From all of us here at “The BeZine,” Beguine Again and in The Bardo Group Beguines, wishing you every blessing throughout this holy day season. Be the peace and peace will be with you.
From all of us here at “The BeZine,” Beguine Again and in The Bardo Group Beguines, wishing you every blessing throughout this holy day season. Be the peace and peace will be with you.
The Wiyot lived in the Humboldt Bay area of Northern California and they live in my dreams. For about a year-and-half we made our home in Humboldt County, an area about 200 miles north of San Francisco on the far North Coast. It’s a place dense with redwood forests, wild rivers, and creeks that run dry in the summer and overflow in the winter. If you live in a rural area or grew up in one, you might take such things for granted. Having lived in paved-over cities all my life, they seemed magical to me.
Our four acres were rich with sequoia, madrone, oak, and twenty-eight fruit trees. Blue jays flew in to feed in the morning. Quail families visited at night. They marched down our drive in orderly formation. Hawks and hummingbirds put on air shows. Rosemary thrived unattended. There was a beautiful lush 100-year-old rosebush. There were wild roses too. They gifted us hips for homemade cough syrup.
The colors there were brilliant and varied: smog-free blue skies (you could see the stars at night!), rich brown earth, a population of purple iris in a grove of California bay laurel, orange cosmos and red dahlias, yellow scotch broom lining our creek-side in the company of cascading Japanese quince. The Japanese quince provided ample housing for Rufus hummingbirds. Nearby, Queen Ann’s lace stood unbent by the wind. When it went to seed we collected the seeds for cooking. They have a taste somewhere between carrot and caraway.
The spread of blackberry bushes was both wonder and wealth. They seemed never to run out of fruit. I gathered some almost every morning for breakfast and every morning I thought of the women in buckskins who preceded me more than a century ago. Perhaps there was a mother who stood on this spot, picking blackberries for her son too.
I think the peace, quiet and simplicity of that place made it easy to imagine the first peoples as they might have lived there in other times. I could see them tending fires, boiling and drying acorns and then grinding them for flour, bathing in the river, raising their children, gathering wood, hunting and enjoying sacred ceremony. I knew the very same ancient sequoia that watched over us had watched over them.
Finally, I did some research. I was sad but not surprised to find that the area was once inhabited by an indigenous people – the Wiyot people – who were decimated in a genocide ~
“Eureka newspapers of the time exulted at the night massacres conducted by the “good citizens of the area”. Good haul of Diggers and Tribe Exterminated! were 2 headlines from the Humboldt Times. Those who thought differently about it were shut up by force. Newspaper publisher and short story writer Bret Harte called it “cowardly butchery of sleeping women and children” — then had to flee ahead of a lynch mob that smashed his printing presses.” MORE [Wiyot Tribal Council Page]
Note: Originally written in 2012, I’ve posted this today as a an acknowledgement of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, October 12. More than 40 US jurisdictions celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day; the majority of these have replaced Columbus Day with this holiday, but some jurisdictions celebrate both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
In addition to reading here, please also treat yourself to Michael Watson’s post Silence, Story, and Healing, a short and thoughtful piece.
© 2012, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Photo credit ~ Eel River by Jan Kronsell and released into the worldwide public domain; Scotch Broom by Danny S. – 001 under CC BY-SA 3.0; Humboldt Bay near Eureka by Tony via Wikipedia and Licensed under CC A 2.0 Generic; Wiyot Mother and Child, Humboldt State University
WRITING PROMPT, Not for writers only
Perhaps you too grew up in a time and place where the history books taught a one-sided view of the land you live on and the people who originated there. Perhaps, like me, you had to get out of school and meet new people, read books that weren’t sanctioned by academic authority and do your own research to learn about the devastation that was and is rained upon indigenous people all over the world … the violence, the slavery and the genocide. Perhaps you are a descendent of the original people who suffered so and know the truth from the stories of your elders. Perhaps your roots are in the nations of empire and you are saddened that they perpetrated or were complicit in such unimaginable injustice.
We can’t change what happened in the past but we can make sure that lies aren’t propagated and that the truth is told and shared. Whether or not you are a writer, try this exercise: write a poem, short story, essay or article that illustrates some aspect of colonialism, racial bias and stereotype, or the modern complications of colonial history. Doing research and writing about our feelings are good ways to clarify circumstance and clear out unconscious bias. That’s one of the possible benefits of journaling, for example. If you are a professional poet or writer, you have the tools to help set the record straight and win a small victory for the human race.
– Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day)
The Tahirih Justice Center stands alone as the only national, multi-city organization providing a broad range of direct legal services, policy advocacy, and training and education to protect immigrant women and girls fleeing violence. Come out and support some of New York’s most powerful artists as they perform to raise money for a worth cause. $10 suggested donation all going to the center. Thanks to Terri Muuss for sharing this with us. Lifting the Veil Facebook Page is HERE.
a man, a woman, a stick
the stick stood in the corner of the kitchen
a constant threat; stoking, as it was meant to,
he had a man’s right to deliver his blows
to vent his anger and his self-contempt
to cause suffering for the insufferable
someone had to make it up to him,
his loss-of-face to race, creed and poverty
for her part, eve’s daughter was ripe,
shamed by her intrinsic sinfulness,
worn by her constant pregnancies
her femininity: tired and task-bound,
guilt flowing freely, as all-consuming as lava
[relief, only in death]
and the seventh child was born to die
and the man was demanding his bread
she wrapped the girl in swaddling cloth,
placed her gently by the stove, and
while the newborn made busy with dying,
the woman prepared him his meal
© 2015, Jamie Dedes
May 15, 2016
Books are a uniquely portable magic.
Stephen King, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”
Books are a primary way we get to travel, meet new people, and learn about the world and the human condition outside the narrow confines of our personal concerns, our families and communities. They are indeed magic: they inform, heal, spur us to action, offer new perspectives, new ways of being in the world and – perhaps most important – they open us to the joys and suffering of others.
