Thursday, December 6, 2012

Summer Literary Seminar contest 2013

I loved my experience at the Summer Literary Seminar, way back in 2002, and I keep trying to find ways of returning.  You should too.
We are excited to announce, for the first time, the addition of a translation prize to the SLS Unified Contest! In honor of the centennial of the birth of pre-eminent Yiddish poet Abraham Sutzkever , SLS Lithuania is proud to launch the Sutzkever Centennial Translation Prize, to be judged by esteemed poet and friend of SLS, Ed Hirsch.
Abraham Sutzkever is a Yiddish-language poet whose works chronicle his childhood in Siberia, his life in the Vilnius ghetto during World War II, and his escape to join the Jewish partisans. In 1915 Sutzkever and his family fled their home in eastern Europe to Siberia to escape World War I; they returned to the region in 1920 and lived near Vilna, where he later studied literary criticism at the University of Vilna. Sutzkever testified at the Nürnberg trials, and in 1947 he settled in Israel.
The winner of the Sutzkever Centennial Translation Prize will receive a full scholarship at SLS Lithuania, as well as a $500 travel stipend. The winning entry will be translated into Lithuanian, and read at a celebration in Vilnius on the centennial, on July 15, 2013. For full details, visit the our contest page.
One of the largest in North America, our contest will be held this year in affiliation with Fence Magazine and The Walrus . We are also thrilled to continue our three new partnerships, with prizes sponsored by the esteemed Graywolf Press, the Center for Fiction / The Literarian, the St. Petersburg Review. Also joining us will be the dynamic online magazines Joyland, Branch, and DIAGRAM.
Thanks to our generous friends at Fence, this year the contest entry will include a one-year subscription to Fence Magazine! Don't miss this chance to attend one of our unique programs, check out the full contest guidelines!

SLS Lithuania
Session One: July 14 - July 27, 2013 | Session Two: July 28 - August 10, 2013
Applications are now open for our extremely rich and 2013 Lithuania program! The primary faculty has been announced (below) and there are still names being added as we speak! Exciting program additions and partnerships will to be announced soon.
After the success of the 2012 program, we will continue to run it in two two-week sessions. While retaining the uniqueness of its spirit, SLS is constantly reinventing itself. Thus, in 2013, SLS Lithuania is expanding to become the 2013 SLS Lithuania/East-Central Europe program. Located in the heart of Europe, in the epicentre of the region's post-Soviet transition, and focused on the history and culture of the place as stringently as before, and offering an even greater degree of immersion in the the history and culture of this endlessly fascinating country, the program will also be bringing in some of the most interesting writers/ poets /scholars /artists from other countries, such as Russia. The list of affiliated faculty you will find below is not yet complete, but it will give you the impression of the direction of the program's development. This is going to be an exciting, richly textured, one-of-a-kind program.
Meet our Faculty:
Our esteemed faculty and guests for the program will include Molly Antopol, Laimonas Briedis, Sergei Gandlevsky, Linor Goralik, Alex Halberstadt, Mikhail Iampolski, Menachem Kaiser, Kerry Shawn Keys, Vitaly Komar, Glyn Maxwell, Andrew Miksys, Eileen Myles, Jose Manuel Prieto, Eugene Ostashevsky, Dawn Raffel, Ariana Reines, Antanas Sileika, Alexander Skidan, Debra Spark, Dalia Staponkutė, Julia Sukys, Karolis Zukauskas, and Rebecca Wolff, with more to be added!
To find out more, visit our faculty page.
We wish you the best of luck with your writing --
and we look forward to seeing you at SLS!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Poetry in the Everyday Projects 2012

The following student project videos are for the Poetry in the Everyday Project, an assignment designed for my workshops that involved "creative reading," or interpretive reinstallation of poetry into other media and in public space. These projects are a lot of fun, because they enable "close reading" by means of creative play. I'll have more to post, but these were the first that were emailed to me:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Silence for Gaza" by Mahmoud Darwish

"Silence for Gaza" by Mahmoud Darwish

Gaza is far from its relatives and close to its enemies, because whenever Gaza explodes, it becomes an island and it never stops exploding. It scratched the enemy’s face, broke his dreams and stopped his satisfaction with time.

