Monthly Archives: April 2010

Catching up with April.

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I am starving. I could eat words right now. Here is a poem that is so tasty. I believe this makes two feastings in one day and we have caught up with the missing-number-of-days in April.

Where do words come from?
by Vénus Khoury-Ghata
Translated by Marilyn Hacker

Where do words come from?
from what rubbing of sounds are they born
on what flint do they light their wicks
what winds brought them into our mouths

Their past is the rustling of stifled silences
the trumpeting of molten elements
the grunting of stagnant waters

Sometimes
they grip each other with a cry
expand into lamentations
become mist on the windows of dead houses
crystallize into chips of grief on dead lips
attach themselves to a fallen star
dig their hole in nothingness
breathe out strayed souls

Words are rocky tears
the keys to the first doors
they grumble in caverns
lend their ruckus to storms
their silence to bread that’s ovened alive.

April is a wondrous month.

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The past 24 hours have been amazing. Highs and lows and everything ripe in between. Change, to the better,
and the remembrance of why I love whom I love.
Meeting Marilyn Hacker, virtually, having her contribute her kind words to my new book, learning of how poetry can join women across borders across hearts in galaxies different across the globe that we can reduce to the imprint of my palm against yours.
The past 24 hours have been amazing. I remember June Jordan. I remember Suheir Hammad. I remember my dear friend, poet undiscovered, Amahl, I remember my luminous mother and the legacy of generosity she left me. I remember Jean Makdissi and the history made in Beirut in the 70’s that is our inheritance beyond gold and land. I remember my sister, shining example of all that is right in our short breath lives.
I remember why I like poetry.
Here is Adrienne Rich, being the strong, wonderful woman that she is.

“North American Time”:

I
When my dreams showed signs
of becoming
politically correct
no unruly images
escaping beyond border
when walking in the street I found my
themes cut out for me
knew what I would not report
for fear of enemies’ usage
then I began to wonder

II
Everything we write
will be used against us
or against those we love.
These are the terms,
take them or leave them.
Poetry never stood a chance
of standing outside history.
One line typed twenty years ago
can be blazed on a wall in spraypaint
glorify art as detachment
or torture of those we
did not love but also
did not want to kill

We move but our words stand
become responsible
and this is verbal privilege

III
Try sitting at a typewriter
one calm summer evening
at a table by a window
in the country, try pretending
your time does not exist
that you are simply you
that the imagination simply strays
like a great moth, unintentional
try telling yourself
you are not accountable
to the life of your tribe
the breath of your planet

IV
It doesn’t matter what you think.
Words are found responsible
all you can do is choose them
or choose
to remain silent. Or, you never had a choice,
which is why the words that do stand
are responsible
and this is verbal privilege

V
Suppose you want to write
of a woman braiding
another woman’s hair–
staightdown, or with beads and shells
in three-strand plaits or corn-rows–
you had better know the thickness
the length the pattern
why she decides to braid her hair
how it is done to her
what country it happens in
what else happens in that country

You have to know these things

VI
Poet, sister: words–
whether we like it or not–
stand in a time of their own.
no use protesting I wrote that
before Kollontai was exiled
Rosa Luxembourg, Malcolm,
Anna Mae Aquash, murdered,
before Treblinka, Birkenau,
Hiroshima, before Sharpeville,
Biafra, Bangla Desh, Boston,
Atlanta, Soweto, Beirut, Assam
–those faces, names of places
sheared from the almanac
of North American time

VII
I am thinking this in a country
where words are stolen out of mouths
as bread is stolen out of mouths
where poets don’t go to jail
for being poets, but for being
dark-skinned, female, poor.
I am writing this in a time
when anything we write
can be used against those we love
where the context is never given
though we try to explain, over and over
For the sake of poetry at least
I need to know these things

VIII
Sometimes, gliding at night
in a plane over New York City
I have felt like some messenger
called to enter, called to engage
this field of light and darkness.
A grandiose idea, born of flying.
But underneath the grandiose idea
is the thought that what I must engage
after the plane has rage onto the tarmac
after climbing my old stair, sitting down
at my old window
is meant to break my heart and reduce me to silence.

