Tuesday, March 31, 2009

John Ging in Cleveland, on the Suffering in Gaza

"U.N. relief official tells of suffering in Gaza Strip"
Posted by Robert L. Smith/Plain Dealer Reporter March 31, 2009 03:00AM

John Ging, the closest thing to a referee in the seething and suffering Gaza Strip, told a Cleveland audience he knows a way to end the humanitarian crisis that created his job.

But peace will require Israelis and Palestinians to see the humanity in the other side, the United Nations' relief worker said at the City Club of Cleveland on Monday. The crowd's response indicated his solution faces skepticism even a world away from the troubles.

Still, the Irishman would not be dissuaded by either affirming applause or murmurs of dissent from a largely Arab-American crowd.

"No civilians should be at the receiving end of a rocket," Ging declared in a soft brogue laden with emotion. "Until we get there and rehumanize everyone in this conflict, then we are not going to move forward."

Ging, a veteran of world catastrophes, is the director of operations for the United Nations Relief & Works Agency. The agency was created in 1949 to respond to the Palestinian refugee crisis.

Sixty years later, it's the largest U.N. agency on the planet, with 10,000 employees trying to provide jobs, health care and education to 750,000 refugees in Gaza, a crowded Mediterranean enclave of 1.4 million Palestinians.

Ging stopped in Cleveland on a brief visit to the United States at the invitation of the local Arab-American community.

He has been harshly critical of Israel in the aftermath of its December attack on the Islamic Hamas movement, which rules Gaza. On Monday, he accused the Israeli Defense Forces of pointlessly destroying Gaza homes and schools and dehumanizing innocent civilians.

Ging said Israel is now thwarting Gaza's recovery by restricting the flow of goods and supplies into the territory.

"Lifting the siege in Gaza is an urgent, urgent first step" to restoring human dignity, Ging said to applause.

But he also spread the blame around, at times to the consternation of his audience.

An Israeli mother who does not know if her child will be picked off by a rocket fired aimlessly from Gaza is a victim of terrorism, Ging said. She is the victim of a crime that destroys chances for peace.

During the question-and-answer period, a woman in the audience suggested Israelis are not victims if they are living on Palestinian lands. She likened settlers to scared bank robbers running from their crime.

"You can't shoot someone in the back because they are running away," Ging responded. "Force is not the answer. It's just not the answer. The path to peace lies in the rule of law."

Ging, a lawyer by trade, has directed humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts in Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia and Lebanon. He said international law and accountability need to be reintroduced into the Gaza conflict. He stressed that peace requires another human quality -- empathy.

Ging urged supporters of Palestinians in Gaza to visit Israeli communities in range of Hamas rockets. He urged supporters of Israel to go to see the ruins of Gaza.

"Then go back to your friends and be good friends, really," he said. "Tell them you understand what it is like on the other side."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mahmoud Darwish's "A Ready Script"/one of his last poems...

"A Ready Script" by Mahmoud Darwish, trans. Fady Joudah

Let's presume now that we,
the enemy and I,
fell from the air
into a hole . . .
what might happen?

A ready script:
In the beginning we wait for luck,
the rescuers might find us here
and toss a safety rope our way,
and he'd say: me first
and I'd say: me first
and in vain we'd curse
each other out
before the rope reaches us

The script says
I, a selfish optimist, will
whisper to myself without wondering
what my enemy whispers to himself

He and I
are partners in one trap
and in the probability game,
we wait for the rescue rope
so we can part ways

by the edge of the hole - the chasm,
and go to what remains
for us of life
and war... if we
are able to survive

He and I
are frightened
and don't exchange any words
about fear, or other than fear
since we are foes . . .

What might happen if a snake
were to appear to us here
out of one of the scenes and hiss
before swallowing the two
frightened ones, he and I?

The script says:
We will partner up in killing the snake
to survive together
or alone . . .

Yet we will share a phrase of gratitude
and congratulations on what
we have accomplished together
even if it was instinct, and not us,
that defended itself, and instinct
has no ideology

And we did not converse:
I remembered the law of communication
over mutual frivolity
when he once told me:
What has become mine is mine
and what is yours
is yours
and mine . . .

And with time, and time is sand and soap bubbles,
boredom and silence
broke what's between us, and he asked me: What now?
I said: Not much, let's drain the possibilities
He said: Where will hope come from?
I said: From the air
He said: Did you forget I buried you in a hole like this?
I said: I almost did, because an alluring worn out
tomorrow pulled me by the hand . . .
He said: Will you negotiate with me now?
I said: Over what now in this hole, this grave?
He said: Over your share and mine
of our void and our mutual grave
I said: What's the use? Time has run away
from us, and destiny doesn't follow the rule,
the murdered and his murderer sleep in this hole,
and another poet must see this script through
to its end!

[published by The American Poetry Review, Nov/Dec 2008]

New Letters Guest Edited Issue on War

Call for Submissions

Mia Leonin is guest editing a selection of poetry for an upcoming issue of New Letters and would like to focus on poems about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers and veterans are especially welcome to submit.

Send unpublished poems to Mia Leonin at Mleonin@yahoo.com

Please write “War Poetry” in the subject heading and include your contact info.

Deadline: May 1, 2009.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Johnny Cash's "Hurt"/A Poetics of Agency and Suffering

Dear Johnny Cash, thanks for the chills. If only to write one thing as moving as this.

Encountering the Other, The Music Between Them

Palestinian children sing for Holocaust survivors

By The Associated Press

The Palestinian youths from a tough West Bank refugee camp stood facing the elderly Holocaust survivors on Wednesday, appearing somewhat defiant in a teenage sort of way. Then they began to sing.

The choir burst into songs for peace, bringing surprised smiles from the audience. But the event had another twist: Most of the Holocaust survivors did not know the youths were Palestinians from the West Bank, a rare sight in Israel these days. And the youths had no idea they were performing for people who lived through Nazi genocide - or even what the Holocaust was.

"I feel sympathy for them," said Ali Zeid, an 18-year-old keyboard player, who added that he was shocked by what he learned about the Holocaust, in which the Nazis killed 6 million Jews in their campaign to wipe out European Jewry.

"Only people who have been through suffering understand each other," said Zeid, who said his grandparents were Palestinian refugees forced to flee the northern city of Haifa during the war that followed Israel's creation in 1948.

The 13 musicians, aged 11 to 18, belong to Strings of Freedom, a modest orchestra from the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, the scene of a deadly 2002 battle between Palestinian militants and Israeli soldiers.

The event, held at the Holocaust Survivors Center in this tree-lined central Israeli town, was part of Good Deeds Day, an annual event run by an organization connected to billionaire Shari Arison, Israel's richest woman.

The two-hour meeting starkly highlighted how distant Palestinians and Israelis have become after more than eight years of bloody Palestinian militant attacks and deadly Israeli military reprisals.

Most of the Palestinian youths had not seen an Israeli civilian before - only gun-toting soldiers in military uniforms manning checkpoints, conducting arrest raids of wanted Palestinians or during army operations.

"They don't look like us," said Ahed Salameh, 12, who wore a black head scarf woven with silver.

Most of the elderly Israelis wore pants and T-shirts, with women sporting a smear of lipstick.

"Old people look different where we come from," Salameh said.

She said she was shocked to hear about the Nazi genocide against Jews. Ignorance and even denial of the Holocaust is widespread in Palestinian society.

Amnon Beeri of the Abraham Fund, which supports coexistence between Jews and Arabs, said most of the region's residents have no real idea about the other.

The youths said their feisty conductor, Wafa Younis, 50, tried to explain to them who the elderly people were, but chaos on the bus prevented them from listening.

The elderly audience said they assumed Arab children were from a nearby village - not from the refugee camp where 23 Israeli soldiers were killed, alongside 53 Palestinian militants and civilians, in several days of battle in April 2002.

Some 30 elderly survivors gathered in the center's hall as teenage boys and girls filed in 30 minutes late - delayed at an Israeli military checkpoint outside their town, they later explained.

