Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Reading with Poets Sean Thomas Dougherty and Jeffrey McDaniel

This will be my third Sean Thomas Dougherty reading this spring 2010--and it's a sign of his coolness and vitality that I'm looking forward to his reading again, along with Jeffrey McDaniel, whom I'll hear for the first time. This is a reading that I expect will defy the standards of the academic poetry reading. Be there.

Thursday, April 1:
A Reading with Poets Sean Thomas Dougherty and Jeffrey McDaniel
Readings begin at 7:30 pm and are in Main Classroom 134, 1899 East 22 Street

Events listed are free and open to the public.
Call the Cleveland State University Poetry Center at 216-687-3986 for more information, including the Center’s recent and forthcoming publications.

Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author of eleven books, including the poetry collections Sasha Sings the Laundry on the Line (BOA Editions, 2010) and Broken Hallelujahs (BOA Editions 2007), as well as the novella The Blue City (Marick Press, 2008). His awards include a Fulbright Lectureship in Macedonia, and two Pennsylvania Council for the Arts fellowships in poetry. Known for his electrifying performances, he recently spent three years traveling and performing. A long-time resident of Erie, PA, he now lives in Cleveland and teaches rhetoric at Case Western Reserve University.


Jeffrey McDaniel is the author of four books of poetry, including, most recently, The Endarkenment. His poems have been published in many anthologies, including Best American Poetry and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry.Although McDaniel has not performed in a poetry slam in over a decade, he has made spoken word appearances at Lollapalooza and the Moscow Writers' Union, as well as numerous poetry slams across the United States in the early-to-mid ‘90s. A recipient of an NEA fellowship among other honors, he has taught creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College since 2001.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Poetography in Coventry

In Cleveland, the neighborhood of Coventry has always been the site of independents--independent businesses, freethinkers, and the culturally diverse. In short, someone once called it "Cleveland's version of Haight Ashbury." By the time I arrived here, it had only a vestigial hippie vibe. This recent project, Poetography, involved the pairing of 10 poets and 10 photographers, to capture something of its spirit. The opening is Saturday, April 10, 2-4 pm.

Heights Arts is celebrating its tenth year of arts in the city with a variety of arts programs, from visual to musical. And since April is National Poetry Month, this month’s program showcases a sample of regional poets paired with photographers in a display and book of Poetography.

Poetography is the idea of Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate Gail Bellamy facilitated by Heights Arts. Ten poets and ten photographers were invited to work together in randomly-assigned pairs to create poems and photographs about some aspect of Coventry Village. Their chosen subject matter ranged from the closing of Vidstar Video to back alley fire escapes to crosswalks to love and loss.

Gail Bellamy
Katie Daley
Sammy Greenspan
Ben Gulyas
Meredith Holmes
Amy Kesegich
Philip Metres
John Panza
Loren Weiss
Jason Floyd Williams

Herbert Ascherman, Jr.
David Brichford
Margo Brown
Stephen Cutri
Nina De Rubertis
G.M. Donley
Mike Edwards
Lynn Ischay
William Sheck
Michael Weil

Meet the Poetography artists at Mac’s Backs Paperbacks, 1820 Coventry, at a reception Saturday, April 10, 2-4. There will be a reading and discussion at 3 pm. Posters of the ten paired poems and photographs will be on display right next door at Tommy’s, 1824 Coventry, and in selected Coventry storefronts the month of April.

Poetography is made possible thru the generous support of the following:

Coventry Village Special Improvement District, Inc.
Mac's Backs Paperbacks
Herbert Ascherman, Jr.
First Place Bank
K & L Realty
Big Fun

Poetography is also generously funded by residents of Cuyahoga County through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture and by The Ohio Arts Council with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Salve Regina": a documentary film on community

This is a film in the making, by the Devers brothers, one of whom (Brian Devers) is currently in my creative writing class, about the closing of a local Catholic girls school. Since Brian has a propensity for being tardy, I'm now convincing myself that he's just been working on this film in the labyrinths of some underground studio, and finds himself, like some cinematic Frankenstein, feverishly on the brink of his new creation.

In the words of the filmmakers, "Salve Regina is the story of the last semester of Regina High School, an all-girls Catholic school in South Euclid Ohio (A suburb of Cleveland) that will be closing its doors forever the end of the 2009-10 school year. We will be covering Regina's rich history and tradition in addition to its final moments. We will delve into what it takes to close a school and the many reasons behind Regina's end."