IX
In North America time stumbles on
without moving, only releasing
a certain North American pain.
Julia de Burgos wrote:
That my grandfather was a slave
is my grief; had he been a master
that would have been my shame.
A poet’s words, hung over a door
in North America, in the year
nineteen-eighty-three.
The almost-full moon rises
timeless speaking of change
out of the Bronx, the Harlem River
the drowned towns of the Quabbin
the pilfered burial mounds
the toxic swamps, the testing-grounds
and I start to speak again.

More Stephen Dunn (although I’ve lost track of poetry month)

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Dont know what number this is for April poetry month. I never wanted to do much math. I just know, you will get a poem everyday if I can help it.
We have a poetry reading next Thursday here, on the 15th, at the Shelter. I don’t think I was aware of the April poetry month thing when I picked that date, but I like how its smack in the middle of the month. If anyone out there is reading this, highly unlikely, and you are in Dubai, come to the Poeticians reading, 7 pm at the Shelter.
Ok, enough propaganda.
Here are two gorgeous poems by Stephen Dunn. Ahhh. Brilliant. The second one moves me a lot.

At The Smithville Methodist Church

It was supposed to be Arts & Crafts for a week,
but when she came home
with the “Jesus Saves” button, we knew what art
was up, what ancient craft.

She liked her little friends. She liked the songs
they sang when they weren’t
twisting and folding paper into dolls.
What could be so bad?

Jesus had been a good man, and putting faith
in good men was what
we had to do to stay this side of cynicism,
that other sadness.

OK, we said, One week. But when she came home
singing “Jesus loves me,
the Bible tells me so,” it was time to talk.
Could we say Jesus

doesn’t love you? Could I tell her the Bible
is a great book certain people use
to make you feel bad? We sent her back
without a word.

It had been so long since we believed, so long
since we needed Jesus
as our nemesis and friend, that we thought he was
sufficiently dead,

that our children would think of him like Lincoln
or Thomas Jefferson.
Soon it became clear to us: you can’t teach disbelief
to a child,

only wonderful stories, and we hadn’t a story
nearly as good.
On parents’ night there were the Arts & Crafts
all spread out

like appetizers. Then we took our seats
in the church
and the children sang a song about the Ark,
and Hallelujah

and one in which they had to jump up and down
for Jesus.
I can’t remember ever feeling so uncertain
about what’s comic, what’s serious.

Evolution is magical but devoid of heroes.
You can’t say to your child
“Evolution loves you.” The story stinks
of extinction and nothing

exciting happens for centuries. I didn’t have
a wonderful story for my child
and she was beaming. All the way home in the car
she sang the songs,

occasionally standing up for Jesus.
There was nothing to do
but drive, ride it out, sing along
in silence.

The Sudden Light And The Trees

My neighbor was a biker, a pusher, a dog
and wife beater.
In bad dreams I killed him

and once, in the consequential light of day,
I called the Humane Society
about Blue, his dog. They took her away

and I readied myself, a baseball bat
inside my door.
That night I hear his wife scream

and I couldn’t help it, that pathetic
relief; her again, not me.
It would be years before I’d understand

why victims cling and forgive. I plugged in
the Sleep-Sound and it crashed
like the ocean all the way to sleep.

One afternoon I found him
on the stoop,
a pistol in his hand, waiting,

he said, for me. A sparrow had gotten in
to our common basement.
Could he have permission

to shoot it? The bullets, he explained,
might go through the floor.
I said I’d catch it, wait, give me

a few minutes and, clear-eyed, brilliantly
afraid, I trapped it
with a pillow. I remember how it felt

when I got my hand, and how it burst
that hand open
when I took it outside, a strength

that must have come out of hopelessness
and the sudden light
and the trees. And I remember

the way he slapped the gun against
his open palm,
kept slapping it, and wouldn’t speak.