In this month’s lead feature, Algerian poet, writer, university student and frequent contributor to The BeZine, Imen Benyoub, tells how three important books that focus on war and genocide teach us about “courage, tolerance, love and sacrifice” and bear witness to “how generous and resilient a human spirit can be, even in the darkest times.”
Imen’s feature is suggestive of The BeZine‘s raison d’etre: to come together from different parts of the world, different cultures, races and creeds, to show our soft underbelly, our most human side in the interest of peace. We are here to quietly be ourselves, to share and in so doing to recognize one another as sister and brother, not “other.” If one of us bleeds, we all bleed. Let us not be silent in the face of daily brutalities. Pens, not swords, open minds and hearts and heal our world. This month – as always – our writers represent a diversity of nations, religions (or lack of), ethnicities and cultures. While this is an English language publication, not all of our writers have English as a first language.
Lilianna Negoi and Contributing Editor, Priscilla Galasso, get us started at the beginning, our early childhood reading. Lana Phillips tells the touching story of comfort in reading Red Shoes for Nancy about a girl older than she who was also living with disability. Corina Ravenscraft tells us how two books made a substantive difference in her life and way of being in the world. Michael Watson says in his essay:
Being an avid reader, I have developed a suspicion that, like the Great Weathers, almost any book can change one’s life for good or ill, and that timing has a lot to do with the outcome.
James R. Cowles’ essay, Escaping Into Reality, offers a lot to think about (as his essays always do) and Mendes Biondo (new to our pages) tells us of personal growth and changes in perspective fostered by an encounter with The Cannon of 20th Century Greek poet, Costantino Cavafy.
We move on to poetry by several of our core team members: John Anstie’s profound Looking South (looking back) with Frodo Baggins; Joe Hesch’s well-crafted and honest poems Schwund und Reue (Loss and Regret) and Confessions of Light-reading Poet; Naomi Baltuck combines a poem by Alice Lowe with her signature photo-storytelling; Charlie Martin loves too many books; Liliana Negoi writes movingly and vividly of reading.
We have several newcomers to our pages this month. We are delighted to introduce poets Joshua Medsker, whose poem is included with the themed pieces and, under the More Light section, Miki Byrne, Sakshi Chanana and Maggie Mackay. Please be sure to welcome them with “likes” and comments. Read their bios HERE.
Also under More Light are Naomi Baltuck’s always engaging photo-stories. We close with a charming art piece from Marlyn Exconde and her children.
Enjoy! … and be the peace …
Jamie Dedes, Managing Editor
Essays and Photo Stories
The First Book That Shaped Me, Lilianna Negoi
Books That Change Lives, Priscilla Galasso
Red Shoes for Nancy, Lana Phillips
Books That Changed My Life, Corina Ravenscraft
Books and Great Weather, Michael Watson
Escaping Into Reality, James R. Cowles
May there be many a summer morning …, Mendes Biondo
Looking South with Frodo Baggins, John Anstie (essay & poem)
A Merry Literary Christmas, Naomi Baltuck and Alice Lowe
Schwund und Reue, Joseph Hesch
Confessions of a Light-reading Poet, Joseph Hesch
too many loves, Charles W. Martin
The Poetic Books, Joshua Medsker
Night Light, Liliana Negoi
Magic Is Your Name, Marlyn Exconde and Children
Facebook, The Bardo Group Beguines
Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines
Access to the biographies of our core team contributing writers and guest writers is in the blogroll to your left along with archived issues of The BeZine, our Mission Statement and Submission Guidelines.
Carl Sagan (1934-1996)
CARL SAGAN was the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He played a leading role in the American space program since its inception. He was a consultant and adviser to NASA since the 1950’s, briefed the Apollo astronauts before their flights to the Moon, and was an experimenter on the Mariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileo expeditions to the planets. He helped solve the mysteries of the high temperatures of Venus (answer: massive greenhouse effect), the seasonal changes on Mars (answer: windblown dust), and the reddish haze of Titan (answer: complex organic molecules).
Video posted to YouTube by CarlSaganPortal.
Earth as seen from Apollo 17.
“A mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam . . . ” Carl Sagan
It cannot be forgotten why this piece of music was written at the turn of the millennium, at the end of a century dominated by the most destructive of wars. We are also in the midst of the centenary commemorating the first of those wars, WW1. Composer Karl Jenkins intention was to embrace all faiths and religions of the world. These aims are very much in keeping with those of the Bardo Group Bequines … reminding us of our need to rise above the polarisation of politics and religion across the world.
This video is one of thirteen. You can access the other movements on YouTube.
– John Anstie
You can listen to the two-hour podcast HERE. Recommended! This post is meant as an alert and also to share my two cents.
As I write, it’s just a few hours after listening to Just My Thoughts with Graffiti Bleu on BlogTalk Radio. The show started with an exploration of What does the revolution look like? with Graffiti Blue, Michael Rothenberg, and the show’s panel and callers comprised of poets involved in 100,000 Poets for Change (100TPC).
Harkening back to Gil Scott-Heron and his poem, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, part of the discussion was on technology and social networking and their roles in fostering peace, social justice and sustainability. When Heron wrote his poem in 1971, the means to formulate and distribute information and opinion were dominated by mainstream media and corporate interest, which were not in sympathy with the revolution Heron envisioned. Those interests are still dominant and still lack sympathy, but there’s something of a balance occurring – however imperfect – now that we plain folk have access to the tools of technology and social networking. Without social networking, we wouldn’t have 100TPC, which can happily be said to have gone viral since Michael Rothenberg put out a call on Facebook for poets to join in a global peace effort back in 2010. While each of us in the “100,000” has a relatively small “audience” together we touch many, many minds and hearts. We do have an agenda, but it doesn’t foment strife. We’re not in anyone’s pocket. That’s clean power. It’s power to …
On a personal level, one benefit of technology is that people who are homebound – as I sometimes am – can take part in change-making initiatives more actively than simply writing letters-to-the-editor or to our legislators, which is not to say we should give that up. I started a virtual 100TPC via The BeZine and with The Bardo Group Beguines so that disabled people and people who do not live near a 100TPC event would have the opportunity to have their say, to lend their support. Our 2015 commemorative page is HERE.
