As our planet once again shutters on the brink of world war, remember Muriel Rukeyser, remember John Tagliabue

Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars)

I lived in the first century of world wars.

Most mornings I would be more or less insane,

The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,

The news would pour out of various devices

Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.

I would call my friends on other devices;

They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.

Slowly I would get to pen and paper,

Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.

In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,

Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,

Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.

As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,

We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,

To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile

Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,

Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means

To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,

To let go the means, to wake.

I lived in the first century of these wars.

 

–Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

“Poem” (1968) from The Speed of Darkness. Copyright © 1968 by Muriel Rukeyser. Reprinted by permission of International Creative Management. Source: The Speed of Darkness (Vintage Books, 1968)

 

American Complicated With Integrity: Homage to Muriel

It is difficult to see in this harsh light, in the glare of

this machine place

with the ferocity of blandness, pollution, steel, trains and cars

with tired people almost well adjusted

to their lack of direction and

their routine; Kafka is in

his grave; Camus lets out another call as he falls; the river is

cold; the 385 dream songs are pieces of ice;

the Lewiston factories are making Marsden Hartley cumbersome and

outraged again; once more he celebrates

the splash of the uplifted Atlantic wave and the terror and songs of

Hart Crane; Homage to those shaken seers

on Main Street; the cars

ride by, the energy crisis, the identity crisis, the failure of

communication crisis; how can you forget

the concentration camps

and all that went with them? But look at Muriel I say to my students,

look at Muriel Rukeyser,

collect her large volume of poems, she has protected, with those

activists we have overcome, the Song goes on;

her poems have collected our hope and power, to walk with

her and them makes us see bold incorrigible

indivisible Whitman ahead.

 

—John Tagliabue (1923-2006)

this poem copyright 1979, first appeared in Harper’s Magazine

collected in The Great Day: Poems, 1962-1983 (1984) copyright John Tagliabue

Alembic Press, Plainfield, Indiana

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Poet strikes again

 

I am sorry I disturbed you.

 

I broke into your house last night

To use the library.

There were some things I had to look up;

A large book fell

and knocked over others.

Afraid you’d wake and find me

and be truly alarmed

I left

Without picking up.

 

I got your name from the mailbox

As I fled, to write you and explain.

 

—Gary Snyder

in Axe Handles (1983)

Nanao’s nose knew

 

NANAO KNOWS

Mountains, cities, all so

light, so loose.   blankets

Buckets — throw away —

Work left to do.

it doesn’t last.

Each girl is real,

her nipples harden, each has damp,

her smell, her hair —

—What am I to be saying

There they all go

over the edge, dissolving.

Rivetters bind up

Steel rod bundles

For wet concrete.

In and out of forests, cities, families

like a fish.

25. III. 64

Gary Snyder

The Back Country (1968)

For Nanao

by

Simon Ortiz


That time you came back
and told us
about meeting a Navajo woman
on the canyon’s rim
you were happy and smiling.

You said, “We were talking,
smiling and gesturing to each.”

Yes, Nanao,
you must have been truly.

The two languages,
Navajo and Japanese,
origins from the monumental age
of glacial Asia,
it is all true.

You must have been
mother and son then,
or sister and brother,
or lover and lover.

I can see you smiling,
remembering that time
in millennia. I can see
the lights in your eyes.


From Woven Stone by Simon Ortiz, Vol. 21, in Sun Tracks an American Indian Literary Series, The University of Arizona Press.
© 1992 Simon Ortiz

Books by Simon Ortiz

Woven Stone, Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press.
Men on the Moon : Collected Short Stories, Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press.
After and Before the Lightning , Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press.
Speaking for the Generations : Native Writers on Writing, Simon Ortiz (Editor), Univ. Arizona Press.
From Sand Creek : Rising in This Heart Which Is Our America, Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press.
The People Shall Continue, Simon Ortiz, Children’s Book Press.

http://www.hanksville.org/voyage/poems/cdc/cdc2.html

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=woeven+stone+simon+ortiz

Gary’s readings I have attended several times over the years, going way back. I’ve met and greeted him sometimes in such settings, had him sign copies of his books, etc. We have had some friends and acquaintances in common (mostly gone now), but we don’t know one another. More’s the pity; I’ve always liked him, admired many aspects of his personality and lifestyle and writing. Naturally! — he’s very engaging. Part Leprechaun. Part Robin and each of his merry men.

Simon Ortiz I’ve very much enjoyed meeting. We’ve spent some time, overlapping, in some of the same places, — Marin, and elsewhere. Such a good fellow. Helping hold it all together.