April poetry month- Stephen Dunn is beautiful. (exquisite)

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I hate the word Beautiful. It’s always the first word to come to mind, but I try to fight it often and use others. I discovered Laura Marling and her music recently, thanks to poetician Nigel Holt, and I have been addicted. If you dont know her, check out “My manic and I”, an excellent song.
I am happy that reviews/blurbs/ and a forward for my book are in the works. I should have all the material collected from various kind writers and sources…I wont reveal who is writing about the book, you need to see the actual book to find out! But I am super grateful for this wonderful community of Arab and American authors and editors.
I still dont have a title for the new book. It’s been called “The new book” for months now. Dammit. Its bordering on disaster, since the cover cannot be finished without it, nor can we get an ISBN number. Suffering.
To stop rambling about nothing, Im gonna go back to my coffee (with soya, hmmm) and leave you with amazing poems from Stephen Dunn. If you dont know him, google his name now! now! He is brilliant. I love his work and wish that one day I could squeeze tons of meaning into simple short lines.
Enjoy. April is such a GREAT month!

Landscape At The End Of The Century

by Stephen Dunn

The sky in the trees, the trees mixed up
with what’s left of heaven, nearby a patch
of daffodils rooted down
where dirt and stones comprise a kind
of night, unmetaphysical, cool as a skeptic’s
final sentence. What this scene needs
is a nude absentmindedly sunning herself
on a large rock, thinks the man fed up
with nature, or perhaps a lost tiger,
the maximum amount of wildness a landscape
can bear, but the man knows and fears
his history of tampering with everything,
and besides to anyone who might see him
he’s just a figure in a clearing
in a forest in a universe
that is as random as desire itself,
his desire in particular, so much going on
with and without him, moles humping up
the ground near the daffodils, a mockingbird
publishing its cacaphonous anthology,
and those little Calvinists, the ants,
making it all the more difficult
for a person in America
to close his office, skip to the beach.
But what this scene needs are wisteria
and persimmons, thinks the woman
sunning herself absentmindedly on the rock,
a few magnificent words that one
might want to eat if one were a lover
of words, the hell with first principles,
the noon sun on my body, tempered
by a breeze that cannot be doubted.
And as she thinks, she who exists
only in the man’s mind, a deer grazes
beyond their knowing, a deer tick riding
its back, and in the gifted air
mosquitos, dragonflies, and tattered
mute angels no one has called upon in years.

I will post some more of his more accessible work tomorrow. He is so good. This last line was amazing, no?

April Poetry month, installment five!

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Hmm. What to pick for you today…Lemme go back in history and check what my favorite poems are.
OK, I think Kim Addonizio for today…If you don’t know her work, you should check it out, shes lovely and intense and smart and gutsy. I appreciate her poetry a lot. I thank Rewa Z, a rock star poetician, for introducing me to her. My life is very boring today, nothing much to report on (in case anyone cared), highlight of the day is figuring out how to get to Abu Dhabi to film the London Symphony in rehearsals…ahh, That could be fun in itself, listening to music midday. I reiterate, production is a great job, unless you’re making a commercial for diapers…hasn’t happened to me yet. Oh I digress from poetry. Ok back to poetry, off to get breakfast for me.
I leave you with Kim. This one is for all the boys who don’t know what love is.

You Don’t Know What Love Is

You Don’t Know What Love Is
but you know how to raise it in me
like a dead girl winched up from a river. How to
wash off the sludge, the stench of our past.
How to start clean. This love even sits up
and blinks; amazed, she takes a few shaky steps.
Any day now she’ll try to eat solid food. She’ll want
to get into a fast car, one low to the ground, and drive
to some cinderblock shithole in the desert
where she can drink and get sick and then
dance in nothing but her underwear. You know
where she’s headed, you know she’ll wake up
with an ache she can’t locate and no money
and a terrible thirst. So to hell
with your warm hands sliding inside my shirt
and your tongue down my throat
like an oxygen tube. Cover me
in black plastic. Let the mourners through.

Kim Addonizio

more? ok MORE!!!

FEBRUARY 14

This is a valentine for the surgeons
ligating the portal veins and hepatic artery,
placing vascular clamps on the vena cava
as my brother receives a new liver.