We need to do more than “talk.” Agreed. And I think that one of things 100TPC gives us is hope … huge hope from seeing that there are people in every nook-and-cranny of the world who share our values and priorities. This helps us to keep on keeping on with our local grassroots initiatives as well as our broader advocacy. This serves to sustain our faith and commitment.
Ultimately for me, 100TPC is about breaking down barriers, crossing boarders. It leads the way in our evolutionary journey toward a sustainable peace. In the documentary film Ten Questions for the Dalai Lama, the Dalai Lama says “we need more festivals.” In other words, if we get to know people, if we break bread with them or share a bowl of rice, we are less likely to think of them as “other.” It will be more difficult to turn around the next day and do harm. 100TPC is our festival. Once we’ve shared hearts, souls and stories through poetry, how can we marginalize anyone? How can we abandon or abuse?
Can the revolution be bloodless? The question is really “will it be?” I don’t think so. I don’t think revolutions are by their very nature “bloodless.” The psychopaths will always be with us and until we stop marginalizing people and leaving them desperate and vulnerable to tyrants, we’ll never have bloodless reform. We’ll never achieve a sustainable peace. Peace is a state that takes awareness and awareness takes growth, which is an evolutionary process. That doesn’t mean we should give up. It means that as poets we should continue to bear witness, to touch hearts, to raise consciousness and to nurture the process of growth. As poet Michael Dickel said in an interview on this site HERE: “. . . it may not be ours to see the work completed, but that does not free us from the responsibility to do the work.”
– Jamie Dedes
© 2016, words, Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day), All rights reserved; photograph courtesy of Graffiti Bleu and Michael Rothenberg.
© Rev. Ben Meyers, all rights reserved
Peace will prevail because of people just like you. Maybe not this year or the next but ultimately. Amen!
O God! O God! that it were possible
To undo things done; to call back yesterday
That Time could turn up his swift sandy glass,
To untell the days, and to redeem these hours.
— Thomas Heywood (1574?-1641), A Woman Killed with Kindness (Act 4, Sc. 6)
Photograph courtesy of Wally Gobetz under CC BY 2.0 license.
by Terri Stewart (Beguine Again)
“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.”
~Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Trevor Hudson, in his book A Mile in My Shoes, describes living daily life as living daily pilgrimage into the suffering of others. Life as a daily pilgrimage includes:
I was thinking of this as I was pondering the great tragedy that is taking place in Syria. Bodies are washing up on the shores of the Mediterranean of little children and families fleeing. It is simply horrifying. An excellent explanation of what is happening is here.
About 6 years ago, when I first started working at the juvenile detention center, I was playing cards with some boys in the detention center. As we played games, the boys were sharing their stories. One of the boys happened to be from Syria. He left Syria and moved to the states after seeing his parents murdered in front of him. He came here to live with his auntie. He could barely read or write. He was in detention for violent behavior. Imagine that. He had anger issues. I thought it was horrifying then. It seems it just keeps on getting worse.
Trevor Hudson would have us travel into the suffering as a pilgrim, not as a voyeur or as a consumer, but as a sacred journey. Being present to pain. Listening to their stories without imposing outside values. And noticing. Noticing who they are. Sometimes that is the most sacred gift of all. I think on that day years ago, for that young man from Syria, that is what he longed for. Simply to be noticed.
Maybe this Sabbath day we can take a moment and be present to those who suffer near us. Take a pilgrimage with them–a sacred journey into the heart.
These are busy days for Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion who founded 100,000 Poets for Change. Michael announced yesterday that 500 events are now scheduled for September 26, 2015, the fifth anniversary of this global initiative for change; that is, for peace and sustainability.
For those who are just catching up with us, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, or 100TPC, is an international grassroots educational organization focusing on the arts, especially poetry, music, and the literary arts. It was founded in 2011 by Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion and is centered on a world-wide event each September. This past June the first World Conference on 100TPC was held in Salerno, Italy.
There are also several offshoots cropping up: 100,000 Photographers for Change, 100,000 Drummers for Change … and so on. A little searching on Facebook and you’ll find them, though the umbrella for all, 100TPC, does include a range of artistic specialties and friends of the arts and is not limited to poets and poetry.
We – that is The Bardo Group and Beguine Again, publishers of The BeZine are hosting a virtual event and you are all invited to attend and add links to your own relevent work. The links will be collected and published in a Page on The BeZine site and also archived at 100TPC. Michael Dickel (Fragments of Michael Dickel) of The Bardo Group is the lead for this event. Michael is also the organizer of an event scheduled in Israel this October. You can contact him via his blog or message him on Facebook if you have an interest in participating there.
Meanwhile, here is an introduction to the visionary founders of 100TPC, Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion:
MICHAEL ROTHENBERG was born in Miami Beach, Florida in 1951, and has been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 37 years. Currently Michael is living and creating among the redwoods.
Michael is co-founder of Shelldance Orchid Gardens in Pacifica, which is dedicated to the cultivation of orchids and bromeliads. He is a poet, painter, songwriter, and editor of Big Bridge Press and Big Bridge, a webzine of poetry and everything else.
In 2011 he and Terri Carrion co-founded the global poetry movement 100 Thousand Poets for Change. His songs have appeared in Hollywood Pictures’ Shadowhunter and Black Day, Blue Night, and most recently, TriStar Pictures’ Outside Ozona. Other songs have been recorded on CDs including: Bob Malone’s The Darkest Part of The Night (Caught Up in Christmas) and Bob Malone (Raydaddy’s Blues), Difficult Woman by Renee Geyer, Global Blues Deficit by Cody Palance, The Woodys by The Woodys, and Schell Game by Johnny Lee Schell.
Michael’s poetry books and broadsides are archived at the University of Francisco, and are held in the Special Collection libraries of Brown University, Claremont Colleges, University of Kansas, the New York Public Library, UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis, and UC-Santa Cruz.