Nanao I knew. Amazing, profound and hilarious and, sometimes, difficult chap. Quite lovable, though. Both first, and last, times we visited we walked Bear Valley Trail, Point Reyes, Marin, Inverness to the beach and back.  Last time, he was wearing his bucket hat, was with a young couple from Japan; I with my beloved.  We were all entertained by a racoon who washed the apple we rolled to her in the creek along the tail. The white deer were still there then. We also sat together under the tree where Swami Vivekananda had meditated and enjoyed samadhi, circa 1900.  Everyone has favorite memories of Nanao.

John Brandi, old pal of Nanao and Snyder, wrote one of the best of many accounts of Nanao. Here’s a relevant passage, describing scenes from the same adventure featured in Simon’s poem above (Nanao, Simon, John, Gary, and others, were on that same outing together):

At age sixty, Nanao had yet to ride a horse. One spring we went with Ed Black, a Navajo guide, on a three-day horseback ride into Monument Valley. Rising and falling on his little Indian pony — with pointed beard, knit cap, scarf, binocs, day pack, canvas jacket — Nanao looked like an ancient mariner. He compared galloping over the coral sand to skimming Japan’s warm-water reefs on a small boat. One morning the wind turned into a fierce gale. Our guide sniffed the air, buttoned his collar, and eyed Nanao with amusement. “Okay, cowboy, let’s see how well you take the wind! Let me see you roll a Bull Durham one-handed on a bronc in a blizzard.” Nanao didn’t understand a word. He just rode straight into the blowing sand, saying: “I don’t mind wind. Wind feeds earth, wind feeds fish. Wind feeds my bones!”

Within a few minutes the sun turned to a rusty blur and Nanao became a phantom lost in swirling dust. As his horse spooked and whinnied, his comical silhouette tilted to and fro above the saddle. Like a Mongolian shaman disappearing between worlds on his spirit journey, Nanao had become exactly what he often said of himself, “Just a shadow.”

That night at the campfire, Nanao expressed the sensation of his ride: “I felt my spirit being carried away.” Then he talked about journeying in the real world: “Two good reasons for travel: strong temptation to get away from self, and strong need to evolve through change. Too many people,” he said, “just looking at magazines, dreaming about a future, but never making a change.” He cited the American Indian and the Australian Aborigine as “original people” who used dreaming to help them through the world, relied on intuition to solve problems, and recounted myths to face challenges. Dreaming was one of the ongoing, effortless actions of the mammal brain. From dreaming issued reality. From dreaming came change.

Lucy Tapahonso, Navajo poet and storyteller, says that her people gain strength in their daily lives from “the old stories, of our ancestors that have been told since the beginning of the Navajo times.” The distant relatives she refers to are so far back through the various worlds of creation that one might visualize their stories as beads on a necklace wrapped around time itself.

Similarly, Acoma poet Simon Ortiz says, “Pueblo people are aware of their present reality because they possess and live within a cultural heritage that confirms for them everything they need to know about themselves. Passed from generation to generation through oral tradition, this knowledge ensures that existence will always be meaningful….There can be neither beginning of life, nor present actual reality, nor a continuance without the mythic.”

According to Nanao, evolution implies the ability to quiet the self so that the ageless wisdom of the elders may find place. He once said evolution relies on the ability to step out of the self and help others with an unprejudiced hand: “We don’t need a guru to learn compassion. We are born with it. So many people talking about empty life, meaningless world. Is the world empty? Or are they?”

Nanao translates one of Issa’s better-known haiku like this:

Just as he is

he goes to bed and gets up

                             the snail —

Certainly the snail awakened Issa to how simple life could be lived — no possessions, no unnecessary baggage, no fashions to worry about “Yes, that’s a good understanding,” Nanao once said, chuckling, “but maybe Issa also wondered, why the snail is that way and I am this way? Such a moment makes life wide. Most humans miss the snail. They are too busy filling themselves, going to schools, thinking about money, trying to get experience, or caught in relationships. No need to be slave of each other. Or money. Or experience. Always we can jump over experience. Many think experience, experience! But it’s not true. When we are separated from our experience, we wake up.”

John Brandi

from “Desert Rat, Planet Citizen” in Reflections in the Lizard’s Eye: Notes from the High Desert (2000)

https://www.amazon.com/Reflections-Lizards-Eye-Notes-Desert/dp/1889921084

https://www.amazon.com/Inch-45-Haiku-Issa/dp/1888809132/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491855275&sr=1-1&keywords=inch+by+inch+nanao+sakaki

Wretched repeated retching in response to revolting revelation!

Nation Desperately Hopes Real Reason for Bannon’s Exit Will Not Involve Sex Tape

By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker

07 April 17

 

The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, “The Borowitz Report.”

broad majority of Americans do not believe that they have heard the real reason for Steve Bannon’s abrupt removal from the National Security Council but desperately hope that, when that reason ultimately emerges, it will not involve a sex tape.

