FACEBOOK REDUX

Facebook didn’t depose Mubarak
  the army deposed Mubarak
    with the help of unarmed people

Facebook doesn’t depose
  it poses
but in Egypt it was better than the telephone
  and it still is in countries
   where the police isn’t on Facebook yet
     (there is no such country: Facebook is the police)

in the U.S. where everybody is on Facebook
  pretending to be just hanging out
    discussing the quirks of their dogs
       their tastes in music and what they want in a mate
         Facebook is just pixel puff off a virtual dog
           its data bots eat your brain and make you buy stuff
and if you make a move that looks vaguely human Facebook arrests you
   and connects you to Twitter LinkedIn and other social groups
    where communication will rehabilitate you

for a writer Facebook is especially deadly
  a novelist mining for stories will run only into lies
    there are no smells and no skin
a poet is quickly bored by the nanitudes mouthed there
  an essayist meets there only herm public face
    and whatever looked real in reality
      (which wasn't much)
is secretly spirited away from your soul and made into zuckerbergs

mr zuckerberg laughs all the way to the bank as he eats them
  it’s always sunny on sugar mountain

I quit Facebook
  I felt lighter already
    I looked for my friends at the bar
      couldn't find them
but look: a real dog is falling in love with a fire hydrant!

THE GULF OF MEXICO (SOCIAL REALISM)

these giants
  oil
    engines
        behind the scenes at night
           they are working for you
even when they look like they are making money
             for someone else
                 (they do)

the only thing that hurts these giants is the umbilical cords
  they are attached with
      to you
that one just dangling with a puddle on the end
        is the gulf of mexico
          it used to be rich

all you need is a nice pair of scissors
   then it will be esthetic
     you won't even know it was there
        like a shrimp in reduction sauce

wind air water fire when drafted say ok
  then they attach themselves
    to you
      with new umbilicums
yummy it feels yummy

migratory birds know
  where to go
    something outside of them tells them
       where to go
something inside them says yes
  and then it's off to mexico
    but never again to the gulf of mexico

that's voided pedagogy
    dead verbs nouned
         remember
           derivative was once to derive
 and so the body was derived from the need to feed
              and the puddle dried up

adjectives too had a hard time
   but everything is fast now
      don't bet on language
         to be on your side
                  it's not
       not because it's venal
                    but because it's in constant use

      if we gave our language a break for let's say a century
          and kept quiet with our needs at a minimum
we might turn into finer animals horses let's say

            evolution used to work that way
               now volition does

teacher teacher what does my soul look like?
                     a duck
            
                        I hate ducks
                        I like birds
                    I hate ducks
                    will they make a difference to my grade?

no but you're now in charge of bodies in area 51

                        they are morphing

How does language shape physiognomy?
                                    why do the french look french?
                                    do the people of the 20th century look different?
                                    do plumbers?
                                    do ideas?
                                    what makes them look like they do?
tolerance is important

anybody who's ever made a fire knows why synergy's important
the hard thing to know is when there is too much of it

                        people your actions are ridiculous
                          the consequences tragic
                              where is the gulf of mexico

pinata in a buffet
see last will and testament
  by caligula jr
     innocence is hard look at me
       all these years

whose dream are we
our own
which is the next question

                                    why are most things round?
and the next:
                                    will
                                    we ever
                                    be safe
                                    from the
                                    interior monologue?

and the next:

                         does anyone know how to get lost anymore?

and the one after:

                        what disarms the reader?

                        what weapon must he be relieved of?

there will be always the exact same amount of god

        vomit is the price of liberty
                I for instance feign amnesia during the daytime

                     to hide from my own shadow

NOTE.  Codrescu’s voice as a poet & commentator has enriched and informed us since his arrival on American grounds in 1966.  Editor & founder of the ever bountiful Exquisite Corpse, his work continues “without check, with original energy” into the present.  His recent books include Whatever Gets You through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Nights (2011) & The Poetry Lesson (2010), both from Princeton University Press.  The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess (2009) is a touchstone of contemporary/historical poetry & poetics.  More in his own voice & with generous quotes from others can be found at http://www.codrescu.com/livesite/.  (J.R.)