Because in Gaza time is something different.

Because in Gaza time is not a neutral element.

It does not compel people to cool contemplation, but rather to explosion and a collision with reality.

Time there does not take children from childhood to old age, but rather makes them men in their first confrontation with the enemy.

Time in Gaza is not relaxation, but storming the burning noon. Because in Gaza values are different, different, different.

The only value for the occupied is the extent of his resistance to occupation. That is the only competition there. Gaza has been addicted to knowing this cruel, noble value. It did not learn it from books, hasty school seminars, loud propaganda megaphones, or songs. It learned it through experience alone and through work that is not done for advertisement and image.

Gaza has no throat. Its pores are the ones that speak in sweat, blood, and fires. Hence the enemy hates it to death and fears it to criminality, and tries to sink it into the sea, the desert, or blood. And hence its relatives and friends love it with a coyness that amounts to jealousy and fear at times, because Gaza is the brutal lesson and the shining example for enemies and friends alike.

Gaza is not the most beautiful city.

Its shore is not bluer than the shores of Arab cities.

Its oranges are not the most beautiful in the Mediterranean basin.

Gaza is not the richest city.

It is not the most elegant or the biggest, but it equals the history of an entire homeland, because it is more ugly, impoverished, miserable, and vicious in the eyes of enemies. Because it is the most capable, among us, of disturbing the enemy’s mood and his comfort. Because it is his nightmare. Because it is mined oranges, children without a childhood, old men without old age and women without desires. Because of all this it is the most beautiful, the purest and richest among us and the one most worthy of love.

We do injustice to Gaza when we look for its poems, so let us not disfigure Gaza’s beauty. What is most beautiful in it is that it is devoid of poetry at a time when we tried to triumph over the enemy with poems, so we believed ourselves and were overjoyed to see the enemy letting us sing. We let him triumph, then when we dried our lips of poems we saw that the enemy had finished building cities, forts and streets. We do injustice to Gaza when we turn it into a myth, because we will hate it when we discover that it is no more than a small poor city that resists.

We do injustice when we wonder: What made it into a myth? If we had dignity, we would break all our mirrors and cry or curse it if we refuse to revolt against ourselves. We do injustice to Gaza if we glorify it, because being enchanted by it will take us to the edge of waiting and Gaza doesn’t come to us. Gaza does not liberate us. Gaza has no horses, airplanes, magic wands, or offices in capital cities. Gaza liberates itself from our attributes and liberates our language from its Gazas at the same time. When we meet it - in a dream - perhaps it won’t recognize us, because Gaza was born out of fire, while we were born out of waiting and crying over abandoned homes.

It is true that Gaza has its special circumstances and its own revolutionary traditions. But its secret is not a mystery: Its resistance is popular and firmly joined together and knows what it wants (it wants to expel the enemy out of its clothes). The relationship of resistance to the people is that of skin to bones and not a teacher to students. Resistance in Gaza did not turn into a profession or an institution.

It did not accept anyone’s tutelage and did not leave its fate hinging on anyone’s signature or stamp.

It does not care that much if we know its name, picture, or eloquence. It did not believe that it was material for media. It did not prepare for cameras and did not put smiling paste on its face.

Neither does it want that, nor we.

Hence, Gaza is bad business for merchants and hence it is an incomparable moral treasure for Arabs.

What is beautiful about Gaza is that our voices do not reach it. Nothing distracts it; nothing takes its fist away from the enemy’s face. Not the forms of the Palestinian state we will establish whether on the eastern side of the moon, or the western side of Mars when it is explored. Gaza is devoted to rejection… hunger and rejection, thirst and rejection, displacement and rejection, torture and rejection, siege and rejection, death and rejection.

Enemies might triumph over Gaza (the storming sea might triumph over an island… they might chop down all its trees).

They might break its bones.

They might implant tanks on the insides of its children and women. They might throw it into the sea, sand, or blood.

But it will not repeat lies and say “Yes” to invaders.

It will continue to explode.