The snapshot of a nation praying for Bannon’s exit to be explained by anything but a sex tape was captured by a poll taken late on Wednesday, in which more than ninety per cent of Americans expressed their anxiety about such an outcome.

When poll respondents were asked about the real reason for Bannon’s removal, forty-two per cent said that they hoped it would involve a financial scandal, thirty-one per cent said that they hoped it would somehow relate to Russia, and zero per cent said that they hoped for a sex tape.

The terror inspired by the thought of a Bannon-based sex tape cut across party lines, with Democrats calling the idea slightly more traumatizing than Republicans did.

Finally, when asked how they would react if Bannon’s sudden departure did, in fact, turn out to involve a sex tape, an overwhelming majority “strongly agreed” with the statement “Please, please, please, God, no.”

 

Comments   

+29 # Wise woman 2017-04-07 18:57

OMG, Andy – you had me there for a minute. Now I can’t stop laughing. You’re giving me a stomach ache!
+19 # solartopia.org 2017-04-07 21:42

clearly he’s been having an affair with Ann Coulter. How could you possibly suppress that obvious fact?
+19 # ericlipps 2017-04-08 06:09

Gallows humor. How have we come to this?

Please, please, please do away with the Electoral College.

+19 # Trish42 2017-04-08 06:36

Au contraire, Andy—not nearly as revolting as the thought of Trump in a sex tape.
+4 # Femihumanist 2017-04-08 15:11

Quoting Trish42:

Au contraire, Andy—not nearly as revolting as the thought of Trump in a sex tape.

OOHH!! But imagine the two together.

Sorry for my delayed return. I was in the bathroom vomiting.

+3 # James Klimaski 2017-04-08 06:54

Though the real reason for Bannon’s removal is classified as Secret, a White house staffer leaked it last night – Trump did not like the fact that Bannon’s hair style was getting as much press as his.
+5 # elkingo 2017-04-08 10:09

Who really knows? These amoral bastards are capable of anything.
+4 # margpark 2017-04-08 11:44

I am hoping for an involvement with the Russia thing myself. The thought of viewing such a sex tape is nauseating.
I preferred it when politicians’ sex lives were completely private.

Quotidian Ecstasies

Quotidian Ecstasies: Two Poems from Two American Poets.

Saunter forever O dolphins mythologically dreaming of us

 

At the middle of the heights of our love life

I had so many noisy sendings of wetness, juice, joy,

expirations, romantic gasps

that the night might be thinking a series of dolphins was

explosively partaking of the divine,

fireworks in the soft flower night, wet;     Joyce at the

pub, boisterous Dylan, blazing

Blake, could not be more

splurging sonorous.     Little lambs on green pastoral hills

by Angelic capitals and mossy Cathedrals

and the smell of haystacks and farms and French bread

could not be more glowing Arcadian.

Look, Proteus is procreating Again.    Barnacle Bill is

snoring.  Some sumptuous readers

dizzy dazzled utterly drizzled drenched are ready to

touch the thigh of the Shaking Wonder

of Words-in-Water.

 

–John Tagliabue (1923-2006)

The Great Day: Poems, 1962-1983 (1984)

 

Amsterdam

Tea

 

Steam is the first sip

touch air with taste.

 

Scent is the second sip

tang of union.

 

Too hot, hint of purity,

lips recoil.

Now the waiting,

place hands

on edge of vessel.

Listen for cooling.

 

No one knows where the drink

comes from,

it shows up in the kitchen

a guest.

Be a good host, ask the kettle

why it sings.

 

Caress the handle with flesh.

Open your mouth to its mouth.

Inhale the last drop of coming honey.

What pleasure the empty cup

knows.

 

–Gary Mex Glazner (b. 1957)

Ears on Fire: Snapshot Essays in a World of Poets (2002)

Poetry vs. War

Why Poetry Matters: Sam Hamill Interview

http://paulenelson.com/organic-poetry/why-poetry-matters-sam-hamill/

from Paul E Nelson, Poet, Interviewer

Why Poetry Matters: An Interview with Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill is perhaps America’s most outspoken anti-war poet-activist. He quotes the ancient Greek poet, Sappho, saying that warmongering is childish behavior:

I mean, what is the difference between two six year olds getting in a fight over their marbles, and the behavior of George W. Bush? “This guy tried to kill my Daddy,” Dubya said, and the next thing we know, he’s telling us that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and Iraq is building nuclear weapons and a whole pack of lies because he’s angry at this guy. And he’s going to make the whole country pay for what he thinks about this guy.