His most recent collection of poems is Indefinite Detention: A Dog Story (Ekstasis Editions 2013) and Murder (Paper Press, 2013) My Youth As A Train published by Foothills Publishing in September 2010.
TERRI CARRION was conceived in Venezuela and born in New York to a Galician mother and Cuban father. She grew up in Los Angeles where she spent her youth skateboarding and slam-dancing.
Terri Carrion earned her MFA at Florida International University in Miami, where she taught Freshman English and Creative Writing, edited and designed the graduate literary magazine Gulfstream, taught poetry to High School docents at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami and started a reading series at the local Luna Star Café. In her final semester at FIU, she was Program Director for the Study Abroad Program, Creative Writing in Dublin, Ireland.
Her poetry, fiction, non-fiction and photography has been published in many print magazines as well as online, including The Cream City Review, Hanging Loose, Pearl, Penumbra, Exquisite Corpse, Mangrove, Kick Ass Review, Jack, Mipoesia, Dead Drunk Dublin, and Physik Garden among others.
Her collaborative poem with Michael Rothenberg, Cartographic Anomaly was published in the anthology, Saints of Hysteria, A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry and her chapbook Lazy Tongue was published by D Press in the summer of 2007.
Terri’s most recent projects includes collaborating on a trilingual Galician Anthology, (from Galician to Spanish to English) and co-editing an online selection of the bi-lingual anthology of Venezuelan women writers, Profiles of Night, both to appear in late August, on BigBridge.org., for which she is assistant editor and art designer. Currently, she is learning how to play the accordion. Terri Carrion lives under the redwoods and above the Russian River in Guerneville, Ca. with her partner in crime Michael Rothenberg, and her dogs Chiqui and Ziggy.
Editors note: The theme for our September issue is poverty. It is part of our 100,000 Poets (and other artists and friends) for Change event (change being peace and sustainability) to be held here as a virtual event on 26 September 2015. Michael Dickel takes the lead on this project and the September issue. Here’s an opportunity to get to know him better. Michael’s vision: “… hope must/ still remain with those who cross/ borders, ignore false lines and divisions/” is consistent with the mission of Bequine Again and The Bardo Group, publishers of The BeZine. The September issue will post on the 15th. J.D.
“That some of those labelled as enemies
have crossed the lines to offer condolences
at the mourning tents; that the mourning
families spoke to each other as parents
and cried on each others’ shoulders;
that we cried for the children who died
on both sides of the divide; that the
war began anyway; that hope must
still remain with those who cross
borders, ignore false lines and divisions;
that children should be allowed to live;
that we must cry for all children who die”
– Michael Dickel, (Mosquitos) War Surrounds Us
Jerusalem, Summer 2014: Michael Dickel and his family including Moshe (3 years) and Naomi (1 year) hear the air raid sirens, find safety in shelters, and don’t find relief during vacation travels. In a country smaller than New Jersey, there is no escaping the grumbling wars that encircle. So Michael did what writers and poets do. He bore witness. He picked up his pen and recorded thoughts, feelings, sounds, fears, colors, events and concerns in poetry. The result is his third collection of poems, a chapbook, War Surrounds Us.
While some use poetry to galvanize war, Michael’s poetry is a cry for peace. He watched the provocations between Israel and Hamas that resulted in war in 2014 and he illustrates the insanity.
And the retaliation
Continues, reptilian and cold,
retaliation the perpetrator
of all massacres.
Though the poems change their pacing and structure, they present a cohesive logical and emotional flow, one that takes you blood and bone into the heart of Michael’s experience as a human being, a poet, a Jew, a father and husband. He touches the humanity in all of us with his record of the tension between summer outings and death tolls, life as usual and the omnipresence of war. Both thumbs up on this one. Bravo, Michael.
– Jamie Dedes
MY INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL DICKEL:
Jamie: Putting together a poetry collection and ordering the work in a way that enhances the meaning and clarity of poems included is not easy. One of the first things to strike me about the collection as a whole is how it flows, so well in fact that it reads almost like one long poem. I found that quality contributed to the work’s readability. How did you work out the order? Was it consciously ordered or did it arise organically out of the experience of the war?
Michael: I’m very gratified that you noticed this about my book. I hadn’t thought of it quite in that sense, of being one poem, but I like that it reads that way. The sense of a book holding together, a collection of poems having some coherence, is important to me. I don’t think my first book achieved this very well, although it has some flow poem to poem. The whole is not focused, though. My second book has a sense of motion and narrative, from the Midwest where I grew up to arriving and living in Israel, and now being part of the Mid-East. However, War Surrounds Us, my third book, finally has a sense of focus that the other two did not.
Unfortunately, I probably can’t take too much credit for that coherence. Even more unfortunate, a real war raged in Gaza, with rockets also hitting the Jerusalem area, not that far from where I live. As we know now, thousands died, most apparently civilians, many children. Just across the border to the Northeast, diagonally opposite of Gaza, a much larger scale conflict burned and still burns through Syria—with even larger death tolls and even more atrocities over a longer time. These wars had, and still have, a huge impact on me and my family.
During last summer, the summer of 2014, this reality of war surrounding us had all of my attention. And it came out in my writing as obsession with the war, my family, the dissonance between living everyday life and the reality of death and destruction a missile’s throw away. So the topic filled my poems those months, as it did my thoughts. And the poems emerged as events unfolded over time, so a sort of narrative wove into them—not a plot, mind you, not exactly, anyway.
This gives a chronological structure to the book. However, not all of the poems appear in the order I wrote them. I did move some around, seeing connections in a theme or image—if it did not jar the sense of the underlying chronology of the war. Some of the events in our life could move around, and I did move some poems to places where I thought they fit better. I also revised the poems, reading from beginning to end several times, trying to smooth out the flow. A few of the poems I actually wrote or started before this phase of the ongoing conflict broke out—but where they also fit into a pattern, I included them. In the end, I moved and revised intuitively, following my own sense of flow and connection. I’m glad that it seems to have worked for you, as a reader, too.
