Tuesday, April 24, 2012

60 Minutes: Christian Palestinians in the Holy Land

  This may well end up being one of those classic "60 Minutes" episodes, just for the last few incredibly awkward minutes with the Ambassador of Israel, who apparently went to the President of CBS with rumors that this piece would be a "hatchet job."
Shades of:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tarfia Faizullah's "Reading Transtromer in Bangladesh"

Split This Rock 
Poem of the Week - 
Tarfia Faizullah                                       
Tarfia Faizullah 
Reading Tranströmer in Bangladesh       

for Meherunnessa Chowdhury, 1924-2010   


In Grandmother's house,
we are each a room that
must remain locked. Inside
it, a prayer mat carelessly
folded on a low table, as
though hands that once
pressed down on it are not
below ground. Who has
stripped bare the white
walls of the black velvet
tapestry depicting Ka'bah,
house of God? I let in
the netherworld. Something
rose from underneath. I sit,
wait through my cousin's
sobs. This morning, another
sudden loss: a classmate's
death, she says. Sordid
details flare out like sails
of a ship: mother trapped
in an asylum, father weeping,
son's warm body cradled
in his arms, bone still lodged
in his young throat. To whom
would this not be an inelegant
death--a caught bone, too
much like one of our own?


We leave the city as
we entered it: cloaked
in fog, lightbulbs,
lanterns, blurred gold--
the rumbling traffic
on the highways,
and the silent traffic
of ghosts. I reach
for my mother's
hand like a child.
Here hang the years . . .
they sleep with folded
wings. Already my
body begins to shed
each jagged dirt road,
bodies jostled inside each
swerving car, trains draped
with bodies dangling
like writhing vines--


The cars, packed tight,
do not move. I saw
the image of an image
of a man coming
forward . . . sudden
as starlight, he lifts
an arm: mere bone,
wrapped in brown
skin, stem of an iris
rotting in water. He
taps the glass. I close
my eyes, see his arm
trapped in a young
boy's throat. It is still
beautiful to hear the heart,
but often the shadow
seems more real than
the body. How small
the distance between
the world and the world:
a few layers of muscle
and fat, a sheet wrapped
around a corpse: glass
so easily ground into sand.
-Tarfia Faizullah         
Used by permission.

Originally appeared in The Missouri Review. 

Tarfia Faizullah's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Passages NorthNew Ohio ReviewPloughsharesThe Missouri Review, and elsewhere. A Kundiman fellow and a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University's creative writing program, she is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a Bread Loaf Margaret Bridgman scholarship, a Kenyon Writers Workshop Peter Taylor fellowship, and other honors. She lives in Washington, DC, where she helps edit the Asian American Literary Review and Trans-Portal.  
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If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.    

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Paul Westerberg's Song for Sylvia Plath: "Crackle and Drag"

Thanks to Mike Danko, who keeps me updated on things Paul Westerbergian (all hail the Replacements), here's a song for Sylvia Plath (all hail Sylvia) in two very different versions.  The title, and the line, "her blacks crackle and drag," comes from Plath's poem, "Edge," published as the final poem in the Hughes-edited version of Ariel.  Westerberg's first version is manic, the second depressive--somehow I like the second one better, for its bleak poignancy.  But maybe the fact there are two, just as there are two versions of Ariel, just as there is bipolarity in the poet, makes a kind of absurd sense.

The woman is perfected.

Her dead
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Her bare
Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.
Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little
Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded
Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden
Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.
The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.
She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.

Nonviolent Resistance: Connections in Postcolonial Zones

This fall, I'll be teaching a version of a course on Global Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation, focusing principally on Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine.  When I saw this recent letter from Cindy Sheehan (the Iraq War protestor whose son died in combat in Iraq) and Mairead Maguire (Nobel Peace Prize laureate from Belfast), I thought of the connections forged in conflict zones, between mothers.
Give Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance a Chance

April 17, 2012
By Cindy Sheehan, Mairead Maguire
Belfast, Ireland & Berkeley, California

We are two women and mothers – one Irish and one American – who have experienced the loss of children in our families to the senseless violence of war. We hope that none of you will experience such pain. However, we know that our experience is hardly unique, and we have formed advocacy groups to end the violence and hold the leaders, militaries and paramilitaries of our societies accountable for robbing us of our loved ones.