The guy in this case is Saddam Hussein. The editor of Copper Canyon Press for over 30 years, author of over 40 books of poetry and translations, Hamill says poetry can be the antidote for what ails our culture: “In order to transcend a materialist culture we have to have spiritual values. We have to have a spiritual economy, an economy of the soul. Poetry is part of that commerce. It lives outside the mainstream economy.”

Sam Hamill is described by his peers as a writer of true amplitude, of outrage and forgiveness, of directness and intelligence, of tenderness and generosity. On moral and political grounds, early in 2003, he famously (or infamously) declined Laura Bush’s invitation to participate in a White House poetry symposium. Instead, before the American invasion of Iraq, he organized a fresh incarnation of Poets Against the War, inspired by the Vietnam Era peace group. The result was an anthology of over 13,000 poems by 11,000 poets delivered to Congress on March 5, 2003. Since then Poets Against the War, now renamed Poets Against War, has become the nexus of a growing worldwide network of poets who stand together against war and injustice. I caught up with Hamill November 17, 2005, in a studio in Port Townsend, Washington, and talked with him about Poets Against War.

PN – Let me tell you something about Poets Against War. As far as the American public is concerned, it’s sort of a no-brainer. Of course poets are going to be against war. That’s a little bit like Cowboys Against Prostate Exams. (Laughter) Does it matter really that poets are against war, or is that what people expect in this country?

SH – Well, I don’t know, frankly, what people expect in this country, but in most of the rest of the world poetry is much more culturally important than it is in the United States. I think a lot of our poets have been trivialized and marginalized culturally. But it’s not simply because poets are against war that Poets Against War matters. You must remember that we all have readers, and we all have friends and those friends have friends. And poetry changes lives one life at a time.

PN – When you say poets’ lives have been trivialized and marginalized, give us an example of what you mean.

SH – Well, I was recently in Medellín, at a huge poetry festival there in Colombia, and the opening reading drew about eight thousand people. All the major readings do between five and eight thousand people. The only thing I can compare that to is when I first founded Poets Against The War, and Not In Our Name hosted us for a reading at the Lincoln Center in New York City during “the storm of the century,” and three thousand people turned out, and for two and a half or three hours, they applauded and stomped and screamed, and loved every minute of it. So, we have an audience out there. And there’s more poetry being read today in the United States now than ever before. But you’d be hard-pressed to know that by reading most of the current media. Newspapers no longer regularly review books of poetry, and it’s very rarely discussed on radio or television. So poetry is sort of an invisible or marginal culture in the United States, but it’s alive and very, very well, thank you.

PN – In other countries they take poets and poetry a little more seriously. Mexico’s a good example for one, very close to us. Octavio Paz was an ambassador for many years. And Mexico and other countries make poets and artists ambassadors to other countries. In this country it’s a little different.

SH – Sure, Pablo Neruda was an ambassador. I think probably the leadership in this country finds poetry more embarrassing than not.

PN – Let’s talk about what this whole effort is about, now, Poets Against War. Let’s hear a little about the reaction, about what kind of reaction you expected. You got the letter to appear at this evening of poetry to have been hosted by U.S. First Lady Laura Bush and you just knew that you couldn’t go there. You couldn’t even go there and say these three poets (Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman), were people who’d be very opposed to your administration. Did you not go because it would have been rude, or because it was unconscionable to play a part of an event that this administration organized?

SH – I find this administration to be completely morally bankrupt. These are nasty, dishonest people who think nothing of slaughtering innocent people for their own profit. People make money in wars. Halliburton is becoming a very wealthy corporation as a consequence of the annihilation of the people of Iraq and the demolition of that country. In every war, corporations have profited from it. I couldn’t possibly go to this White House and make nice to these people. These are not nice people. These are not people of good hearts. These are power mongers. And these are empire-builders. But their empire is made of sand.

PN – The Board of Directors of Copper Canyon Press at the time, (2001) some of them at least, suggested that you attend the event. Was there any thought to going and saying, “Here is something about what Walt Whitman said regarding war?”

SH – Well, among other things he referred to the White House as Our National Cesspool. The CIA and the FBI followed Langston around for twenty-five years. No, I couldn’t go and say: “You people don’t understand Walt Whitman.” My response was just to simply contact thirty-five or forty friends and say, send me one of your poems against the war. I want to compile a small anthology which I will SEND to the White House. I was actually trying to be a little polite about this. I didn’t think there was a whole lot to be gained by going to the White House and being rude to these nasty people. I thought I could make a statement and that would probably be the end of it. I had no idea, for instance, that there were ten or twelve thousand poets in the United States of America, most of whom felt silenced, censored by this administration and by the corporate media that controls information in this country. And suddenly I was thrust onto a public stage. I’ve mostly spent my life as a private man. And I was thrust onto this public stage to represent all these people who stood with me in my objections to this morally bankrupt administration. I took that responsibility very seriously. And it didn’t take me very long to discover that poets in other countries also felt deeply moved by what I had done. And Poets Against War groups sprung up in Greece and France, in Germany, all over the world. Now these are poets beginning to talk to one another. And among other things, we’ve discovered that because internationally the mass media is controlled by major corporations, the same lies get repeated over and over again. But when poets communicate with poets, the quality of the information changes and the perspective changes. And in themselves, it’s a solitary voice speaking, but speaking on behalf of something that’s really deep and profound.