Here's their "Producer's Note"

We are so glad this trailer is finally getting to see the light of day. We had hoped to put it up in December, believe it or not. Instead of rushing it, we decided to compile as large a variety of images as we could. This trailer attempts to provide an example of a tone we'll convey in our documentary. Our story begins sadly with the closing of an institution, yet there is a concurrent human story which provides hope. We don't know where Regina's final months will take us, but we trust you'll consider joining us when we unveil our finished piece.

Those of you who've seen us around town know how hard we're working to produce the best documentary possible. We strive every day to craft a product worthy of Regina's legacy. We're independent from the school and proud of it. We want our film to be objective, thorough, and thought-provoking. To reach this lofty goal we need time and, of course, resources.

For those of you who may be interested in investing in a share of this film, we would love to hear from you. For those who can help by simply donating spare change, please do not hesitate to let us know. Perhaps you own a production company and might be willing to offer reduced rental fees...we would love to talk.

There is one resource, however, that is perhaps most important: your time. We would love to talk to you about your Regina experience. Tell us your story! Good, bad, or indifferent; we'd like to hear it. Please feel free to contact us any time at Thank you for your time.


P.S. If you happen to appear in the above trailer and you have not signed a release form, please let us know so we can sort that out. Thanks!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

War is Based on Bad Intel, according to poet Djelloul Marbrook

Over twenty years ago, in a song called "Exhuming McCarthy," R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe sang, "look who bought the myth, by jingo, buy America." We often fall in love with certain ways of narrating our national story, and the stories of our wars, until those mythic ways of seeing occlude more complex and often contradictory realities. Marbrook's piece shows how, when it comes to believing our fantasy, we'd rather be like the country singer, who, despite mounting evidence, "that's my story, I'm sticking to it."

War is Based on Bad Intel- a refusal to see things as the enemy sees them
By Djelloul (Del) Marbrook (Editor/Mentor)

We like to think we`re myth-proof, but if that were true we wouldn`t need, would we?
For all our vast array of communications we`re almost as myth-prone as the Middle Ages. I think this is true because myths are by their nature so much more seductive than the truth, which is often complicated and unpleasant going down.

What prompts me to contemplate this paradox is today`s e-mail. It`s about Prester John, the imaginary Christian king of the East who played such a huge role in medieval thought. (I read DelanceyPlace faithfully, and it often sends me back to the books.) There were pictures of him, anecdotes, eyewitness reports, all bogus. They constituted the top-secret intelligence of the day. And thoughtful people thought they must be true because they came from high places, just as today we trust our intelligence apparatus.

If only Prester John would come to the aid of the beleaguered Crusaders the Kingdom of Jerusalem would finally rest secure in the hands of Christians, where the Christians, at least, believed it belonged. Never mind that en route to the Holy Land these Christians had murdered thousands of Jews and sacked Christian Byzantium. Never mind that the Jews had been dispersed among their enemies. Never mind that Jerusalem was the third holiest city in Islam.

What is so intriguing about the Prester John myth, which undoubtedly fueled further crusading when it arose in 1145 (after the Crusaders had established themselves in Palestine, albeit shakily), is that it so closely resembles the magic thinking of today as the West, cocksure and high-handed, once again messes around in the East, this time in Afghanistan and Iraq, making more and more enemies as time passes.

Who is the enemy? Al Qaeda, which has proven itself capable of reinventing itself in any number of nations and cultures? The Taliban, which derives from Wahhabist thinking in what is now Saudi Arabia? Or simply the vast majority of Muslims who would prefer not to be occupied by foreign troops?

We don`t know. But we`re perfectly willing to pawn our future fighting in places where we`re disliked because we have accepted a handful of lies and half-truths that in the aggregate very much resemble the legend of Prester John: Half-truths that appear to Islam as yet another crusade. Half-truths that appear to Muslims to put a good face on what is in fact a long history of Islamophobia and crusading.

Prester John wasn`t just a lunatic-fringe story. Kings, bishops, popes, scholars, all believed the myth. Just as men and women in suits, carrying briefcases, believe today that we are fighting a necessary and wholly justified war in Afghanistan because it is the wellspring " of Islamic terrorism. Yes, that`s what Denis McDonough, the chief of staff of the National Security Council, recently said. He was careful not to voice the more demonstrable idea that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires, some of them more considerable than our own.