Some of the young women wore Muslim head scarves - but also sunglasses and school ties.

As a host announced in Hebrew that the youths were from the Jenin refugee camp, there were gasps and muttering from the crowd. "Jenin?" one woman asked in jaw-dropped surprise.

Younis, from the Arab village of Ara in Israel, then explained in fluent Hebrew that the youths would sing for peace, prompting the audience to burst into applause.

"Inshallah," said Sarah Glickman, 68, using the Arabic term for God willing.

The encounter began with an Arabic song, "We sing for peace," and was followed by two musical pieces with violins and Arabic drums, as well as an impromptu song in Hebrew by two in the audience.

Glickman, whose family moved to the newly created Jewish state in 1949 after fleeing to Siberia to escape the Nazis, said she had no illusions the encounter would make the children understand the Holocaust. But she said it might make a small difference.

"They think we are strangers, because we came from abroad," Glickman said. "I agree: It's their land, also. But there was no other option for us after the Holocaust."

Later, she tapped her feet in tune as the teenagers played a catchy Mideast drum beat. After the event, some of the elderly Israelis chatted with students and took pictures together.

The encounter was not absent of politics. Younis dedicated a song to an Israeli soldier held captive by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip - and also criticized Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

But she said the main mission of the orchestra, formed seven years ago to help Palestinian children overcome war trauma, was to bring people together.

"I'm here to raise spirits," Younis said. "These are poor, old people."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Yoga, Basketball, and Poetry

I'm crazy about yoga, partly because it's made my basketball game better (my apologies to the true yogis, who would find such thinking counter to the principles. Sorry, guys). Turns out I'm not the only one--our Cleveland Demigod, LeBron James, is also a yoga nut. Any poets out there who are yoga mad?

LeBron's extra edge: Cavaliers star's devotion to yoga training helps keep James healthy
Posted by jturner March 23, 2009 22:11PM

CLEVELAND -- Over the last year, hotel guests in various NBA cities have likely been a little jolted to see the Cavaliers' LeBron James out by the pool in the mornings. Not so much because he's a celebrity, but because he just might be standing on his head.

When James first came into the NBA at the age of 18 he didn't even tape his ankles, sometimes ate McDonald's an hour before tipoff and his main use for ice was cooling beverages.

As he's matured, part out of necessity and part out of pride, he's serious about preparing and maintaining his body for the rigors of an NBA season. That includes a wide range of measures from diet and recovery techniques to the Vajrasana, Virasana and the particularly stunning Salamba Sarvangasana.

They are yoga poses and they are also an essential part of James' routine every week.

"Yoga isn't just about the body, it's also about the mind and it's a technique that has really helped me," James said. "You do have to focus because there's some positions that can really hurt you at times if you aren't focused and breathing right."

From the "thunderbolt pose" to the "hero pose" to even "downward facing dog," James has become a devout believer in the benefits of yoga. He and assistant athletic trainer Mike Mancias have been developing a regimen over the last two years.

James got serious last summer when Mancias was with him for much of the Team USA events in Las Vegas and China. During the season, they carve out time at least once a week and sometimes more for the practice. Often it happens at team hotels on the road and the two prefer to do it outside if possible. The two also do some pilates exercises.

"He tries to focus on things that will help him and that the body needs, especially for balance and to strengthen his core," said Mancias, who is in his fifth year with the Cavs.

Dana Bail/Cavaliers photoIt can be a topsy-turvy world in the NBA, but James has plenty of practice at keeping his balance, regardless of where he finds himself.

"Yoga is an activity that encompasses all that. It's total body and it helps him mentally, too. Flexibility is important to him and we've tried to incorporate all of that into a routine."

Basketball players have been experimenting with yoga for decades. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was perhaps the first high-profile player to embrace it. In recent years, Shaquille O'Neal has used it at times to increase flexibility in his legs. Phil Jackson, who is famous for his alternative techniques, used it as a player to help with back problems and had the Bulls go through a series of yoga classes throughout the 1997-98 championship season.

The theory is that basketball players tend to be strong in certain areas, such as the legs and arms, due to the nature of the game. But all the repetitive motion can build up tension and limit flexibility in some joints and large muscles.

James started getting into the importance of stretching during his third season. Partially inspired by then-teammate Alan Henderson -- who extended his 12-year career by using elastic bands and a large inflatable ball in a stretching routine -- James began to devote himself to making sure he was limber.

At the time he was also bothered by some lower back spasms, which nearly forced him out of a playoff game against the Wizards in 2006. That and a couple of nasty ankle sprains got James focused on doing things to maximize his physical tools. Stretching with bands after practices and games slowly developed into using yoga.

The positions increase flexibility in areas athletes don't always pay attention to but basketball players need. Such as ankles, shoulders and hips. Fans can surely remember times when James appeared to have suffered serious ankle injuries only to shake them off. Some of that may be due to the freakish size of James' joints, but some of it may be from those targeted workouts.

Two weeks ago, for example, he flipped backwards over his neck chasing a loose ball in Phoenix. It looked like he may have hurt himself doing it, but in reality it was sort of like the Salamba Sarvangasana, or shoulder stand, he'd worked on a day before.

"It is something that really can help your balance," James said. "I had some lower back problems a few years ago and once I started to do the yoga, it has helped them go away for now. Of course we can stretch but stretching only goes so far."

It's part of a package James now employs. He gets massages on most game days, gets his ankles heavily taped and wears a padded vest under his jersey to protect his ribs, and ices his feet and lower back after every game and contact workout. It includes an overall better series of eating habits and weight training, which James is now more devoted to than ever.

"People don't see everything that he does, he's focused on doing everything for his body that will help him succeed," Mancias said. "The proof is what he's been showing on the court."

Recently James held a special event for some students from Holy Cross Elementary in Euclid at the Cleveland Clinic Courts to promote yoga and its benefits. At first he seemed a little shy in talking about yoga; brute athletes in the past have not always been lauded for work with such finesse arts.

But as James has experienced the benefits, he's become an advocate of yoga, pilates and massage therapy that he does with the Cavs and their support staff.

"I've been blessed with a lot of physical talent and a strong body," James said. "I have focused on working hard to maximize those gifts."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Come Together reading and fundraiser for the Peace Show tonight!

Join us for a coffeehouse
book release party, reading, food & fundraiser
the annual festival alternative to the Air Show

featuring Bree, John Burroughs (Jesus Crisis), Alice Cone, Daja Crawford, Michael Fiala, Sarah Gridley, Stephen Haven, Jennifer Karmin, Jack McGuane, Ray McNiece, Philip Metres, Robert Miltner, Michael Salinger, Leonard Shelton, Ann Smith, Larry Smith, Andrew Summerson, Joanna Trecziak, & more!

at The Lit: 2570 Superior Ave, Suite 203,Cleveland
Friday, March 20th, 7-10 pm

Free & open to the public
Donations welcome ($20 includes signed poetry anthology!)

Contact Philip Metres at 397-4528 or pmetres@jcu.edu

Thursday, March 19, 2009

David Bromwich's "Thoughts on the Death of Rachel Corrie"

"Thoughts on the Death of Rachel Corrie" by David Bromwich (Huffington Post, March 19,2009)

Today is the sixth anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie. On March 16, 2003, in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, she was run over by an armor-plated Caterpillar bulldozer, a machine sold by the U.S. to Israel, the armor put in place for the purpose of knocking down homes without damage to the machine. Rachel Corrie was 23 years old, from Olympia; a sane, articulate, and dedicated American who had studied with care the methods of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. At the time that she was run over, and then backed over again, she was wearing a fluorescent orange jacket and holding a megaphone. There is a photograph of her talking to the soldier of the Israel Defense Forces, in the cabin of his bulldozer, not long before he did it. None of the eyewitnesses believed that the killing was accidental. Perhaps the soldier was tired of the peace workers; it was that kind of day. Perhaps, in some part of himself, he guessed that he was living at the beginning of a period of impunity.