PN – There are two things that immediately come to mind that I want to ask you about. Regarding America, first of all, it’s a lot easier to be a poet against war in THIS country than in other countries around the world and we have it very good here as citizens and as poets in one respect. In other countries the price to pay for even ASSOCIATING with a person like you is not only their death, but the death or injury of their family. So that’s one thing I’d like you to comment on.

SH – There are Palestinian and Iraqi poets and Lebanese poets who have risked their lives to stand beside me and speak on behalf of peace and non-violence.

PN – The other thing is that someone who has a different political view might say you are anti-American, that you don’t love this country, why don’t you move?

SH – Excuse me, but has this patriot we’re talking about read our Constitution? There’s a reason why the first amendment is the 1st Amendment. It was the first amendment because it was the most important. And whether or not somebody who is a war-monger thinks that I’m unpatriotic, because I’m a peace-monger, doesn’t concern me one iota, frankly.

PN – When did dissent become unpatriotic in this country?

SH – In some respects it’s always been dealt with that way. That’s the way the right wing always deals with people who are independent-minded, or left-wing minded, or what-have-you. They demonize you. It’s a perfectly normal, routine, political tactic. They did the same thing in ancient Rome. But, there’s over twenty-two thousand poems now, (in the anthology) and there are Poets Against War groups being founded in virtually every country in South and Central America, in many Middle Eastern countries, in Japan, basically around the world. We’re building, slowly but surely, an international network of poets.

PN – Before we go any further, it might be a good idea to have you read a poem.

SH – Well, since we’re talking about poets and war and politics, I will read a political poem. In my journey around the country these last three years, I’ve often been asked: Why can’t you people just leave the politics out of it? As though there were such a thing as poetry without social consequence. You can’t have social consequence without politics and poetry does in fact have social consequence and it always has. At least since Sappho, at least since 600 BCE for those who don’t know her. This is a poem inspired by an exhibition put together by the American Friends Service Committee. A religious group.

Eyes Wide Open                                           

The little olive-skinned girl
peered up at me
from the photograph
with her eyes wide open,

deep brown beautiful eyes
that bore silent witness
to a grief as old as the ages.
She was young,
and very beautiful, as only
the young can be,
but within such beauty
as bears calamity silently:
because it has run out of tears.

I closed the magazine and went
outside to the wood pile
and split a couple of logs, thinking,
“Her fire is likely
an open fire tonight,
bright flames licking
and waving

like rising pennants in the breeze.”

When I was a boy,
I heard about the bloodshed
in Korea, about the Red Army
perched at our threshold,
and the bombs
that would annihilate our world
forever.
I got under my desk with the rest of the foolish world.

In Okinawa, I wore the uniform
and carried the weapon
until my eyes began to open,
until I choked
on Marine Corps pride,
until I came to realize
just how willfully I had been blind.
How much grief is a life?
And what can be done unless
we stand among the missing, among the murdered,
the orphaned,
our own armed children, and bear witness

with our eyes wide open?
When I was a child, frightened of the night
and crying in my bed,
my father told me a poem or sang,

“Empty saddles in the o-l-d corral,
where do they r-i-d-e tonight.”
Homer thought the dead arrived
into a field of asphodels.
“Musashino,” near Tokyo, means
“Musashi’s Plain,”
the warrior’s way washed in blood.

The war-songs are sung
to the same old marching measures—
oh, how we love to honor the dead.
A world without war? Who but a child or a fool
could imagine such a thing?

Corporate leaders go to school
on Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
“We all deplore it,” the President says,
issuing bombing orders,
“but God is on our side.”

Which blood is Christian,
which Muslim, Jew or Hindu?

The beautiful girl with the beautiful sad eyes
watches, but
has not spoken. What can she
possibly say?
She carries the burden of finding
another way.

In her eyes, the ruins, the fear,
the shoes that can’t be filled, hands
that will never stroke her hair.

But listen. And you will hear her small, soft, plaintive voice
—it’s already there within you—

a heartbeat, a whisper,
a promise broken—
if only you listen
with your eyes wide open.