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Translation from Yiddish by Sarah Traister Moskovitz

[The following, as explained in the translator’s note below, comes from as remarkable cache of manuscripts written & buried by Yiddish poets many of whom were victims themselves of the Nazi-directed khurbn (= holocaust) of the mid-twentieth-century.  Stark & shattering in content & context, they raise, not for the first time, the necessity of a poetry of witness even or especially when the poem (“the poem supreme,” as Robert Creeley had it) is addressed to emptiness.  Of the poem reprinted here, Sarah Traister Moskovitz writes: “This poem ‘The Street’ has thirty seven verses. But from the last line on of verse 34, which is missing, and appears to have been torn away, more parts of lines disappear until by the very last verse [as shown here], so little remains that the poem is gradually destroyed and made to disappear as was its author Shmuel Marvil.” The complete cache of manuscripts, with English translations, can be found at poetryinhell.org.]

from the street (sections 4-6) by Shmuel Marvil

[4] I trembled and hardly could hold together,
on my bad feet already ruined by death,
I begin to shake, want to apologize,
Staring from walls all around are corpses eyes.

At night they all had died like dogs.
The icy cold took them away from their lives,
So for whom my apology?! – Tell me who should be first!
Maybe just curse our bitter time?!

And I did curse. Believe me I cursed,
myself and the people and even the streets,
and my aching heart growled like a lion,
a broken prayer to the sky, the sky.

A crow wandered in lost, black as time,
and walks with the strut of a demon no less,
walks over the corpses and looks them over,
and who can disturb her in this, oh who?!

In times past she’d watch the stalls of the butchers,
and in fright disappear on the roofs like smoke.
Today she strides freely around on dead people,
and pecks at their bodies – makes big gaping holes.

She gorges on meat of human bodies,
and walks with the steps of a devil no less,
stepping on bodies, befouling them.
And who can disturb her in this, oh who?!

[5] Often one encounters a chunk that is frozen,
covered and swaddled in ice and in snow,
nearby a dog, frightened and scrawny,
tears at the meat and eagerly licks.

You recognize the hand, the foot of a person,
that has been lying long and forgotten,
and there is not enough left for burial,
so the dog can freely tear and feed.

The wailing wind roused me from bed
at dawn of one of these terrible days
A look and a sigh, a blow to my heart -
a child in mid street lay dead.

Like a holy offering he laid himself down,
people look on at this and reflect,
- not the first, not the last, – someone mumbles, who?
a scream and a cry in bleak twighlight:

Who knows whose this is there? Who gave birth to it?
for whom too soon sacrificed from this world?!
No mother, no father, no one comes to claim it,
just simply abandoned to death!

And here something tore me away from it all
A man, stark naked running out in the snow
trembling with fever, shaking with cold
teeth rattling and shouting!


[6] And how can you help him? One can only sigh,
when you too are as a tree that’s been stripped?
And soon there comes toward you a Jew!
and looks at you with a tear of death!

His eye light has vanished and so has his strength.
His bones are wrapped only in rags,
soon he will fall, in just minutes,
and vanish forever with the sound of his fall!
__________________
So rise these pictures before my eyes,
Gruesome abandonment suffering pain,
And we go around spinning in horror,
pushed and crushed by them in the time that remains!

So don’t torture me poem, I’ve had enough
Why submerge under blood anew?
See how clear the days are, the nights

Let me still sing how
And you my song be my
Remember how we once
Both drowning

Let my singing
of pale moon
Let us,
and become of

So and
He
So is when
He

[translator’s note. Poetry in Hell is a web site dedicated to the poets, both in the Warsaw Ghetto and elsewhere whose poetry, under the leadership of Emanuel Ringelblum, was secretly collected by the members of the “Oneg Shabbat Society“ and preserved and buried in milk cans in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation. The efforts of the Oneg Shabbat Society were to document life in the ghetto for future generations. The poetry in this website was found postwar, buried in milk cans and photographed onto microfiche by the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland in conjunction with support from the United States Holocaust Museum. I am grateful to both of these institutions for making these documents and the microfiche available to me for translation to English

Shmuel Marvil (1906-1943) was born in countryside near Warsaw. After study in a yeshiva, he worked in sales in Warsaw. He debuted in the journal Unzer Hofnung, (“Our Hope”) with a play in four acts published in installments called Libe(“Love”).  He published in book form Trern in der Nakht, (“Tears in the Night”), Warsaw 1937, Keynig Shaul, (“King Saul”), 1939. The poems Lid Tsu di Hern, (“Song to the Gentlemen”) and Di Gas (“The Street”) that were unearthed in the Ringelblum Archives are eyewitness accounts, in poetry, of his Warsaw Ghetto experience. Exact place of death by the Nazis is unknown. He was 37.]

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BLACKOUTS

Out of a sense of purity: blackout.
No other voice of any other
(God.)