It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it deserves to live.

It will continue to explode.

It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it deserves to live.

[Translated by Sinan Antoon From Hayrat al-`A’id (The Returnee’s Perplexity), Riyad al-Rayyis, 2007]

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"A Woman Sings a Song for a Soldier Come Home" by Wallace Stevens

Though Wallace Stevens is known principally as a poet of nature and mind, this is one of the best war (actually postwar) poems that I only recently read, a poem about survival and grief of soldiers returning home.

A Woman Sings a Song for a Soldier Come Home

The wound kills that does not bleed.
It has no nurse nor kin to know
Nor kin to care.

And the man dies that does not fall.
He walks and dies.  Nothing survives
Except what was,

Under the white clouds piled and piled
Like gathered-up forgetfulness,
In sleeping air.

The clouds are over the village, the town,
To which the walker speaks
And tells of his wound,

Without a word to the people, unless
One person should come by chance,
This man or that,

So much a part of the place, so little
A person he knows, with whom he might
Talk of the weather--

And let it go, with nothing lost,
Just out of the village, at its edge,
In the quiet there.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thank you, Ohio Arts Council!

This week, as I complete my final report for a 2012 Individual Excellence grant from the Ohio Arts Council, I want to thank publicly not only the OAC for its widespread support of the arts in the State of Ohio, but also the citizens and its political representatives.

My Excellence Award enabled me to take the summer to focus on a variety of writing projects, including completing a book-length translation of Russian poet Arseny Tarkovsky, guest-editing and writing the introduction to a “focus” on Arab American literature for American Book Review, writing my own poems, writing book reviews, and revising my book manuscript Sand Opera. Without this support, I would be compelled to continue teaching over the summer months; I cherished the chance to turn my full attention toward my critical and creative writing.

The Excellence Award gave me time to concentrate my attention and energies on my writing, first and foremost, but it also affirmed that the judges who chose my application believed in the value of my work, and provided external confirmation that I am on the right track. I would say that it has allowed me the chance both to forget momentarily the immediate concerns of financial burdens and be in solitude with the work, and to highlight the importance of my art as something that speaks to a broader community.

Of course, we exist not in a single community, but in many overlapping communities—our neighborhoods and towns, our counties and regions, our state and our nations, and of course, our global communities. And these are merely the geographical rings of community—we connect to people of common interest, faith, or goal as well. The artist’s role is multivalent in communities—sometimes to reflect the community’s hopes and dreams, sometimes to shed light on its realities and failings. What art can do is to remind us of who we can be, in our best moments, and how we can move together into a future that is sustainable, just, and peaceful. Art is not merely for the elite, nor should it cater to particular interests or classes; its job is to dilate our sense of what it means to be alive, and how to live more intentionally, more honestly, and more joyously.

If you are an artist or interested citizen, visit the Ohio Arts Council website for more information:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"A Question of Friendship"

Poem of the Week -  
Yvette Neisser Moreno           

A Question of Friendship  

Something tender about skin
and muscle framed by ancient stone.

The pyramids behind us in silhouette,
solid, rooted, entirely diagonal.

The night deepened,
the city's glimmer distant.

Fadi drew on his smoke.
Do you support Israel?

I took a deep breath,
listened to the desert hum,

felt the weight of silence.
Would the night weave my love

for Israel and Palestine
into some kind of logic?

I hoped the truth would be enough.
Yes, and the Palestinian cause.

Time stopped ticking
as I waited for an answer:

his half-smoked cigarette
flung from mouth to sand,

that flick of the wrist,
straightening of the elbow,

and the glint of that tiny fire
shimmering against the darkness.

Alright, he said.

We walked on into the long night,
wending down an unmarked path.

-Yvette Neisser Moreno 

Used by permission.
From Grip (Gival Press, 2012).
First published in Foreign Policy in Focus.