The Israeli government never produced the investigation it promised into the death of Rachel Corrie (as her parents indicate in a statement published today). The inquiry urged by her congressional representative, Adam Smith, brought no result from the American state department under Condoleezza Rice. Her story was lost for a while in the grand narrative of the American launching of the war against Iraq. Thoroughly lost, and for a reason. The rules of engagement America employed in Iraq were taught to our soldiers, as Dexter Filkins revealed, by officers of the IDF; the U.S. owed a debt to Israel for knowledge of the methods of destruction; and we were using the same Caterpillar machines against Iraqi homes. An inquiry into the killing of Rachel Corrie was hardly likely, given the burden of that debt and that association.

Less than a month later, on April 5, 2003, the American peace worker Brian Avery was shot in the face and seriously disfigured by IDF soldiers in Jenin. The group he was with were wearing red reflector vests with the word "doctor" written in English and Arabic. As Avery later described it, they "weren't two blocks from our apartment when an Israeli convoy of two vehicles, a tank and an armored personnel carrier, drove up the street from the direction that we were walking from. And so as we heard them coming closer, we stepped off to the side of the road to let them pass by....We stood to the side of the road, we put our hands out to show we didn't have any weapons and weren't, you know, threatening them in any way....And once they drove within about 30 meters of where we were standing, they opened fire with their machine guns and continued shooting for a very long time, probably shooting about, you know, 30 rounds of ammunition, which is quite a lot when you see them in action. And I was struck in the face with one of the bullets."

Three days ago another American peace worker, Tristan Anderson, who was protesting the new security fence in the West Bank town of Ni'lin, was shot by another Israeli soldier. It now appears that Tristan Anderson will live; if so, it will be the life that follows having a portion of his right frontal lobe cut out, and a major trauma to the bone surrounding his right eye. The hole in his face was blasted by a tear-gas canister that struck him face-on. The canister was fired into the crowd by an IDF soldier from an emplacement high above. There had been sporadic rock-throwing earlier, but at the time of the incident, as more than one witness attests, the crowd was doing nothing; the canister could not have been fired in self-defense. But whether by reckless whim or premeditation, it came from a soldier in the knowledge that it does not greatly matter now if you kill a Palestinian or the occasional European or American who was working to defend the Palestinians. IDF soldiers who commit arbitrary acts of violence enjoy a presumption of innocence that approaches official immunity granted by the state. Where all of the violence performed by the state is justified by self-defense, everything is permitted.

What drives these Americans to risk their lives against Israeli soldiers on behalf of a subject people half the world away? The answer is a passion for justice, and a commitment to civil rights. Why should any of this be of interest to Americans? For a general reason and a particular one. The general: this is a passion and a commitment that we Americans at our best have been supposed to share; it is the largest single reason we have received the admiration of other people around the world. The particular reason is as obvious but more immediate. Barack Obama, our first black president, and a man who has identified himself as a beneficiary and successor of the tradition of Martin Luther King, has promised $30 billion of military aid to Israel over the next ten years -- with no conditions, no budget-items specified, no limitations spoken of. Barack Obama is known to be a moderate politician, and so we may deduce that the moderate plan, with Israel, is to keep increasing the leviathan-bulk of the American subsidy and not to ask questions.

We ought to know a good deal about a country to which we give such large continuous donations. But Americans who care for public discussion of this subject are obliged to conduct it ourselves, since, if recent history is a guide, we will get no help from the leading American newspapers. Even the appointment today of Avigdor Lieberman, an avowed racist and a believer in the feasibility of the expulsion of all Palestinians, as foreign minister in the new Israeli government under Binyamin Netanyahu -- even this predicted and extraordinary news is not likely to provoke the New York Times or the Washington Post to report with honesty who this Lieberman is, and what he signifies. Nor will the Obama administration do it. They will be as hesitant and mixed and occasionally contradictory in their signals on Israel as they have been on many other subjects; more so, because in this case an organized body of censors and guardians attends to the reputation and support of Israel in the U.S. Let us nonetheless open the discussion by admitting that the Israel we think we know is the Israel of books written sixty and forty years ago, and of movies made from those books.

It is a different Israel one comes to know in a recent book, Lords of the Land, by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar.

The authors of Lords of the Land are both Israelis, a scrupulous historian and a respected journalist, and the book, scarcely noticed in the U.S., was the center of a controversy when it first appeared in Israel in 2005. It deals with the settlements, or colonies, in the West Bank. One discovers in Lords of the Land that the IDF, which assists in the illegal administration of those occupied lands, has in fact changed enormously in recent years. Its new moral complexion, witnessed with astonishment by the world in the recent assault on Gaza, is a consequence of the presence of settlers in the army and of political allies of the settlers in the army's high command. The restraint for which the IDF was once admired has dissipated under a regime in which orthodox rabbis, hungry for the re-possession of a land they believe was theirs from eternity, are able to override officers and to tell individual soldiers by no means to miss a chance to kill anyone who blocks the way to an expanded Israel.

So enthralled are some minds in the grip of this religious state discipline that they refer to the 1967 borders of Israel -- the boundaries to which a secular government must largely return if there is to be a two-state settlement -- as the "Auschwitz borders." This mad slogan has been taken up by American admirers of the settlements, keen to be known as victims even when they serve as executioners. Stripped of the savage hyperbole, the sense of that statement is merely that these people want to hold onto the Israeli colonies on the West Bank at all costs. They are defending the confiscation of Palestinian lands and the gradual expulsion and transfer of the Palestinian people.

No person fearful of being a victim can be rewarded with special rights or special powers. If we -- Americans, Israelis, everyone -- want to deserve our freedom, we must agree to live in a moral world where people are responsible for themselves. And just as we cannot be punished for the things that our parents did, so the crimes we commit can never be justified by the things our parents suffered.

This is a moment to study the life and death of Rachel Corrie. She left letters of great interest which show her to have been a kind of young American that many of us have known and admired. Thoughtless protectors of the status quo will say that this is Israel's cause after all; that we have no right to ask questions, as Rachel Corrie did; that Israel, like the U.S., is a democracy under siege. This will not do. The U.S. and Israel are not helpless "survivor" countries, trying to work off the trauma of recent victimhood. We are vastly powerful modern states, both of which dominate our regions, and one of which could dream of dominating the world in the year 2000. Both have recently engaged, under the eyes of the world, in exorbitant, brutal, and unjustifiable wars that have tarnished our fame. In both countries, there is no sign of the militarism ending.

Yet in both countries -- though the U.S. lacks a newspaper even close to being as serious and candid as Haaretz -- there is a citizenry capable of being educated and roused to punctual action in its own long-term interest. The truth about this has never altered. The commandment governing the long-term good of a country is the same as that for an individual -- in the dry and accurate words of Thomas Hobbes, "Seek peace." And in memory of Rachel Corrie, let us say also: the addiction to war and indefinite expansion is no longer an Israeli problem. How did we ever dare to suppose that it was? When Americans are shot by a gun or mauled by a bulldozer, it is as much an American problem as when James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were beaten, shot, and burned, and their bodies left in a swamp, in Neshoba County, Mississippi, on June 21, 1964.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Latest from Amira Hass

The recent article by Israeli journalist Amira Hass, known for her knowledge of Arabic language and intrepid muckraking reporting. If journalists could be called "prophets" in the traditional sense--those passionate excoriators of moral lassitude and protestors of spiritual indifference--I'd say Hass qualifies.

Last update - 02:50 17/03/2009

The writing on the wall
By Amira Hass

We came to annihilate you; Death to the Arabs; Kahane was right; No tolerance, we came to liquidate. This is a selection of graffiti Israeli soldiers left on the walls of Palestinians' homes in Gaza, which they turned into bivouacs and firing positions during Operation Cast Lead. Here and there, a soldier scribbled a line of mock poetry or biblical quote in the same sentiment. There were also curses on the Prophet Mohammed and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, along with shift schedules and favorite soccer teams.

When the homes' owners returned, they usually found widespread devastation - whether from the first shells the Israel Defense Forces fired to chase away the inhabitants, or from break-ins and the destruction of furniture, clothing, walls, computers and appliances. Frequently the breached homes remained standing in a neighborhood whose other houses were turned into rubble by bulldozers. The residents also found the trash the soldiers left behind.

