to showing ridiculous courage. I love hearing him scold the soldiers, who themselves are as confused as the rest of us, though they laugh it off as the adrenaline is still surging in them after clearing out people from their home and then destroying it.
His name is Ezra Nawi.

You've probably never heard of him, but because you may know our names, now you will know his name.

Ezra Nawi is one of Israel's most courageous human rights activists and without your help, he will likely go to jail in less than 30 days.

His crime? He tried to stop a military bulldozer from destroying the homes of Palestinian Bedouins in the South Hebron region. These homes and the families who live in them have been under Israeli occupation for 42 years. They still live without electricity, running water and other basic services. They are continuously harassed by Jewish settlers and the military.

Nawi's friends have launched a campaign to generate tens of thousands of letters to Israeli embassies all over the world before he is due to be sentenced in July. They've asked for your help.

His name is Ezra Nawi



His name is Ezra Nawi.

We keep saying his name because we believe that the more people know him and know his name, the harder it will be for the Israeli military to send him quietly to jail.

And Ezra Nawi is anything but quiet.

He is a Jewish Israeli of Iraqi descent who speaks fluent Arabic.

He is a gay man in his fifties and a plumber by trade.

He has dedicated his life to helping those who are trampled on. He has stood by Jewish single mothers who pitched tents in front of the Knesset while struggling for a living wage, and by Palestinians threatened with expulsion from their homes.

He is loved by those with little power, to whom he dedicates his life, and hated by the Jewish settlers, military and police.

Now that you know Ezra, you have a chance to stand up for him, and for everything that he represents. Especially now, as Israel escalates its crackdown on human rights and pro-democracy activists.

He needs you. His friends need you. Those he helps every day need you. So please send a letter to the Consulate, to the media, to your family and friends.

Take just a moment to write your letter. Do it now. And then share his name with a friend. Do it for Ezra Nawi.

"Notes toward an Interrogation of Staged Violence" by Jeff Gundy


I had the good fortune of spending time with Jeff Gundy at the William Stafford Peace Symposium about a month ago, and have since devoured three of his books of poems, including his most recent, Spoken Among the Trees (University of Akron, 2007). I admire Gundy's admixture of impish wit and dogged humility, as he explores the restlessness of being human and longing for a better world in a plainspoken style that secludes a complexity of thought. Here's one of the poems, which reflects, at least in part, his Mennonite tradition's quarrel with violence.
"Notes toward an Interrogation of Staged Violence" by Jeff Gundy

Here’s your challenge: write a verse play in which nonviolence triumphs.
—ESR, 1/27/2006


Prelude:
Please be seated in this comfortable armchair. All questions will be asked in a calm and measured tone.
Would you prefer not to answer? Would you like a cup of tea, or a glass of whiskey, or a week in Cancun? Would you prefer that I punch you in the chops, or bomb an aspirin factory, or send the cruise missiles humming across the border like angry wasps ahead of the tanks and Humvees? I am only asking.

Propositions:
A story is not a war, but a creative alternative to stabbing your brother with a kitchen knife.
Time travel is indeed possible in the magic space of the stage.Violence is available for deconstruction and assimilation.
Nothing is inevitable, even after it happens.
We must learn the power of powerless bodies.

Historical Note:
The martyrs eschewed all force except that which they elicited from their enemies, thereby a) heaping coals of fire or b) glowing in the fiery furnace or c) both creating and transcending the Bloody Theatre or d) . . .

Additional Propositions:
In stage combat, the victim controls the action.Sound effects contribute verisimilitude.
The nonviolent spectator takes no pleasure in a whack or a stab.
The nonviolent spectator envisions glorious transformations and scenes of pastoral harmony way up and down the line.

Illustrations:
Her soul floats above the horrifying scene, almost free.
The crowd obscures the audience’s view.
Hector drops the knife and weeps.
Angela achieves such sublime heights of serenity that she ascends to heaven in a narrow band of light.
Marilyn suddenly vanishes and there’s a maple tree in her place, or a raccoon, or the attorney general with his blue curtain gone and the bare-breasted Spirit of Justice in glorious view.

Dialogue (suppressed):
All right, we’ve had it. You are neither natural nor inevitable. The restraints are for your own protection. We have assurances from our legal advisers. Those fingernails . . . One more opening in that tender flesh . . .

Proposed Approaches:
Abuse the puppet, and let Naomi put on something comfortable and sit down with a magazine.
The lead couple makes love onstage in such dazzling fashion that the alien cyborgs do a total makeover on their cubical spaceship and beg us to assimilate them.
Instead of letting the bastard cut out Philomel’s tongue, change the whole crew into birds before anybody rapes anybody.
Everybody pauses at the crucial moment, exchanges glances fraught with significance, then goes out for Thai food or puts on the Beatles.
Hell, the Doobie Brothers.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Question for You Bloggers Out There: Do You Save Your Words?