No other voice
comes to her tiny garden.
No rain 
but stinging nettles,  
and no other soul but hers, parched.

On the footpath, a blue cypress, unhurt.
Tall as a July sun, reaching. 
Its own opal halo flung wide on the landscape.
Wild and bruised.
Blackout.

~

Bruises on the damp nature. 
Far from the sound of the lure. 
What was it she promised when she was an imaginative child
whispering hard at her own low window, mouth to that low

opening—was it to love? to be better than any sword?   
curled at her air-slit in between the house-stones 

no higher than her two hands— window no larger than
her face, burning? 
 There— her sky— there— her sky— its feral, cobalt voice, 
and sun that tasted of young honey.
A girl called Joan who would ask a thousand times—
“To shut me out from the light of the sky?”
Who thought a nation
could be ordained.
Cypress. Crepuscule. Lamb. Blackout. 

No other voice, a thousand times.
Like bees.

                        (for Joan of Lorraine, her sky.)

AGAIN, THE CRADLE

i.

Again, the cradle. The bough breaks, the cradle,
quiet while lions wear their war weeds, bury silence, 
quiet while a child in stains screams —everything,

everything here smells like the gas!
her propeller hands like trapped rabbits, twitching,

my hair,    my mouth,    my breasts     —look!  
her tiny fingers try 

cracking    the bough,    collapsing   the cradle—
look! my grandmother's bracelets all buried—
Look, no face!   Look, it's morning.
Look, it's God.   In Gaza.  

Bandwagons line for each abject word —
where wheels don't stop exploded infants' fists,

or mother-skulls, lost,     lost mornings—

Brave holy land war.
Bright. Sun-split.
Where the bough has killed its cradle. 

Bright, sun-lit ash,  
its inexcusable shroud, rocking. 

ii

They swept the dead like loosened crumbs from their fingertips, claws, curled. Brushed the dust, swallowed handfuls, hungry. Invented noise— in all that silence.  

iii

An egg in her tiny right hand, blinded, seraph-child, she—was what was left of what had finished. Small-winged cataract, not much more. Killed

cradles, and skins, and old men, and kissing—stopped. Egg, in her sweaty small right hand, that hatchling meant for morning. Morning meant for saving. Or yet another prophet.

Prove it.

iv

She stole an egg 
from the beast's bed—reeking, heaving nest builder.
Stepped blind, like vengeance. A cinder, empty eyed. 
Hovered like a cloud of summer wasps.
Shifted, a gaunt lighthouse onto
promise, across all slaughter.  
Reached.     —Held it.
What emerged bit her. What cracked its shell
licked her. What emerged, wanted her.

To do it all again.

v.

It didn't happen that way. She held the egg she'd stolen from God's nest and He whispered to her: Good riddance to it and to you. See if you can do any better with this one.
I tried and I'm tired of making eggs. Believe you stole it if that makes you feel brave or dangerous.  Blessings.  He showed his teeth.
It never—mattered, which came first, the father, or the mother, or the egg. Go ahead, my good thief.  Go ahead, my bad angel. Bless. Happy morning.     She held the warm oval.

Held the breaking, mottled, hot ellipse. Couldn't remember—     why.     —Breathed it.  Waited to feel a nervous thin-skinned thrum. One heartbeat.
She held it for such a long winter.
Hyacinths were blooming in January. Snows froze them, washed them. Still, she held it.
Her eye like the promise she finally remembered—     but from whom?—on a sparrow. 
                                                            (for Gaza. 1/2009)

[NOTE.  Margo Berdeshevsky’s newest book Between Soul & Stone was published last month by Sheep Meadow Press in Rhinebeck, New York.  A poet, novelist, photographer, & actress by turns, her collection of illustrated short-short stories, Beautiful Soon Enough (University of Alabama Press), was the recipient of Fiction Collective Two’s American Book Review/Ronald Sukenick/ Innovative Fiction Prize in 2009.  Her "Tsunami Notebook" of poems & documentary photographs was made during & following a journey to Sumatra in Spring 2005 -- to work in a survivors' clinic in Aceh, & an earlier book of poems, But a Passage in Wilderness was also published by Sheep Meadow Press.  In celebration of the latter work & of her powers as a lyrically driven cross-over / cross-genre artist I wrote: “There is in Margo Berdeshevsky’s work a rare persistence of the lyric voice, used with a sense of ecstasy & grief almost religious in its evocations. Absolutely modern & fearlessly romantic by turns, the poems circle the rich & threatened corners of the living planet & travel further into places marked by mythic & oneiric time. With the publication of But a Passage in Wilderness [& now Between Soul & Stone], Berdeshevsky emerges, fully empowered, as the maker of a new poetry that pushes voice & image toward creation of a world ‘barbaric, vast and wild’ that Diderot once saw as marker of what all poetry must be.” (J.R.)]

