April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain.
T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland
Poetry month is coming! Dust off your pens, pencils, or 🪶 feathers, and write ✍️ some poems!
(Inter)National Poetry Month is a time to celebrate poets and their craft—in the U.S. and worldwide. It is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate your expressiveness or your pure charm, to delight and to show the importance of sharing thoughts, activities, nature, pain, joy—the descriptive words go on and on…
Poetry is a special oration that reminds us of the important role of poets and their poetry in our cultures.
The spring winds of April are coming fast on the streams of March’s melting snow. We are looking to catch those elusive poems blowing in the wind to share with many. So…April comes quickly and blows by swiftly.
We invite you to join us and express yourself. Share a poetic expression of yourself, your life, and experiences. We want to hear from you! 🏽
the wind has sticky fingers
it likes to play with us
upon a hillside lingers
to grab our papers thus
off we go, running to fetch
our work we don’t want to lose
running fast i try to catch
my paper which chose to cruise
like a dove upon the wind
free of the earth's restraints
i should have thought and pinned-it
i’m losing it oh good saints
oh wind you won this race today
against the likes of me
for tomorrow oh do not dismay
for i’ll wear sneakers you see!
Review these submission guidelines. NOTE: In addition to what is written in the guidelines, for the April Inter(National) Poetry Month submissions, please put: April Poetry Blog in the subject line of your email.
While it is mentioned in the guidelines, we remind you to send the poetry in a single file, up to 3 poems for this call for poetry. Include a bio either at the end of the poetry file or in a separate file. You may include a few links to prior publications. Please include any social media links you want us to share below your bio. If you are including a headshot photo, include it as a separate, hi-resolution JPG file (please not a thumbnail size).
the sun is shining through
the geranium leaves
dappling the floor with gold
the warmth heats these
old bones as I sit in
the healing warmth
crocheting a clover chain
St. Patrick’s day is near
but my children are
grown and flown
gone are the days of
bringing totes filled with
a plethora of decorations
for any holiday
gone are the days of
the house filled with friends
baking cookies for
laughter ringing through the halls
I have left my small
Christmas tree on the
old metal milk can
in the living room
I should have crocheted a
Valentine’s heart chain to decorate
it’s green boughs with
pink white and reds
I was remiss in
the darkness of winter
but today, sitting here
in the warming rays of sun
the green yarn asked
to be created with so
clover it is
a chain to decorate
just a little
not like then
just for me…
So much seems off course—climate crisis, Ukraine war, rising fascism, depleted energy for resisting—where do we find fuel to keep up the struggle for change? In the pages of this issue glimmer hopes, stars in dark nights, dreams—alongside outrage, compassion, and the fire that makes us all (as Youssef Alaoui says early in this issue). That star-sun-moon fire—the Holy Spirit to some, the light of Creation to others, stardust to many, Enlightenment shining forth for still others—this spirit moves us all to love, to care for our siblings and cousins, to awaken and rise up from ashes of despair and sing our songs.
Citing the story of Rip Van Winkle, Dr. King points out that a little noticed sign in the story is of great importance. When he goes up to the mountains to sleep, it shows King George III; when he comes down it shows George Washington. The change leaves him feeling lost and confused, not knowing the world. Rip Van Winkle slept through a revolution that changed that world. King warns that too many people are sleeping through three revolutions—technological change, weapons of mass destruction, and the social revolution of human rights.
While Dr. King talks about how in 1968 the geological world had shrunk and time quickened through modern jet travel, how our word balanced on the brink of nuclear destruction, but also how a great outcry for freedom was being heard around the globe. He reminds us that our neighbors had become global, not just down the street. That we had to care for our neighbors everywhere there was oppression and injustice.
On Monday, 21 November 2022, at around 11 PM EST, Michael Rothenberg left the world. Even though he had told me that he had cancer and I had recently heard that he went into hospice care, the news of his death that arrived yesterday devastated me. Michael was a close friend, a relationship first built online and then cemented in person at the 2015 100 Thousand Poets for Change (100TPC) World Conference in Salerno, Italy. Over the years we communicated online by text and voice. He would send me poems he was working on, and I would send him my drafts. We each reviewed works-in-progress of the other—often as not arguing over lines and words in the spirit of making the work stronger. We spent time together when I had the honor of being in a 100TPC writer’s residency in Tallahassee, Florida, where he and his wife Terri Carion moved to from the Bay Area of California. We shared work, giving each other feedback during the day. And we explored the area, ate in local restaurants and visited local bars to hear local music, often with Terri Carion, his partner.