Jamie: What is the place of the poet and poetry in war? Can poetry, art and literature move us to peace? How and why?
Michael: This is a difficult question. Historically, one place of poets was to call the soldiers to war, to rile them up and denounce the enemy. There is a famous poem from the Hebrew Scriptures. Balaam is called by Balak to curse Jacob and his army. The story sets a talking donkey who sees an angel with a sword and other obstacles in his way, but long story short, he arrives and raises his voice. He is the poet who is supposed to curse the enemy. Instead, he begins, “How beautiful your tents, O Jacob…” and recites a poem that is now part of the Jewish liturgy. This is not necessarily a peace poem, but it shows words and their power to curse of bless. I think the place of the poet is to bless and, rather than curse, to witness with clear sight.
There is a long history of poet as witness and observer. Czeslaw Milosz in The Witness of Poetry and Carolyn Forché, following him, in her books Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness and Poetry of Witness, which goes back to the 16th Century, argue that the poet’s role is to observe and bear witness to the world—to the darkness, the atrocities, genocide, war… Forché quotes Bertolt Brecht: “In these dark times, will there also be singing? / Yes, there will be singing. / About the dark times.” I think that is what we do as poets. That’s what I hope that War Surrounds Us does at its best, albeit as much a witnessing of my own family and context as of the Other. Then, as feminist theory has taught me, the personal is political, the political personal.
Can art and literature move us to peace? I don’t know. I hope it can move us to see more clearly, to feel more acutely, and to embrace our humanity and the humanity of others. Perhaps that will move us toward peace. There is so much to do, and it is as the rabbinic wisdom says about healing creation: it may not be ours to see the work completed, but that does not free us from the responsibility to do the work. As poets, we make a contribution. I hope the songs about the dark times will also be blessings for us all.
Jamie: Tell us about your life as a poet. When did you start and how did you pursue the path? How do you carve out time for it in a life that includes work, children and community responsibilities. You live on a kibbutz, I think.
Michael: Well, starting at the end, no, I don’t live on a kibbutz, I live in Jerusalem (the pre-1967 side of the Green Line). I do teach English at a college that was started by the Kibbutz Movement as a teacher’s college in the 1960s, now Kibbutzim College of Education, Arts and Technology. That appears in my email signature and confuses some people outside of Israel, who think I teach as part of living at a kibbutz. I’m actually more like adjunct faculty, but no one at the college works directly for a kibbutz as far as I know, and the college is open to anybody who qualifies.
While I only have a short day, from when the kids of my current family go to pre-school until I pick them up, I also usually only teach part-time. Some semesters I teach full-time or even more, but usually not. And, many of my courses in the past couple of years have been online, meeting only a few times during the semester. This helps.
My wife works full-time in high tech, which allows us to survive on my irregular, adjunct pay. She also has some flexibility, which allows her to usually be free to pick up the kids as needed around my teaching schedule, and we have on occasion hired someone to help with the kids so I could teach, not so much for my writing. But that has allowed writing time on other days.
Mostly, I write during those few hours when the kids are at pre-school, after the kids have gone to bed, or even later, after my wife has also gone to bed. If I’m working on a deadline or a large project, such as some of the freelance work I do for film production companies, I write after my wife gets home from work even if the kids are still awake. Usually, though, I write when I find time, and I find time when I don’t have other obligations.
Perhaps of relevance to this book, the writing took over. I was late in getting papers back to students and delayed other obligations and deadlines, even canceling a couple of other projects—although it was not just the writing, but the whole experience of the war, dealing with it and wanting to be very present with my children. As the poems relate, we went to the Galilee, in the North, for a month, a vacation we have taken before. Last summer, though, it had extra urgency because of the war. Unfortunately, during an outing picking apples in the Golan Heights, we heard artillery across the border in Syria, and that’s when I wrote the title poem of the book, “War Surrounds Us.”
The summer before, on that same month-long getaway, I wrote a lot of flash fiction, which makes up most of my next book, which should come out by the end of the year. I wrote during both summers when the kids were napping or after their bedtime, mostly. The place we stay in, a friend’s house (he travels every summer), has a lovely courtyard, and after the children went to bed, Aviva and I would sit out in it, usually with a glass of wine. She would read or work online and I would write on my laptop into the night. It was lovely and romantic.
I have to say that I almost don’t remember a time when I didn’t write poetry or stories. I recall trying to stop on a few occasions, either to work in some other aspect of my life, or when I did a different kind of writing, such as for my dissertation (which devolved into creative writing for more than half of it). But really, going back into my early years, I wrote stories or poems of some sort—influenced I suppose by A. A. Milne, Sol Silverstein, Kenneth Grahame and, later, Mark Twain and even Shakespeare. I had books of Roman and Greek myths, the Lambs’ bowdlerized Shakespeare for children, and some Arthurian tales as a child, not to mention shelves of Golden Books. Later, I read Madeleine L’Engle and a lot of science fiction. And everything I read made me also want to write.
I owe the earliest of my poems that I can remember to exercises from grade school teachers, one in 3rd grade, maybe 4th, the other in 6th grade. However, I’m sure that I wrote stories and possibly “poems” earlier. My first sense that I could become a poet arrived via a junior high school teacher, who encouraged me to submit some poetry to a school contest. I tied for first place.
So, I started writing forever ago. By the time of the junior high contest, I had read e e cummings, Emily Dickinson, some Whitman. By 9th grade, I discovered the Beats through a recording of Ginsberg reading “Kaddish” and other poems. Hearing him read the poems, then reading them myself, changed everything.
Alongside this development, one of my brothers brought Dylan records home that I listened to. All three of my brothers, with my parents’ tacit approval, played folk music and protest music in the form of songs of Woody Guthrie; The Weavers; Joan Baez; Peter, Paul and Mary; in addition to Dylan. These influenced both my writing and my world view. The same year that I came across Ginsberg’s work, I was involved in anti-war activity in my high school. That spring, four students were shot at Kent State. In another way, that changed everything, too.