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Scrolls is a new 'experimental' collaboration in progress by James C. Hopkins and Yoko Danno.  One of us writes the first half of a sentence and the other follows up with the rest of the sentence. The latter begins the next sentence and drops it halfway, which is taken over by the former. Writing thus in turn we draw 'picture scrolls' with words. There is no rule except that a scroll should consist of five paragraphs. When we start a scroll we never know how it will develop and end. We have set out for adventures in an unknown land without a map or a compass.

SCROLL 1

After all the lights have been turned off I watch shafts of moonlight shooting in through the blinds. The bare room starts to reverberate with film-noir certainty. Tonight the moving is finished. All the pictures and photos have been removed from the walls and all the drawers and closets emptied, and only the laptop on the table remains to remind me of what I had formerly considered important. No more ordering the world, and no more maps and calculations. Only some strawberries are left in the empty refrigerator, and tomorrow waiting in a car across the street.

When will I ever learn why I must keep on moving? The road ahead seems like the only real thing. The rearview mirror scrolls out like a dream behind me, and a long train of cars is closing in like a persistent malady. Looking for a bypath is like looking for a cure. The next time I take this road I hope to see again the deer's family I glimpsed in the bush by the roadside. The mother and her fawn disappeared into the woods as the car approached - I could see only their white tails bounding through the trees, long after the other shapes had merged. Without nature the road ahead is a fleeting mirage.

The moment the car reaches the bridge the moon appears behind the pine trees. Is there ever a moment when, upon meeting the moon, white cranes take wing one by one and fly across her luminous face? I wish I could forget the possibility of forgiveness - it would make distance and asphalt and night easier than watching the edges of wings. Where is it that I hid my yearning - in the backseat there is only a dog-eared atlas of the USA and an expensive bottle of wine. It is easy to get lost when you have a wrong map. Especially after midnight when the road is in complete darkness and the cats are out hunting. Their eyes shine like alarms set off.

I hear a siren wailing in the distance and ignore it - disaster comes and goes and has nothing to do with this world. When I was young even a pimple on my face was a disaster. Let alone this. Call it calm after the storm, but the combination of tires and lives turning on the road at night is like a flight from ever-chasing hunters. No sanctuary ahead unless you count the all-night diners. But even there is only pie and stale beer. When will I ever be able to sit in an outdoor cafe again, spreading thick butter on crunchy baguette, in the middle of the afternoon? These images only drive me to blissful distraction.

I can't get off the highway now if I wanted to. I drive until I know my destination. I have a plenty of time, and even space, and as long as there is a radio station I will keep moving towards the desert heat. In heat there is a castle wavering, towers flickering, loopholes blinking in the walls. And I can hear the guard dogs barking already. Soon there will be only animal instinct and cunning left anyway, when the engine stops and the machine comes to a halt. The moon shines over the dune of clouds as if waiting for me to arrive. I flick on the turning signal, slow down, and look around. She is chasing me as ever.


SCROLL 5
As always, I ordered a glass of Bordeaux, a small pot of black tea, and a slice of anything chocolate. It was still too early for the pageant to start. The sun was still far above the horizon, and yet I could sense the day winding down as the afternoon descent began. A car passed by with the radio on, and the song took me back to the highest plateau of the world. Suddenly my chair began to wobble and I wished I had something to hold on to besides memory. When you've heard too much music, only the sound of waves can still surge over you. Before my eyes the wine disappeared, and the glass refilled itself. How these things happen is still a mystery, but here I am on the stage.

I don't know why I am among these actors and actresses with masks of ordinary citizens. A waiter passes by, a businessman, a thin teenage girl - but they all are gods and demons in disguise, I know. In fact they are testing me for a new role in a new play, but one that hasn't been written yet. Another car goes by, and then another, until finally only a distant barking of dogs is monitored on the back screen. I am obliged to speak my lines unknown to me, but that too is becoming easier. The thing that I can't get out of my head these days is a stray dog I find lying at my doorway every night when I come home. I try to turn her away, giving her some food, but every morning when I wake up she is lying by the door.