That week 17 high school students were murdered and others injured in Parkland, near Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Michael, as he seemed wired to do, responded both with outrage and with a plan to use poetry to respond. I recall sitting next to him as he began to plan work with others online and I shared ideas and contacted others to arrange 100TPC poetry readings in response, focused on the Parkland shootings but also all other gun violence and the need for socio-cultural change to stop the killings. And soon there were others organizing readings for Parkland, independent of our efforts—synchronicity at work. Of course, mass gun killings haven’t stopped. Neither has poetry or protest against it.
As I write this, there have been two mass shootings this week, the second last night—Colorado Springs, CO, and Chesapeake, VA. And it’s only Wednesday. I seem to hear Michael’s voice in my head, “What are we going to do?” He insisted that others join him to fight oppression, war, the climate crisis, social injustice in any form. And he included himself in his urgings—What are we going to do?
Michael, of blessed memory, and his partner, Terri Carion, founded 100 Thousand Poets for Change in March 2011. In 2014, Jamie Dedes, of blessed memory, our founding editor, began an online 100TPC event for those who wanted to participate but were homebound or distant from in person events. At the Salerno conference, those of us present decided to focus globally on three interrelated issues: peace, environmental sustainability, and social justice. When The BeZine went from monthly to quarterly, we chose to use these three themes in our rotating quarterly themes, adding life of the spirit and activism to make four. We see life of the spirit (broadly defined) as being integral to supporting our activism, our art, our lives, and our values. Michael, z”l, Terri, and 100TPC have influenced and supported the mission of The BeZine.
Michael also founded or co-founded Big Bridge, Poets in Need, Read a Poem to a Child and many other events and projects. In recent years he has worked as the poet behind the Ecosound Ensemble, a poetry and music performance group based in Tallahassee. He wrote many books of poetry. He painted. He collaborated with many. He grew orchids and bromeliads. He enjoyed friends. He mentored many, argued with all, and loved people.
We will miss Michael Rothenberg at The BeZine. I will miss my friend. His poetry and activist spirit will live on, though, this I believe.
In the Jewish tradition, our first words on hearing of the death of someone are usually Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet, Blessed is the True Judge. It reminds us that we may not know why, but our friend has been taken. We give up our questions to a higher power.
Today, I learned that a friend here in Jerusalem from the creative-activist communities, Ester Karen Aida, passed away. Her funeral will be this evening, as I write this. In 2018, I published some of her poems on my blog, Meta/ Phor(e) /Play. Karen, as I knew her, contributed to The BeZine starting in 2021, when I invited her to send her words and art to us. Her most recent contributions were in this summer’s Waging Peace issue—an important theme in her activist and creative work. Her writing and artwork added strength, beauty, and compassion to each issue in which it appeared.
I first met Karen some years ago at a reading in an art gallery in Jerusalem, which had been organized by our mutual friend, Lonnie Monka. She was in a wheelchair, but active, engaged, and cheerful. We spoke, finding common ground in our creative work and activism. We both had trained in Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) techniques. And we became friends from that conversation.
We would see each other mostly at poetry events. We kept up in email and on Facebook. She was making progress with her ongoing health issues, from wheelchair to walker to cane. I gave her rides home from some of these events, after she moved to a neighborhood near mine. She supported peace in the region here with words and deeds, helped individuals in need, and encouraged NVC training. She also supported accompanying and traditional health practices (aka alternative) to work alongside of Western medicine.
She was a dynamic, compassionate, and strong woman. She leaves grieving family, friends, colleagues. I am still in a bit of shock at the news. Not long from now, I will get ready to attend her funeral, drive across Jerusalem, and join the mourners.
In our Jewish tradition, the family will sit Shiva for 7 days. It is customary to sit with these mourners and listen to their sorrow and their memories as they process the loss. The stories they tell preserve their memory in our hearts. May it be so for all who knew and loved Karen, that her memory be for a blessing.