In Israel, research institutes count every abusive slogan scrawled on Jewish cemeteries abroad and document every problematic article, to monitor the upsurge in anti-Semitism. The media attributes importance to every piece of graffiti against assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. But the everyday racism - both institutionalized and popular, declarative and practical - against the Arabs of Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank are usually cautiously and frugally covered.

No wonder the Hebrew graffiti, whose writers were also destructive, on walls in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods were not picked up by Israeli antennae, always so sensitive to racism against Jews.

The military spokespeople could dismiss the reports and testimony of the killing of many civilians at short or long range as fabricated or manipulative, or could answer generally that the terrorists were responsible because they were hiding nearby. Israeli society, from whose view Cast Lead has been buried in a closed archive, is always ready for any trick to explain how righteous and morally superior its army is.

But the photographic evidence of the Hebrew graffiti is hard to deny or call fabricated; all the more so when it appears alongside the names of army units and individual soldiers. Indeed, the military spokesman said the graffiti contravenes the values of the IDF, and the IDF views it gravely.

Not all the soldiers wrote graffiti, but the comrades and commanders of those who did neither stopped them nor erased what they scrawled. So this is where we can praise the soldiers' sincerity and integrity. They felt free to write what they did because they - like the pilots and operators of the missile-bearing drones - knew they had received from their government and commanders a free hand to attack a civilian population. Why then should there be a problem with the words they chose? What they wrote on the walls reflects their understanding of the spirit of their mission.

Unlike the older commanders, who are permitted to speak to certain journalists acceptable to the army, and who recite carefully what the IDF's legal advisers and the State Prosecutor's Office tell them to say, the writers of the graffiti - soldiers in the regular army who grew up with the occupation and Israel's military superiority - have not yet understood that the world makes more than weapons. It also makes laws, rules and human norms.

Their commanders permitted them to contravene norms they are obviously unaware of. Unlike those who formulate the IDF Spokesman's responses, the young, unsophisticated soldiers are inexperienced at covering up the army's actions and its mission, their mission, with words that blur the truth.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lauren Rusk's "The People Who Pass By"/from the Come Together: Imagine Peace series

This is a poem from Come Together: Imagine Peace.

Oxford, 2003

They flow around us, our vigil a stone
in their stream, where High and Cornmarket
meet under an ancient clock.

One by one, we mostly can’t be heard
protesting the first day of war
against Iraq. It’s six PM, the light

lasting longer. Speakers’ heads like horses’
shy away from the microphone.
I lean in to hear them say, we must

not kill. Students in turbans, gauze
tunics wafting, lean in too,
as each quarter hour drowns

a voice. Mechanical soldiers, Romans
freshly painted, hammer out the time.
And teenagers crouch on a doorstep, strumming

as if this were a festival. The river of people
surges on, accustomed to vigils, guitars,
mallets, and bells. What are they all doing

that’s so important? Eating a bap.
Swinging a bag of fuchsia tissue paper
from the Oasis, some boutique.

Pulling a trolley of odds and ends,
perhaps to give the Oxfam shop. Or there,
leaning against the wall of that bakery,

breathing in. Shifting a headscarf, to cover
an errant tendril, or tilting a daughter’s
pram up and over the curb;

apologizing, laughing, getting along;
quenching, lifting us, tumbling our edges,
the source, the wellspring, our unvoiced song.

Poet's Comment
When we were in Oxford during the spring of 2003, I and my husband joined the great march in London of people hoping to forestall war against Iraq. There actually seemed to be hope--as we rounded a corner and saw nothing but a vast sea of protestors stretching out in either direction--that Prime Minister Blair would be moved, and that if he backed out, President Bush could no longer pretend to have a coalition. Sadly, they both ignored the will of people in cities all over the world. My poem “The People Who Pass By” takes place thereafter, at a vigil in Oxford, when the bombing was just beginning.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Two Upcoming Films on Israel/Palestine for the Cleveland Film Festival

Lemon Tree (ISRAEL)
Foreign Title: Shajarat limon/Etz halimon

Director(s): Eran Riklis Runtime: 106 minutes

Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass shines in this tale that puts a human face on Israeli-Palestinian politics. Salma, a Palestinian widow who has been peacefully tending her lemon trees for years, suddenly risks losing them when a new neighbor moves in next door. It seems her trees are located on the green-line border between Israel and the West Bank, and her new neighbor is the Israeli minister of defense, who feels nervous at the thought of potential security hazards lurking in the groves. As she faces eviction and the removal of her beloved trees, Salma becomes outraged, challenging the security order in court. With the help of an unlikely ally in the minister’s wife, she takes her fight all the way to the High Court of Justice. Eras Riklis, whose 2004 film "The Syrian Bride" was an equally nuanced international hit, says of his film, “I think people want to go beyond the news headlines and see into the psyche of the people… We tried to make a film showing the point of view from the humans on both sides.” LEMON TREE is an optimistic film about justice and passion. (In Arabic, Hebrew and English with subtitles) – B.B.

Category Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Film Competition, JCC Jewish and Israeli Visions, Women Of The World
Producer Eran Riklis
Screenplay Suha Arraf, Eran Riklis
Cinematography Rainer Klausmann
Editing Tova Asher
Music Habib Shadah
Principal Cast Hiam Abbass, Doron Tavory, Ali Suliman, Rona Lipaz-Michael, Tarik Kopty, Amos Lavi, Amnon Wolf, Smadar Jaaron, Danny Leshman, Hili Yalon
Director Bio Eran Riklis was born in Jerusalem, and grew up in Canada, the USA, and Brazil. After graduating from Beaconsfield National Film School in England, he made his first film in 1984. He has directed shorts, commercials, and TV series. He lives in Tel Aviv but regards himself as a world director.
Select Filmography "On a Clear Day You Can See Damascus" (1984), "Cup Final" (1991), "Zohar" (1993), "Borders" (1999), "Volcano Junction" (1999), "Temptation" (2002), "The Syrian Bride" (2004), LEMON TREE (2008)
Trailer www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIoowHIpUT0
Print Source IFC Films

Ticket Information
Sunday, March 29 at 4:35 pm - LEMN29

Strangers (ISRAEL)
Foreign Title: Zarim

Director(s): Erez Tadmor, Guy Nattiv Runtime: 85 minutes

Do you believe in fate? Eyal and Rana were never supposed to have met. While visiting in Berlin, the two STRANGERS get their identical bags switched by mistake. This accident causes them to get to know each other and spend the rest of their vacation together. They become infatuated with one another and fall in love. Sounds perfect, right? Wrong. Eyal is Israeli, Rana is Palestinian living in Paris, and the Israel-Lebanon war is getting worse every day. As they learn to deal with their different backgrounds, Rana gets a call regarding a family emergency, forcing her to leave Berlin early and return home to Paris. Before she leaves, she tells Eyal not to contact her in any way. Ignoring her request, Eyal goes to France to find his true love. It is here that he comes to Rana’s rescue in a desperate time of need. In the end, he must make a choice that will affect both of their futures. Can these two star-crossed lovers fight off the rest of the world in order to be together? (In French, Hebrew, and Arabic with English subtitles)—L.W.