Among those who know the sadness are thousands of Palestinian and Israeli mothers, many of whom we have met in person. We have made common cause with them to end the grief, which is why we both support nonviolent solutions to a conflict that has taken their sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.

We therefore endorse and wish to encourage participation in the Global March to Jerusalem, taking place on 30th March, 2012. It is a movement to end, through nonviolent means, the expulsions and human rights violations in Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine. We recognize that the narratives of the movement may not be the same as those of the societies they are challenging, and that different elements of this very broad movement may not always speak with the same voice. However, they are agreed on the basics, which include respect for human rights and a commitment to nonviolence.

That is enough for us. The rest can and should be worked out. However, if the mothers of today and tomorrow throughout all the territories controlled and governed by Israel can believe that their children and family members will be spared and that they will not have to grieve for them, this is a huge step along the path to resolution.

We believe that the Global March to Jerusalem on March 30, 2012, is a beacon of hope for both the present and the future, as are the many nonviolent movements and actions to date, including the popular nonviolent resistance committees, the boats to Gaza, the caravans and convoys to Gaza, and many other peaceful challenges to the policies responsible for the suffering of all peoples in the region.

We have heard the doubts and criticisms delivered by the skeptics, but we do not believe in unrealistic standards. One of the most powerful dimensions of this movement is its inclusivity. If some people or groups do not find that the march meets their requirements, let them alter the dynamics through their participation in all aspects of the movement.

We cannot afford to let this opportunity pass. The Global March to Jerusalem gives voice to many who have been voiceless in the past and who are beginning to feel the empowerment of mass popular action, as did the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples before them. It also invites and encourages people from across the globe to participate in an unprecedented show of unity with their brothers and sisters in Palestine.

We find this act of international solidarity compelling, and we hope you do, too. Until now our Palestinian and Israeli brothers and sisters have been unable to end the injustice on their own, and there is no guarantee that our support will make the difference or that they might not be able to achieve resolution without our support. However, we believe in showing that we care and that we are serious about supporting a restoration of justice to this important community.

Let’s all give peace – and the Global March to Jerusalem – a chance.
This article was jointly written by Cindy Sheehan & Mairead Maguire

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Naomi Shihab Nye, reading two poems from TRANSFER

I read somewhere that what characterizes a saint is that the saint is interested in everybody else; if this is so, then Naomi Shihab Nye is one of our saints.  To be with her is to feel her intense curiosity about everything.  Her latest book, TRANSFER, focuses principally on the loss of her father--the sort of person, we sense from her writing, that cultivated precisely that sense of openness, despite the awful personal and historical dislocations that he suffered as a Palestinian.  Two poems here deliver vignettes in that unwinding grief.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Joseph Ross' "In a Summer of Snipers"

Joseph Ross' "In a Summer of Snipers" takes us back to that moment in history when American society seemed that it was splitting down all its seams, with assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, riots and resistance in cities throughout the country, the darkening turn of violence around anti-war protest (which blew up during the Democratic National Convention in August).  Ross takes the symbolic gesture of Black Power made by two athletes at the Olympics in 1968--an act that was deemed controversial--into something beautiful, the upthrusting of hope.
Split This Rock 
Poem of the Week - 
Joseph Ross                                      
In a Summer of Snipers     
for Tommie Smith and John Carlos, 1968 

In a summer of snipers 
some men raised their hands
with fingers pressed 
to triggers
trying to squeeze away 
a generation's hope.
But you lifted your hands 
to conduct a choir
just learning to sing 
anthems of a victory
not yet won. 
The world watched you,
standing shoeless, 
like so many others,
with no protection 
from the earth itself,
its bullets, its boundaries 
real as a waiting noose,
a lynching tree, 
and a gathering crowd.
You raised your hands, 
gloved and black
and held us all 
for just a moment
where no rope 
could reach.

-Joseph Ross        
Used by permission.