Those who visit to comfort the mourners say, when we leave: Ha’makom yenahem etkhem betokh she’ar avelei Tziyonvi’Yerushalayim, In this place may G-d console you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
leading its herd
can only turn
as sharply as it
can gallop fast
to become trampled
along sections of the coast
regardless of who paid to put them there
there are "Danger of Landslide" signs
embedded into the Mediterranean sand
signs that bystanders only take as seriously
as they wonder about the future...
the future—which only ever seems to be
projections of the past—& regardless
of all their writing these signs present
an illustration of a skull facing the horizon
surely someone needs to say the cliché:
a skull has no face—no skin—no nationality
a skull just depicts the peak of naked human history
& I would never have recognized that skull as mine
until happening upon one sign that had been uprooted
and covered by—surprise surprise—a landslide
violence & the pupil
pounding their hooves gazelle search for food
in the Negev's largest nature reserve
until in the sky erupts a distant rumble
the gazelle jerk their gaze upwards
as eyes fidget across a blue & white expanse
expressing a bellow in motion
then as a target on the central hilltop explodes
the violence of the world penetrates the pupil
& an inert luster of the orb reflects
an Israeli Air Force jet zooming ahead of its own voice
restricting firing practice damage to that one hilltop
where earth is freshly blackened with each new blow
each explosion shakes the gazelle's fear-bound bones
but never ignites that ever-expansive desire
urge upon urge to preserve & to be preserved
oh!—how I wish I were a child again
ruled by cravings to touch all objects in my gaze
unaware of the damaging effects of expressing interest
before internalizing Rabbis’ tales of my people
gathering before Mt. Sinai as newly freed slaves
unwilling to face a thundering voice of the divine
"go to the top of the mountain without us"
we plead & instruct our leaders
"pound those awful sounds into marks on stone"
…a Jerusalem-based poet, founded Jerusalism, a non-profit organization to promote Israeli literature in English. He is a PhD student at Hebrew University, researching the intersection of modernist art and orality through a study of David Antin’s talk-poems, and he is currently an OWL Lab Fellow.
Poems from Purpose, an unpublished poetry collection that calls attention to the horrors and beauties in this complex life…
The extremes of nature
shock city folk
unaccustomed to deluging rain,
weakend by mass comforts,
in dire disasters
The homeless sit
on crumbling sidewalks,
cardboard signs proclaiming need
from rain, snow,
by almost everyone
almost as needy,
abandoned by the 1%
no longer concerned with
the suffering of the people,
the state of the nation.
Since man first organized
into family units
one had to be above average
to advance in the clan, tribe,
early cities, city-states, nations,
all well established hierarchys
classified by rank, trade, wealth.
Thousands of years later
shortly after World War II,
returning U.S. soldiers
went to college on the G.I. Bill,
a free education
for seven million men
who jumped to middle class,
a social revolution
in human history.
Soldiers were usually discarded
when no longer needed,
for few had the skills
to make them desirable.
Then millions of graduates
went into the world
with valued professions
that produced wealth and comfort
only dreamed of in the past.
The legions of ex-warriors
unresentful of their treatment,
unlike many soldiers past,
took their places happily
as prosperous citizens
with little need to question
the practices of their rulers,
who successfully bought off
the makers of rebellions
blinded to the oppression
of oligarch exploiters
by the abundance
of goods and services.
…has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn’t earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 34 poetry collections, 14 novels, 3 short story collections, 1 collection of essays and 5 books of plays.