Yvette Neisser Moreno's first book of poetry, Grip, won the 2011 Gival Press Poetry Award, and in 2012 she was the first runner-up for the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award. Her translations from Spanish include South Pole/Polo Sur by María Teresa Ogliastri and Difficult Beautyby Luis Alberto Ambroggio, and she recently founded the DC-Area Literary Translators Network (DC-ALT). With a specialization in the Middle East, she has worked as an international program coordinator, writer, editor, and translator, and has taught at GW, Catholic University, The Writer's Center, and other institutions. Yvette serves on Split This Rock's programming committee and leads the ongoing campaign to get more poetry reviews in theWashington Post Book World and other newspapers.  

Yvette will launch Grip at Sunday Kind of Love, this Sunday November 18th from 5-7pm at Busboys and Poets 14th & V location. Reading with her is fellow poet and poetry and lectures coordinator at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Teri Cross Davis. Don't miss it! Details here.  

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of theWeek widely. We just ask you to include all of theinformation in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.    

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Remi Kanazi's "Normalize This"

Peace is the dream. Yet, as Remi Kenazi forcefully argues in his recent poem, peace does not exist without justice, and trying to normalize relations with the "other side," accepting a context of ongoing oppression, would lead only to a false peace, peace without justice.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Review of Selma Dabbagh's "Out of It"

One of the reasons for my increasingly lax relationship to this blog has been that I've been writing for other publications, including our local newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  One of them  appeared this past Sunday, of a new book by Selma Dabbagh, Out of It.
selma.jpgThe review begins:
In September, Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy spray-painted over a poster in the New York subway, calling it hate speech. The ad read: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."

read more here:

Monday, October 22, 2012

"Commitment Otra Vez" by Carmen Calatayud

Poem of the Week -  
Carmen Calatayud     
Carmen Calatayud   
Commitment Otra Vez      

...........for R.V.       

Some generations ago,
you were a Zapatista
inside your great-grandmother's
womb, black eye sockets of
revolution, carrying roses
with the pink blown out,
dando gritos in earshot
of the Americas.

But now your doubt
is strewn across the room
like petals from dead maravillas,
even in this space you rent
where spiritual warriors
pray for your country
and you can finally sleep
through the night.

Listen, amigo de los desamparados,
this is your time, again,
beyond gut-level fear
and black and white film:
The explosions just keep coming,
and you are chewing on history,
and never let it be said
that all you could do was cry.

  -Carmen Calatayud 

Used by permission.
From In the Company of Spirits (Press 53, 2012)  

Carmen Calatayud's first poetry collection, In the Company of Spirits, was published in October 2012 by Press 53. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Beltway Poetry QuarterlyBorderlands: Texas Poetry ReviewCutthroat: A Journal of the ArtsGargoylePALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art, and the anthology DC Poets Against the War. She is a Larry Neal Poetry Award winner, a runner-up for the Walt Whitman Award and recipient of a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellowship. Born to a Spanish father and Irish mother in the U.S., Calatayud works and writes in Washington, DC.  

Carmen will launch In the Company of Spirits as part of Split This Rock's Sunday Kind of Love Reading series this Sunday October 21, 5-7pm at Busboys and Poets (14th & V location). Details here. Reading with her is poet and local literary favorite, Fred Joiner. Hope to see you there! 
Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of theWeek widely. We just ask you to include all of theinformation in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.    
Poem of the Week Open Call  

Split This Rock began the Poem of the Week program in October 2009 as a way of publicizing the poets who were to be featured in the 2010 festival. We have since continued the series by featuring the work of participants of our festivals.

We are pleased to open the call up to any poet writing in the socially engaged vein -- festival participant or not.   

Visit our blog for specifics and submission guidelines. 
We look forward to reading your work!
Support Split This Rock

Please support Split This Rock, the national network of activist poets. Donations are fully tax-deductible. 

Click here to donate. Or send a check payable to "Split This Rock" to: Split This Rock, c/o Institute for Policy Studies, 1112 16th Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036. Many thanks!

Contact for more details or to become a sponsor.

Friday, October 19, 2012

"The Burning of the Olive Trees" by Alan Gilbert

This is from Alan Gilbert:
The Burning of the Olive Trees

On our way to pick olives with Iyad, a leader of the nonviolent popular resistance movement in Budrus, we walk past the graveyard. One is the grave of a 17 year old killed in a first demonstration against the Wall and the seizing of the town’s land and olive trees. His marker is the same as everyone else’s except for the Arab word shadeed (martyr) and an indication in paint of the Palestinian colors.

