Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My review of Fady Joudah's *The Earth in the Attic* online at "On the Seawall"

Ron Slate's "On the Seawall" has a new feature called "Nineteen Poets Recommend New and Recent Titles."  In Ron's words, "For holiday-time reading and gift-giving, here are 21 poetry collections recommended by 19 poets – Hank Lazer, Ange Mlinko, Tony Hoagland, Tara Betts, Lisa Russ Spaar, Philip Metres, Ken Chen, Julie Sheehan, Rusty Morrison, Joel Brouwer, Todd Boss, Robert Cording, Elaine Sexton, Leslie Harrison, Deborah Woodard, Aaron Belz, Don Bogen, Amanda Auchter, and Aaron Baker."

My entry, on Fady Joudah's The Earth in the Attic, begins like this:

I first met Fady Joudah online, in his role as editor for the Radius of Arab American Writers site, and was struck by his email address — which was not his name, but “isdoud.” What was this isdoud, I wondered. Was he referencing that he’s “a dude”? — Fady is, indeed, a dude. It turned out to be the name of a village in what was/is Palestine, with ancient roots going as far back as the Canaanite peoples, thousands of years ago. The village was where his parents came from, before their expulsion in 1948. Now, it is a ruin of a few remaining stone buildings — the mosque, a wall of a school where his father once attended. How strange, to be carrying his exiled home as email address, a place that exists as a cyberlink to wherever he happens to be, clicking on the Internet in search of mail.

Joudah’s The Earth in the Attic (2008), winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize, is a book about life in exile, life as exile. The son of Palestinian refugees — refugees twice over — Joudah’s lyric territory is the exilic subjectivity, and his style is a blend of the hard-edged witnessing of a Forche with the dreamlike evanescence of a Darwish (whose poems he translates brilliantly). The sort of book that shows its textures and layers after re-reading — I’m tempted to say the way in which a seemingly wild landscape comes to reveal evidence of human habitation only after careful attention. Joudah composes a narrative poetry that defies the linearity of dull narration; instead, his is a braided technique, full of returns, fragments, and veerings-off before returning to lost places.
read on...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


for those in the Greater Cleveland area:


Colombian Catholic Priest Father Jesús Alberto Franco will talk on his two decades of Human Rights Work in the midst of Colombia’s Civil War

Wednesday November 17th 7 PM Jardine Room Lombardo Student Center

Father Jesús Alberto Franco is a renowned leader in the Colombian human rights movement. He is a Colombian missionary priest, as well as the executive secretary of Inter-church Justice and Peace Commission, a 22 year-old Colombian human rights and community organizing group. For over 20 years, Fr. Alberto has worked for human rights and accompanying the resistance processes of Afro-Colombian, indigenous and mixed race farmers.

He has been a featured speaker in the Global Counsel of Churches at the United Nations in 2009, the Alternative Network to Globalization and Impunity in Spain 2008, the Public Trial of the Movement of Victims of State Crimes and a session for the Ethics Commission for Truth in France 2008. In 2009, he was a featured speaker in the School of the Americas vigil at Ft. Benning. Additionally, in 2007 and 2008 he testified before the European Parliament and the European Commission.

The Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission campaigns on behalf of civilian communities in conflict regions in Colombia, whose members have been killed, tortured or forced to flee from their homes by the security forces and paramilitary groups. Many of these communities have also been targeted by guerrilla groups.

The Commission has been supporting the cause of the Afro-descendant and Indigenous communities living in areas where paramilitaries have occupied the land of some Afro-descendent communities and have attempted to force the Afro-descendant communities to grow plantations of African Palm, a cash crop used in products ranging from cooking oil to soap and where powerful mining interests are trying to develop operations.

Their human rights work with these communities and on important cases of impunity against senior members of the security forces has made them target of multiple death threats and attacks.

Free and Open to the Public

Jena Osman's "Dropping Leaflets" on PoemTalk: How to Get Through the White Noise

Jena Osman's poem, "Dropping Leaflets," is audible and discussed thoughtfully on PoemTalk (#37), as a particularly intriguing example of documentary poetry.  Documentary poetry, as I've described elsewhere, attempts to employ language from other texts and documents in order to read against the grain of official history, to reveal (either through cutting, through absence, or differential presence) that which is unspoken yet nonetheless part of the truth.  According to Osman, on the poem:

"The title of this programs is 'Finding the Words.' Every day I look in the newspapers. I keep sensing the presence of what's not being told... 'Help me come up with a strategy to get through this white noise.' I don't have that strategy, except to call attention to components of that white noise so we can hear it for what it is. In the spirit of Marianne Moore, who often incorporated what she was reading into her poems, I'm going to read a piece made of words I found when I read transcripts of press conferences given by Bush, Ridge, Rumsfeld, and Cheney in the last few days. I read the transcripts, printed them out, I tore them up, and then I stood on a chair, and then I bombed my office floor with them as if they were leaflets and the leaflets told me what to do. So this piece is called 'Dropping Leaflets.'"


fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffHelp me come up with a strategy to get
ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffthrough this white noise.
ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff-- U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney,
fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffNovember 2001

Are we on the ground now? Ally cells and I said operations.
We cleared 50% of a wonderful friend and enduring opposition.
Take the solid.
We clearly are loud. We are the postal system.
No evidence has been information.
Attacking the caves. Are you on the ground enduring?
A wonderful friend ramped it up.
You ought to open your mail.
Opposition element: the air. The talents work with precision.
84%. The population attacking the caves, the talents work with the
caves and tunnels.
Hiding in caves, wavering in caves and hiding in mosques.
A wonderful friend on the ground.
Freedom I said: the enduring ally cells.
Interested in the view, in our aid sensitivities.
50% to the front of our effort adding that 80% are willing to play.
Independent oper-oppo-sition forces that are rosy.
So make assumptions on the ground. Are we on the ground now?
Scraps of information work from opposition.
Can be more than air. The target. The air liaison.
Campaign with the bombing and entirely happy.
Attacking the leaflets.
We keep working hiding in hiding in caves
and cowering in cowering in cowering in caves
and I could say confidential areas.
The mosques and rest efforts are mad.
Execution in the targeting of democracy.
Those risks culti-targeting to minimize the individual.
An obligation to the spirit of enterprise.
A war of roundup freezing worldwide, and proceeding on course.
Training facilities, proceeding on course, freezing their guided
A population is tons of struggle against evil.
A civilized world of innocents in the mud, an enemy that's on the
ground for there is no neutral ever. No neutral homeland.
For the first time first time first time in history
ordinary busi-security bioterror
to defend enemies with the no-ness of life.
Confident in destruction / complete and cause / certain of the rightness
of this time / in the right / man the victories / to comment for a freer
world history / committee of evil / defeat the forces / we will fight and
great coalition wherever they are an era of over flight right against
terror basing global terror the global trade and lives of our world improve /
the modern alliance / I like citizens / but rather than the dust settle it
could mean / as acknowledged /the carpet bombs precision bombs / as
long as 23 months and I said go to America on alert / get a softball to
school if you work / take your child / game this afternoon / game or a
soccer to the president's going to the game / the fight / our new
baseball game / to help us in our task / force will sign terrorists tracking
American citizens / to protect level warriors / the decibel from these
shadows / open your mail louder

Friday, November 5, 2010

Why the new "Howl" movie is worth seeing, even if you know the poem and the story

Watched "Howl" last night, the movie that weaves the story of Allen Ginsberg's writing of the poem, the poem itself, and the obscenity trial that ensured its immortality in American culture.  As biopics go, it artfully approached the art itself, by creating graphic-novelistic interpretations of the three-sectioned poem, interwoven in the interview and the trial scenes.  No movie that I can think of--with the exception of "The Mystery of Picasso"--ever gives justice to the processes of art-making, since so much of it is not properly visual or representable.  But this one, in avoiding that problem, captures well the heat that burns itself into art-making, and the afterburns that that art sometimes can make.  I hope that it gives Ginsberg another life with the younger generation, to whom this movie is addressed.

I was most moved by the inclusion of Ginsberg's singing of "Father Death Blues" at the end of the movie, since it telescopes our view of the young Ginsberg (ah, the romanticizable Ginsberg!) to the Ginsberg that I knew--the elder statesman, still childlike, weirdly wise, post-stroke yet thoughtful and present as ever.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"The Sabbath Poems: I" and a Commencement by Wendell Berry

It seems fitting on a day where the elections reveal our great fears suddenly crystallized, and the fears from those fears about our collective future, that we check in with Wendell Berry and see what's next.

The Sabbath Poems: I              by Wendell Berry

No, no, there is no going back.

Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.
You have become a sort of grave
containing much that was
and is no more in time, beloved
then, now, and always.
And so you have become a sort of tree
standing over the grave.
Now more than ever you can be
generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear
forever, and yet remain
unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.