for friends or strangers we've lost the appeal of
a promise of years to come unaffected by
momentary surprises you tool around town
defying calls toward turmoil while most lie
immersed in shallow panicked breaths skin itch
tingles unattended it seems not to matter what
language greets at birth the side of any road
splits open scattering impotent seeds the drought
now so prevalent we must accustom ourself to
the limited volume of cessation five shot dead
including probable head of household and how
attracted authority figures are to the fatality of
knees on back of necks only race a permissible
excuse we watch as a parent walks the
neighborhood carrying their growing child and
responsibility living in an environment where
vehicles required in order to run even short trips
you were impressed learning how little they had
in savings still equaled your yearly salary while
several state governments lay claim upon all land
access still preoccupied with the genitals of
children no wonder we all feel a recoil under thin
layers of flesh you notice their nipples harden
whenever you finally decide to leave
that’s what can happen after spending months
framed in solitude when a crumb from sandwich
startles as it hits floor every physical pleasure
renounces presence how a page read
disappears as quietly as it was brought to mind
we team up with neighbors to solve a crisis of
monetary valuation when the you vanishes
along with any thought uttered to halt the
displacement what to think when the crowd
peopled by lost relatives friends peppered with
occasional strangers pass as well in the natural
putrefaction of oxygen deprived materiality two
birds flattened in alley a few days ago now all
but gone save for irregular damp spots
evaporating in the warm daylight they remain
confident to an extent not worrying about cloth
labels poking out from under the seams fevers
splayed separated by fluid shadows only
sometimes does a letter repeat conjoined rested
from anticipated coming fresh wounds or
perhaps in candor words form an unknown
source as if onward into a renewed terror
a pause between two stanzas a musical silence
flairs brightly back to surface ease under
diversionary noise we roam the four small rooms
as might be counted ignore bathing toilet room or
you might rather enjoy the open fields of a library
tying two into one larger room local artists walls
doctored for pleasure they answer the call of
anger jealousy impotence so more shot dead
another one wears mesh mask as if thus
illustrating their neighborly care earlier a young
child flinches when spoken to reflects our facial
reaction every morning when climbing out of bed
seeing mirrored shallow tics or might it be a
return to bearable odors of bleach disinfectant
who can possibly imagine what lies hidden that
compels such stubborn rampant busy dashes
and apostrophes we just realized they'd joined in
giving birth a name three or four years ago prior
to the now ever present opportunity to face rarely
unexpected death sentence you remind life has
always been a losing hand of cards check and
recalibrate the timing of regional locations
somewhere as a walking pathway inarticulate
refusal dizzy within new gnawing hunger intuition
misguiding directionality seek dictionary advice
their attempt at forestalling the deceit of sensual
fantasy again improbable pause then leap into
new noise habitation served up on plastic
swimwear coal carrying train cars
monologic pendulum within invented diversity
over compensates the small group of seven or
fewer in the warmth of shaded looks hidden
under ignorant familiar colors when hair sparks
envy or our dress surprises misremember
height as being greater now gaze down upon
fake dreams spread lotion on over washed hands
form as kindness lacquer speckled cracking low
humidity and softly sore nipple from earlier
stimulation the addendum approaches from the
north or east building for revitalization implosion
fold within dry lawn and wilted flowers you
pretend to hear the footsteps of a spider only to
look up discover it dangling webbed to ceiling the
end grows customary losing spread over the last
fourteen months we interrupt to wash dishes
silverware pour hot water over floorboards one
still wallows in defeated romance commonality
peppers the street with skid marks tomorrow
inoculate from present foreboding separating
allergic figures of speech awaiting the cliché of
some other shoe dropping watch your age when
nearby important adults transfix upon an over
staying for sale signage as personal loss we
wager outweighs others
to slow down when you feel already atrophied
not only by the isolation but rising rent the loss
of unemployment checks even food stamps of
little good turned down regularly they recover
from heart attack have migrated from wheeled
walker to single metal cane at that age when
even nostalgia fails to temper despair almost
seems the most regularly used word on this
cloudy windy rain whispering day a love fest with
your cat sitting sharing internet chores they take
an extra day off for recovery from anguish
needles and ink endorphins we remain so
overwhelmed much yet remains to be done
details of a poorly written description empty even
of driving popular narratives finish coffee return
to the slumbering apartment watch old cop show
pretend it's a televised day off instead of the
continued replay of bad news channel incinerate
repetitious tattered worn out dreams our beard
still grows whether liked or not the child wounds
three early morning school day what to make of
this drive to destroy maybe simple species defect
had you more quickly read the marking slivers
doubt might not have curled around the sound of
pen on paper a dark sound of interrupting texts
sent by unknown others you could care less
about busy close contact rendering likenesses
Strive to change the world
in such a way that there's
no further need to be a dissident.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poetry as Insurgent Art
Rising up from deep within
the very core of my being
the essence of who I am
underneath my public image
is the need to find myself
someone to admire.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti spoke the words
the world needed to hear
at that exact moment.