PN – Copper Canyon Press, for its entire existence, I’m guessing, or near its entire existence, was located at Fort Worden in Port Townsend, Washington, which was formerly a fort. You know, to me, in my mind, this is a model for the America of the future. The America as Whitman saw it. In that the resources go from militarism to creation and to the arts.

SH – Art and Culture. It’s a wonderful thing to do. We should do that with some of these military bases that we’re closing. And we should close a few more.

PN – There are a few that are going to be closed. There’s a “Memory’s Vault” here with some of your poems. And the fort (Worden) is at a strategic location where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets Hood Canal. And so the threats in those days, the early days of the fort…

SH – The Spanish American War. The geniuses believed the Spanish Armada was going to come in and close down our shipping lanes. So they built this huge fort, three hundred and eighty acres, and the largest guns here weighed a hundred tons. They were HUGE! And a lot of these old concrete bunkers are still here. Kids go up there and play in them. It’s really a remarkable place to come and visit. And a very strange place for a pacifist to spend 31 years.

PN – Never a shot fired in anger isn’t that a line from one of the poems?

SH – That’s right.

PN – Talk about that.

SH – Well, the Spanish Armada never came. Nothing’s ever happened here. This has been the most peaceful fort you can possibly imagine. And in the 1950’s they basically closed it as a fort and for about ten years it was a school for wayward boys. And then in 1973, Joe Wheeler created an organization called Centrum, a non-profit corporation for the arts, and got state legislative money and permission to center it here at Fort Worden. And Tree Swenson and I brought Copper Canyon here from Colorado to become the first Artist in Residence with Centrum.

PN – Let’s go back to Sappho, who you were talking about earlier. There’s a great essay of yours in the Virginia Quarterly Review. The issue is dedicated to Walt Whitman, but you talk about political poetry and that Sappho evicted men from her community in part because she believed war-mongering is childish behavior

SH – That’s absolutely right.

PN – You agree with her?

SH – It is childish behavior. I mean, what is the difference between two six year olds getting in a fight over their marbles, and the behavior of George W. Bush? This guy tried to kill my Daddy he said and the next thing we know, he’s telling us that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and Iraq is building nuclear weapons and a whole pack of lies because he’s angry at this guy and he’s going to make the whole country pay for what he thinks about this guy. And what he did is he totally destroyed the country. There’s no infrastructure left in Iraq. There’s no economy left in Iraq. He’s basically obliterated a nation out of a childish temper tantrum, AND uses fear to gain power. Before 9/11, George Bush was the laughing stock of the world. Now he’s the most feared man in the world and he’s the largest propagator of terrorism in the world. All of these wars that are going on in places like Colombia and Equador, this is all part of this whole war machine. This country’s lived on a war economy since its inception. We have never gotten off the war economy. Think how rich and how beautiful this country would be if we stopped making war the first business and started making education our business.

PN – Well, infrastructure is another thing you mentioned, but we were looking at the TV with pictures of New Orleans completely underwater. And you mentioned something like seventy-five percent of the bridges in this country don’t meet code. And the ones in New Orleans failed not only because of the hurricane (Katrina) but because of their weakened condition due to our lack of investment in the infrastructure of this country. Are we bankrupting this country due to militarism?

SH –Well, I don’t know that we’re technically, financially bankrupting ourselves, but we’re certainly on the verge of it. These “conservatives” have created the largest deficit ever known to suffering humanity. We are the only industrialized nation in the world without national health care.

PN – Your response has been to dedicate your life to poetry, to deepen that dedication. To take a vow, a bodhisattva vow regarding poetry in your life.

SH – I believe that we can learn from poetry what we cannot learn from prose. I believe that every art form is an important form. I don’t believe poetry is more important than prose. But I believe that it is AS important as prose. And what poets have to say about war should be compared to what military geniuses say about war. But my bodhisattva vow, my vow to follow the way of poetry, and to devote my life to the betterment of poetry, I made that because I am a practicing Zen Buddhist and poetry is my path to enlightenment… and it can be your path too.

PN – I’d like you to elaborate on poetry as wisdom teaching.

SH – Poetry is the most compressed, considered and comprehensive use of language. It marries language to music. What is not said in a poem is often just as important as what IS said. And when we invest the energy and the listening, we can’t read poetry silently, you must listen to the language, you must let the rhythms enter your body. Poetry aspires to the condition of music, but also aspires to the conditions of philosophy. Poetry is a very large house and there are many kinds of poetry. There is something in there, beneath all of that, that lies at the very common core of human experience. And to follow those threads, to follow the thinking of poets over the centuries, one sees again and again, the poet speaking on behalf of suffering humanity. The poet trying to lift people out of their dolor; lift people out of their indifference. Poetry is a very valuable tool and it has been my honor and my privilege to devote my life to this cause.