Joseph Ross is part of the vibrant literary community in the Washington, D.C. area. His poems appear in many anthologies including Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on FaithReligion and SpiritualityCome Together: Imagine Peace, Full Moon on K Street, and Poetic Voices 1 and 2. His work also appears in a variety of journals including Poet LoreTidal Basin ReviewBeltway Poetry Quarterly,Drumvoices Revue, and Sojourners. He has read at the Library of Congress and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. An early member of D.C. Poets Against the War, he co-edited Cut Loose The Body: An Anthology of Poems on Torture and Fernando Botero's Abu Ghraib. He founded and directs the Writing Center at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C. and has taught writing at American University. He writes regularly at JosephRoss.net.
Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of theWeek widely. We just ask you to include all of theinformation in this email, including this request. Thanks!

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Save Our Communites" Daylong Workshop

Glen Stassen Workshop at Save Our Communities Forum April 14


We are privileged to announce that longtime Peace Action National Board Member Glen Stassen will offer a workshop at the April 14 Save Our Communities Forum.

Glen Stassen chaired or co-chaired the Strategy Committee first for the Freeze Campaign, and then for Peace Action. He edited Peace Action: Past, Present and Future and Just Peacemaking: The New Paradigm for the Ethics of Peace and War. He will outline some skills from those studies for focusing on a hopeful vision that is getting results, not only opposing today's bad policy.

The workshop is titled, "Hopeful Visioning that Recruits Long-Term Members." Stassen describes it this way: We need strengthening of our organizations for the long-term, not only mobilizing individuals for a single action. That requires 1) connecting with loyalties and values people care about, 2) offering specific action that can make a difference for those loyalties, and 3) showing that we do get some results for our actions.

Stassen is currently Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary and remains a Peace Action Board Member.

Recent Censorship of Palestinians: Three Cases (Grass, Zaqtan, Al-Quds University)

I've been unable--physically and emotionally--to keep up with news from the Middle East the past few months, particularly involving the Israeli-Palestinian situation, but three events have cropped up in the span of a week that has made it difficult to ignore, and impossible for me not to post.

The first is the well-known case of Gunter Grass's poem critical of Israeli moves toward Iran, leading to his being banned from Israel.  This has gotten enough media attention (you can find articles everywhere on this one).

However, two less-known cases are more important, as they involve direct harassment of Palestinians involved in the arts and education.

Recently, the poet Ghassan Zaqtan's travel was held up by Israel; he was due to conduct a series of readings with his translator, the poet Fady Joudah.  More information can be found here.  This is the sort of regular harassment and humiliation that Palestinians endure at the hands of Israel (I recall just now that a friend of mine, a Palestinian-American author of some renown, was recently barred from entry because twenty years ago she used her Palestinian ID to enter the country, and apparently Palestinians are barred from entering).

Finally, a third case, involving free speech, from Al-Quds University (thanks to Marilyn Hacker for passing this along).  They have ensured that Skyping Palestinians and Israelis will be part of my course in the fall.

Dr. Jamal Nusseibeh
Vice President for Jerusalem Affairs
Al-Quds University
April 2, 2012
For the second time in two months, the Israeli authorities have invaded, searched and prevented the functioning of Al-Quds University’s Institute of Modern Media. This time, they prevented skype contact for an event taking place simultaneously in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Today, at 12:55 pm local time, plain clothes police arrived at the offices of the Institute of Modern Media, at Al-Quds University, in the old city of Jerusalem. University faculty and students and invited guests had gathered at the location to launch Hona Al-Quds (“Jerusalem is Here” an online multi-media community network focusing on Jerusalem. After mingling with the guests for about fifteen minutes, without any warning, the police locked the office doors, shutting some guest inside and some outside, ransacked the offices, and collected the identification documents of all those inside the building. The building was by that time surrounded by soldiers. They presented those outside with an order in Hebrew, signed by the Israeli Minister for Internal Security, forbidding the launch event on the grounds that it was a “PA” event, i.e. organized by the Palestinian Authority. This was despite the fact that Honaalquds is clearly a part of Al-Quds University, since 1996, recognized as an independent NGO by the Israeli authorities. The Israelis arrested two Al-Quds University employees: Adel Ruished, Administrative Director of Jerusalem Affairs, and Mohannad Izheman, University security guard. Since then, Mr Izheman has been released with a summons to return tomorrow and Mr Ruished is being held at the central Israeli police station.
The University condemns this action as a violation of principles and agreements which protect free speech, academic freedom, and the freedom of the press. This is the second such invasion in recent weeks. On February 29, in the middle of the night, an Israeli military unit invaded the main office of the Institute of Modern Media in Ramallah, searched the offices, and removed the transmitter which the university used to broadcast educational TV programs, including Sesame Street and other programmes for very young children, and a wide variety of programmes for the benefit of the community. The University is an independent institution, neither administered nor governed by the Palestinian Authority. The Institute’s primary mission is to educate and train undergraduate students in media studies and to share university and local news with area residents, and to serve and educate the broader community.