And he was equally careful not to give voice to the troublesome notion that Islamic terrorism can arise and sustain itself in any number of nations "Saudi Arabia, our putative ally, being the most notable. In so doing, McDonough sounds as plausible as those medieval poobahs who undoubtedly believed in Prester John. And if the high and mighty lords, with all their education and means of communication, believe such nonsense, what are the peasants to believe?

And did the peasants benefit from the murder of the Jews and the pillaging of their properties? Did they benefit from the sacking of Byzantium? Or was it their lords and masters who benefited? There was no great press establishment, no Fourth Estate, in the Middle Ages to challenge the mythologizing of those lords, and there is no Fourth Estate today to challenge the assumptions of men like McDonough, because the Fourth Estate is owned by the very people who benefit from wars: the bankers and the other profiteers.

The Prester John myth served the Christian nobles well, for a time, until Saladin confronted them with the reality of the situation, and then the Mamluk sultan Baybars got fed up and crushed the crusaders. But the nobles had profited. And, paradoxically, so had the entire West, because the Crusaders brought home elements of a civilization far more advanced than their own.

I, Prester John, who reign supreme, exceed in riches, virtue, and power all creatures who dwell under heaven. "

That`s Prester John writing in a bogus letter that enjoyed great currency.

Prester John in his phony letter claimed to rule seventy-two vassal kings and twelve archbishops. He fed 30,000 soldiers each day at tables made of gold, amethyst, and emerald, " he boasted. He maintained a great army dedicated to protecting Christians everywhere, and he had dedicated himself to waging perpetual war against the enemies of Christ. "

Perpetual war against the enemies of Christ. If you get as much e-mail as I do you will undoubtedly encounter very similar language from some sectors of our own society. And as for the Jews, Israel, and all that stuff, well, they`re just pawns in the grand scheme of things. If they convert to Christianity, fine. If not, tough on them. Prester John`s letter sounds like the weapons of mass destruction we didn`t find in Iraq. It sounds like another declaration from Gen. Stanley A. McCrystal, our commander in Afghanistan. It sounds full of it. But it was believed.

Here is an example of the kind of disinformation that fed crusade after crusade. A bishop is speaking in 1217:

"there are more Christians than Muslims living in Islamic countries. The Christians of the Orient, as far away as the land of Prester John, have many kings, who, when they hear that the Crusade has arrived, will come to its aid. "

Oh yeah, and the Afghans hate the Taliban so much that they will pour out of their homes and greet the Americans with open arms as their liberators. We know how that`s working out. But the bishop sounded eminently plausible, and so do today`s hawks in Washington and their generals. Or should we say the generals and their hawks. The relationship of our generals to our chicken-hawk politicians often strikes me as the relationship of the falcon to the falconer.

We like to think we are proof against such simpleminded thinking. But it got us into Iraq, didn`t it? And it has broken our treasury, hasn`t it?

If we were to ask honestly who is the enemy, we would have to admit, at least in part, that we ourselves are the enemy. But the truth is complicated. It goes back to the once-secret Sykes-Picot Agreement in which the British and the French betrayed their Arab allies against the Ottoman Turks. It goes back to their betrayal of Arab yearning to control their own destinies. It goes back to colonialist avarice and mendacity. It goes back to broken promises, back-room deals, oil grabs, and a long list of squalid actions of which no nation should be proud. It was all as self-righteously justified as the Crusades. And there was as much flag-waving then as there is now. And the Crusaders often came home broken and disillusioned, just as we are allowing our heroic veterans to return.

We act as if it all began on September 11, 2001. But it began decades if not centuries ago, and it has as much to do with Christian persecution of the Jews as it does with Islamic expansion. It has to do with schemes, betrayals, greed, genocide, racism, intolerance "and all of it stemming from all three great monotheistic religions, not Islam alone. And every single death is blood on the hands of Muslim, Christian and Jewish extremists alike.

Are we up to the troubling, complicated truth? Or are the mindless simplicities in McDonough`s statement preferable? Are we up to history or do we prefer mythology? If our choice is the latter, our children will go on dying and we will get poorer and poorer.

Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.

His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"About a Blog"

How often have you blogged? What specific topics have you blogged about?
I entered the blogosphere in June 2007, at Its title is: Behind the Lines: Poetry, War, & Peacemaking, the subtitle is "Further thoughts on the cultural labor of poetry and art. Not 'is it good?,' but 'what has it accomplished?'"...