Writing, activism, and politics, for me have always been interwoven. I also heard that year about “The Woman’s Movement,” which today we call Feminism. Later, much later, I would read and take to heart the idea of the personal being political, the body being political. I think my poems, even the most personal, always have a political and theoretical lens. And the most philosophical or political or theoretical, also have a personal lens. I don’t think that we can help but do that, but I try to be aware of the various lenses, of using their different foci deliberately as part of my craft. I’m not sure that is the current trend, and much of my work doesn’t fit well in spoken word or slam settings (some of it fits). However, this is my poetry and poetics—and they arise from a specific cultural context, the complexity of which I could not begin to convey in less than a lifetime of writing.
My development from those awakening moments looked like this: I read. I wrote. I shared my work with other people who wrote. Sometimes I talked with others about writing. My first degree in college was in psychology, not English, because I naively thought that psych would help me understand the human condition and that English would “ruin” – suppress – my writing voice. However, I took a lot of literature courses and my study abroad term focused entirely on literature.
After college, I had a career as a counselor working with runaways, with street teens, with children undergoing in-patient psych evaluations, and in a crisis intervention and suicide prevention center—a career that taught me a lot about politics, gender, race, and justice. I continued to write, often about some of the most disturbing realities that I encountered, but not well.
I had been out of college nearly a decade when I took some courses in creative writing at the University of Minnesota, at the suggestion of some friends in a writing group who had also taken some. One of the professors encouraged me to apply to the Creative Writing Program, where I was accepted. The acceptance was a poignant moment—I was out of state at my father’s burial. My now ex-wife remained back with our then 2 year-old daughter. She saw the letter in the mail, so called and read it to me. It was also my 32nd birthday. So many emotions all at the same time. Mostly, I remember wishing I could have told my father—from when he first heard that I’d applied, every phone call we had included his asking if I had heard yet if I had been accepted. It was the most direct way he had of saying he was proud.
Jamie: Tell us a little about 100,000 Poets for Change (100TPC) in Israel and how people can get in touch with you if they want to participate this year. Are you able to manage a mix of Arabs and Jews?
Michael: The thing about 100TPC is that it’s pretty loose, as an organization, and very anarchic in governance. Which is to say, I’m not sure there is something I could call 100TPC in Israel. There’s a wonderful poet in Haifa who does some events, I don’t think every year. She is very active in peace activism and poetry. There’s an Israeli mentor of mine, Karen Alkalay-Gut, who has organized 100TPC events in Tel Aviv since the first year. For the past two years, I organized a poetry reading in Jerusalem. The first one was small, a few people I knew and cajoled into reading. The second one was much larger, over 25 poets. We had one Arab writer, who writes in English, at the second reading. Her poetry is powerful and personal, written as an Arab woman, a mother, and an Israeli. An Arab musician was going to join us, but he had a conflict arise with a paying gig. It is difficult to manage the practical, political, and social barriers, but people do it here. I am just learning a bit how to do this now.
For this year, I am working with two other organizations—the Lindberg Peace Foundation, which has held annual Poetry for Peace events. This year will be the 40th anniversary (yartzheit, in Hebrew) of Miriam Lindberg’s tragic death at the age of 18. She wrote poetry, was a peace activist, and also an environmental activist. Her mother was a poet and professor, and passed away a few years ago. Joining us in planning the Jerusalem event will be the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development. Their mission as I understand it is to develop interfaith leadership for common goals related to eco-justice that would also provide a model for solving the Middle East conflicts.
The Jerusalem events won’t be the same date as the national event (26 September)—our dates will be 15–16 October, to honor the 40th anniversary of Miriam Lindberg’s death. Dorit Weissman, a Hebrew-language poet and playwright, also has become part of 100TPC this year, and she and I are having a smaller reading on 8 October with other poets.
We are just setting up a Facebook page for organizing with the three groups, 100TPC, the foundation, and the center. People could look for me on FB and send me a chat message there to be in touch. I hope that we will have the events posted on FB in the next few weeks, but we are still working on the details. The devil is always in the details, as the saying goes.
Be the peace.
© 2015, book review, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; words, poetry, photographs of Michael, Michael Dickel, All rights reserved; cover illustration, The Evolution of Music, by Jerry Ingeman, All rights reserved
On our 2015 Facebook Page for 100,000 Poets for Change, we’ve been discussing poverty and homelessness. I’m sharing some of the conversation there. If you’d like to join us on Facebook, please let us know. All are welcome. For the September 2015 issue of The BeZine, we’ll be exploring poverty and on September 26, we’ll hold our virtual event and we invite reader participation. Instructions will be in our blog that day. Links to everyone’s work will be collected and posted as a Page and also incorporated into a PDF that will be archived at 100,000 Poets (writers, artists, photographers, musicians and friends) for Change; i.e., peace and sustainability.
This conversation was started on our The BeZine 100TPC 2015 Facebook Group Page by Michael Dickel (Fragments of Michael Dickel):
It’s only a little more than a month until 100 Thousand Poets for Change—Fifth Anniversary—26 September! Time to start some provocations…
Just to get us thinking abou the Poverty Theme next month—this was posted in a FB group, “Philosophy,” a while back but just appeared in my timeline.
The question I have is, does the standing man reach into his pocket because of empathy? Does he see that the beggar could be him? Or is it narcissism, that he sees an extension of himself (rather than seeing the person himself as separate)? Is he only giving b/c it is another version of himself (white male)? Would he reach into his pocket if he saw the Other?
I don’t ask these questions to be cynical, but because I think the cartoon suggests all of this and possibly more. Who do we see when we see poverty? Who do we help? Who do we wonder why they are not “making something” of their lives (as one commenter on the posted photo said he would ask “himself”—the beggar self—in this situation)?
Jamie asked me to take the lead for the poverty-100TPC page, if I understood correctly, so consider this a first provocation. I hope to put out a couple of more in the next couple of weeks.
Are they prompts? Inspiration? Irritants? I like the idea of provoking thoughts, creativity, ideas. So I call them provocations. Mainly, just use what generates something for you, ignore the rest or all if you’ve got your own excitement rolling.