Split This Rock Poem, Camille Dungy!

Split This Rock 
Poem of the Week - 
Camille Dungy                                     
Camille Dungy
Arthritis is one thing, the hurting another

.............................for Adrienne Rich in 2006 

The poet's hands degenerate until her cup is too heavy.

You are not required to understand.
This is not the year for understanding.

This is the year of burning women in schoolyards
and raided homes, of tarped bodies on runways and in......restaurants.

The architecture of the poet's hands has turned upon itself.

This is not the year for palliatives. It is not the year for......knowing what to do.

This is the year the planet grew smaller
and no country would consent to its defeat.

The poet's cup is filled too full, a weight she cannot carry
from the table to her mouth, her lips, her tongue.
The poet's hands are congenitally spoiled.

This is not one thing standing for another.

Listen, this year three ancient cities met their ruin, maybe......more,
and many profited, but this is not news for the readers here.

Should I speak indirectly?
I am not the poet. Those are not my hands.

This is the year of deportations and mothers bereaved
of all of their sons. The year of third and fourth tours,
of cutting-edge weaponry and old-fashioned guns.

Last year was no better, and this year only lays the......groundwork
for the years that are to come. Listen, this is a year like no......other.

This is the year the doctors struck for want of aid
and schoolchildren were sent home in the morning

and lights and gas were unreliable
and, harvesters suspect, fruit had no recourse but rot.

Many are dying for want of a cure, and the poet is patient
and her hands cause the least of her pain.

-Camille T. Dungy      

From Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press, 2011) 
Used by permission.

Camille T. Dungy is the author of Smith Blue and two other collections and has edited three anthologies. Her honors include the 2011 American Book Award, two Northern California Book Awards, an NEA and two NAACP Image Award nominations. She is a professor in the Creative Writing Department at San Francisco State University.www.camilledungy.com  

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

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Good Friday poem for you: "Nicodemus Below the Cross: A Votive Ivory"

"Nicodemus Below the Cross: A Votive Ivory" by Philip Metres

Because the dead grow so heavy, as if
OOOOwanting the earth
below them, and because we cannot stand
)))))))))the sight of them,

their gravity, we leave the gravesite even
))))))))before the hole
is filled with dirt. You refuse to leave
))))))))your dead father.

From the silence of our car, we look at you,
))))))))sobbing. No sounds
reach us. Your face wild with rage. You hold
))))))))your own body,

leaden, armed, your fingers rub beneath your eyes,
))))))))as if to wear away
what lay before us. In the votive,
))))))))it’s so easy

to mistake Nicodemus for the crucifier,
))))))))his hammer poised
over Christ’s ivory wrists, his face blurred
))))))))with fear. His hand

will strike the nail away, hold the body until
))))))))blood runs its course,
then lay it down. In the votive, the last flecks
))))))))of olive, dun, and red

—the artist’s paints—river the veins
))))))))of the deepest cuts
only. No thorns of gold, no gem-encrusted
))))))))cross, no tesserae-

shattered image of a god. Just a body
))))))))cradling a body
carved in elephant’s tusk, small enough
))))))))to carry. An ancestry

of hands worrying, worrying the ivory
))))))))features smooth.