On the blog, I'm working to extend the arguments I made in "Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since 1941" (2007)--but in an approachable daily prose format. The book received a good deal of positive attention and reviews--critic Diederik Oostdijk calls it "daring and experimental...a brave important book that will help future poetry readers and scholars," critic Edward Brunner calls it "groundbreaking" and "invigorating," and writer Julia Stein calls it "an important book for all who care about U.S. literature and culture." Despite these reviews, the book did not reach the wider audience that I'd hoped--the poets, activists, progressive and thoughtful citizens who have inspired and informed the book, and whom I hoped to engage.

Writing a blog, I hoped to reach more of those people, trolling the net; maybe they'd go and read the book, maybe not. But at least I could keep myself thinking further about the arguments of the book as our cultural and political circumstances continue to change. It's also a kind of living archive for myself; whereas I used to xerox or print articles and poems and stories of interest and throw them in a file (often, never to be seen again), the blog allows me to have an online file that I can return to, and show myself and others.

On the blog, "Behind the Lines Poetry," I post reviews of recent poetry collections; selected poems and art dealing with war/peace/social change; reviews of poetry readings; shameless self-promotions; links to political commentary (particularly on conflicts in the Middle East--Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine); youtubed performances of music, demos, and other audio-video nuggets dealing with peaceful change, dissent and resistance. I posted a couple entries on our own university movement to articulate a policy of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation; I was thrilled by both the student response and by the administration's ability to listen and change.

Who reads your blogs?
I have some 65 "followers" or so, get over 100 "hits" a day; it's a modest audience, but it adds up to something like 45,000 visits since 2009.

Do you find it to be enjoyable?

I used to blog every day, and when I woke up I already started thinking about what I'd write; now, it's a once-a-week arrangement. Every time I think of folding up my digital tent, I'll meet someone who says something admiring about it...which means, I'll continue.

How is the John Carroll community affected by it? Do you think blogs are beneficial?

Minimally. I doubt more than a handful of my colleagues and students even know that I blog.

Blogs are limited by the minds of those who build and write them; mine is a niche, and I expect and hope that its readers are instigated to learn more about the perspectives and work published there.

Honestly, the age of the blog has already ceded to the facebook update and the Tweet. There are just too many blogs to have the kind of impact one would have had in, say, 2005. But I'll stick with it for now. Both Facebook and Twitter seem to me too much "social networking" and not enough thoughtful rumination. I'm actually chagrined by how many students feel actively surveilled and judged by each other--Facebook has made social life in a small college suffocating, and for some, intolerable.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Every War Has Two Losers": The Film about Poet and Conscientious Objector William Stafford

Please order this short film for your library (your at-home library, and your public/academic libraries); it's a great resource to teach Stafford's work, and its relationship to pacifism. I got to see the first cut at the Stafford Symposium in 2009, and was moved by it, even though I already knew the story. Director Haydn Reiss makes smart use of Stafford's notebook selections from Every War Has Two Losers, the book version.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Injustice in Beit Sahour

Injustice in Beit Sahour
A Statement by Kairos Palestine

(Jerusalem 20.03.2010) As described by town residents, Ha'aretz,Ma'an News, and other sources in recent days, Israeli soldiers and bulldozers arrived on February 10 at a family recreation park in Beit Sahour – a town slightly east of Bethlehem in the West Bank, and the site of the former army base Osh Grab, which was abandoned by the IDF in 2006 – and declared it a closed military zone.

KAIROS Palestine condemns this action and calls upon churches worldwide to advocate for the Christians and all residents of Beit Sahour and intervene in the damage, present and projected, wrought upon their home.

Since 1967, Beit Sahour, one of the last Christian majority towns in the West Bank, has repeatedly lost land to the Jerusalem municipality and to the nearby settlement of Har Homa. Much of the remaining land was occupied by an Israeli military base, Osh Grab. After the army evacuated the base in 2006, the Beit Sahour municipality regained control of the land – largely private plots and some public ones. (That said, all of the land remained part of what Israel calls Area C, keeping it under harsh regulation by the Israeli State.) The municipality renovated the public land, built a recreational park and playground – the "Peace Park" – and was planning to build a hospital as well.

Over time, fanatical Jewish settler groups have often threatened to take over the site, protested there as part of their aggressive claim as its "true" owners, and even physically vandalized the park, as they did last month. As it stands, Israel's stated intention is to build a new watchtower: a troubling reassertion of a military presence in Beit Sahour. The other worry is that this could pave the way for a new settlement, which nearby settlers have been demanding for years. As Amira Hass writes in Ha'aretz, "The Beit Sahour residents have no reason to doubt either the settlers or the Har Homa neighborhood committee chairman, who declared that 'This could become a reality, just as Har Homa spilled beyond what was planned and expected.'"