– Michael Dickel
Some of the discussion that resulted from Michael’s prompt follows:
“Would he reach into his pocket if he saw the Other?” Heartbreaking that we even have to ask. And we know the artist’s perspective, he is not seeing the other.” Terri Stewart (Beguine Again)
“I’d like to think in the spiritual sense he’s seeing himself but that is wishful thinking, eh? Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day)
“The ‘but for the grace of God, go I’ response. Maybe. I was more cynical…I was seeing the ego. Ego demands giving to look good. Ugh. I’ve been doing justice work too long.” Terri Stewart
“I think the cartoon suggest all of this—the empathy of “there but for the Grace of God” likely the intent of the artist. The ego the reflection in the mirror, and possibly also intent? Who knows, I guess about intent… and that sense of I will help those like me. And what about those not like me? Terri Stewart
The drawing is provocative. And privileged. And as such, regardless of intent, draws attention to our own privilege, those like me anyway, white male, sitting at my expensive computer writing on FaceBook, drinking good coffee, and not worrying about where my next meal will come from, just whether I can afford to install central AC.” Michael Dickel
What are YOUR thoughts? Please feel free to share them below.
The August issue of The BeZine will be published online on August 15. The theme for August is music.
Michael Rothenberg, co-founder of 100,000 Poets, Artists, Photographers, Musicians and Friends for Change [100TPC] – change being all that is peaceful and sustainable – reported yesterday that there are over 400 events scheduled in various places around the world to celebrate the fifth year of 100TPC.
“Don’t forget September 26 is the 5th Anniversary of 100 Thousand Poets for Change! So far over 400 events are confirmed for that day. If you believe that poetry, music, and all of the arts are capable of making a more peaceful and sustainable world then 100 Thousand Poets for Change is for you! Contact me with your name, city, country and email if you would like to organize an event in your town to celebrate this important day. I will sign you up!”
Meanwhile, we have over seventy people united with us on our Facebook discussion page, The BeZine 100TPC, 2015. You are encouraged to join with us. Leave me a message in the comments area below if you want to be included. The more the better … we welcome diverse participation. This year we are addressing “poverty.”
For Discussion Here:
I took this photo outside a church theater. It reminded me of Actress Audrey Hepburn’s service as a UNICEF ambassador. She traveled widely as she worked on behalf of the poor and the hungry. She said, “I don’t believe in collective guilt, but I do believe in collective responsibility.” Your thoughts????
The tentative plan: On the 15th of September we will publish The BeZine as usual. The theme is poverty. We are reviewing submissions now. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “poverty” in the subject line. Nothing over 1,000 words please and nothing that is unkind. Thank you!
On 26 September we will publish a blog post. Readers are invited to join with us by putting the links to their own relevant work in the comment section or to connect via Mr. Linky (directions will be provided). We encourage you to read everyone’s work and to comment. We will then collect everything into one Page and publish that on The Bardo Group site. Michael Rothenberg will include a PDF of the Page in 100TPC archives.
American-Israeli poet, writer and educator, Michael Dickel (War Surrounds Us) will take the lead for the September issue. Michael has hosted live 100TPC events in Israel for the past two years, has a third event scheduled for this October, and attended The First World Conference on the Future of 100TPC. You can read his article on that event: Salerno, il mio amore.
The next issue of The BeZine is scheduled for 15 August 2015. The theme is music. The July 2015 issue is up for your reading pleasure. The theme is imagination and the critical spirit. Link HERE.
POVERTY: Discussion on Bequine Again/The Bardo Group Facebook page (let me know in the comments section if you want to be included there) has made it evident that some definition – some framework – might be needed. As we stand in solidarity and share our art, essays, poetry, music and photography on Facebook and our blogs on September 26th, I think I can safely say on behalf of the leadership at 100TPC (stated core value: peace and sustainability) and Bequine Again/The Bardo Group, publishers of The Be Zine (stated core value: nonviolence), that we are not primarily focused on spiritual malaise, ennui, or existential angst, the kind of indulgences that might characterize those of us who don’t live with bombs dropping and who so fortunately have three meals a day, clean and plentiful water, housing, health care and education. We are not primarily concerned with the psychological/spiritual insecurity that results in the need to over accumulate. These are real, important and relevant issues that do have a place in discussion. However …
… our key objective is to shed a light on the often invisible MATERIAL POVERTY that results in the death of 22,000 children each day (UNICEF) and in the nearly one billion people who entered the 21st century with no education, no reading skills. We are talking about the ever-widening distance between the haves and the have-nots even within the developed countries, with the increasing numbers of homeless, “food insecure,” and the marginalized and disaffected.
We want to shed some light on the decreasing number of the world’s richest countries v the growing number of the world’s poorest countries. In 1820 the number of poor countries to wealthy was three-to-one. In 1992 it was seventy-two to one (1999 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme – see also the Center for Economic and Policy Research). What do you think are the implications for all of us in that?
In short, our concerns are primarily centered on those issues that could be mitigated and perhaps resolved by deflecting investment in war to investment in people, by responsible consumerism, responsible corporate ethic and policy, and responsible national and global human development policy. We are of the same mind as Simone Weil (The Need for Roots, 1949)when she wrote that feeding the hungry is the most basic of human obligations and that “human progress” is defined by “ a transition to a state of human society in which people will not suffer from hunger.”
– Jamie Dedes
Editorial note: The next issue of The BeZine will publish on Sunday, March 15. Meanwhile, this hugely popular intro and collection of prayers was originally posted by Terri Stewart for Saturday, September 7, 2013, in response to a call for worldwide prayer and fasting to focus on peace in Syria. With all that is going on in the Middle East and given the Ukraine crises, the many conflicts in Africa and the deaths and dislocations resulting from drug wars in Central and South America, this seems a good time to post it again in the spirit of peace, love and community … Jamie Dedes
I have seen many things happening–prayer vigils, personal meditation practices, marches, and communications with elected officials. We decided to offer a Labyrinth Walk for Peace at Bothell UMC in Bothell, WA in the morning. I gathered inter-faith prayers, we walked, prayed, and focused on bringing peace to the world. What follows is prayers and photos from that journey that became deeply personal for each attendant. There was a certain transition that occurred for me as I took in my surroundings and noticed Farmer Brown’s Garden. I began to see, literally, a connection between peacefulness and being fed. You will see.