Best of the Beats
because he promoted the rest
Paragon of enlightenment
inspirer of a new way of being
artistic role model.
Ferlinghetti would have loathed
such titles based on what
little I know about him.
He would have frowned
if not downright sneered
at such fanboy foppery.
In the same way
many reading or hearing this could be offended
by words like humanist, socialist,
countercultural, malcontent, protestor,
activist, freethinker, nonconformist.
In the Coney Island of My Mind
—or, more accurately, Exhibition Place—
I get to play with words
turn image into meaning and back again
with enough musicality to form a poetry
of concise language and complex thought
imagine these words
making this world a better place
at least for a moment
and believe if I say them with clarity
and integrity for long enough
you may just listen to me.
I have lost my voice.
The only word I have ever felt beating
in my heart, echoing through my mind
has been taken from me.
The other prisoners
hiss and whisper the words
the broken-hearted cannot say out loud
and leave me in solitary silence.
But I know why.
They don't understand
the burden I am bound to carry
and must keep hidden deep inside.
This burden keeps me alive.
It gives me passion and purpose
and is the only thing I have
which is real.
If this word trapped in my throat
found daylight at the tip of my tongue
I would sing and shout, laugh and cry
and my sentence would be complete.
If I could see her again
make love to her slowly and gently
if I could say her name once more
then I would be free.
Middle-Aged White Men Are Ruining the World
The Saturday bus ride to Morningside is so much better
than my weekday drudgery along Sheppard
up whichever connecting route presents itself
to get me east on Finch to my workplace.
Everybody is in a better mood, more courteous
more concerned about others around them.
They are on their way to fun excursions, or shopping
to meet their needs, as well as those of whom they love.
The Morningside bus ride south is even better. The bus takes
longer to arrive, but the driver wants to chat and be part
of the community, part of your day. Everyone makes room
for baby carriages and people with canes and each other.
But not LAST Saturday.
A guy about my age got on the Morningside bus with his two sons.
Two stops later, a kind enough looking guy, clearly down
on his luck, maybe hadn’t eaten in a while, entreats
the driver to let him on the bus without paying.
The guy about my age turns to his sons, shakes his head,
saying, “The driver let him on the bus for free.”
The two sons were at that age where their view
of the entire universe was filtered through their father.
What an entitled, arrogant, self-righteous, ignorant…
What kind of legacy are we leaving behind?
What kind of world are we leaving for the children?
What else can we teach them other than right or wrong?
I wondered how he would feel in the unlikely event
either he or one of his sons were in that predicament.
the world tries
to tell me
I am something
I am not
and I fight back
and I lose
so I try
to be what they say
they want me to be
and I succeed on their terms
for a moment
and then the moment passes
so I try
to be myself again
and I fail
and then I try
and I fail
but the failure
seems to be
the shit I must get through
so I can
finally grow up
so I laugh
not a maniacal laugh
merely a buffer
against the underlying darkness
to overwhelm me
try to clean myself up
this is the day
a little more
…first chapbook, Scarborough Songs, was released by Lyricalmyrical Press in 2013, and charted on the Toronto Poetry Map. Other publication credits include: Blue Collar Review; The Toronto Quarterly; Spadina Literary Review; Sharing Spaces; Tamaracks; and Tending the Fire. His first full collection, The Other Life, is newly released by Mosaic Press.
I have recently had the pleasure to begin a correspondence with the founding-editor of Coalesce, a new online journal, one that I think would be of interest to The BeZine’s readers and contributors. So I invited that editor, Erich Keyser, to share with us about Coalesce and his journey that led to it.
Connecting Through Our Stories
COALESCE is a community where people can come together by sharing their personal human story through creative nonfiction, poetry, and photo essays. We all have a personal story to tell. The way we were raised, the hardship we’ve faced, the people we’ve met, and the lessons we’ve learned. The experiences that have shaped us, good and bad, painful and joyful, challenging and rewarding. But how often do we get to share part of our story openly, feeling truly heard and understood? COALESCE is a place to be unequivocally listened to and heard, and hopefully to activate our empathy and initiate a spark of compassion and greater understanding. We never know what someone has been through. Sometimes, we aren’t even fully aware of how our own traumas and experiences have impacted us and then influence the way we see and treat others.