Either way, this new display of control on the part of the State – arriving with bulldozers, excavating the site around the park, prohibiting the entry of the Beit Sahour residents and various internationals who came to protest, declaring the land a closed military zone – is a grave affront. It is painful and unjust for some reasons of specific import to Christians (who form 80% of Beit Sahour); others are simply questions of humanity and legality, crucial for both Christians and Muslims.

First, the park area lies between two sacred sites: "Shepherds Field" and the place, as told in the Bible, where Boaz fell in love with Ruth. These are places of immense spiritual significance, and the State's commandeering of the land is profoundly distressing. (As we wrote in the Kairos Document, "freedom of access to the holy places is denied under the pretext of security.") Second, the takeover is yet another example of the way Israeli occupation displaces us, divorces us from our basic rights of mobility and autonomy, and enforces a divisive view of human interaction that perverts the Word of God and the love and compassion it calls us to.

We request the solidarity of churches in the international community: to support us, to intervene in this latest encroachment on Beit Sahour and prevent it from continuing, and to speak out against the occupation in all such instances. We ask individuals and communities worldwide to contact Israeli officials and condemn their actions, to write the mayor of Beit Sahour and express support, and engage in other such forms of outreach and network-building.

As we make these requests, we quote again from the KAIROS Document itself to remind ourselves and each other of what is at stake and what we must call for:"

Our connectedness to this land is a natural right. It is not an ideological or theological question only…[w]e suffer from the occupation of our land because we are Palestinians."

And finally: "We also declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God…and distort [s] the divine image in the human beings living under both political and theological injustice."

Please join KAIROS Palestine in condemning these oppressive actions in Beit Sahour and working to restore the justice that is both our calling and our right.

We ask you to call and write to Israeli officials in order to protest this action, call upon them to stop the construction of the watchtower, prevent settlers from attacking the park, and cease any idea of building a settlement in the site.

Please make appeals to:

[Ehud Barak] Minister of Defense, Ministry of Defense,
37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya, Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
Fax: +972 3 691 6940
Salutation: Dear Minister

Israeli Ambassador in your respective country

Copy to the:

Mayor of Beit Sahour
Kairos Palestine:

KAIROS Palestine is a group of Palestinian Christians who authored "A Moment of Truth" – Christian Palestinian's word to the world about the occupation of Palestine, an expression of hope and faith in God, and a call for solidarity in ending over six decades of oppression – and published it in 2009.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Doing the Right Thing! Thanks, John Carroll University

Those might recall my earlier post about the sit-in by John Carroll students in support of including a non-discrimination clause regarding sexual orientation; the following memo from President Niehoff reverses the earlier draft proposal which declined to take such action. Thank you to the President and the Board for their taking this progressive move, an act of moral courage, and for the students, faculty, staff, and others who made this decision a clear one. There is work to be done, and probably state or federal law will require this sort of clause shortly anyway; but it's never too early to do the right thing.
To: The John Carroll University Community

From: Robert L. Niehoff, S.J.

Date: March 12, 2010

RE: Diversity and Inclusiveness at John Carroll

Earlier this week, members of the Board of Directors met with student and faculty representatives to discuss our campus climate and the possible inclusion of sexual orientation in our non-discrimination policies.

The Board wholeheartedly supports our continued efforts to create a safe environment for all which includes members of the LGBT community. Remaining faithful to our Jesuit Catholic character, we seek a more diverse and inclusive campus community.

There is important work ahead for all of us. The Board has requested that I act expeditiously to develop a revised non-discrimination policy and report to them on three essential actions at our May meeting:

1) As recommended by the Diversity Task Force, strengthen our reporting systems and investigative processes for all issues of bias, harassment, intimidation, and threats on campus. This may include the implementation of the Ombudsperson process.

2) Work with faculty to address issues of fairness and equity for all faculty concerning hiring, tenure, and promotion (such as the issues identified in the McCourt/Hagedorn Report), and make appropriate Faculty Handbook adjustments.

3) Complete a legal review to determine how a change in the University’s non-discrimination policies might be accomplished in a way that is consistent with current laws and regulations. This process will include a review of the practices at the other 27 Jesuit colleges and universities.