And a valentine for each nurse;
though I don’t know how many there are
leaning over him in their gauze masks,
I’m sure I have enough—as many hearts

as it takes, as much embarrassing sentiment
as anyone needs. One heart
for the sutures, one for the instruments
I don’t know the names of,

and the monitors and lights,
and the gloves slippery with his blood
as the long hours pass,
as a T-tube is placed to drain the bile.

And one heart for the donor,
who never met my brother
but who understood the body as gift
and did not want to bury or burn that gift.

For that man, I can’t imagine how
one heart could suffice. But I offer it.
While my brother lies sedated,
opened from sternum to groin,

I think of a dead man, being remembered
by others in their sorrow, and I offer him
these words of praise and gratitude,
oh beloved whom we did not know.

April Poetry Month continues!

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I’m doing this before I even have my morning coffee, something must be wrong here…or I am taking this poetry thing way too seriously. I have been thinking of a funny (not so funny actually) thing that happened on this blog…ever since I started it, a few comments from nice random readers have come in, but nothing too overwhelming or serious. Then I posted a poem by Laurel Harig and the title of the blog post included the words ‘Israeli Apartheid”…a few days later some strange comments began trickling on, only on that post…then even weirder ones…then ones in a language i didn’t even recognize, until they started appearing every hour or so, no exaggeration…now why in the world would I get spammed on only ONE post in this blog, and the ONLY ONE that mentions Israeli Apartheid? Who wants to bet this current post I’m writing sans coffee will also get spammed? I’ll keep you updated, and you Zionist Internet Spammers, you don’t scare me!! 🙂

I leave you with a lovely poem by Chris Chamoun, one of our Beirut Poeticians.

The First Singer.
(Slight background info: It is believed that human beings began the practice of singing, and hence the first musical practice, about 80000 years ago)

I – I envy the first singer
First savior of my life
Eighty thousand years behind me
Barely speaking
Possessed of a laughably tiny
Vocabulary

I fancy it happened at nightfall
Under a glance from the
Immortal cold face
Of her
Concealing herself in earth’s shadow
To look like a floating smile
And the first singer –
Unshaven
Squatting nude, poised
At the end of the past, or
The beginning of the future
Whose only desires were raw food
And sex –

Felt the first human tone
And a throb in the diaphragm
A quiver moving through
The bones
As though it were choosing to
Move as such

The sound started and stopped
In a flicker
Under her floating smile

II – It was cold
And the first singer
Sought shelter

Eighty thousand years later
Somewhere else
Sewn black cotton
Stole upward
By a tiny act of will

Beside it there was a glance
And a secretly floating smile
A thought, or two
Of something that has never
Been real

III – Time will dissolve us
All of us
As the first tone
And the first singer
In a flicker

Mankind built great machines
Thus, one or two approached
Her floating smile
That in eighty thousand years
Has not been dissolved

They walked on her skin
Feeling nearly weightless

These secret thoughts
Entail a throb in the diaphragm
A feeling of weightlessness
A quiver moving through the bones

When the first tone
Started and stopped
In a flicker

There was no I
and no you.

Third poem for April Poetry Month- Lara Sawalha!

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Hello again. It’s Sunday morning-ish. Apparently it’s Easter. I guess it’s a sign of how my life has developed the past few years, that I didn’t know it was Easter till yesterday. Not much I miss about Easter aside from painting eggs with my mother, who loved her arts and crafts with us. Anyway, isnt that ritual some pagan rite to do with spring?
Who cares. It’s poetry month! yay! The following poem is by Lara Sawalha, a lovely actress from Jordan, who is set to be a new Poetician as soon as we have a reading in Amman this summer. I thank her for offering a poem for our poetry month series, and yes yes, I know I am one day late.

This is a poem about Beirut.