Hadra is the name of an olive tree. It is 1,500 years old. When you ask for Hadra in the village, people will direct you to the olive tree, not to the old woman of that name.

Another olive tree in the North of Palestine is 5,000 years old.

Olive trees, they say, by the old houses are those where Jesus played as a boy.

Olive trees, in the Quran are holy. God will damn you twenty times if you cut down an olive tree.

If you plant an olive tree on your own property and then uproot it, God will damn you twenty times.

Olive trees are holy in the Torah. The Rabbis for Human Rights joined the demonstrations in Budrus. In the Israeli courts, they have also protested the burning of olive trees.

There were 300 olive trees outside the Wall in Budrus. The villagers asked to pick the olives. The IDF (The Israel “Defense” Forces) said: “no problem.”

The Occupation gives an old woman or an old man one day to pick the olives. And no one is allowed to care for the trees.

Hadra has beautiful silvery leaves. She grows around stones and rocks. She has holes (they say with heatbreak over the death of Mohammed).

The fig says: I weep leaves down to mourn the prophet. You do nothing.

The olive replies: I have holes in my heart.

Arabs say: if you have an olive tree and flour, you can make a life for a family.

(My family is allergic to butter and, since living in Spain for a year in 1999-2000, relies on olive oil).

What does it mean that the olive trees are burned?

Going to harvest your olives is an act of resistance.

From their fancy houses, settlers often shoot at people as they harvest their own olives. The settlers seek to take the life and breath of the Palestinians while the IDF protects them. But they call Palestinians “terrorists.”

Joseph, a young rabbi from Jewish Voices for Peace from Boston, helped Palestinian farmers in a harvest. A settler shot at him, he says; perhaps he intended to miss, to scare them that time.

But one knows who has guns here, who has walls, whom to be frightened of.

Joseph broke then with the state of Israel.

The Wall separates olive trees from the farmers. Settlers destroy olive trees. So does the Israeli army. One Palestinian says: What has the olive tree, praying to heaven, done? What has she done to be burned?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fady Joudah and Ghassan Zaqtan on tour

The Tour Lives! After an aborted reading tour, due to visa difficulties, Ghassan Zaqtan and Fady Joudah will be reading throughout the country this coming fall. Here's the skinny from the Yale Press blog, where Zaqtan's book appears.
Leading Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan and fellow award-winning poet and translator Fady Joudah are scheduled to visit 15 U.S. venues during October in support of Joudah’s critically acclaimed translation of Zaqtan’s work Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems. Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems was published earlier this year as a volume in Yale University Press’s Margellos World Republic of Letters series – a series that aims to transcend the boundaries of language by making literary works from around the globe available in English. With the poems in this volume, Zaqtan illuminates what Arabic poetry in general and Palestinian poetry in particular is capable of.
Departing from the lush aesthetics of such celebrated predecessors as Mahmoud Darwish and Adonis, Zaqtan’s daily, delicate narrative, whirling catalogues, and at times austere aesthetics represent a new trajectory, a significant leap for young Arabic poets today. Below is the author/translator tour schedule for this fall. Check back here or the Margellos WRL Facebook page for more updates in October!
Monday, October 1, 2012 Amherst Books 8 Main Street, Amherst, MA 8:00 PM Poetry Reading & Book Signing Hosted by the Creative Writing Center at Amherst College
Tuesday, October 2, 2012 Harvard University Rethinking Translation Seminar Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, Barker 133 6:00 PM Reading and Discussion
Wednesday, October 3, 2012 Boston University The BU Castle, 225 Bay State Road, Boston MA 12-2 PM Conversation & Poetry Reading Lunch will be served before and during the talk
Thursday, October 4, 2012 Brandeis University Mandel Center for Humanities, Room 303 (The Reading Room) Waltham, MA 5:00 PM Poetry Reading & Book Signing
Monday, October 8, 2012 Scripps College Hampton Room, Malott Commons, Scripps College, Claremont, CA 7:15 PM Poetry Reading & Book Signing
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 University of Texas at Austin 12 -1 PM Class visit to Introduction to Creative Writing, CBA 4.124
7 PM Poetry reading (with Fady Joudah), UTC 3.124, 
8:30 PM Reception
Monday, October 15, 2012 Yale University Whitney Humanities Center, Room 208 New Haven, CT 5:00 PM Poetry Reading
Tuesday, October 16, 2012 New York State Writers Institute • SUNY Albany 4:15 PM Informal Q&A with students 8:00 PM Poetry Reading
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 Asian American Writers Workshop NY 110-112 West 27th St, NYC 7:00 PM Translation Night at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop Headliners: Fady Joudah and Ghassan Zaqtan; other participants: Jeffrey Yang, Sinan Antoon, and Susan Bernofsky
Thursday, October 18, 2012 New York University The Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies (The Richard Ettinghausen Library at the Hagop Kevorkian Center) 12:30 PM – 1:45 PM, 50 Washington Square South at 255 Sullivan St
Thursday, October 18, 2012 Columbia University 8:00 PM, Room 509, Knox Hall 606 W 122nd Street, New York
Friday, October 19, 2012 Georgetown University Lannan Center Conference Room / New North 408 Noon to 2:00 PM
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 Westmont College Winter Hall 210, Campus of Westmont College, Santa Barbara 4:00 PM Poetry Reading & Book Signing
Thursday, October 25, 2012 University of California Los Angeles Exact Location TBD, Campus of UCLA, Los Angeles 3:00 PM Poetry Reading
Monday, October 29, 2012 Rice University/University of Houston UH / Rice University Visiting Writers Series Honors Commons 5:30 PM Poetry Reading