PN – Once you get a taste of poetry as consciousness-deepening activity, it’s hard to go back, isn’t it? Poetry chooses you, doesn’t it?

SH – Well, certainly poetry chose me. I was an orphan kid. I was a very self-destructive adolescent. But poetry taught me how to be a man. It taught me that my life had worth. It taught me that there were things that I could do that made me feel good about myself and made me feel good about other people.

PN – These ancient Chinese poets, many of whom you’ve translated, you consider them models for your life. Talk a bit about that.

SH – Poets like Li Po and Tu Fu, Po Chu-i and Wang Wei, what they valued, I value. Their practice is my practice. They lived under a system called san chiao— Three Systems: Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Lao Tzu, who lived at about 400 B.C.E., at a time of great conflict in China, a time of almost perpetual civil war— he observed that every war has two losers. Has any of that changed? We may not be suffering as the Iraqis are suffering, but we suffer in our souls for our behavior.

Confucius believed that “All wisdom is rooted in calling things by their right names.” That would, presumably, include murder, and war is mass murder. Period.

Buddhism teaches us that in this “world of suffering,” it is possible to transcend our suffering, to realize, to personally embody, peace.

These practices, these applied practical philosophies, have shaped my life and practice.

PN – I was in Boston and stayed at the hostel there and met a young Japanese lady. And she said: “Why are you so interested in Japanese culture?” I had miso soup, I had some nori on me. I said Itadakimasu before the meal. “Why do you know so much about this?” A French man I met at the hostel said: “Ah, he had a Japanese girlfriend!” and that’s true, but as we were heading to a Jazz club, an American Jazz club to see a Japanese pianist, she asked me the question: “What interests you in Japanese culture?” I told her, “Well in Japanese culture you have the tradition of satori and here we don’t have that. Here in America we have…” and as we were passing a store I saw a sign for chili dogs. “See— you have satori, we have chili dogs.” What is it about America, especially now as the culture is dumbed down by TV and advertisements, we don’t have an appreciation for wisdom. In India the mendicant will sit on the sidewalk with a begging bowl and people will fill that bowl because they know, in a sense, this person, by meditating all day, is not loafing, is not being unproductive, but is cleaning up the psychic airwaves. So these cultures have an appreciation for wisdom. We don’t have that here.

SH – There was a great Jewish thinker who said: “I am the least of them.” If we do not place ourselves among the least of us, we will never rise above anything. In order to transcend a materialist culture, we have to develop spiritual values. We have to have a spiritual economy, an economy of the soul. Poetry is part of that commerce. It lives outside the mainstream economy. Nobody has become a millionaire by becoming a great poet. If you make money from poetry, you do it more as an entertainer or personality than you do as an actual poet. But in the economy of the soul, thrift is ruinous.

For more information about Poets Against War, click www.poetsagainstwar.net

 

Bombs Away! And the rockets’ red glare!

Bombs Away! And the rockets’ red glare!

Seven days into National Poetry Month, and the man who has gained possession of the “nuclear football” and alone possesses the secret codes and key to the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, and now has the ability to turn that key, push a tiny red button, and within a couple of seconds destroy the entirety of human civilization, culture, and even existence, — that same so-called man has launched dozens of warhead-armed missile attacks on the people of Syria, a nation who’s close allies are Russia, Iran, and China. This individual, with the most powerful military force in the world at his command, is now attacking and murdering citizens of Syria supposedly because the dictator of Syria is a war criminal (and of course he is) who murders his own fellow Syrian citizens (of course he does). So now our nation is doing that dictator’s murderous work for him. “Because you have attacked and murdered some of your own citizens, we will now send our own missile attacks to murder some more of your citizens for you. Now that there is less of such work for you to do as dictator, perhaps you will volunteer to step down and peacefully retire to Miami, or Moscow?”

Our nation, who imprisons more (and a much higher percentage) of its own citizens than any other nation in the world. Our nation who pays corporations to construct and run private prisons in which to hold our federal domestic prisoner-citizens; — hold them, crowd them, punish them, enslave them as unpaid laborers, and torture them, while the government winks. Our nation in which, daily, unarmed citizens are murdered by corrupt and militarized police troops. Our nation, the richest in the world, in which one out of every ten children goes to sleep hungry each night. Our nation in which one of every three women serving in our military is raped by her fellow military personnel, and one of every ten males in our military is likewise raped by his fellow enlistees. Our nation, still squabbling over whether all citizens have equal marriage rights, equal rights to use public restrooms. Our nation, our nation…My country, ’tis of thee I sing, sing my ceaseless lamentation. Nation, wake up!