“The Bay of Roots”

Beirut lights mixed with triptonic thunder strikes
Cold as the night
The words of murmured rhymes come together
Into beats as lighting bites
Hail, rain, umbrellas
Fairouz – “بوس الواوا”
Remarks the sign of Gaza
And the Intifada
Underground hip hop all around
Free styles, words crying
The smoke that brings your world flying
The lit cherry of obscure dancing
Images on the wall
Through the eye of the projecting
Electricity
Dark corners flashing neon
Conversations staggering
Thoughts glimmering
People all around
Like a jangled web
All caught in the moment
Of shivering vibration
Hot, Cold, Sweaty
Jammed in a Lebanese taxi
“Wow, your face is so close to mine”
Bumping into the roof of the odysee
Chilled to the bone and all crazy
Stuck between Iraq and a hard place
Lyrics booming
The boom box so close
I can hear it lurking
Sounds of crystals smashing
Waves gaining as the Beirut lights come to
A shimmering.

Poem from Joumana, second poem for April.

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My dear friend, Joumana Seikaly, is sharing a poem with us for the second day of April poetry month. ( I should have posted it yesterday, but I’m a writer, we don’t listen to the normal passing of time, so there), and so here it is. I loved it and am happy she is contributing. She’s a far better writer than she ever gave herself credit for.

Joumana’s Bio:
Joumana is not a poet, but loves words and writing letters. She also compulsively follows the news.

To and about R

You were the little love
That would not grow
You were the little love that said
I love me
so much more
than you.

I loved you less than others,
and you loved me least.

But
If you need one last compliment
If I must say one more thing
It would be
That I hated you best
That I have never been
More cruel
Than I was
To and about you
Funny what love does.
Did.

April 1st- poem for today.

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I plan to post a poem here every day for the month of April, which is Poetry Month. Not necessarily my own, or by the Poeticians, but just random poetry I love…hope you will come back every day and read a new poem. It usually adds a little something something to one’s day…Hope it will to yours.
We have a Poetician event on April 15th, follow this lead to see the Facebook invite if youre in Dubai:

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=104935026213049&ref=nf

Here it today’s poem. It is long and incomprehensible but I think it fits well with the topic of writing. I have a small fondness for it. I wrote this one in NYC. Hope you get through it…

Becoming Poetry
09/2008,
New York.

until i am inspired by merely the breath alive
in no imposed conscious desire
until i can clearly paint the orbit of the stars
around your smile
those veins we all share
despite enemies and
differences assumed
and wars declared
until i can hear the din of your thoughts landing
safely on mine, i cannot venture forth
an understanding total of
the meaning of
the verb to write

bad opening stanzas converge to plot in
me this desire to try
for until i can muscle up the heart to follow each
thought speeding to the center of that abyss
we name memory
how filled with sorrow it is this
graveyard of images habitual, hard it
is to rescue these
thoughts
we deem precious we deem vital
we deem immortal after the seconds they stay
death comes quick to words that are fragile
they that deserve the paper shroud are few and
far from the empty fullness of the mind

and until i learn to save a child from the lives spent in fear
until i can hollow out that throbbing section
of hurt on your face
until i can scavenge and retrieve every painful trace
of life’s blows to your space
embrace away the frown you wear at dusk
every toss unpleasant of our shared sleep
until you no longer weep without knowing why
until i eradicate those cries, of every
single forgotten child, until the calm can
stain and continue to seep
peace
until love is the only possible answer to the
questions our hearts grasp and keep
unless i summon all that in the flick of a spell-weaving
wrist, then open wide my fingers to hold your hand
till all the healing words run steady
stay deep
this cannot be named the journey to write