There is something comforting in that, but I am wondering what she really wants to get from me. I know she is also disguised with a mask, and that she barks when she sees blue cars -- but other than that we don't know each other well. Tomorrow I will bring her a gift, and perhaps she will leave her post. The trouble is I don't know what kind of gift she likes most, or if she can read the book I'm thinking of buying her. Once you teach an animal to stand on her own, you never know what she will be up to. But one thing is clear - she can easily smell intruders without learning from detective stories, and protecting my home is her only concern. I have never had a companion who is so persistent.

Tomorrow I will set out on a long journey, and she may know better how to read when I return. In the meantime, I'm wondering how much it costs for the rescue of a stray woman trapped in a swamp. Some say it may destroy my songs yet to be born, but if I don't save her she will haunt me for the rest of my already-haunted life. Some things sink and some things rise, but the thing that matters is to know the bottom line. All creation has two aspects, smiling and angry, like the moon that we see and the one that we don't see. The trick is to know what we see is also what we don't see. Ghosts are real and the real doesn't exist, say some people. As for me, both are true as long as there's a breeze blowing through the trees.

Coming back to the half-emptied glass of Bordeaux was like rising back to the surface of the ocean. Cars were still passing like waves on the beach, the sun had ripened in the sky, and the pedestrians got flurried by a honk. Someone was shouting but I couldn't understand what they were saying -- I was alone on the stage in a foreign land. The best thing about being a stranger is I can recognize birds' songs and crickets' chirps much better than I do when I am surrounded by my mother tongue. I can even see the faces behind masks that everyone wears. But what if everyone is without his or her persona? We would never know what to say, how to act on the stage or even when the show was over. This show will be over when the eyes of the sky blink.

[NOTE. The full series of Scrolls, still in progress, can be found on the Ikuta Press web site, from Kobe, Japan, at http://ikutapress.com/index.html  About Yoko Danno’s equally experimental move from writing in Japanese to writing in English, Gary Snyder has written in his “Introduction” to a projected collection of her poems, Heading for A Futher Center: “Yoko Danno has chosen to write poetry in English rather than Japanese. She has been doing this for more than 20 years. It is not that she has lived a long time out of Japan. Although she herself might not say so, I think that her choice of English is part of a strategy toward the solution of contemporary dichotomies and unearthing of the deepest roots. If she wrote these poems in Japanese she would run the risk of sounding precious or archaic. The bluntness of English is an excellent foil for her subtleties.”  Excerpts from her translation of the ancient Japanese Kojiki can be found elsewhere on Poems and Poetics.]

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Ed Baker: Three excerpts from “Stone Girl E-Pic”

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 6:43 AM 0 comments

[1]                              

                                    to
                                    get

                                                 a
                                                better

                                                            view

                        dawn
                        arrives

i say what
can be said
written
in a line

exactly


on
her
back

see is
another

angle

                        she
                        asks

                        gives
                        only

                        what
                        is
                        yet

                        to
                        give


                        g i v e n

stone
sees
mind
sees


                           face

                           wide

                           grins


                                                short black hair
                                                flick in frames

                                                    nguyen


[2]

together

new
strokes

all

same
time

rhythm

moving


                        some
                        same

                        rise

                        into
                        verbs


                             circumference

                             centering

                             surround



hold s
flower
in a
perfect
cracked
vase

[3]

so
close
that
mind

can
touch
smell

taste

her

clearly

contradicting


briefly
confused

his
look
is
to
get

a
better
sense

of

her
in
heat

rock
before
breath

who
says
now

and
what
to
whom

leisure
allows
creation

stone
girl

image

language

inherent

[NOTE.  Ed Baker’s Stone Girl  E-Pic, a massive gathering of drawings & writings, was published earlier this year by Leafe Press (Nottingham, England, and Claremont, California).  It is as such the celebration of a poet/artist/calligrapher whose work attests to its almost outsider status, in the quasi-rawness of the print & pages in the paper version, not visible as posted here, & in the play between visual images & minimal, often scroll-like versings.   The opening citation in Conrad DiDiodato’s foreword has something to say of this: “It is important to collect these writers because, as has been the case over and over in the history of literature, the best and most innovative writing, the writing that advances the art and that in the future becomes the classic and defining work of a period, is almost always the work of outsiders.”  (John M. Bennett, Curator of the Avant Writing Collection at Ohio State University).  Or Baker himself: “... the facts that provoke (or precipitate) a poem or a piece of art that is inside or outside or simultaneously inside/outside ... the poem/piece.”  The line between inside & outside is accordingly called into question, even into doubt.  
      A detailed review by Joseph Hutchison can be found at http://perpetualbird.blogspot.com/2011/06/on-bakers-stone-girl-e-pic.html. (J.R.)]