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Notes on a Mass Stranding"/Split This Rock Poem of the Week

Split This Rock 
Poem of the Week - 
Kamilah Aisha Moon 
Kamilah Aisha Moon
Photo by: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Notes on a Mass Stranding      

Huge dashes in the sand, two or three
times a year they swim like words
in a sentence toward the period
of the beach, lured into sunning
themselves like humans do--
forgetting gravity,
smothered in the absence
of waves and high tides.

[Pilot whales beach themselves] when their sonar
becomes scrambled in shallow water
or when a sick member of the pod
heads for shore and others follow

61 of them on top of the South Island
wade into Farewell Spit.
18 needed help with their demises
this time, the sharp mercy
of knives still the slow motion heft
of each ocean heart.

Yes--even those born pilots,
those who have grown large and graceful
lose their way, found on their sides
season after season.
Is it more natural to care
or not to care?
Terrifying to be reminded a fluke
can fling anything or anyone
out of this world.

Oh, the endings we swim toward
without thinking!
Mysteries of mass wrong turns, sick leaders
and sirens forever sexy                                            
land or sea.
The unequaled rush
and horror of forgetting
-Kamilah Aisha Moon 
Used by permission.

Kamilah Aisha Moon's poetry collection She Has A Name is forthcoming from Four Way Books. Her work has been featured in Harvard ReviewjubilatSou'westerOxford AmericanLuminaCallaloo and Villanelles, among other journals and anthologies. A recipient of fellowships to Cave Canem, the Prague Summer Writing Institute, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, and The Vermont Studio Center. Moon received her MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.  
Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of theWeek widely. We just ask you to include all of theinformation in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.    
Support Split This Rock

Please support Split This Rock, the national network of activist poets. Donations are fully tax-deductible. 

Click here to donate. Or send a check payable to "Split This Rock" to: Split This Rock, c/o Institute for Policy Studies, 1112 16th Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036. Many thanks!

Contact for more details or to become a sponsor.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"barreras"/Split This Rock Poem of the Week

Split This Rock 
Poem of the Week - 
María Luisa Arroyo                                                                     
María Luisa Arroyo


para Martín Espada (1993)

Mami called us away from the roach trap line
where novice factory workers, fresh from the island,
and I, fresh from Germany, poked
protruding yellow chunks of roach bait
into black traps with long-stem Q-tips
we dunked in alcohol.