deceased poems taunt me on a bewitched night
they float around unfocused
ripe for the picking but
well out of this sour woman’s way
they taint the stillness of an urban night, another
morn to wake up empty
until i can burst open, kinetically
magnetically
aligned with all the hopes you muster at the start of each work
week, harried
and forlorn and abandoned we are to desks and uniforms and
forgotten language of the old raw methods as
we inspire and expire in a new universe
silent
i tire of holding this net for poems to catch
my hair a nest of fire
eyes stuck in the mire of banality
and fingers tapping to rule a miniscule empire
i tire, and drive forth the will
to abandon this hunt
admit to the feeble kill
and only then, when i immerse my lungs
in words and paper to render
me blind, until the yoke of this ink has strangled me
i am shackled long and deep and wide
and cannot hide the predator inside
until i am a full captive of myself
alone coercing poems out of flight
until then
until i can guard the love we all
need to hide, and abide by the laws of metaphysics
betrothed to kindness, and the madness of lives spent wiping
words off all the dirty surface
until then, until the reconciliation between neurons
arching impulses that are poison
all these letters in time spent alone
until I am free to be
the owner of myself, all facets pressed and dried and collected
like a flower picked by a sad bride
on her wedding night, to be that flower that shelters you
for years brushed aside by
death
and until i am declared a woman losing her mind
by those who have seen it before
until i can roar in the whispers i send to you
that i want to write
i must first be taught to court the stars at night
to twist the moon
into shapes that while away the unslept time
till finality explains itself to me
in laymen terms i can respect and admire
until then
until i figure out
why cells wont obey me, until i can verbally
emphatically put down in letters you may translate
everything we need to know about love
and hate
until then i can only say i tried, and i tried and tried

until the spiritual stories make sense to me
and are real, not role-playing characters that are so far
imaginary, because one must believe in something
ultimately, and until i can trust to believe what
my eyes don’t see
until we can quantify love, and describe what
it is to just be, until we measure the weight
of friendship on scales of our entwined palms
until we convince the resurrection daily of another day
to stop being the only way
i must find my own means to pray, to yearn for the flesh to say
and ask for and receive another brand new
day, only then, when i am filled with queries no longer
and clear is the home in which I am to stay
then you can proclaim
hey
she would have done well to try and write

until you love me beyond the decay day by day
of my hair and skin organs voice smell laugh kiss fuck hold
and eyes
and say,
always that melodious death of our say
vocal chords extinguished in a harmony of silence
that is the only way, only then when we can
sing all that we need to pray
i will write to you then
to tell you i love you too

no matter the decay

only when the earth explains herself in languages familiar
in long winded dreams of our nights, sobriety
astray
in short bursts of song that is the music
enabling life
enabling my desire to stay
when all the sound clusters to dwell in soundtracks
of beauty, when i am starry and
alight, when this is my gift
to myself, drifting to spaces leaving the soil
to trek the mysterious pages that are vile
adversaries of anyone wanting to write and write and drift aloft
the letters that only you can say
until that day
writing falls always short of my voices that stray
and only when and only if, only how, i can come to know
how quick your feelings come in and go, to know
how i can traverse the distance between hopes
and words, in all the unworded chatter
our skin buzzes, when that geography
of minutiae tells me about the crests and valleys
in your chest, breathing in love for me
when the seas are but a fraction of our home together, only then,
lover, friend or family
stranger in nights smiling, strangers but for the pen,
only then can one dare to try and write

until i can stop time from winning
always spinning stories to steal my seconds
to find the immortality
one needs to willfully awake in mornings
futility lingering a cobweb of fear to trap me here
arms bound, eyes extinguished
death a mere breath away

until until until i can still
the cries of every child buried in the lives spent in fear,
until i can hollow out that throbbing section
of hurt on your face
until then,
i cannot ever really write

and so
and so what
and what if
what does all this wanton seeking say
about what you and i are doing
right now, here in this precious time we have not killed
memories of words to ever stay
even if only for

today

know this
know that this is all i am left to say
know that i love you
today
and know how
my love comes to me invisible
loud and clear to convey

everything we try to place on the insides
of our space, in every trace outline of thought you left behind
lied in divinity, beside
everything else sacred inside
outside
your gorgeous mind
is reborn to life, forever and ever more
and is
becoming poetry

everything we try not to say, that we leave behind, to die
on the edges of our infinite way, all of that
which my fingers cannot bring
to you
all that ever bathed in light and dark
to span the horizon which is etched for evermore
is for now, and forever
at your core
even your savage inhuman core
is alive
is your own indelible mark
and is
becoming poetry.