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FS:  A couple of weeks ago, I overheard Bernadette Mayer say something to the effect of "We should ALL have our own anthologies."  Do you agree?  To what extent is the collaborative/communal act of anthologizing informed or limited by personal aesthetic decisions?

JR:  I think, in my case, yes: a lot of those personal aesthetic decisions do come into play.  Although I should point out that when you're actually doing a complicated anthology, there are lots of other factors that come into it.  There are limitations of space and the question of how much space is needed.  In the mind, as a mental construct,we can incorporate an endless amount of material.  In a book, even a big book, you're limited to often 400 or 500 pages.  My next big anthology is 900 pages, but that's to cover a whole century and with as much of a global dimension as we can manage.
            The internet may promise something entirely different.  Maybe, if one isn’t forced to mimic the way things are arranged or positioned in anthologies and books.  I once made a joke in an interview with Chris Funkhouser, when Poems for the Millennium first came out, that there should be an Anthology of Everything.  Maybe the internet will make that possible.  Maybe the internet IS that anthology.

FS:  In the nearly 50 years since Allen's New American Poetry was first released, it seems that the anthology (and perhaps poetry itself) as a form has become increasingly specialized and niche-based.  Could you talk a little bit about the difficulties and delights of putting together a 'global anthology' such as Technicians of the Sacred or The Millennium series?

JR:  I began it of course with Technicians of the Sacred, which already assumed the presence of poetry in cultures everywhere, so that made for a kind of global outlook from the very start. ... It gets very complicated trying to do things on a global basis, and maybe that’s part of the pleasure.  To begin with, questions of translation immediately come into the picture.  Anthologies have tended to be "niche" in nature, in the sense that from an American perspective, say, there are many more anthologies of American poetry or English poetry in circulation here than there are of European or Asian poetry, or poetry incorporating different languages, or anything approaching world poetry.  And if there is something global like that, there’s usually some kind of thematic justification: political or feminist or gay or ecological --  some kind of limiting term or subject matter within that “world” designation.  This can be useful too where certain kinds of experience or certain subjects haven‘t been brought to light.

FS:  What are the ethno-poetic demands and/or ramifications of preserving such 'global poetries' in English?

JR:  Ethnopoetics is a complicated question and sometimes involves what seems to me to be an unease about looking at or exhibiting cultural artifacts from cultures that have been violated and exploited.  Usually those violations came through the West, but sometimes from other directions – the domination of vulnerable peoples by local rather than foreign overlords.  There is a resultant demand to stay away, to keep silent about what one knows, and we try to respond to that – up to a point – and to get it right.
      On the other hand I can say that what I’m looking for – part discovered and part made up – are multiple forms of poetry, all the different possibilities of poetry, poetry that we make on our own and poetry that has been made in different forms in other times and places.  It doesn't matter to me, the accuracy of what we bring to light, as long as it ADDS to and shows the dimensions of things we hadn't imagined before. 
      But then there is, maybe as with all translation, that other question that gets raised, maybe too often, and to which I don't have a final answer: about the problem of translating works from threatened cultures and by doing so bringing them into imperial contexts, thereby breaking the sense of the sacred and esoteric that certain people, certain cultures, hold dear.  Such an attitude, precautionary and protective, is a matter, in no trivial sense, of maintaining boundaries, whereas my own goal in translation, which includes ethnopoetic translation, is the breaking down of boundaries.  (I will however never be absolutely certain on this point.)
      There are also, let me say, various forms of ethnopoetics.  I worked for a number of years with Dennis Tedlock.  Dennis was a good poet ... is a good poet.  He is also a trained linguist and anthropologist and went through the material that he was translating with a much greater sense of detail and accuracy than I could conceivably have given it, since I was working, in most cases, from outside the language in question.  What someone like Dennis does is very serious work, and I'm not really sure the poet's work can ever be serious in exactly that way.  There's just so much of an impulse to play!

FS:  Whereas Allen's anthology posits its contents AS "The New," your most recent collections present themselves as being FOR "The [New] Millennium".  What do you see as the importance of this distinction?  