The conversations that took place this past week were an important step, and I am pleased that our campus can engage in a spirit of inquiry where different perspectives are valued. This is at the heart of our Jesuit Catholic tradition.

I extend my thanks to everyone, especially to the students who accepted our invitation to engage with the Board in a thoughtful dialogue about their experiences and points of view.

I look forward to working with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and others to build on this momentum.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Why Israel Jailed Me for 'Talking Too Much'" by Jamal Juma'

Why Israel jailed me for ‘talking too much’

All we Palestinians want is a life free from racial discrimination. We could use a little support from Obama.

By Jamal Juma’ / March 9, 2010

East Jerusalem

The Palestinian elected leadership is weak. And even with Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan this week, the renewed Middle East peace process appears to be little more than a charade.

Israel has taken this opportunity to crack down on Palestinians who advocate nonviolent protests against the Israeli West Bank segregation barrier and charged them based on questionable or false evidence.

I know: I was arrested for talking too much. All we Palestinians want is a life free from racial discrimination.

During 2009, 89 peaceful apartheid wall protesters were arrested; since January, more than 40 have been arrested.

The US president’s support for nonviolent protest could go a long way. However, President Obama's repeated failure to protect the very rights and peace he has called for is a heavy blow to Palestinians. Especially now that Israel has taken to crushing the grass-roots equivalent of Palestinian Gandhis and Martin Luther Kings.

The power and importance of nonviolent protest is close to America’s heart. Decades after African-Americans’ historic sit-in at the Woolworth’s counter,

Palestinians live under a regime strikingly similar to Jim Crow. My Palestinian friends from the West Bank cannot eat dinner with me at my favorite Jerusalem restaurant. They would need to obtain Israeli “permits” to visit me, a privilege given to very few. They would be forced to endure several checkpoints or would have to defy Israeli martial law.

For my friends in Gaza, getting a permit to visit Jerusalem is nothing but a dream. Meanwhile Israeli settlers live illegally on our land, sail through checkpoints, and travel freely.

And it does not end there. One of the world’s strongest armies pounded our cities in Gaza with white phosphorous and encloses us in isolated, shrinking Bantustans almost with impunity.

Yet, every Friday, Palestinian villagers losing precious agricultural land to Israel’s wall turn out to protest peacefully. Unarmed farmers and entire families march to defend their lands. They do so though 16 have been killed, many just kids. They continue to show up though thousands have been injured.

In October, I expressed concern over the arrest of my colleague Mohammed Othman. Shortly before his arrest, Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint took him aside and warned, “We’re going to arrest you, but it’s difficult with you because all you do is talk.” I wrote then, “If talking is a crime, if urging the international community to hold Israel accountable for theft of our land is a crime, then we all are vulnerable.”

Less than two months later I, too, was sitting in an Israeli prison cell – for talking too much.

As they dragged me from my house, Israeli occupation forces threatened my family’s well-being, saying they would only see me again after a prisoner exchange.

Because we Palestinians are under military occupation, where military decrees sharply limit political activity, the struggle for our most basic human rights is, by default, criminalized. Once arrested, protesters do not face civil courts, but military courts which blatantly violate international standards of fair trial

Fortunately, individuals around the world, including European diplomats, demanded my release. Amnesty International’s role was vital in suggesting that detained activists such as Abdallah Abu Rahma, Mr. Othman, and I were in fact prisoners of conscience. Othman and I were released within a week of Amnesty’s intervention.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Jack Gilbert's "A Brief for the Defense"

A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

by Jack Gilbert From REFUSING HEAVEN (Knopf, 2005)

Spiritual Retreat on Gospel Nonviolence [March 19/20]:

Spiritual Retreat on Gospel Nonviolence [March 19/20]:

Please join us for a special Lenten spiritual retreat on Gospel Nonviolence facilitated by Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy of the Center for Christian Nonviolence. Hosted by St. Malachi parish, this retreat is co-sponsored by the churches of St. Patrick, St. Colman, St Wendelin, and Pax Christi Cleveland, the Cleveland Catholic Worker Community, and CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations]. The retreat will be held at St. Malachi church Fri/Sat March 19 and 20. [Fri. evening from 7 - 9 pm and Sat. from 830 am - 5 pm] Lunch on Saturday provided. A free-will offering will be accepted from those able to give. Please help us get the word out about this dynamic retreat and bring your friends. Please carpool if possible. Friday evening portion of the retreat will be in the church of St. Malachi; Saturday portion will be in the church hall.

