Further thoughts on the cultural labor of poetry and art. Not merely "is it good?," but "what has it accomplished?"...reviews of recent poetry collections; selected poems and art dealing with war/peace/social change; reviews of poetry readings; 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.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Sand Opera Lenten Journey Day 42: May We Be Arrows of Light and Breath + Christopher Kempf
Sand Opera Lenten Journey Day 42: May We Be Arrows of Light and Breath +
Hear me, O islands, listen, O distant peoples. The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me.
On a day that Brussels is beset by suicide attacks, I’d planned to share
what I think of as my 9/11 poem: “you look at me / looking at you.” May all of
us hold each other in the light, though we also hold so much dark, hold each
other—not just the Belgians, but the Congolese, not just the French but the
Algerians, not just the Americans but the Afghanis and Iraqis and Syrians and Mexicans
and Guatemalans and Colombians and Nicaraguans, all people—all made in the image
of Love. May our arrows be of light, of love.
“You look at me / looking at you” commentary by Christopher Kempf
A picture is a sum of destructions.
course, to understand Picasso’s statement in light of his most famous works—Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Nude Descending a Staircase, Guernica. These are violent paintings,
we know, the destruction Picasso speaks of not merely, as he intended the
statement, a matter of process—of removing paint rather than adding it—but a
matter, too, of form and perspective, of cutting and partitioning and twisting
and deforming and destroying the artist’s subject in the name of seeing anew. In
the name, that is, of art.
A picture is a sum of destructions.
Not that a
picture represents, say, the bombing
of a Basque village by German and Italian warplanes, but that it is that.
Or is part of
Or is the sum
of that. Is made possible by that. Is birthed from that. That a picture is the
sum of whole back-histories of violence and exploitation and oppression that
are neither held of from nor delimited by the picture’s frame.
picture—any picture—is a form of privilege. That a poem is.
That it is a form of violence.
I am writing
this under the generous employ of a University which invented the atom bomb and
whose economists, in the 1970s, sustained and legitimized the brutal,
neo-liberalist dictatorships of South America. “The [Chilean] secret police
would dispose of some victims by dropping them into the ocean from helicopters
‘after first cutting their stomach open with a knife to keep the bodies from
floating.’” I am grateful for my
I is a sum of
“You look at me
/ looking at you.”
might see ourselves and our art. As from the outside.
That our art
might better recognize itself as nested, matryoshka-like,
within systems of oppression from which it is inextricable. From which it
benefits. “A kind of seeding, this seeing.”
first the beam out of thine own eye.”
Kempf is the author of Late
in the Empire of Men, which won the Levis Prize from Four Way Books and is
forthcoming in March 2017. Recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment
for the Arts and the Wallace Stegner Program at Stanford University, he is
currently a Ph.D. student in English Literature at the University of Chicago.
For an example of Kempf’s work, see https://newrepublic.com/article/114456/call-duty-modern-warfare-poem-christopher-kempf