Monday, October 31, 2011

"Fatal Embrace in the Holy Land": Mark Braverman in Cleveland, November 10th, 7pm

Peace Action Brings Mark Braverman to Cleveland November 10

"Fatal Embrace In the Holy Land "
Dr. Mark Braverman comes to Cleveland Thursday, November 10th, 7 pm. The author of Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land brings his fascinating, compelling perspective on the Middle East conflict to our community. Download and distribute event flyer

A taste of what Braverman brings to the quest for Middle East peace can be found in Sam Bahour's book review: "The book is remarkable for its deft interweaving of the personal and the political in Braverman's account of his journey of understanding, an account which moves forward or backward in time as required but remains coherent and clear. The author does not lecture at us; he recounts, and describes, and discloses, and considers-and gradually disarms us. He shares vivid accounts of the people he has met in Palestine and Israel" - read more

Braverman will speak at Trinity Cathedral, 2230 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115. Admission: $10.00 - Supporter: $25.00 - Benefactor: $50.00. Ample Free Parking.

For more information call: 216.231.4245, email: or go to our website

Visit Cleveland Peace Action's website for news, events, action alerts, and find out what you can do for peace.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Ghost of Tom McGrath at Occupy Wall Street

I've been reading and seeing the some great signage at the Occupy Wall Street protests, and thinking of Tom McGrath, who called for "tactical poetry" as one mode of poetic intervention into the political life.  The level of humor, self-referentiality, and acid critique--all at once, sometimes--would have made McGrath and the poets of protest from our tradition--the Fugs, IWW Song Book, and on and on--pretty pleased.

It's not a replacement for "strategic poetry," poetry built for the ages, but rather a kind of poetry for the immediate, for "thinking with things as they exist" (Zukofsky), rather than endlessly waiting for recollection in tranquility (Wordsworth):
McGrath: One is the kind of poetry that might be called tactical, about some immediate thing: a strike, let's say; some immediate event. The poet should give it as much clarity and strength as he can give it without falling into political slogans, clichés and so on. I also thought we needed another kind of poetry that is not keyed necessarily to immediate events, a poetry in which the writer trusts himself enough to write about whatever comes along, with the assumption that what he is doing will be, in the long run, useful, consciousness raising or enriching. A strategic poetry, let's say. There have been a lot of tactical poems directed to particular things, and those poems now are good in a certain sort of way, but the events they were about have moved out from under them, Somebody asked Engels, "What happened to all the revolutionary poetry of 1848?" He replied: "It died with the political prejudices of the time." That is bound to be the fate of a lot of tactical poetry. But that's O.K. If we have to have somebody give us a guarantee that our work is going to last a thousand years before we'll be willing to write it, we may as well give up the ghost.

The Brecht song from the old Comintern: "And just because he's human,/ he doesn't want a pistol to his head./ He wants no servants under him/ and no boss over his head." That's as direct as you can make it, and it's got imagery to go with it... On the other hand we take a poem like Neruda's Canto General, a marvelous big poem, but it's not there to help in some immediate kind of situation; it's a strategic poem. But anyone who reads it will have his consciousness expanded by the reading of it... The ideal thing of course is to bring the tactical and the strategic together so that they would appear in this massive poem of pure lucidity, full of flying tigers and dedicated to the removal of man-eating spinning wheels from the heads of our native capitalists--absolute lucidity and purest, most marvelous bullshit. That's the poem I would like to have, because there's a place where those two are the same. That's in the archetypal heavens of course... I would like to put them together. We all would.
From an interview with Tom McGrath, appearing in North Dakota Quarterly (Fall 1982).  Also online at Cary Nelson's Modern American Poetry site.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hisham Matar's Anatomy of a Disappearance

My review of Hisham Matar's Anatomy of a Disappearance appears in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer. It begins:

Hisham Matar's second novel is at once a probing mystery of a father's disappearance and a vivid coming-of-age story. Matar, whose celebrated first novel "In the Country of Men" was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2006, returns to the theme of the missing father in "Anatomy of a Disappearance."   Matar's own father was abducted and vanished in Libya in 2002.