Category Continental Airlines World Tour, JCC Jewish and Israeli Visions
Producer Chilik Michaeli, Tami Leon, Avraham Pirchi
Screenplay Erez Tadmor, Guy Nattiv
Cinematography Ram Shweky
Editing Yuval Orr
Music Eyal Katzav
Principal Cast Liron Levo, Lubna Azabal, Anja Naomi Decke, Dominique Lollia, Patrick Albenque, Abdallah El Akal, Clemence Thioly, Stephane Pouillot, Mila Dekker
Director Bio Erez Tadmor graduated from the Department of Film and Television at the Camera Obscura of Art in Tel Aviv in 1999. Guy Nattiv graduated from the same school as Tadmor in 2000. He has made several commercials for international companies.
Select Filmography Erez Tadmor: “All is Well by Me” (2005), STRANGERS (2008); Guy Nattiv: STRANGERS (2008)
Trailer www.strangers.co.il/
Print Source IFC Films

Ticket Information
Tuesday, March 24 at 4:30 pm
Wednesday, March 25 at 9:45 pm

Heights Arts Podcast with Mary Weems (thanks to John Panza)

Here it is, the Heights Arts Podcast, thanks to Mary Weems and John Panza.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Skyping "Poetry & Politics"

Susan Schultz invited me to participate as a guest via Skype for her "Poetry and Politics" course, being taught at University of Hawai'i (Manoa). Thanks to Susan and the class (Eleanor, Liz, Nicole, Marina--[ed. note...along with Tinfish art designer Lian]), for your questions.

This was the blog posting in preparation for the class:
Hey Poetry & Politics People,

Thanks to Susan [Schultz} for inviting me, and for your reading, and in advance of our bizarre cyber-encounter later on....some answers to the questions:

--Please tell a bit about the origins of your blog and its particular mission, especially vis-a-vis the Middle East conflict(s).

This is the note from my website, which lays out the basic impetus behind beginning a blog. I entered blogging a few years after the most formative moments, in the mid 2000s, when a poetry blogger such as Ron Silliman could move from cult poet status to a kind of celebrity poetry pundit.

"I've entered the blogosphere, at http://www.behindthelinespoetry.blogspot.com. On the blog, I'm working to extend the arguments I've made in Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since 1941 (2008)--but in an approachable daily prose format. 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); youtubed performances of music, demos, and other audio-video nuggets dealing with peaceful change, dissent and resistance."

Essentially, I wanted to reach out past the academic and scholarly audience of my critical book project, investigating the interactions betweeen poets and the peace movement in the U.S. since World War II. It struck me as a limitation (profound failure?) that, after ten years of thinking about, reading, and working on Behind the Lines, only a few hundred people would actually buy and read it. Although I've had some gratifying encounters with young grad students who found it formative--one of them recently told me that they were thrilled to get a copy for Christmas(!)--it did not seem to reach the audience of peace movement people and poets that I imagined I was addressing. The blog was a democratic form in which I could not only reiterate some of the arguments of the book through recent developments, but also extend, complicate, and begin another one. Perhaps this "book," composed over daily doses, will be one that finally reaches people. I don't get a ton of readers--maybe averaging 130-150 readers per day--but that's a heck of a lot more than my sweated-over tome.

About the Middle East. Though Behind the Lines (the book version) focused on the American peace movement, and the U.S. involvement in wars abroad (principally, WWII, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and a bit on the War on Terror), I began to turn my focus even more intensively on the Middle East--Iraq and Israel/Palestine. The reasons for each should be pretty obvious: 2003 and 2006/2008 conflicts. The Israel/Palestine focus emerges from the tension for me, as a person and activist and artist, between my focus on human rights/justice issues and my desire for peace. Which is to say, most plainly, having undergone many many years of studying the conflict, engaging in activism, and now teaching Israeli and Palestinian literatures, I have come to see part of my being to contribute to ending this ugly conflict.

I teach the course in a way different from the stuff that I post on my blog; I would argue that my course enables students to understand the dual and duelling national narratives that fuel the conflict, and also explore how the literature provides a human face not only to the nations in conflict, but also to the "other side." (You would be shocked to discover, for example, that Aharon Shabtai, the Israeli dissident poet whom Leonard Schwartz reviews, is in fact Israeli. One of the final exam questions in my class tends to have a quote from his work, and it's a test case for students to be able to see that he's Israeli, even though he protests for the dignity of Palestinians.)

--What do you see as the role of poetry in these and other conflicts?

Poetry, like other arts, can be both a medium and a message, simultaneously a site of listening to the world and a way of articulating a certain way of being in the world.

I suppose I've begun answering the question in my previous answer. Literature, a poem, as Seamus Heaney has said, "has never stopped a tank." True enough, but lots of shit can't stop tanks. The point is: in poetry, in literature, are places where it might be possible to envision coexistence, or the means to document it in all its fugitive glory. For example, this orchestra, the collaboration of an Israeli and a Palestinian, cannot stop the conflict, the terror, the bombs, but it brings these kids together to make music. That's a beautiful thing.

--How can poets reach audiences other than what both Mark Nowak and Harvey Hix referred to as "the poetry world"?

Poetry is on the verge of a poetic collapse, speculating on itself and its values. I'm most interested in poets and poetries that constantly gyre outward, outside of the comfort zones of the maniacs of Wallace Stevens and hermeticism. I love Stevens, but I wouldn't want to live only in his (peopleless) world.

I recently reviewed a couple books: 1) Peter Cole's Things On Which I've Stumbled, a book of poems by the translator of both Israeli and Palestinian poetry. That's the kind of work that midwives a better world--and his poems have this lovely humility about them; and 2) Jules Boykoff and Kaia Sand's Landscapes of Dissent, which explores "guerrilla poetry"; last year, I did a piece called "Lang/scapes: Further Explorations on War Resistance Poetry in Public Spaces," and ended up as a kind of secret co-conspirator with Jules and Kaia on trying to valorize poetic language and acts that bring poetry to the public sphere. There's a mysterious figure known as the Sidewalk Blogger, about whom we've all written and whose work you should check out.... I know that you'll be talking to Kaia and Jules next week, so give them a shout-out from me. I love what they've done with that book, and want to hear how your projects go. Document the heck out of them--we should be seeing pics and youtube videos that show the process and product and reception.

Mark Nowak and I have become fast friends; he's one of the poets who opened a world for me, and made me feel as if I weren't utterly alone in my poetic obsessions.

--Is poetry itself a form of activism, or ought poetry try to instigate activism? Tell us a bit about your own poetry and work in translation.

In a way, it is a form of activism. In another way, it should NOT replace action. I know Leonard [Schwartz] wrote that he takes Duncan's side of the Duncan/Levertov spat, and I guess I'm a Levertov person. Not because her war poems are great--actually, they both kind of soiled themselves in the war in different ways--but because she could not NOT write those poems, and also supported actively the resistance against the Vietnam War in ways that very few did (maybe Bly, Rich, Ginsberg, Stafford). And, most importantly, she came to make small strides to articulating a poetry of peace, which is the motivating impulse behind a recent anthology that I co-edited, called Come Together: Imagine Peace (2008).

My own work is really still emerging. My first full-length poetry book, To See the Earth (2008), and my two books of translation, all are simply what all books of poems are--my attempts to articulate, dramatize, and bring into the light of language the complex ways that we come to be who we are and where we are. It's fairly autobiographical, with sections devoted to living in Russia, to my own ethnic heritage (Arab-American), to living in a time of war and becoming a dad.

The new projects include "Sand Opera" (and here's where Nowak has been a support)--a full length documentary poem based on the language of Standard Operation Procedure manuals from Gitmo prison and the testimony of Abu Ghraib torture victims, among other things. The project used to be called "ur" and I've written and talked about it elsewhere, in a recent issue of PMLA under the title "Remaking/Unmaking: Abu Ghraib and Poetry" (2008).

In the meantime, I'm loving life, writing poems, teaching poems, being with my wife and two daughters. My free time to talk tonight is sponsored by my mom, who's in town from Chicago. So instead of my falling asleep in my daughter's bed (as I've come to do), it will be my mom. I'll be talking to you, half-dreaming of sleep and half-dreaming of Hawai'i.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mahmoud Darwish and the Reproduction of Poetry/Two Articles

The following are two articles that demonstrate the reverberating legacy of Mahmoud Darwish, and how his poetry has come to take its place not only in the thoughts and voices of Palestinians, but also in handmade sculptures and on walls.

In the first article, a reminiscence by Naomi Shihab Nye, she recalls her relationship to his work. She recounts the incident in which a poem of his held by a child is misidentified as the child's. In Darwish's words, when he heard that a poem of his was attributed to a child, "Don't correct it," he said. "It is the goal of my life to write poems that are claimed by children."