JR:  Poems for the millennium, not for the NEW Millennium.  These could be poems for the millennium we’ve just left or for the one we're going into.  Maybe there's a more ominous sense in that, since “millennium'” in religious terms is also moving toward the Day of Judgment – you know, the End of Things.  So these poems are for that as well. 
      In general, I haven't tried to so much anthologize "The New" as to, in Ezra Pound's terms, find ways of “making it new.”  I've dealt a lot with things that happened in the past; even Poems For The Millennium is largely a compendium of what's already happened.  (So was Donald Allen's New American Poetry for that matter – things that had recently happened.)  Poems for the Millennium, Volume One, deals with what happened during the first fifty or sixty years of the twentieth century, close to a hundred years and more before we put the book together.  And the new one that we're doing – the romantics and postromantics and early modernists – is going back two hundred years and maybe more than that.
      I think I set out very early to explore the old.  I don't know if that remains important for people now, the way it was for my generation, coming out of poets like Pound who were very much concerned with things that happened a long time ago in order, as the Chinese characters on the emperor’s bathtub put it, to make it new.

FS:  Jerome, finally I'd like to thank you for joining me today and ask:  With Volume III of Poems for the Millennium forthcoming, what's next on your itinerary?  Can we expect a Volume IV?

JR:  I ... don't .... know.  When Pierre Joris and I finished Volume Two, I didn’t think there was going to be a Volume Three.  Then Jeffrey Robinson showed up and talked to me about doing an anthology of Romanticism along the lines of Poems for the Millennium.  And finally Pierre Joris may also, as a sort of Volume Four, do something like an anthology of North African/Mediterranean poetry covering a span of something like 2000 years. 
      Then too, a book of my own, Triptych, just came out from New Directions, and it pulls together two older books, Poland/1931 and Khurbn, along with a new series of poems, The Burning Babe.  I've also got enough material now for another New Directions book, but they can't any longer do one every year or so, so you may not see that next one until two, maybe three years down the road.

FS:  Jerome, again:  Thank You. 

[For part one of the interview check the posting for September 19, 2011.]

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Enrique Krauze: Can This Poet Save Mexico?

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 4:10 AM 0 comments

[From New York Times October 2, 2011; reprinted here as an act of solidarity with friends and fellow poets in Mexico. (J.R.)]