With our current fast-paced culture of immediacy and business, when time is money, and political perspectives equate to perceived threat, it’s hard to slow down and listen. Misinformation, misjudgments, and misunderstanding lead to fear, which prevent us from connecting with others. A global pandemic forced us to stop and listen for a brief moment in time: we could hear the birds in the city, dolphins returned to canals of Venice, people went for walks outside, had to sit with their own feelings and thoughts in their heads (scary!). Yet, there seemed to be a rush to get back to “normal” – to traffic-jammed commutes, to quick greetings of “how’s it going?” without stopping to listen for the reply. While in ways this pandemic brought us together, it also sharpened the divides and exacerbated the anxieties in our society. I think that now, even more than before, it is important for us to listen to each other.
COALESCE began about a year and a half ago when I was in the depths of a state of significant loneliness, fear, and depression. I was in self isolated quarantine in Guelph, Ontario after recently visiting my family in Pennsylvania for a short holiday trip. I was in the middle of contemplating leaving an objectively great job with steady pay and meaningful enough work. But the long hours at a desk and fast-paced business style were damaging my body and draining my soul. I was wrestling with my dad’s recent cognitive decline, which he was brushing off to old age, and that we later found out to be a tumor, which was, thankfully, successfully removed. Certain cognitive functions however won’t return – most likely due to early stages of dementia. I was missing my family and friends. And I was trying to hold together a relationship at the time, which was inevitably not going to work. I was missing and craving community and creativity, and began dreaming up all kinds of ideas, which were the beginnings of what COALESCE Community eventually became.
I grew up in a very small, very white, very conservative town. It wasn’t until I started meeting people with different lived experiences and diverse perspectives, that I genuinely started questioning my own assumptions about others and the world. I got my B.S. in Biology and Religious Studies at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, and essential to the Ursinus experience is a course called CIE (the Common Intellectual Experience). This required first-year seminar introduces students to much more than college level reading and writing. It broadens their academic, intellectual, and emotional horizons, engaging with books, poems, music, and plays across disciplines, worldviews, cultures, and time, and poses some of the most fundamental questions of the undergraduate experience (and arguably, our experience as human beings): What does it mean to be human? How should we live together? How do we come to know the world? What should matter to me? What will I do? I was lucky to have the late Rev. Charles Rice as my CIE professor, who was the epitome of compassion and love. He was a no-bullshit kind of man, who deeply cared for his students and their growth, and sought to know them on a deeper level. In short, he took time to listen to them and their personal human stories, cultivating greater understanding, compassion, and love which contributed to him being a champion for students and a pillar of the college and surrounding community.
This course, these questions, and Rev. Rice forever shaped me and how I oriented to the world. They guided my subsequent experiences at Ursinus, studying abroad in Tanzania, and at graduate school in Canada. They continue to inform much of how I approach my life decisions. During graduate school, and afterwards in a professional capacity, I had the privilege to work with several First Nations and Native American Tribes across Canada and the United States on a variety of environmental and conservation initiatives. Being able to bear witness to the powerful and beautiful songs, language, stories, ceremonies, and relationships that many of these people and Elders shared with each other and the land – culture and relationships which were almost destroyed through settler colonialism and residential schools – created a deeper understanding inside myself of the ways in which we are all connected. The ways in which we exist in relationship to one another and the world around us. The ways in which we all have spirit and can only thrive when we care for and nurture that spirit.
It’s easy to avoid an angry co-worker, to ignore someone experiencing homelessness on the street, to get upset with a friend or partner for something they said or did that was hurtful. It’s easy to dismiss someone with a different political or social perspective as a waste of time or unable to understand. But all these reactions lead to and perpetuate misunderstanding, fear, hostility, anger, cynicism, or apathy and indifference. When we take the time to sit with someone, get to know them on a deeper more intimate level, hear their story, what they’ve been through that has shaped them, it’s impossible to not develop a greater understanding of who they are, where they came from, and what they’re going through. Listening to understand is an intentional practice. The late Thich Nhat Hanh summed it up with profound simplicity: “Understanding and Love are not two separate things, but just one. To develop understanding, you have to practice looking at all living beings with the eyes of compassion. When you understand, you cannot help but love. And when you love, you naturally act in a way that can relieve the suffering of people.”