In the second piece, artist Josh Berer writes about using a Darwish poem as graffiti on the separation wall built by Israel. We sense from these stories not only his power as a writer, but the restlessness induced by such writing, that it makes its readers want to make, want to enter those words back into their worlds. Isn't that what great writing does?

The first article is reprinted from the following source, in "Rethinking Schools"

Remembering Mahmoud Darwish
Winter 2008/2009

Photo: Michael Nye
A Palestinian refugee and her poem.By Naomi Shihab Nye

When I included the poem "The Prison Cell" in my first anthology of poems for young readers, This Same Sky (Four Winds Press, Macmillan, 1992), I had not yet met the poet Mahmoud Darwish, but had been reading his poems in English translation since I was a teenager. It would surprise me, in years following the appearance of my first anthology, how many U.S. teachers (in high schools particularly, but also middle schools) would ask me to read this particular poem out loud during my presentations. Somehow, Darwish's simple, strong poem "The Prison Cell" had the power to encourage people to sit up straighter, take note — and discuss or contemplate issues of injustice, as they recognized them. Latino students in Santa Fe, for instance, seemed profoundly moved by the poem and the possibilities of reclamation and enduring power it suggests.

Darwish, beloved as the beacon-voice of Palestinians scattered around the globe, had an uncanny ability to create unforgettable, richly descriptive poems, songs of homesick longing which resonate with displaced people everywhere.

It would have stunned me to imagine that I would stand next to him on stage, along with the poet Carolyn Forche, reading his poems in English after he read them in Arabic at an event some years ago at Swarthmore College, when he received the Cultural Freedom Award given by the Lannan Foundation. He spoke English well enough to have read his own translations, but did not want to.

It would have stunned me even more that he would die prematurely in August of 2008, at the age of 67, after heart surgery, in a Houston hospital in my own adopted state. I had awakened the day he was put on life support, feeling intensely that someone very precious was getting ready to pass out of the world. I nervously mentioned this to my husband a full day before we learned it was true. Perhaps someone very precious is getting ready to pass out of this world every minute.

Now we are left to encourage one another to read Darwish, and to believe in the quest for justice, which he, and so many other homesick Palestinians, never abandoned.

A little Darwish tale worth telling: My husband, photographer Michael Nye, once photographed in a West Bank Palestinian refugee camp for days, and was followed around by a little girl who wanted him to photograph her. Finally, he did — and she held up a stone with a poem etched into it. (This picture appears on the cover of my collection of poems, 19 Varieties of Gazelle — Poems of the Middle East.) Through a translator, Michael understood that the poem was "her poem" — that's what she called it. We urged my dad to translate the verse, which sounded vaguely familiar, but without checking roundly enough, we quoted the translation on the book flap and said she had written the verse. Quickly, angry scholars wrote to me pointing out that the verse was from a famous Darwish poem. I felt terrible.

I was meeting him for the first and last time the next week. Handing over the copy of the book sheepishly, I said, "Please forgive our mistake. If this book ever gets reprinted, I promise we will give the proper credit for the verse." He stared closely at the picture. Tears ran down his cheeks. "Don't correct it," he said. "It is the goal of my life to write poems that are claimed by children."

Palestinian-American Naomi Shihab Nye grew up in Ramallah (then in Jordan), the Old City of Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Tex. She is the author of numerous books of poetry. In 1988 she received The Academy of American Poets' Lavan Award, selected by W. S. Merwin. She lives in San Antonio.

Winter 2008/2009

This second piece is from the blog "Nomad Out of Time," written by Josh Berer:

Mahmoud Darwish and the Barrier
About a week ago Rachael and I went back to the Qalandia checkpoint, the checkpoint separating Jerusalem and Ramallah. The Palestinian side of the barrier is covered with graffiti as far as one can see, and so we thought we’d add something to it. Most of the graffiti is the most cliche, boring crap you would expect: “This wall will fall!” “Frei Palestina!” “Miener Schlieben Mit Gevünktenlinmustrassers Berlin!” and so on. I wanted to put something up that had no relationship to the wall, the situation, occupation, Berlin, South Africa or anything else. I chose a piece of poetry by Mahmoud Darwish (which was the most political aspect of the whole project, given he’s the Palestinian poet laureate) and some stencils for a background. I also chose not to put an English translation anywhere. The poem I chose reads:

القصيدة تبعد عني,

وتدخل ميناء بحارة يعشقون النبيذ

ولا يرجعون إلى امرأة مرتين,

ولا يحملون حنينا إلى أي شيء

ولا شجنا

محمود درويش

“The poem drifts away from me
It enters a port of sailors who love wine,
And never return to the same woman twice,
And feel nostalgia for nothing,
Nor sorrow, either.”

At the blog piece, you'll find his pictures of making this graffiti; here's the final product:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tres Verse Celebration of Poetry: Mark Your Calendars, People

Friday Night, May 8 6 pm (++Free)

Travis Catsull & Dirk Michener of the Charles Potts Magic Windmill Band will perform at The Barking Spider Tavern located on CWRU campus, 11310 Juniper Rd., Cleveland with the poets Ben Gulyas, Jim Lang, Wesley Eisold, Valerie Webber, George Wallace, Charles Potts, Bree, Maj Ragain, Tm Gottl, Eric Paul & Adam Brodsky


Saturday Afternoon, May 9 1 pm (++Free)

Gathering at the Daniel Thompson Memorial Plaque (outside the Lincoln Inn, 75 Public Square, Cleveland)/followed by TBA: readers will include Alex Gildzen, Jack McGuane, Jeremy gaulke, Eric Paul, Jim lang, Kisha foster, Valerie webber.


Saturday Night, May 9 7 pm (++7 dollar admittance, includes Goodie Bag)

Ray McNeice and Tongue in Groove will play, plus poets Alex Gildzen, Angela Jaeger, Byron Coley, Charles Potts, George Wallace, Jesus Crisis, Emma Young, Mary Weems, Michael Henson, Russ Vidrick, Wesley Eisold & Bree will read at The Lit in the ArtCraft Building 2570 Superior Avenue Suite 203, Cleveland 216.694.0000


Sunday Afternoon, May 10 3pm (++Free)

Musician Adam Perry will perform his poems followed by Alex Gildzen, Angela Jaeger, Bree, Michael Salinger, Ben Gulyas, George Wallace, Eric Paul, Phil Metres & Wendy Shaffer at the Coventry Library, at Coventry Rd. & Euclid Hts. Blvd., Cleveland Heights, followed by a dinner break on Coventry Road.


Sunday Evening, May 10 6pm (++Free & Open)

An Open, Round-Robin Style, Read From Where You Sit Soiree Will Take Place At Mac’s Backs~Books On Coventry, At 1820 Coventry Rd., In Cleveland Heights. All Are Invited To Read, As Local Poets Meet Tres Versers.

David Baptiste Chirot's "Death from this Window"

This is a piece by David Baptiste Chirot called "Death from this Window," part of a series meditating on Guantanamo and Baghram--detention centers in the Terror Wars. Baghram is known as a "black site," which is to say, a prison that is (or has been) top secret and not acknowledged by the U.S. government. I've been working on a series of poems, now called Sand Opera, which includes testimony of prisoners, documentary texts from government reports and prison manuals, and testimonies from U.S. soldiers that dramatize, document, and illuminate these "black sites"--they are doors which we want not, but must, to open. For an early version of these poems, called "ur", listen here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

New Absinthe

I'm digging the new issue of Absinthe: New European Writing, the brain child of Dwayne Hayes. Not only is it slaking my thirst for contemporary European literature in translation, but also for heretical icons. Ever since traveling to Russia, I have been entranced by icons, those windows into the other world. There is an image of the Trinity that, according to one of my students who is studying for the priesthood, is heretical for its depiction of God the Father. Wait until you see this thing. It'll make your head spin. Go to their website for more information.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

"I'm Mad as Hell..."; Dear Mass Media, Thanks for Nothing (That's In My 401K)

It's Complicated, But Not That Complicated/Rigatoni is Not a Dual Use Weapon

What is the U.S. doing to enable that the siege of Gaza ends? It's complicated, but not that complicated. Why not write to the Secretary of State to tell her how you feel about it?