For more info see the flyer at [under "Events"] or call Joan Daly at 1.440.333.1755.

"If we don't teach our children nonviolence, someone else will teach them violence."
Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

Friday, March 5, 2010

"The Battle of Blenheim": Robert Southey playing with skulls

by: Robert Southey (1774-1843)

T'was a summer evening,
Old Kaspar's work was done,
And he before his cottage door
Was sitting in the sun,
And by him sported on the green
His little grandchild Wilhelmine.

She saw her brother Peterkin
Roll something large and round
Which he beside the rivulet
In playing there had found;
He came to ask what he had found,
That was so large, and smooth, and round.

Old Kaspar took it from the boy,
Who stood expectant by;
And then the old man shook his head,
And with a natural sigh,
"'Tis some poor fellow's skull," said he,
"Who fell in the great victory.

"I find them in the garden,
For there's many here about;
And often when I go to plough,
The ploughshare turns them out!
For many thousand men," said he,
"Were slain in that great victory."

"Now tell us what 'twas all about,"
Young Peterkin, he cries;
And little Wilhelmine looks up
With wonder-waiting eyes;
"Now tell us all about the war,
And what they fought each other for."

"It was the English," Kaspar cried,
"Who put the French to rout;
But what they fought each other for
I could not well make out;
But everybody said," quoth he,
"That 'twas a famous victory.

"My father lived at Blenheim then,
Yon little stream hard by;
They burnt his dwelling to the ground,
And he was forced to fly;
So with his wife and child he fled,
Nor had he where to rest his head.

"With fire and sword the country round
Was wasted far and wide,
And many a childing mother then,
And new-born baby died;
But things like that, you know, must be
At every famous victory.

"They said it was a shocking sight
After the field was won;
For many thousand bodies here
Lay rotting in the sun;
But things like that, you know, must be
After a famous victory.

"Great praise the Duke of Marlbro' won,
And our good Prince Eugene."
"Why, 'twas a very wicked thing!"
Said little Wilhelmine.
"Nay ... nay ... my little girl," quoth he,
"It was a famous victory."

"And everybody praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win."
"But what good came of it at last?"
Quoth little Peterkin.
"Why, that I cannot tell," said he,
"But 'twas a famous victory."

"The Battle of Blenheim" is reprinted from Historic Poems and Ballads. Ed. Rupert S. Holland. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1912.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Vexing Resistance, Complicating Occupation: A Contrapuntal Reading of Sahar Khalifeh and David Grossman

Here's a link to a recent article of mine, published in College Literature, called "Vexing Resistance, Complicating Occupation: A Contrapuntal Reading of Sahar Khalifeh's Wild Thorns and David Grossman's The Smile of the Lamb."

Here's the abstract:
This article examines two novels representing the fifth year of Israeli occupation of the West Bank (1972)--Wild Thorns, written by (Palestinian) Sahar Khalifeh (Arabic: سحر خليفة) and The Smile of the Lamb, written by (Israeli) David Grossman--testing the possibilities and limits of Edward Said's notion of contrapuntal reading in the Israeli/Palestinian context. While both novels address primarily their own nation, both bridle against the limits of nationalism. Wild Thorns dramatizes the diversity of struggle within Palestinian society to resist military occupation, complicating Orientalist views of Palestinian society. By contrast, The Smile of the Lamb examines the psychological and moral damage of occupation to both Palestinians and Israelis. In tracking the relationship between an Israeli soldier in moral crisis and an Arab outcast grieving the death of his son, Grossman's novel opens up the possibility of cross-national identification in ways that echo and extend Khalifeh's novel.

Here are the epigraphs and first paragraph:

The main battle in imperialism is over land, of course; but when
it came to who owned the land, who had the right to settle and work
on it, who kept it going, who won it back, and who now plans its
future--these issues were reflected, contested, and even for a time
decided in narrative. As one critic has suggested, nations themselves
are narrations. The power to narrate, or to block other narratives
from forming and emerging, is very important to culture and
imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections between
them. (Said 1993, xiii)

Two children of the same cruel parent do not necessarily love each
other. They often see in each other the image of the past oppressor.
So it is, to some extent, between Israelis and Arabs: the Arabs fail
to see us as a bunch of survivors. They see in us a nightmarish
extension of the oppressing colonizing Europeans. We Israelis often
look at Arabs not as fellow victims but as an incarnation of our own
past oppressors: Cossacks, pogrom-makers, Nazis who have grown
mustaches and wrapped themselves in keffiyehs, but who are still in
the usual business of cutting fewish throats. (Oz 1996, 8-9)