At COALESCE we want to empower people to share their story. Stories are at the center of our human experience which bring us together. Authentic and honest sharing and deep listening can help us connect with one another, cultivate greater empathy, understanding, and compassion. We currently publish a collection of human stories seasonally, one for every solstice and equinox. We try to stay connected to our contributors, follow what they’re doing, celebrate their successes and share them with the world. We are starting virtually, and in ways this is a beautiful gift as our community can reach and connect with a larger audience. The long-term vision is for COALESCE to grow into a collaborative creative community space: to hold story-telling and creative workshops, serve as a co-working space, host retreats centered on creative inquiry and expression, partner with educational institutions and other community organizations and businesses to hold space for student galleries, community talks, and so much more. Realistically, the door for ideas and people is wide open. At the center of it all is sharing our stories. For all of us. To speak our truth. To be vulnerable. To be heard. To connect. To understand. To grow closer. To heal. To love better. To see each other and the world with eyes of compassion.
…lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (the Traditional Territory of the Lenape Nation). His studies in Geography, Biology, and Religion have taken him across the United States to Tanzania and Canada. Erich has several years of experience working alongside Indigenous Nations in Canada and the United States on a variety of environmental and conservation projects. He is curious about human relationships with each other and the natural world, and believes in the power of deep listening and connecting through personal stories. He is currently an Adjunct Instructor at his alma mater, Ursinus College, and finds joy in playing and composing music, writing, rock climbing, hiking, mushroom coffee, and quality time with his partner and loved ones. Erich is the founder of COALESCE.
Even with all of the tensions and warnings, Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, shocked the world. This violation of international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty could easily expand to a broader war. This puts progressives, as I think myself to be, in position of wondering how do we wage peace? Is there a path to peace?
As I write this, I don’t know.
Whatever the path to peace may be, the path for social justice would not allow for accepting Russia’s war on Ukraine. However, I also am aware that Western Imperialism has acted just as viciously in its own interests, and that the US and the West continue to promote wars in their interests.
Perhaps the #HackersAgainstPutin group could do infrastructure damage to stop the war? Anonymous claimed credit for knocking down Russian government websites. Would this be enough? And could this escalate to cyber warfare that would harm or even kill civilians if infrastructure fails in combatant countries?
Could a world-wide strike be the path, opposed to all war and demanding peace? Is such a thing possible even? How do we follow Gandhi’s path of non-violence and quickly grow it to a global scale? I can’t imagine that it could be done in time to help the people in Ukraine.
How do we protect peace and simultaneously prevent further expansion through military force?
And who to stand behind for justice? It is not as though the U.S. does not use military force, directly and indirectly. The shadows of Vietnam, Irag, Libya, and Afghanistan loom over this battle. Can we trust the US and NATO to do the right thing?
CUNY Professor Peter Beinart offers an apt quote from 1943 to frame his argument that this time, we need to support the US, even progressives who rightly attack the US for its hypocrisy and war-mongering:
In 1943, the Hungarian-born journalist Arthur Koestler wrote: “In this war we are fighting against a total lie in the name of a half-truth.” That’s a good motto for American progressives to adopt in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
CUNY Professor Peter Beinart, “Russia speaks total lies. That doesn’t diminish America’s half-truths” in The Guardian
Beinart acknowledges the lies of the U.S.: Saying the US stands with Ukraine because America is committed to democracy and the “rules-based international order” is at best a half-truth. The US helps dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates commit war crimes in Yemen, employs economic sanctions that deny people from Iran to Venezuela to Syria life-saving medicines, rips up international agreements like the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate accords, and threatens the international criminal court if it investigates the US or Israel.