Here is a poem for this day from American poet and former US Marine, Sam Hamill:

EYES WIDE OPEN

The little olive-skinned girl
peered up at me
from the photograph

with her eyes wide open,

deep brown beautiful eyes
that bore silent witness
to a grief as old as the ages.

She was young,
and very beautiful, as only
the young can be,
but within such beauty
as bears calamity silently:

because it has run out of tears.

I closed the magazine and went
outside to the wood pile
and split a couple of logs, thinking,
“Her fire is likely
an open fire tonight,
bright flames licking
and waving

like rising pennants in the breeze.”

When I was a boy,
I heard about the bloodshed
in Korea, about the Red Army
perched at our threshold,
and the bombs
that would annihilate our world

forever.

I got under my desk with the rest of the foolish world.

In Okinawa, I wore the uniform

and carried the weapon
until my eyes began to open,
until I choked
on Marine Corps pride,
until I came to realize
just how willfully I had been blind.

How much grief is a life?
And what can be done unless
we stand among the missing, among the murdered,
the orphaned,
our own armed children, and bear witness

with our eyes wide open?

When I was a child, frightened of the night
and crying in my bed,
my father told me a poem or sang,

“Empty saddles in the o-l-d corral,
where do they r-i-d-e tonight.”

Homer thought the dead arrived
into a field of asphodels.
“Musashino,” near Tokyo, means
“Musashi’s Plain,”
the warrior’s way washed in blood.

The war-songs are sung
to the same old marching measures–
oh, how we love to honor the dead.

A world without war? Who but a child or a fool
could imagine such a thing?

Corporate leaders go to school
on Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
“We all deplore it,” the President says,
issuing bombing orders,
“but God is on our side.”

Which blood is Christian,
which Muslim, Jew or Hindu?

The beautiful girl with the beautiful sad eyes
watches, but
has not spoken. What can she

possibly say?
She carries the burden of finding
another way.

In her eyes, the ruins, the fear,
the shoes that can’t be filled, hands
that will never stroke her hair.

But listen. And you will hear her small, soft, plaintive voice
–it’s already there within you–

a heartbeat, a whisper,
a promise broken–
if only you listen

with your eyes wide open.

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006

Recording courtesy of Michael Ladd. First aired on Poetica Radio, June 23rd, 2007.

http://www.rattle.com/eyes-wide-open-by-sam-hamill/

TRUMP’s second illegal act of war has now begun with dozens of missile attacks on Syrian people.

WE ALL KNEW that pitiful excuse for a human being, Donald J “Rat-______r” Trumpedup-Madman, would try to start a war. He already illegally attacked and murdered civilian families, men, women, and children in Yemen virtually as soon as he gained controlling power over our nation and its military forces. Now he has ordered missile attacks on Syrians.  Are you personally willing to allow this to happen and to inevitably escalate without doing what you can to stop it?  I’m not!

from the MoveOn movement:

News is breaking that Donald Trump just ordered the launch of dozens of Tomahawk missiles to strike Syria.1

It’s an illegal and unauthorized escalation that could have devastating consequences, killing innocent Syrians and costing the lives of U.S. service members.

Things could spiral quickly in the coming hours, and it’s up to MoveOn members to lead a chorus of progressives in every corner of this nation saying NO to bombing the people of Syria.

Will you sign an emergency petition to Congress right now? 

Congress must force consideration of an Authorization for Use of Military Force, and members of Congress should vote “no” and halt Trump’s march toward war.

Let’s be clear: There’s no doubt that Bashar Assad is a brutal dictator who has slaughtered his own people and is complicit in the use of chemical weapons. But this is no humanitarian mission. These are missiles ordered by a flailing president with plummeting approval ratings, trying to show how “tough” he can be. The result will likely be increased suffering for the Syrian people. And this unilateral U.S. attack could possibly even draw in Russia and Iran, which have been close partners of the Assad regime.

The U.S. cannot bomb its way to peace, but it does have an essential role to play in the world, including 1) welcoming increased numbers of refugees fleeing Syria, 2) fully supporting international relief efforts for those most affected by this brutal civil war, 3) engaging in multilateral diplomacy at the United Nations to isolate Syria, and 4) sanctioning Russia and other nations which enable the Assad regime.

But none of this will be possible unless we first halt Trump’s march toward war.

Please click here to add your name to an emergency petition calling for Congress to act. 

Thanks for all you do.

–Ilya, Jo, Iram, Stephen, and the rest of the team

Source:

1. “Dozens of U.S. Missiles Hit Air Base in Syria,” The New York Times, April 6, 2017
https://act.moveon.org/go/9363?t=4&akid=180935.31447431.6Fx6A6

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