(first published in America, then in TO SEE THE EARTH)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Marilyn Hacker's "Sahar al-Beitounia" (today on POETRY DAILY)

Sahar al-Beitounia

She lives in Beitounia
And her name is Sahar
Her name is the hour
Between sunrise and morning.

Her bougainvillea
Overlooks Beitounia
Where a mango-bright bedspread
Hangs over the railing
Lit by first light
That reflects from a wall.

Not the wall of a house
Or her family's orchard.
She can see the graffiti
Ich bin ein Berliner

Marwân had orchards
Al-zaytûn wa-l-'inab
Olive trees, grapevines,
Where they went out to work
Between sunrise and morning.

She is bint Marwân
(and also bint Su'âd).
She is ukht Târiq,
Ukht Mahmûd, ukht Asmâ.

When jeeps and bulldozers
Converged on Beitounia
A hundred and twenty
All walked out at midday
Were chased back with tear gas
And rubberized bullets.

Seventeen thousand dunnams
Of orchards and wheatfields
With a wall thrust between them
And the doors of Beitounia.

Her name is Sahar
At dawn in Beitounia
Where the first light reflects
On the wall of a prison.

Ismuhâ Sahar
Bayn al-fajr wa-l-subh
—her name is Sahar
between sunrise and morning.

Prairie Schooner
Spring 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Joel Dias-Porter's "Trayvon"

Split This Rock
Poem of the Week -
Joel Dias-Porter


is a story of steam,
rising like
a swarm of hornets,
singeing sight from eyes.
a parable of lava
moldering down a mountain
igniting all green to ash,
the song of a hit recorded,
number 1 with a bullet.

Is not a story
about "fucking coons"
that "always get away."

This is not a poem
about Emmet Till,
Amadou Diallo,
or James Byrd Jr.

It is not the tale of
a "suspicious" hoodie
in the wrong neighborhood
or a trigger finger with
a "squeaky clean record."
Is not a fable of a corpse
with a bullet hole
that was tested for drugs
or a hand freshly coated
with the back flash of phosphorus
that was not.
This is a story
that checks out,
so the only charges
will be on a credit card
for funeral services.

I did not write this poem
in anger,
I did not write this poem
in "Self-Defense."
I did not write this poem.
Because my pen is empty from
having already written & written this poem.

These words can be heard
only because
while facedown
on the concrete
of the righthand lane
at 10:37 AM
on April 15th, 1987
at 19067 Greenbelt Road
my name was not Gregory Habib,
my sternum
could stand the weight
of the knee between
my shoulder blades,
and the monomaniacal eye
at the back of my head
was a .38 revolver
with a 15 lb. trigger pull
and not the 8 lb pull
of a Glock 9mm.
Because it was all just

a misunderstanding
and have a nice day, Sir.

It is not true that
my eyes are red
as a bag of Skittles
as I write this,
and if my page is dotted
with drops, it is only
Arizona iced tea that is spilled.

This poem pertains to no crime,
contains no trees
with branches strong enough
to bear the weight of a black boy,
contains no rope (of any length),
contains not even a single slipknot.

But it does loop,
like a wandering moose,
a homeward goose,
or a four hundred year old

-Joel Dias-Porter
Used by permission.

Joel Dias-Porter (aka DJ Renegade) was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, and is a former professional DJ. From 1994-1999 he competed in the National Poetry Slam, and was the 1998 and 1999 Haiku Slam Champion. His poems have been published in Time Magazine, The Washington Post, Callaloo, Ploughshares, Antioch Review, Red Brick Review, Asheville Review, Beltway Quarterly and the anthologies Gathering Ground, Love Poetry Out Loud, Meow: Spoken Word from the Black Cat, Short Fuse, Role Call, Def Poetry Jam, 360 Degrees of Black Poetry, Slam (The Book), Revival: Spoken Word from Lollapallooza, Poetry Nation, Beyond the Frontier, Spoken Word Revolution, Catch a Fire, and The Black Rooster Social Inn. In 1995, he received the Furious Flower "Emerging Poet Award." Performances include the Today Show, the documentary SlamNation, on BET, and in the feature film Slam. A Cave Canem fellow and the father of a young son, He has a CD of jazz and poetry entitled 'LibationSong'.

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