Sumud is watching your home turned into a prison. You, Samid, choose
to stay in that prison, because it is your home, and because you fear
that if you leave, your jailer will not allow you to return. Living
like this, you must constantly resist the twin temptations of either
acquiescing in the jailer's plan in numb despair, or becoming crazed
by consuming hatred for your jailer and yourself, the prisoner.
(Shehadeh 1982, viii)

Suicide Bombers. Religious War. Unwanted. PLO. Arafat. Aggressive. These were among the initial (and anonymous) free associations for the word "Palestinian" that my students wrote down and shared during the first day of my course on Palestinian and Israeli Literatures. (1) How do earnest and thoughtful Midwestern college students at a fine liberal arts university come to such reflex impressions?

We need look no farther than our mass media. Take, for example, an issue of Newsweek Magazine, dated June 25, 2007, during the battles for control over Gaza between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, which preceded the 2009 Gaza bloodbath. The cover photo shows a Hamas fighter, dressed in black and face hooded except for his eyes, straddling atop a tank and holding an AK-47 (pointed, as it happens, right to "JOLIE," whose name and story graces the header title: "ANGELINA JOLIE TAKES ON THE WORLD." (2) The main title--"Why Gaza Matters: NEW VIOLENCE, OLD HATREDS AND A GROWING RADICAL THREAT TO AMERICA'S HOPE FOR THE MIDEAST"--attempts to situate the conflict in Gaza as part of our concern, our hopes for the Middle East (for democracy, ironically, given our complete embargo of the democratically-elected Hamas government). The image is menacing, phallic and almost faceless.

Inside the magazine, the panoply of photos that illustrate the story falls into all-too-familiar categories of Orientalist images of Middle Eastern life: 1) masked fighters, 2) the dead, 3) mourning hijab-wearing women, and 4) swarming crowds. All these images, save one, are images of people without faces, whose faces are occluded, shut off, or lost in crowds. If the face-to-face encounter is, to paraphrase Emmanuel Levinas, the ethical moment, the moment in which we encounter the radical and irreducible otherness of another person, we can say without hesitation that the images displayed in these photographs render such an encounter almost impossible.

There is one exception to this Orientalist cast of images, however. It appears in the blurred face of a Palestinian youth turned toward the camera as he helps others lay a bleeding Palestinian man onto a gurney in an emergency room. He is overcome with terror, and his face is almost pleading. In this moment, we as viewers are interpellated into the scene, and find ourselves in the moment that Levinas describes as when "the face is the other who asks me not to let him die alone, as if to do so were to become an accomplice in his death" (qtd. in Butler 2004, 131). For all the possibilities that this photograph invites, it also invites the uneasily imperial response--we must save these people from themselves--rather than ask, "How has it come to this?"

read on to see what these novels have to say about how it has come to this, and where next...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Reckoning with Torture

I wish I could be there for the reading in DC, but I imagine that this will become a book soon. If you're going, give me the details!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Greening the Community: Green economy, organic environments, and healthy people

You are invited to attend
Greening the Community: Green economy, organic environments, and healthy people.
April 9-10 at CWRU

This event is Beyond Pesticides' 28th National Forum
co-convened by Beyond Pesticides Ohio and CWRU Medical School's Swetland Center for Environmental Health

This fabulous Forum includes a free tour of the Cleveland Botanical Garden, two evening receptions, breakfast and lunch catered by the Mustard Seed and a tour de force of national speakers with local speakers, too. Topics include cutting edge health science, lawn pesticide bans, protecting pollinators, thinking beyond your plate, organic gardening and farming.

All of this for the new $25.00 "recession rate."

For a full list of speakers, panels, schedule and registration visit

Come! We'll have fun!

For more info contact Barry Zucker, Executive Director, Beyond Pesticides Ohio 216-291-3424

Cosponsors of Greening the Community include:

Bioneers Cleveland, Community Gardening Program (OSU Extension), Cuyahoga Greens, Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland Food Co-Op, Doan Brook Watershed Partnership, Earth Day Coalition, EcoWatch, Environmental Health Watch, GreenCityBlueLake Institute, Holden Arboretum,Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, Local Food Cleveland,Neighborhood Progress Inc., North Union Farmers Market,Northeast Ohio Sierra Club, Northern Ohio Wellness Connection,Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Ohio Environmental Council, Treez Please, and University Circle Incorporated.