Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

This picture was taken today, May 1st, 2018, International Workers Day. As you may well see, it is of a rom woman, here in Stockholm, digging through the trash bin looking for bottles or cans to take back to the grocery store in hopes of gaining a few kronor to use to buy food. It is, by now, an all too common image.

This picture, in a way, embodies everything that this day is about. This day, May 1, is International Workers Day. It is held on May 1st in many countries around the world. The date set aside for “ All Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8 hour work day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for the universal peace. “

I was struck by the image and the irony of it as I took it. Struck by her, by her need, by the fact that on a day that is set aside to commemorate the continuing struggles of the working class, here is a woman who is surrounded by leftists, and who lives outside of even that struggle. I was struck by the questions that came to my mind as to how her actions might be viewed by those around her, especially on this day. Who would feel empathy, who might offer her a bottle or can, or food, or a shower, a place to sleep, who might be offended, who might not even notice that she was there at all? I was struck by the idea that we have become so accustomed to seeing it that we can forget the idea of class struggles or proletariat concepts and forget our common humanity. Who would, I wondered, feel some amount of empathy on May 1, but on another day scoff at her in disgust?

Workers Day, as it is also called, is a time of recognition. Recognition of the common struggles faced both in the past and currently with the hope that things will change. Struggles for healthy working conditions, a livable wage, education and skill training, decent working hours, equality among workers in questions of gender, class, pay, conditions and respect, are among others the topic of the day.

But the day has a greater meaning, especially now in europe, with the huge influx of immigrants and refugees, both documented and undocumented. Said influx has given rise, sadly, to a newly emboldened far-right. The hatred and fear mongering of the neo-nazis is rapidly gaining power throughout europe, including the once socialist idyllic Sweden. Swastikas and hate slogans are showing up more and more frequently and hate crimes are rising at a deeply alarming rate. As I walk the streets of Stockholm I see homeless men and women, I see refugees and I see rom, I also see the reactions on the faces of those who pass them by. Some, or perhaps most, merely ignore them, occasionally someone will stop and offer them money or food, or talk to them. Some call the police and ask them to be physically removed, others attack them verbally or even physically, although I have not seen any physical violence myself. What does this say about our society?

The socialist ideals of a great society of equals has been taking a terrible beating and the election of Trump has given greed and prejudice a new face. It has also put the economic gap into stronger focus as the 1% grows stronger, the struggles against their covetousness is growing as well. It is becoming clearer to many that capitalism equals egoism and I am buoyed by their voices and their strength.

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Dareen Tatour’s “A Poet’s Hallucinations,” translated by Jonathan Wright, comes ahead of PEN America’s planned month of solidarity with Tatour, who was first arrested in October 2015, charged with incitement to violence primarily over a poem (translated to English here), and has been in jail and on house arrest since.

The verdict in Tatour’s trial is currently set for October 17 at noon in the Nazareth court. By this time, the poet will be exactly two years and a week in detention.

You can follow the course of her trial at freedareentatour.org/trial.

  1. The Desire Hallucination

Desire builds a nest

Between the branches of my love.

It sings like a bulbul, night and day

And sweeps through me like fire through straw.

It tears my eyes from my face

And disfigures my features.

It steals all the furniture in my soul

So I sit and lament my luck.

  1. The…

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On August 30, despite public threats to withdraw funding from Israeli Minister of Culture Miri Regev and Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon, poets, writers, and readers gathered in Yaffa to hold a solidarity event with Dareen Tatour, who was first arrested in October 2015, charged with incitement to violence primarily over a poem (translated to English here), and has been in jail and on house arrest since:

From the solidarity event in Yaffa. Photo: Arab48.

The solidarity event, according to a report in Arab48, included both poetry readings and a discussion of Tatour’s legal case by lawyers and activists. Tatour’s father was also there to thank those in attendance. According to multiple reports, both Regev and Kahlon threatened to use their power to defund the theatre in Yaffa that held the event.

Several US literary figures also renewed their calls for Tatour’s freedom.

Now, Tatour awaits the verdict, set…

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As the wonderful Richard Söderberg said while he was on the Guldbagge awards, (Swedish Oscars) In order for women to take a step forward, men need to take a step back. It was a wonderful, true and very aware statement from one of Swedens coolest people. I thought about that statement, and about #metoo which he was, of course, referring too when I read this poem written by Syrian born Palestinian and now Stockholm resident poet Ghayath Almadhoun. It’s a beautiful poem of sadness and repentance for his part in the oppression of women everywhere, even in countries in which he has never set foot, in centuries long past and yet to come, for crimes against women he has never seen committed by men he has never met. If we are to grow past this oppression, men everywhere need to stand up and acknowledge their part in it, and take a step back so that women can take that so very important step forward.
Confession – Poem by Ghayath Almadhoun
women who have trampled grapes
with bare feet
since the beginning of history
who were locked in chastity belts
in Europe
who were burnt to death
in the Middle Ages
who wrote novels
under male pseudonyms
in order to get published
who harvested tea
in Ceylon
who rebuilt Berlin
after the war
who grew the cotton
in Egypt
who covered your bodies with excrement
to avoid rape by French soldiers
in Algeria
in Cuba
who rolled cigars
on their naked thighs
members of the Black Diamond guerillas
in Liberia
samba dancers
in Brazil
women who have had faces destroyed
by acid
in Afghanistan
my mother …
Forgive me.
Translation from Swedish: James Blake
Ghayath Almadhoun