Dateline: Mexico City
SOMETHING amazing is happening in Mexico. A few weeks ago, a 14-bus caravan, which had been traveling under the leadership of Javier Sicilia, a poet and the founder of the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity, arrived here after a 10-day trek around the country. Its every move was followed by the national media, and thousands showed up to greet its return.
The caravan was organized in protest against the onslaught of drug-related violence that has cost my country 40,000 dead and at least 9,000 unsolved “disappearances” since 2006 — a few weeks ago, 35 bodies were left on a busy highway in Veracruz. It was just one part of a larger awakening of civil society here, which can be seen in the strengthened investigative efforts of the press, a more aggressive application of anticorruption laws, and the formation of voluntary associations, focused on everything from the environment to poverty.
But it is the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity that has captured the most attention. In just five months, it has staged peaceful marches throughout Mexico, bringing together tens of thousands of people who might otherwise never have dared to speak out. It is made up of everyday citizens, united by the anguish of losing sons, brothers and fathers to the violence. Mr. Sicilia is one such person: a poet who gave up writing verse after the murder of his 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, in Cuernavaca on the night of March 27, allegedly by members of the South Pacific cartel.
He is offering more than emotional solidarity, though. Mr. Sicilia and his colleagues have concrete ideas about how the government, which so far has been unable to contain the horrors of these five years of savagery, must change. They have already held two unprecedented meetings with President Felipe Calderón and high-level members of the Senate and House of Deputies.
The movement is significant both for its symbolic value and because, historically, conflict-stricken societies can make meaningful steps toward peace only when their people — not their politicians, but average people — come together in an active movement against the violence. That is what Mexico is seeing today.
In modern Mexico, citizens have traditionally been relatively quiet, and legislators have represented no one, functioning more as the private dispensers of public appointments, jobs and resources. What little protest we saw during most of the 71 years of one-party hegemony under the Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI, was usually organized and paid for by the party itself.
The student movement in the summer of 1968 tried to change that pattern. Tens of thousands of citizens went into the streets to support student demands for a “dialogue” with President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz. Their other, immediate demands were limited, the most important being the removal of the Mexico City chief of police, who had unleashed police truncheons against a group of demonstrating students; freedom for political prisoners; and the repeal of laws used to repress demonstrations. The government, seeing a Communist conspiracy, massacred hundreds of students in the Plaza of Tlatelolco that Oct. 2, a few days before the opening of the Mexico City Olympics.
Various civil movements — and political pressures for reform — also arose after the government’s utterly inadequate response to the great Mexico City earthquake of 1985.
Multiparty democracy finally arrived in 2000, but only now, more than four decades after the “Olympic massacre,” has true protest returned. The government is not involved, and the people are not afraid of the government. The movement is political, but it exists outside politics. Indeed, one of the reasons for Mr. Sicilia’s popularity is that he is not seeking power or political office for himself, but is asking that those in power be rendered accountable. Acting from within civil society, he is trying to strengthen our still fragile Mexican democracy. And he is making headway.
In June, the movement brought together relatives of some of the victims with representatives of the government for a meeting in Chapultepec Castle, the former seat of government, set in a park that was once the pleasure ground of Aztec emperors. The relatives came from the middle class and from the poor. Among them were Indians, often the poorest of the poor. All of them were enraged at the government’s failure to bring their loved ones’ killers to justice.
There, around a huge square table, they detailed their suffering: a mother from the state of Guerrero, after two of her four sons disappeared, described how the remaining two, who had set out to find their brothers, likewise disappeared without a trace. A Purépecha Indian, from the village of Cherán in the state of Michoacán, told the story of how he and his neighbors, despairing of government protection, had resorted to ancient methods of self-defense with rudimentary weapons to withstand criminal attacks on themselves and their timber resources. Each relative had placed a photograph of the dead family member on the table, to make them participants in the dialogue.
THERE is a quasi-religious atmosphere to the movement, and Mr. Sicilia’s message has direct religious foundations. He is a left-wing Catholic, formed by the social Catholicism that crystallized in the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s. He was a disciple of Ivan Illich, the Austrian Jesuit priest and philosopher who, during the postwar decades, wrote and preached a kind of Christian (and highly socially conscious) anarchism, close to that of Leo Tolstoy and Mohandas K. Gandhi. Illich spent years in Cuernavaca, where he and Mr. Sicilia met.
But while the movement is suffused with religion, its proposals are very much of this world. They call for Mr. Calderón to change his strategy against the drug cartels, one that goes beyond police and military power to include, for instance, a thorough investigation into the connections between politicians and criminals.
The movement has likewise asked Congress to modify the proposed National Security Law, which offers stronger tools against the cartels but which the movement considers inadequate on human rights. It also calls for the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission, similar to the one in Colombia that has helped identify victims and uncover police corruption; a National Registry of the Disappeared and Detained; a program to halt the abuse of Central American migrants; and an independent auditor for the federal police, which it believes cannot be adequately monitored from within the government.
On a broader scale, the movement emphasizes the need for the eventual legalization of some drugs and the reconstruction of the social fabric in places damaged by the “narco war.”
Mr. Calderón has listened attentively, but he has yet to change his positions; he believes his strategy is working and points to the arrest of some major capos and relative drops in crime in cities like Tijuana or states like Michoacán (though it should be noted that, partly in response to Mr. Sicilia’s pressure, he has recently created a special agency to help those affected by drug violence).
Mexico’s congressional leaders have been more positive, affirming their commitment to nearly all these proposals. That’s in part because national elections will be held next year, and while the movement has no plans to enter electoral politics, Mr. Sicilia and others make no secret of their intentions to influence voters. Mr. Sicilia is a man of the left but is highly independent, and no one can be sure which candidates he will favor.
This sort of civic pressure is a promising sign of maturity in our young democracy, and absolutely necessary if we want to move beyond our crippling levels of violence. That, after all, is what has been required in so many other countries, from Colombia to Eastern Europe to Southeast Asia. Spain managed to stem the violence of the Basque terrorists only after it achieved a vast national consensus: multitudes marched in the streets to demonstrate their rejection of terrorism.
The critical point, and one Mr. Sicilia must not lose sight of, is that his movement cannot be wholly against the state. It must bring its popular ideas and attitudes in line with the elemental needs of the state, to help it regain its monopoly on necessary force. There is no alternative to the state in this situation; the criminal gangs that torment the northern states of Mexico will not be moved by Mr. Sicilia’s message alone.
This is a fact Mr. Sicilia has struggled with. A Gandhian pacifist by nature, the poet used to say that he would like to speak face to face with his son’s murderers. But one day, an official with the government told him about the atrocious images found on the cellphone of their leader, who was proudly brandishing the severed heads of previous victims. Mr. Sicilia decided that a meeting with him made no sense. “They’re no longer human,” he told me. This man of literature, who has long contemplated the problem of evil with his imagination, must now, despite his admirable Christian inclination toward forgiveness, confront a tangible evil through his actions.
Enrique Krauze is the editor of the magazine Letras Libres and the author of “Redeemers: Ideas and Power in Latin America.” This article was translated by Hank Heifetz from the Spanish.

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