This is a second try, which seems like an ominous warning, given what I had written.

It's the second anniversary of this blog, which I've thought about quitting until I realized that every time I try to quit, someone says they read it and it's important to them, and I keep on.

My question of the day: do you bloggers out there save your posts as word files? or do you trust the Blogger Gods? Or consider your blogtastic words simply home on the blog and nowhere else?

Thoughts?

Thanks, Phil

"Send me some impressionists."
--Vincent Van Gogh.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Consider the Frame


As [Jesus] came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes."

- Luke 19:41-42

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Alice Walker in Gaza

“Going to Gaza was our opportunity to remind the people of Gaza and ourselves that we belong to the same world: the world where grief is not only acknowledged, but shared; where we see injustice and call it by its name; where we see suffering and know the one who stands and sees is also harmed, but not nearly so much as the one who stands and sees and says and does nothing.” —Alice Walker
Marcy Newman's recent post shares a number of interesting things, among them these videos, about which she writes that Walker "compares the treatment of palestinians to african americans under legal jim crow segregation, which she fought against in the civil rights movement. the problem with this interview is that walker at once refuses to acknowledge palestinians’ right to armed resistance and is patronizing when she talks about the need for palestinians to take up non-violent resistance and at the same time when she is asked directly about the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement she does not commit to supporting that non-violent resistance strategy either."

I found her story of arguing with her husband--an increasingly ardent Zionist--to be poignant, and her desire to make connections between what she was seeing (despite this being her first trip to the region) and other historical oppressions (pre-Civil Rights South, Liberia, etc.).

If you see only one part, watch the final part, in which Walker gets revved up. Juxtapose that to the tone of the first part; notice, too, in the last part, the sound of birds, and childrens' voices in the distance.

Rachel Loden's "The Pure of Heart, Those Murderers"/from Dick of the Dead


Rachel Loden's new collection, Dick of the Dead (Ahsahta, 2009), vibrates with the same parodic music that so energizes her previous collections; I consider her among the pantheon of contemporary poets working the vein of parody (along with Kent Johnson, the flarf collective, conceptualism, etc.), though hers is closest to Johnson's in its acid take on our imperial politics and our complicity as citizen-poets. "The Pure of Heart, Those Murderers" is one of the more straightforward poems, a prayer of the sullied against those who believe themselves otherwise, who don't know our history, who don't know what "we've" done or had done for us.

The Pure of Heart, Those Murderers
-- by Rachel Loden

Preserve us from
the pure of heart,

those murderers,
unsullied

balletmasters of
faux-heroic

barricades, spoonfed
aesthetico-poseurs;

the spiritual
contortionists whose

precious bodily
fluids are unsafe

even in dreams;
the fiery reverends

of rentboy.com;
testacular guys

paralyzed
by female treyf;

the god-throttled
martyrs

and the chosen ones;
autogenocidal

provocateurs:
preserve us from

the pure of heart,
those murderers.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"Muslims are People"!

I got this email from David Axelrod. I can't believe even the Democrats have to say shit like "Majority-Muslim countries around the world are filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives, just as in America. Indeed, part of what makes America great is having nearly seven million Muslim Americans living here today and enriching our culture and communities." Are we that crazily xenophobic that this needs to be said? How incredibly sad for us.

Hello -

As a Senior Advisor to the President, I'm here in Cairo, Egypt where I watched President Obama deliver an unprecedented speech calling for a new beginning for the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

We all know that there has been tension between the United States and some Muslim communities. But, as the President said this morning, if all sides face the sources of tension squarely and focus on mutual interests, we can find a new way forward.

The President outlined some big goals for this new beginning in his speech -- including disrupting, dismantling, and defeating violent extremism. It was a historic speech, and since many Americans were asleep at the time it was given we wanted to make sure you had a chance to see it...

Majority-Muslim countries around the world are filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives, just as in America. Indeed, part of what makes America great is having nearly seven million Muslim Americans living here today and enriching our culture and communities.

We can extend that kind of relationship abroad. It won't always be easy, but if we make an effort to bridge our differences rather than resigning ourselves to animosity, we can move toward a more peaceful world over time.

Thank you,
David Axelrod
Senior Advisor to the President

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fred Marchant's "The Phoenix Program"/A Response to Levertov's "What Were They Like?"