Sigmund Freud would have been intrigued -- as the Oedipus Complex pulls the undercurrents of this dreamlike, mournful, deeply sensuous novel. The first sentence heralds a complex father-son relationship: "there are times when my father's absence is as heavy as a child sitting on my chest."

The narrator, Nuri el-Alfi, begins his story at age 14, when he and his father, Kamal, meet the lovely Mona, closer in age to the son than his widower father. "I saw her first," Nuri will claim, as if to justify what will transpire between them.
read on....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Interim Magazine and Ecopoetics

The new issue of Interim Magazine, edited by Claudia Keelan, focuses on the conversation between poetry and the natural world; one of the exciting aspects of this gathering was the political action invitation by Jonathan Skinner, in which poets were invited to write something in light of the recent Deepwater Horizon catastrophe and visit with their congressional representative. 

This is Keelan's introductory note:

This special issue of Interim collects sui generis work to pose questions and positions relevant to the on going interactions of human beings and what we call the natural world. I am thankful to Chris Arigo, Matthew Cooperman and Jonathan Skinner for the innovative work found here, and I am indebted to the many writers and artists whose continued experiments in artistic expression further the dialogue and expand the possibilities of what is, precariously, our democracy. Here in these pages is a transfigured, yet communal space, countering the transfiguration of an oil rig planted in the ocean floor. You will find here, our legislators.

Many of the poets not only succeeded in engaging the political process, but wrote about their experience (see, for example, Brenda Hillman's piece).  Arielle Greenberg's letter to her representative, with its dual fonts, creates something like a reverb effect.   She ends her letter/poem:

And yes, this is a poem. When I was working on the homebirth legislation, I was instructed by wise, well-informed activists not to write letters like this when meeting with my representatives, not to stray from the party line or from the key points. It feels something of a radical act to write in the way I most want to write, to a person in your position, a position of legislative power. So that's what makes it a poem, to me.

On the heels of the "Poets for Living Waters" online collection, this anthology extends the conversation about what it might mean to bring poetry (and poets) to bear on our national (and, arguably, global) conversation about how we might change the deleterious dynamics between human beings and the rest of the ecosphere.

For what it's worth, here's my small contribution.  But the contributors, just for the Skinner-edited section are many, and I'm still picking my way through them (many friends, notables, and others I'd wish I knew better): Jen Hofer & Hillary Mushkin, CAConrad, Ian Demsky, Diane di Prima, Alison Pelegrin,
Jack Collom, Marcella Durand, Benjamin Friedlander, Laura Elrick, Heidi Lynn Staples, Cara Benson, Ann Fisher-Wirth & Gara Gillentine, Sheryl St. Germain, E.J. McAdams, Michael Leong, Christine Leclerc, Timothy Bradford, Evelyn Reilly, Arielle Greenberg, Jared Schickling, Laura Mullen, Sharon Mesmer, Philip Metres, Kristen Baumliér, Brenda Hillman, Rodrigo Toscano, Martha Serpas & Heidi Lynn Staples, Brett Evans & Frank Sherlock, Keaton Nguyen Smith, Abby Reyes, JenMarie Davis, Jennifer Scappettone, Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, Michael Rothenberg, Andrew Schelling, Jonathan Skinner, Cecilia Vicuña.  Much good work to read and consider.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Nahshon Cook's "From a Conversation-Hour Discussion About Intolerance with Adult English Students"

Nahshon Cook

"From a Conversation-Hour Discussion About Intolerance with Adult English Students"
Pak Kret, Nonthanburi, Thailand

Then he explained
how the Buddha

instructed us
to reflect on the body

our skin
our hands and feet

our body hair
our nails and teeth

our noses
our eyes

our minds
our hearts

so that we can see
ourselves clearly

in every person
no matter where

-Nahshon Cook
Used by permission.

A note from Nahshon:
This poem is an offering of
gratitude for the healing power of love
and I hope (with my whole heart)
that you enjoy it
Peace and a smile, beautiful people,
Nahshon Cook
Cook's second collection The Killing Fields and Other Poems will be published in 2015 by Shabda Press.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Perspectives of Three Recent Delegates to Israel and the Palestinian Territories

Gloria Brown, Randy Wilson & Kazim Ali at Peace House Oct. 19
Perspectives of Three Recent Delegates to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Wednesday, October 19, 2011, 7:00 - 9:00 PM, Peace House, 10916 Magnolia Drive, Cleveland, OH 44106 (University Circle, behind Western Reserve Historical Society)

Presentations & Discussion: Each speaker will report on their own observations about Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers they met as members of Interfaith Peace Builders delegations.