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‘Against barbarity,’ said the celebrated Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008), ‘poetry can resist only by cultivating an attachment to human frailty, like a blade of grass growing on a wall as armies march by.’

Spreading poetry around the world from places where words are feared is a very noble cause indeed. Words are amazing things, they can create, they can destroy, they can calm, they can anger, they are cherished and they are feared. They only way to end fear is to face it. Dictators always crush those who can use words, journalists, teachers, philosophers and especially poets whose words can cause souls to fly from a single blade of grass.


Smokestack Books is currently crowdfunding — through October 15 — for their forthcoming anthology A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry. Those pledging £20 or more will receive a copy of the book:

Designed by Belal Khaled.

By crowdfunding, the press seeks to raise money to help pay contributors’ fees and printing costs, as well as to donate to the legal campaigns of imprisoned poets Ashraf Fayadh and Dareen Tatour.

The title of the collection comes from a Mahmoud Darwish quote: “Against barbarity, poetry can resist only by cultivating an attachment to human frailty, like a blade of grass growing on a wall as armies march by.”

A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry will be a facing-page, meet-in-the-middle collection that brings together, in English and Arabic, new work by poets from historic Palestine and the diaspora, including work by Marwan Makhoul, Maya Abu Al-Hayyat, Fatena Al-Gharra, Dareen Tatour, Ashraf Fayadh, Fady Joudah, Naomi Shihab Nye, Deema K. Shehabi, Mustafa Abu Sneineh, Farid…

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He wasn’t perfect, but who is? The unrelenting commitment he gave to the cause of human rights, and the sacrifices he made for the struggle right up to the ultimate sacrifice, continue to inspire those who fight the corrupt system.

To quote the great poet Kenneth Rexroth from his beautiful poem For Eli Jacobson;

”There are few of us now, soon

There will be none. We were comrades

Together, we believed we

Would see with our own eyes the new

World where man was no longer

Wolf to man, but men and women

Were all brothers and lovers

Together. We will not see it.

We will not see it, none of us.

It is farther off than we thought…”

Rest in peace, perturbed spirit.


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Ahhhh,, Allen G. It’s hard to think of a poet who had a bigger influence on me than you. Ezra, yes, perhaps once, tiger cage or not, Kenneth Rexroth and Kenneth Patchen both have opened my eyes to the beauty of taking on a social cause and of love, as has Neruda.

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, “

I was one of those angelheaded hipsters, I was one of the frustrated youth, busted without a reason, inclined towards the inevitable decline, ousted with nowhere to go and no way back in, climbing a ladder that I didn’t know didn’t even exist, where are the fucking steps? Where am I going? Following a hollow leader, leading nowhere but up and ending up nowhere but down, tearing my clothes in a flagellants rage, whipping my back with all the insipid uninspired rules of the military, the crucifix burnt into my skull, he is risen he is risen, Dylan, no, not Thomas, Bobby, no not Kennedy, a poet for no one but words for all, a hero running the streets at dawn, now, here in Stockholm luring me into a storm of calmness, denying me my rage until i couldn’t hold it anymore shooting it out into the worlds great gloryhole, with no one on the receiving end,

Well, I digress. Allen was simply one of the great minds of our, or any, generation. It is a pleasure to read and share his work. I’ve been planning on writing something for my 60th birthday a few weeks ago and I still hope to do that soon. It would be massively incomplete if it didn’t include this magnificent fountain, this famously censored HOWL.

Howl by Allen Ginsberg : The Poetry Foundation.

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8 To Read from Gaza

Source: 8 To Read from Gaza

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Today is the 4th of july, Independence Day in the US. A day when Americans everywhere celebrate their independence from Britain. After a hard fought war and inspired by some brilliant statesmanship,a new nation was born. Big promises were made, a lot of people faced a great deal of hardships then.

I also celebrate Independence Day, I celebrate the 4th of July, even from Stockholm. Not with fireworks and picnics, but with this post. This post is a beginning of a long look at the US. It’s history and it’s role in the world. How did we get here? Are we free? Please, dear reader, check back on these pages after your chicken bbq, after lots of fireworks and hopefully a safe drive home.

Be safe on this day, give a prayer to those who died for promise of freedom and ask yourself what can you do to ensure that…

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