Robert Wood

Acting Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing

February 25, 2009
QUESTION: A new topic? On Gaza, there have been some reports that the United States is quite displeased with the Israeli government about the amount of goods that the Israeli government is allowing into Gaza. For instance, they’re making such restrictions on dual use that is kind of arbitrary and not necessarily in line with what the humanitarian needs are in Gaza. Can you say what, at this point, the State Department assessment of the amount of aid that’s going into Gaza right now?

MR. WOOD: I’m not prepared here to give you an assessment of the type of aid that’s going in, but we have --

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the level of aid?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, the situation on the ground there, as you know, is very complicated. And what we have been trying to do is ensure that, you know, humanitarian assistance gets to the people of Gaza. We will continue to try to do that, but as I said, it’s complicated. And we have had discussions with the Israelis about the situation. Other countries have, as well. And we’ll continue to push to get as much in the way of humanitarian supplies into Gaza as we can. It’s the best assessment I can give you.

QUESTION: Well, just one example that is (inaudible) on the press that the Israelis are not letting pasta into Gaza, only rice, because that’s a humanitarian – because that’s only on their humanitarian things. Do think that all food and medicine should be allowed into Gaza right now?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, there are a number of players on the ground trying to deal with the humanitarian situation. I, from the podium here, can’t tell you whether, you know, pasta should fall into a specific category – into that category of humanitarian assistance or not. But what we’re trying to do is to make sure that the supplies that –

QUESTION: Well, apparently, U.S. officials have been complaining about this particular example. So, I mean, I’m just saying, like, shouldn’t all food and medicine be allowed into Gaza at this point? I mean, is that really a -- even a question about dual use?

MR. WOOD: What we want to see get into Gaza are humanitarian supplies that, you know -- that the Gazan -- the people of Gaza need. I can’t give you an assessment of, you know, whether all of these things are absolutely necessary to meet the humanitarian needs of the Gazan people. That’s better left to those international organizations and NGOs, you know, who are in the area trying to work on this issue. I just can’t make that kind of determination.

QUESTION: Do you think that Israel should be tying the amount of aid and supplies getting into Gaza to the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit? Because as you know, the -- some people in Israeli Prime Minister Olmert’s staff have complained that this – that aid is being used as a political tool.

MR. WOOD: Well, it’s not for me, from the podium here, to engage in these types of -- on these issues. I mean, this is --

QUESTION: Well, should aid -- you don’t -- you can’t say whether you think aid should be used as a political weapon?

MR. WOOD: Well, aid should never be used a political weapon. But again, I’m not engaged in those discussions that are going on with regard to, you know, the opening of the borders and with regard to the ceasefire. Those are decisions that will have to be made at an appropriate time. I’m not able to do that from here.

QUESTION: Well, but I mean, do you think that the ceasefire is being honored? I mean, obviously, there have been complaints that Hamas is not honoring the ceasefire. But is Israel honoring the ceasefire in terms of allowing the aid and – under their obligations? Are they meeting their obligations?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not able to give you that kind of assessment from here. But my understanding is, is that there are discussions going on amongst a wide variety of parties with equities with regard to this conflict, and they are trying to bring about, you know, a durable ceasefire. They’re trying to make sure that the, you know, humanitarian supplies reach those who need them in Gaza. I just can’t give you that kind of assessment at this point. It’s a very complex situation on the ground, and that’s something we have to be aware of.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: No, go ahead.

MR. WOOD: No, I was just going to say – and you have to understand that because it’s complex and there are a number of parties working on it, that you’re not going to get – necessarily get immediate results. But we’re going to continue to push, as I said, to get humanitarian supplies in to the people of Gaza.

QUESTION: But can you imagine any circumstance under which pasta could be considered a dual-use item? Or is there some -- you know, is rigatoni somehow going to be used as a weapon? (Laughter.)

MR. WOOD: I’m not involved in those discussions, so I –

QUESTION: Well, I mean -- I mean, it just seems to be absurd on the face of it, if that’s what happening.

MR. WOOD: Well, there are people on the ground who are dealing with these issues. And I think we should leave it --

QUESTION: Dealing with the pasta dual-use issue?

QUESTION: Yeah, can you take a question on the pasta, please?

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to take the question on the pasta --


MR. WOOD: -- because it’s –

QUESTION: Well, the United States is obviously pushing it, so obviously it’s something --

MR. WOOD: We’re trying to get humanitarian supplies in – on the ground to the people in Gaza.

QUESTION: Do you think food is a humanitarian supply?

MR. WOOD: Food certainly is.

QUESTION: All kinds of food?

MR. WOOD: I – I’m not able to tell you from here whether it –

QUESTION: Can you get a – can you take the question of what kind of food that the U.S. thinks is a humanitarian supply?

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to take that question, because I don’t think it’s a legitimate question.

QUESTION: You don’t think it’s legitimate that the Palestinians need certain foods and is – should Israel decide what food the Palestinians need?

MR. WOOD: I’m sorry, Elise, I’m not going to – I’ve spoken on it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Will It Ever End?" A Newsweek Cover

I found this recent cover (January 12, 2009) fascinatingly strange. What does the "it" refer to? The Israeli/Palestinian conflict? Israel? Palestine? The world? And why is this placed in the muzzle smoke of an IDF soldier, firing tear gas? Is it suggesting that only through the gun that peace can be won?

The headline above, though, caught my eye in particular: "AARON DAVID MILLER: GET TOUGH WITH ISRAEL." This is most unexpected. Has the Gaza violence and the election of Obama opened the doors to new thoughts about engaging the parties?

Stay tuned.

Cleveland Poets Read New Works Acclaiming Peace


Cleveland Poets Read New Works Acclaiming Peace

Cleveland, OH - March 20, 2009

Poets from Cleveland savor the release of a new anthology – “Come Together: Imagine Peace”. On Friday March 20, 2009, local performers will read new poetry, focused on peace, at The Lit: Cleveland's Literary Center, located at 2570 Superior Avenue on Cleveland’s near east side.

Phil Metres, an associate professor at John Carroll University, is one of the featured artists in the book. A number of other local artists will join him for the celebration of new poems. Metres says, “A visionary aspect of the peace movement, war resistance poems valorize the struggle inherent in resistance“.

This poetry “argues against the mythologies of pro-war discourse so that, when the next wars come, people will resist the manufacture of public consent.” Contributors reflect … a range of …. “This is a fight worth writing for, and the lines made and broken are part of ‘millions of intricate moves,’ whose sentence might end with the word peace.”

Participants include Bree, John Burroughs, Alice Cone, Michael Fiala, Sarah Gridley, Stephen Haven, Jennifer Karmin, Jack McGuane, Ray McNeice, Philip Metres, Robert Miltner, Michael Salinger, Leonard Shelton, Ann Smith, Larry Smith, Andrew Summerson, Mary Weems, & more...

Proceeds from the event will benefit the 2009 Cleveland Peace Show. On Labor Day, September 7, thousands of people will gather at Willard Park to illustrate that “nonviolence works – war doesn’t”. The holiday event is sponsored each year by the Cleveland Nonviolence Network and Artists for Peace.

The Lit promotes writers and their work throughout Northern Ohio. It is dedicated to literary arts and fosters a thriving community of artists. The center has its roots steeped in the 3 P’s: Poetry, Performance, and Politics. For thirty-two years, it has served as Ohio’s only independent, non-profit literary organization.

Artists for Peace is a loose collective of musicians, dancers, poets, actors, painters, sculptors, multi-media artists and others who believe that art plays an integral part in creating a more peaceful world. Members of the group donate their time, their craft, and their skills to Cleveland-area events and projects that work towards peace.

Cleveland Nonviolence Network wants to support groups in Cleveland working for peace, and to help more people understand how effective nonviolence is.