Gloria Brown, Director, Racial-Ethnic Ministry, United Methodist Church, E. Ohio
Randy Wilson, Community Organizer
Kazim Ali, Associate Professor, Oberlin College

For more information please download and distribute this flyer
Co-Sponsored by: American Friends Service Committee NE Ohio, Cleveland Peace Action Education Fund, and Interfaith Peace Builders, Ohio Chapter.

Free and open to the public. Refreshments served.

For more information contact: Cleveland Peace Action Education Fund, Tel: 216-231-4245, e-mail:

Visit Cleveland Peace Action's website for news, events, action alerts, and find out what you can do for peace.

Join Cleveland Peace Action or renew your membership by using our secure online donation form - click here Online donors will make a tax-deductible donation to the Cleveland Peace Action Education Fund.

Contact Information


phone: 216-231-4245

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

9-11 by Giddra: Japanese hip-hop takes on the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath

Today, in my "After 9/11" class, we were discussing the film "Syriana," and situating al-Qaeda as a kind of symptom of globalization and its discontents.  A student from the class sent me this video (thanks Stephani), a Japanese hip-hop artist's take on 9/11, connecting it to Japanese experiences of the nuclear bomb, but in the style and content delivery that shows the true global reach of hip-hop itself.  Pretty stunning to see the gestures of Giddra as a hybrid product of American culture and Japanese culture.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"I Parted with My Mother at the Country of Skin": Deema Shehabi's "Migrant Earth"

Deema K. Shehabi
"Migrant Earth"

So tell me what you think of when the sky is ashen?
...............................-Mahmoud Darwish

I could tell you that listening is made for the ashen sky,
and instead of the muezzin's voice, which lingers like weeping at dawn,
I hear my own desire, as I lay my lips against my mother's cheek.

I kneel down beside her, recalling her pleas
the day she flung open the gates of her house for children fleeing from tanks.

My mother is from Gaza, but what do I know of the migrant earth,
as I enter a Gazan rooftop and perform ablutions in the ashen
forehead of sky? As my soul journeys and wrinkles with homeland?

I could tell you that I parted with my mother at the country of skin. In the dream,
my lips were bruised, her body was whole again, and we danced naked in the street.

And no child understands absence past the softness of palms.

As though it is praise in my father's palms
as he washes my mother's body in the final ritual.

As though it is God's pulse that comes across
her face and disappears.

-Deema K. Shehabi
Used by permission.

Deema K. Shehabi is a poet, writer, and editor. She grew up in the Arab world and attended college in the US, where she received an MS in journalism. Her poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies such as The Kenyon Review, Literary Imagination, New Letters, Callaloo, Massachusetts Review, Perihelion, Drunken Boat, Bat City Review, Inclined to Speak: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry, and The Poetry of Arab Women. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart prize three times, and she served as Vice-President for the Radius of Arab-American Writers (RAWI) between 2007 and 2010. She currently resides in Northern California with her husband and two sons.

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Alan Gilbert on the Cost of War

In this piece, Alan Gilbert explicitly links the cost of war with the Occupy Wall Street protest movement now sweeping the country; one possible part of the solution to our economic woes is to redistribute our wasteful military spending on pork and pet projects.

From: Alan Gilbert
Subject: [Democratic-indv] The dead
To: ""

The dead

Under Bush, dead American soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq were flown secretly to the US. There was no public act of mourning, no attention to coffins.

But as I was flying to Chicago for a connecting flight to Richmond this week, the pilot came on the air to announce that two soldiers, an honor guard, were seated in row 14. Could they be allowed to get off first, he asked, to honor them and their fallen comrade?

As the flight landed, the captain repeated the announcement. The two soldiers stood up and many people applauded. I did not, nor did the black officer who was sitting next to me. I said: “I don’t know about applause. Seems like silence and prayer would be more fitting.”