Entering Sacred Space
Sufi Prayer for Peace
Send Thy peace, O Lord, which is perfect and everlasting, that our souls may radiate peace.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may think, act,
and speak harmoniously.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may be contented
and thankful for Thy bountiful gifts.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that amidst our worldly strife we may enjoy thy bliss.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may endure all,
tolerate all in the thought of thy grace and mercy.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that our lives may become a
divine vision, and in Thy light all darkness may vanish.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, our Father and Mother,
that we Thy children on earth may all unite in one family.
– Sufi Prayer
The Journey Begins
An Islamic Prayer for Peace
In the Name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful: Praise be to the Lord of the Universe
who has created us and made us into tribes and nations that we may know each other,
not that we may despise each other.
If the enemy incline towards peace, do thou also incline towards peace, and trust in God,
for the Lord is one that hears and knows all things.
And the servants of God Most Gracious are those who walk on the Earth in humility,
and when we address them, we say, “Peace.”
– U.N. Day of Prayer for World Peace 2
Walking Together in Ubuntu
A Hindu Prayer for Peace
Supreme Lord, let there be peace in the sky and in the atmosphere.
Let there be peace in the plant world and in the forests.
Let the cosmic powers be peaceful.
Let the Brahman, the true essence and source of life, be peaceful.
Let there be undiluted and fulfilling peace everywhere.
– The Atharva Veda
All Are Invited to Be Fed
Cheyenne Prayer for Peace
Let us know peace.
For as long as the moon shall rise,
For as long as the rivers shall flow,
For as long as the sun shall shine,
For as long as the grass shall grow,
Let us know peace.
– Cheyenne Prayer
Feeding the World in Spirit and Deed
Farmer Brown’s Garden at Bothell UMC
A Jewish Prayer for Peace
Grant us peace. Your most precious gift,
O Eternal Source of Peace, and give us the will to proclaim its message to all the peoples of the earth.
Bless our country, that it may always be a stronghold of peace, and its advocate among the nations.
May contentment reign within its borders, health and happiness within its homes.
Strengthen the bonds of friendship among the inhabitants of all lands.
And may the love of Your name hallow every home and every heart.
Blessed is the Eternal God, the source of Peace.
– From The Gates of Prayer: The New Union Prayer Book, by the Central Conferences of American Rabbis
Growing Spiritually and Growing Food
Buddhist Prayer for Loving Kindness
May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings awaken to
the light of their true nature.
May all beings be free.
– Metta Prayer
Loving Kindness through Loving Care
A Christian Prayer for Peace
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
But I say to you that hear, love your enemies; do good to those who hate you;
bless those who curse you; pray for those who abuse you.
To those who strike you on the cheek, offer the other also;
and from those who take away your cloak, do not withhold your coat as well.
Give to everyone who begs from you, and of those who take away your goods,
do not ask them again. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
– U.N. Day of Prayer for World Peace 2
Becoming the Light Unto the World
A Non Traditional Prayer for World Peace
Spirit of Life and Love, be present with all who are suffering terribly from violence.
Lift up the hearts of those who fear. And inspire courage among the peacemakers.
Be present with political leaders, ensuring a retreat from violence
and a procession towards the peace table.
Guide the hands of all those who are caring for the injured, the hungry and the grieving.
And, open our own hearts to compassion.
Remind us of our complicity and responsibility.
And lead us towards generous engagement—always towards a vision of peace.
–Adapted from the Unitarian Universalist Tradition
Shalom and Amen,
© 2013, post and photos, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved
REV. TERRI STEWART is our much treasured administrative lead for Bequine Again and The Bardo Group. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)
Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk. To reach her for conversation, send a note to email@example.com
Reblogged from The Poet by Day
Over on The Bardo Group blog, we’ve just finished celebrating 100,000 Poets for Change (100TPC). The founders of 100TPC have invited our much valued community (The Bardo Group and Beguine Again) to join in this event again next year. I’ve agreed to participate.
As many readers know, I’ve invited Terri Stewart to take the Bardo leadership role from me and to join our Bardo collaborative with her Beguine Again collaborative to create a powerful synergy for advocating nonviolence. We are moving in new directions. Hence, I don’t want to speak at this time for everyone else but I am personally committed to 100TPC.
Should the Group be unable to take part, I’ll host the event here at The Poet by Day for other poets who blog and for elders and disabled like me who are mostly home bound and cannot get out and pound the pavement for peace and sustainability.
SAVE THE DATE: 27 SEPTEMBER 2015 …
…and please pass the word
poets, musicians, and artists around the world
in demonstration/celebration to promote peace and sustainability and to call for
serious social, environmental and political change.
Here are some links of interest and some more info . . . MORE
in a darkened room
peace sits silently waiting
for sanity’s rise
CHARLES W. MARTIN (Reading Between the Minds) — earned his Ph.D. in Speech and Language Pathology with an emphasis in statistics. Throughout Charlie’s career, he maintained a devotion to the arts (literature/poetry, the theater, music and photography). Since his retirement in 2010, he has turned his full attention to poetry and photography. He publishes a poem and a photographic art piece each day at Read Between the Minds, Poetry, Photograph and Random Thoughts of Life. He is noted as a poet of social conscience. Charlie has been blogging since January 31, 2010. He has self-published a book of poetry entitled The Hawk Chronicles and will soon publish another book called A Bea in Your Bonnet: First Sting, featuring the renown Aunt Bea. In The Hawk Chronicles, Charlie provides a personification of his resident hawk with poems and photos taken over a two-year period. The newly published When Spirits Touch recently became available on Amazon.