Another safety meeting. My first.
El jefe de la factoría faced us
and heard nothing by the silence
of women hablando y bochincheando
in Tidy-Bowl blue uniforms. "Safety shoes should....
Factory goggles are .... Hairnets must...."

All the Spanish he knew could have fit
into one of those trampas, too little to translate
what Flora, Aida, and Teresa needed to know.
A heavy box fell and crushed a few of Flora's
dedos del pie. Alcohol splashed into Aida's ojos.
The uncovered motor yanked out one of Teresa's trenzas.

I broke rank and stood. "If safety is first, then why
aren't your updates translated into Spanish?"
How all uniforms blue shrank away from me,
from my nasal twang, from that language that sounds as if
I were chewing papas calientes o mucho chicle.

For once, though, my mother was proud of my English.

El jefe told me I could have been promoted
to the shampoo line.

-María Luisa Arroyo    
Used by permission.

Originally published in Gathering Words: Recogiendo Palabras (Bilingual Press 2008)  

Multilingual award-winning poet María Luisa Arroyo enjoys facilitating poetry workshops and has performed her poems widely, including in Chicago and Puerto Rico. Academically trained at Colby, Tufts, and Harvard in German, Arroyo has published poems in many journals, including CALYX, andPALABRA. Her publications include the poetry collection,Gathering Words: Recogiendo Palabras (Bilingual Press 2008) and the multicultural anthology about bullying:Bullying: Replies, Rebuttals, Confessions, Catharsis(Skyhorse Publishing, 2012) co-edited with Magdalena Gómez.   
Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of theWeek widely. We just ask you to include all of theinformation in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.    
Support Split This Rock

Please support Split This Rock, the national network of activist poets. Donations are fully tax-deductible. 

Click here to donate. Or send a check payable to "Split This Rock" to: Split This Rock, c/o Institute for Policy Studies, 1112 16th Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036. Many thanks!

Contact for more details or to become a sponsor.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

In Memory of Joshua Casteel: Conscientious Objector to the Iraq War

Joshua Casteel died from cancer that he believed was due to exposure to toxic fumes during his service in Iraq. 

Some of you may know his story.  From the Pax Christi website:
he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves at age 17 and received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point at 18; after training as an interrogator and studying Arabic, he served at the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, from June 2004 to January 2005, as a member of the interrogation units sent to overhaul the prison after the prisoner abuse scandal; during his time at Abu Ghraib, hecame to realize he was a conscientious objector and was honorably discharged from Active Duty as a conscientious objector. Josh wrote and spoke on his experiences during war, served on the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and published Letters From Abu Ghraib in 2008.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Solmaz Sharif's "Mess Hall"/Split This Rock Poem of the Week

Split This Rock 
Poem of the Week - 
Solmaz Sharif                                                                   
Solmaz SharifPhoto by: Arash Saedinia  

Mess Hall   

Your knives tip down
in the dish rack
of the replica plantation home,
you wash hands
with soaps pressed into seahorses
and scallop shells white
to match your guest towels,
and, like an escargot fork,
you have found the dimensions
small enough to break
a man--
a wet rag,
a bullet on the back of the cup
the front
like a bishop or an armless knight
of the Ku Klux Klan
the silhouette
through your nighttime window
a quartet
plays a song you admire,
outside a ring of concertina wire
circles around a small collapse.
America, ignore the window and look at your lap:
even your dinner napkins are on fire.

-Solmaz Sharif    

Used by permission.

Previously appeared in conjunction with Craft and Folk Art Museum's "Ehren Tool: Production or Destruction" exhibit.   

Born in Istanbul to Iranian parents, Solmaz Sharif's first published poem, included in A World Between (George Braziller), was written at the age of 13. Since then, her work has appeared in jubilatGulf CoastBoston ReviewDIAGRAM, and others. Between 2002-2006, Sharif studied and taught with June Jordan's Poetry for the People. She is a winner of the "Discovery"/Boston Review Poetry Prize, a former Poetry Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and will be a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University from 2012-2014.
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