I was in a window seat. I and he took turns looking out, he sometimes turning away (hard to look too long at one who paid such a price; not everyone is killed or wounded among soldiers, but it is people one knows, never far…). Six soldiers, two black, four white, marched up to the ramp where the flag-draped coffin was brought out, lowered to the ground. They stood three by three, and then a black officer turned to face the ramp, receive the coffin.

The army, below sergeant, is the one, genuinely integrated institution in American society. Wednesday morning, in a class at Metro, Armando, an army vet, said to me firmly: “you’ll be at the Occupy Denver march this Saturday.” I said no, I am going to a black history conference in Richmond this weekend. He then told me about being one of the two hundred people who had marched on Broadway this past Saturday, and how good it felt.

Among the demands floating from this Occupy Wall Street movement is the demand to withdraw troops at last after 10 years from Afghanistan. A march in Washington will raise this shortly. Wednesday evening, 10,000 workers from many unions and college students marched on Wall Street, demonstrating their solidarity with the growing movement.

The honor guard received the dead soldier. He will be buried with honors. In America, now, perhaps private air lines can share the dead briefly with ordinary citizens. Perhaps we can think, now in the Obama era, of why we should withdraw, why there should be no more dead on far away foreign soil, having not the vaguest idea of why they were in Kandahar nor any hope of doing damage to Al-Qaida (that was done by the seals taking out Bin Laden in Pakistan, but not by invading armies, let alone drones which take a tremendous civilian toll, are morally vile, politically breed new enemies and are counterproductive).

The soldier and I spoke briefly of the war. Someone behind us said: it’s cheaper to send the honor guard and the corpse by private airlines...

The human effects of American militarism are amongst us. There was no comment on the war (United Airlines is a business, and the war complex, like Wall Street, does not want to hear from the citizens). But Chris Tranchetti, a naval officer and my student who has written a master’s thesis on Socrates and Jesus, sent me the following story from the Atlantic of an officer shot through the throat who miraculously survived, his caregiver and others who suffer like him.

"Alan Gilbert

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On the Death of Taha Muhammad Ali

Recent news of the passing of Taha Muhammad Ali brought me back to his poem, collected in "Come Together: Imagine Peace," which ends:

After we die,
and the weary heart
has lowered its final eyelid
on all that we've done,
and on all that we've longer for,
on all that we've dreamt of,
all we've desired
or felt,
hate will be
the first thing
to putrefy within us.

Here's another poem that's circulating:

REVENGE by Taha Muhammad Ali
translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin

At times ... I wish
I could meet in a duel
the man who killed my father
and razed our home,
expelling me
a narrow country.
And if he killed me,
I’d rest at last,
and if I were ready—
I would take my revenge!


But if it came to light,
when my rival appeared,
that he had a mother
waiting for him,
or a father who’d put
his right hand over
the heart’s place in his chest
whenever his son was late
even by just a quarter-hour
for a meeting they’d set—
then I would not kill him,
even if I could.


Likewise ... I
would not murder him
if it were soon made clear
that he had a brother or sisters
who loved him and constantly longed to see him.
Or if he had a wife to greet him
and children who
couldn’t bear his absence
and whom his gifts would thrill.
Or if he had
friends or companions,
neighbors he knew
or allies from prison
or a hospital room,
or classmates from his school …
asking about him
and sending him regards.


But if he turned
out to be on his own—
cut off like a branch from a tree—
without a mother or father,
with neither a brother nor sister,
wifeless, without a child,
and without kin or neighbors or friends,
colleagues or companions,
then I’d add not a thing to his pain
within that aloneness—
not the torment of death,
and not the sorrow of passing away.
Instead I’d be content
to ignore him when I passed him by
on the street—-as I
convinced myself
that paying him no attention
in itself was a kind of revenge.

April 15, 2006

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Art Makes Something Happen: the Vassar Haiti Project

My Aunt Lila and Uncle Andrew have been engaging in a project for a number of years to help fund Haitian development through the sale of Haitian art. With all the violence and exploitation of the world, we need projects like the Vassar Haiti Project to remind us what is possible.