I had the opportunity to meet Fred Marchant while at the "Another World Instead: William Stafford Peace Symposium" a few weeks ago, and have since read all three of his books of poetry, including the recently released Looking House. I am grateful that Marchant exists, one of the landmarks of peace and conscience in our scattered and often tortuous landscape of war. Marchant, while in the Marine Corps, became a conscientious objector in 1970, during the Vietnam War, and has written a poetry that dramatizes the violence at home and abroad, and our human attempts to survive and sing other ways out.

Here is his poem, "The Phoenix Program," the name of the CIA's counterinsurgency program ("Operation Phoenix") in Vietnam which, according to Howard Zinn in A People's History of the United States, "secretly, without trial, executed at least twenty thousand civilians in South Vietnam who were suspected of being members of the Communist underground."

"The Phoenix Program"

by Fred Marchant

Afterwards, the children stood outside
the house of their birth
to witness how it too had to be punished.

When they came of age, they fled to the capital,
lost themselves in the study of history and great works of art,
graduated in swirling carmine robes.

Burdened with a knowledge that murderers
name their deeds after winged deities,
they dream for awhile of claws on the back,

but later they become certain there was
nothing they could have done.
And they are not alone.

It is like this throughout the city.
On each corner you can see them—
leaning as if the vanishing point on their horizon

were other than ours.
They speak quietly only to one another.
They play no instruments, and do not sing.

(originally appeared in Harvard Review, and Full Moon Boat (2000).

This poem, it appears, echoes in its conclusion Denise Levertov's higher-pitched protest poem from the Vietname era, "What Were They Like?", a poem constructed as a question and answer between an ethnographer/historian and an intermediary, something like but not quite a native informant. Still, Marchant's poem skirts the self-righteousness of Levertov's poem, and in a sense, in the broadness of description, the victims of this collective punishment could be all the civilians who have found themselves in the crosshairs of mass violence, whose silence echoes to us, to this day.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bernard Avishai and Sam Bahour on Economic Development in Palestine


Thanks to Fred Marchant for sending along this fascinating dialogue on economic development as part of the peace process. Chris Vecchio, check this out!

On the Anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot: Wars on the Homefront


Nick Demske sent along an email commemorating the anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot. According to Nick, who references Loewen's authoritative text, Sundown Towns, the riot is part of a larger phenomenon of American racism, the "sundown towns" excluded African Americans from a community (as well as other racial minorities).

Demske: "Staggeringly prominent throughout the United States, a number of them are still in practice today. What makes the Tulsca riot unique was how large it was. Loewen's book does not mention this but, according to other sources I've consulted online, the area was the epitome of a thriving, self-sufficient black community, now commonally referred to as "Black Wall Street." During the riot, deputized white men raided a munitions dump, commandeered airplanes (5 or 6), and dynamited the community, leveling houses and businesses. This makes it, according to Loewen's book, published in 2005, "the only place in the contiguous United States ever to undergo aerial bombardment."

From Wikipedia:
One of the nation's worst acts of racial violence—the Tulsa Race Riot—occurred there [in Greenwood, a black neighborhood of Tulsa, OK] on June 1, 1921, when 35 square blocks of homes and businesses were torched by mobs of angry whites.

The riot began because of an alleged assault of a white woman, Sarah Page, by an African American man, Dick Rowland. This incident produced even more hatred between the whites and the blacks even though there was no proof of the assault. The case was simply a white woman’s word against a black man’s word. The Tulsa Tribune got word of the incident and published the story in the paper on May 31, 1921. Shortly after the newspaper article surfaced, there was news that a white lynch mob was going to take matters into its own hands and kill Dick Rowland. [5]

African American men began to arm themselves and join forces in order to protect Dick Rowland; however, this action prompted white men to arm themselves and confront the group of African American men. There was an argument in which a white man tried to take a gun from a black man, and the gun fired a bullet up into the sky. This incident promoted many others to fire their guns, and the violence erupted on the evening of May 31, 1921. Whites flooded into the Greenwood district and destroyed the businesses and homes of African American residents. No one was exempt to the violence of the white mobs; men, women, and even children were killed by the mobs.

Troops were deployed on the afternoon of June 1st, but by that time there was not much left of the once thriving Greenwood district. Over 600 successful businesses were lost. Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half-dozen private airplanes and even a bus system.[7] Property damage totaled $1.5 million.[7] Although the official death toll claimed that 26 blacks and 13 whites died during the fighting, most estimates are considerably higher. At the time of the riot, the American Red Cross listed 8,624 persons in need of assistance, in excess of 1,000 homes and businesses destroyed, and the delivery of several stillborn infants.[5]