But this hypocrisy wouldn’t have fazed Koestler, because it’s nothing new. In 1943, the alliance that fought Hitler was led by a British prime minister who championed imperialism, an American president who presided over racial apartheid, and Joseph Stalin. Koestler’s point wasn’t that the US or Britain, let alone the USSR, were virtuous in general. It was that they were virtuous relative to Nazi Germany in the specific circumstances of the second world war, and that these sinful governments were the only ones with the geopolitical heft to stop a totalitarian takeover of Europe.
These extended quotes give the overall argument. Beinart continues to develop it with a focus on the invasion of Ukraine. He points out that there are times when Russia had been on the relatively virtuous side and the US not, with examples. And times when the US has been relatively virtuous, and Russia not. In the end, for this case, we have to think clearly and make a choice.
As Beinart writes: “But Koestler’s point was that progressives can puncture America’s pretensions to universal virtue while still recognizing that it is sometimes one of the few instruments available to combat evil.”
While I do not support much of what the U.S. does, in this situation, I agree with Beinart that it is, relative to Putin’s invasion, the more virtuous side to support.
However, I still really want to find a non-violent path to peace for all. I recognize that, today, this seems an impossibly distant goal. It probably won’t be reached in my lifetime. Sadly, it has been made more distant, seemingly less possible, with this invasion.
My heart, thoughts, and good will goes out to the peoples of both Russia and Ukraine who are caught between the anvil and the hammer. May peace return.
I don’t know what will happen in Ukraine during the next two weeks, but as editor, I have decided to have a special section in The BeZine’s Spring issue, one devoted to peace in Ukraine. Give us your thoughts, share your poetry, send your art.
The Spring issue comes out on or shortly after 15 March.
In a shocking move that immediately unearthed fears many thought permanently buried from the Cold War of the previous century, Putin ordered Russian nuclear weapons prepared for increased readiness to launch, ratcheting up tensions with Europe and the United States over the conflict that is dangerously poised to expand beyond the former frontiers of the defunct U.S.S.R.
The Russian president told his defense minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in “special regime of combat duty.”
He said that leading NATO powers had made “aggressive statements” toward Russia in addition to stiff economic sanctions and cutting leading Russian banks from the SWIFT banking system.
RUSSIA AND UKRAINE TO HOLD TALKS
After rejecting Putin’s offer to meet in the Belarusian city of Homel on the grounds that their common neighbor was facilitating the Russia assault, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy agreed to send a Ukrainian delegation to meet with Russian counterparts at an unspecified time and location on the Belarusian border.
The announcement comes hours after Russia announced that its delegation had flown to Belarus to await talks. Ukrainian officials initially rejected the move, saying any talks should take place elsewhere than Belarus, a country that has supported Putin directly by allowing Russia to use its territory as a staging ground.
Zelenskyy, who has refused to abandon Kyiv, named Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul, Budapest or Baku as alternative venues for talks, before accepting the Belarus border.
The Kremlin added later that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had offered to help broker an end to fighting in a call with Putin. It didn’t say whether the Russian leader accepted.
The International Forum for Literature and Culture of Peace is pleased to announce its Peace Poetry Contest 2022 (in English or Spanish). You will be able to register your poem for this competition from the 15th February to the 15th July 2022. The winners of the contest will be announced on September 2022, during the celebration of the International Day of Peace.
In 2018 Jamie Dedes, our founding editor of blessed memory, planned to nominate writers for our issues to the Pushcart Prize. For reasons of her declining health, and by late 2018 my own emerging health issues that turned out to be lymphoma, we did not manage to make those nominations. Or, if Jamie did, I have not found an indication of it and don’t recall it. Three years later, after Jamie’s passing and my own treatment and recuperation from lymphoma, not to mention the (ongoing) pandemic…we have what I believe are our first Pushcart nominations.
We found the selection process difficult, because so many of the contributions to The BeZine this year have been powerful, strong writing. We can only nominate six. We feel honored to have had so many good choices to select from, and with respect for the many not named above, we are honored to present the six pieces listed above as our Pushcart Prize nominees. The BeZine wishes all of the writers well in the Pushcart Press selection process.
Next year, we will do this again.
On behalf of the rest of the editorial team, who supported and participated in the selection process:
John Anstie, Associate Editor Corina Ravenscraft, Art Editor Chrysty Hendrick, Copy Editor