Phil Metres

Monday, March 2, 2009

Book Release/Reading at Joseph-Beth March 3, 7pm

Poetry Reading by Philip Metres, To See the Earth
03/03/09 7pm
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Legacy Village, 24519 Cedar Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124

Rumi's "The Guest House"

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

(The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks

Coverage of the Bloomington Reading: "The Writer in the World"

Thanks to Bene Viera for covering our reading last Thursday in Bloomington; we all had a blast. p.s. the poem is called "Cell/(ph)one"

Panel features alumni literature
By Bene Viera | IDS

A burst of laughter erupted from the audience as one poet and three volunteers performed a piece that demonstrated common annoyances and gibberish transported through cell phones.

ArtsWeek’s “The Writer in the World” showcased four published writers and graduates of IU’s MFA Creative Writing Program to read from their works and answer questions.
In correlation with ArtsWeek’s theme, “Politics and the Arts,” the two poets and two fiction writers read excerpts from their works they believed to be political in some form.

“Being political is challenging, by making people uncomfortable by talking about topics they normally would not,” poet Mitchell Douglas said.

The first panelist, Danit Brown, provided insight to the life of a Jewish-American woman through the character Harriet in her short story “The Dangers of Salmonella.” The short story is featured in her collection titled “Ask for a Convertible.” Brown’s story explores a young woman’s quest for acceptance of her Jewish heritage.

“She had chosen to attend Northcrest, a small college in southern Michigan, mainly because it wasn’t in Indiana, where the women were either blond or dyed their hair blonde and where people referred to Harriet as ‘you know, the dark one,’” Brown said, reading from her story.

Douglas read selections from his debut book “Cooling Board: A Long-Playing Poem,” which is a tribute to the life of one of his favorite musicians, Donny Hathaway. He said his creativity inspired him to write the book in a conceptual album format presenting narratives on two sides. The room filled with silence as Douglas read from his poem
“The Music: An Explanation to Miss Martha.”

“I wrote it for you, Grandma, a Sunday song to swing the choir’s robes ... his eyes on my eyes, fixed, never falling, the way the future unfurls, his fingers still planted on the keys, I can’t help but believe,” Douglas said, reading from his poem.

Theft is a combination of politics and fiction, which shows the economic differences between the native African and tourist, said N. S. Koenings, an IU graduate who said returning to read her work was an honor.

“It is nice to feel like I have a home,” she said.

Concluding the panel was Philip Metres, who not only read from his works but also did two demonstrations. “Sell the Phone” included three volunteers who all read different phrases along with Metres and spoke at the same time. This skit was a comedic satire on how cell phones have become a necessity for many people.

“Hello, hello. Can you hear me? The number you’ve dialed is not valid. Blah blah blah, blah blah,” they all said simultaneously.

Both Koenings and Brown said their works actually began from their theses written at IU. Douglas said it is important to contribute by allowing the students in the program to see published writers who have become successful.

“You have to be incredibly stubborn to be successful as a writer, but stubborn in the right ways,” Metres said. “Being stubborn in the wrong way is to think your writing is great the way it is.”

Frank's Bruised Mandarin Tour

Frank's Bruised Mandarin Tour
comes to the Language Foundry
2335 West 11th St. #3, Cleveland Ohio
Wednesday March 11 -- 8:00pm

Though nine cities in twelve days, CAConrad, Aaron Kunin, and
Magdalena Zurawski are touring the Midwest for their respective books
The Book of Frank (Chax Press, 2009), The Bruise (Fiction Collective
Two, 2009) and The Mandarin (Fence, 2008). For full tour details see

CAConrad is the son of white trash asphyxiation whose childhood
included selling cut flowers along the highway for his mother and
helping her shoplift. He escaped to Philadelphia where he lives and
writes with the PhillySound poets He is also the author of Deviant
Propulsion (Soft Skull Press, 2006), (Soma)tic Midge (FAUX Press,
2008), and two forthcoming books, advanced ELVIS course (Soft Skull
Press, 2009), and a collaboration with poet Frank Sherlock titled THE
CITY REAL & IMAGINED: Philadelphia Poems (Factory School Press, 2009).
Visit and .

Aaron Kunin is a poet, critic, and novelist. He is the author of a
collection of small poems about shame, Folding Ruler Star (Fence,
2005); a chapbook, Secret Architecture (Braincase, 2006); and a novel,
The Mandarin (Fence, 2008). Another collection, The Sore Throat and
Other Poems, is forthcoming. He is assistant professor of negative
anthropology at Pomona College and lives in Los Angeles. read a sample
of Aaron's poetry at .

Maggie Zurawski was born in Newark NJ and grew up in Edison NJ, but
Providence RI feels like home because that's where she started writing
and meeting writers and thinking of herself as a writer. Currently,
she lives in Durham, NC, where she is studying 19th-century American
literature at Duke. Her first book, The Bruise, out from Fiction
Collective Two, is the winner of the 2006 Ronald Sukenick prize for
innovative fiction. Read an interview and excerpt from The Bruise at

Other Text/Sound/Image Performers TBA

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Two Peace-Building Events on Israel/Palestine in the Cleveland Area this week

and this...
"An enemy is one whose story we have not heard." - Ms. Gene Knudsen Hoffman
Inviting members of Cleveland's diverse communities:
Students Neighborhood leaders Educators Activists
Businesspeople Clergy Everyone

Crossing Lines
Story as entry to relationship & change
An inspiring, hands-on community workshop for communicating across all lines
beginning with a new quality of listening to one another - to everyone.
Thursday evening, March 5, 2009
7:00 pm Educational Exhibits
7:30 SHARP - 9:30 pm Participatory Program
Free how-to videos and literature to take home
Case Western Reserve University
Peter B. Lewis Building, Room 04 - 11119 Bellflower Road - Cleveland, Ohio
Please RSVP to Nurete Brenner: 216-231-5166 - Nurete@hotmail.com
or Sue Wolpert: 216-371-8787 - SueWolpert@yahoo.com
Facilitators Libby and Len Traubman co-founded the 16-year-old Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue of San Mateo, California, featured on CNN. They are in Cleveland for the summit conference to design a National Peace Academy in the United States, and for this practical evening to offer modern tools of communication for your home, school, business, neighborhood, and global community.

Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue with mepeace.org
Event information on the Web at http://traubman.igc.org/clevelandevening.htm

Review of Things on Which I've Stumbled by Peter Cole

Here's the beginning to my review of Things on which I’ve Stumbled, by Peter Cole, which appeared at Gently Read Literature; I've since sent it to Cole, and we've struck up a good conversation:
The cover image of poet, translator and publisher Peter Cole’s third volume of verse, Things On Which I’ve Stumbled, a woodcut by Joel Shapiro entitled “5748,” anticipates the central poetic concerns of this erudite, politically charged, and often dazzling collection. “5748,” of course, refers to the Jewish calendar year (September 1987-1988) which commemorated the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, as well as the advent of the First Palestinian Intifada—the popular uprising against military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The woodcut itself, in its concatenation of blocky rectangles, evokes (at least to these eyes) both a broken swastika and a person mid-stumble. Such is the bifocality of Cole’s project—it is at once a dilatory celebration of the rich mystical and sensual traditions of Jewish life—which has survived despite a history of oppression and marginalization—and an unsparing look at the politics of Israel/Palestine. In this way, Cole’s work offers us nothing less than a poetics of coexistence, in a time when a future of coexistence seems more distant than ever, and never more necessary.

Cole’s Things announces the valor of human stumbling—both “stumbling upon” things (in the title poem’s discovery of an 11th century genizah, a repository of supposedly worthless Hebrew poems and documents) and “stumbling over” the real, that which cannot be denied—whether the political realities of Israel/Palestine or the existential realities of human mortality. In an end note, Cole quotes from Bahir: “When a person accustoms himself to studying the Mystery of Creation…it is impossible that he not stumble. It is therefore written (Isaiah 3:6), ‘Let these ruins be under your hand’ [or ‘This stumbling block is under your hand’]. This refers to things that a person cannot grasp unless they cause him to stumble.”...

to read more, the link is here.