Warm Hearts Make the Cold More Bearable

Jamie Dedes:

Kindness is action comparable to poetry in its beauty … this is Corina Ravenscraft’s post today on The Bardo Group … it’s worth your time and thought. Click through to read the entire piece including Corina’s suggestions for helping out.

Originally posted on THE BARDO GROUP:

The recent bitterly cold weather has gotten me thinking more lately about those stuck out in the elements, without a warm place to go. I wonder, as I am driving home from work at two o’clock in the morning, “How many of them will die tonight from the cold?”

I recently watched a documentary film called “Invisible Young“, which explores the homeless youth in Seattle, WA. I was surprised that some of the kids became homeless as young as age 13. :( The thing that struck me the most about everything else in the film is that when asked what was the hardest part of being homeless, so many of them replied, “Feeling invisible, like we don’t exist. No one meets your eyes when you’re homeless. You just feel like no one even sees you.”

Homelessness is a HUGE social problem that not many people want…

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Selling the Shadow to Support the Substance: Ain’t I a Woman

373px-Carte_de_visiteOne of the many guises in which poetry presents itself:  Here American actress Alfrie Woodard delivers New Yorker Sojourner Truth‘s spontaneous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman.” Sojourner gave this speech at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio in May of 1851.

SOJOURNER TRUTH (1797-1883)

African-American Abolitionist and Women’s Right Activist

Thanks to Laurel D. for sharing the video.

Poets Against War, Poets for Peace

file000513414694Please unite with us on Into the Bardo next week for Poets Against War, which is really saying Poets for Peace. 

We will start with something special on Sunday (it may or may not include a poem, Terri Stewart will surprise us) and then each of the next six days we’ll host poems from six different poets.  Throughout the week, we’d like you to join us – not only as readers – but as writers by putting links to your own anti-war or pro-peace poems in the comment section on Into the Bardo. We’ll gather the links together in one post and put them up as a single special page. Please don’t worry about questions like whether you’ve been published or whether you think the work is good. These questions are irrelevant. It’s your heart in the work that counts. That’s where the power is.   So please unite with us in this one thing. Let’s put that energy out into the world. If you are so inclined, please also reblog this post and help us get the word out about our week of Poets Against War. Thank you!

Meanwhile, I will be back here on The Poet by Day, the journey in poem on Tuesday. Have a wonderful weekend.

Photo courtesy of morgueFile.

THE POETRY OF AFGHAN WOMEN: Landay, A Twenty-two Syllable Two-Line Poem

پاس په كمر ولاړه ګله!
 نصيب دچايي اوبه زه درخيژومه 
O Flower that you grow on the mountain side;
The duty to water you belongs to me, but to whom would you belong?

ستا به د ګلو دوران تير شۍ
زما به پاته شۍ دزړه سوۍ داغونه
The blooming season of your beauty will pass;
But the scorched patches on my heart will always remain fresh.

Zarmina's parents at her grave. She was an poet who died after setting herself on fire. Photo by Seasmus Murphy, 2012, Courtesy  of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Zarmina’s parents at her grave. She was a poet who died after setting herself on fire. Photo by Seasmus Murphy, 2012, Courtesy of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Last week The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, announced the publication of the June 2013 issue, Landays. The issue is dedicated entirely to poetry composed by and circulated among Afghan women.

After learning the story of a teenage girl, Zarmina, who was forbidden to write poems and burned herself in protest, poet and journalist Eliza Griswold and photographer and filmmaker Seamus Murphy journeyed to Afghanistan to investigate the impact of the girl’s death, as well as the role that poetry plays in the lives of contemporary Pashtuns. A year later, Griswold and Murphy returned to Afghanistan to study the effects of more than a decade of U.S. military involvement on the culture and lives of Afghan women. In the course of this work, Griswold collected a selection of landays, or two-line poems. These poems are accompanied by Murphy’s photographs from the same period and are presented in the June 2013 issue of Poetry.

My pains grow as my life dwindles,
I will die with a heart full of hope.

A report on death and love by Eliza Grizwold and Seamus Murphy, a project of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Griswold describes the characteristics of a landay in her introduction:

“Twenty-two syllables: nine in the first line, thirteen in the second. The poem ends with the sound “ma” or “na.” Sometimes they rhyme, but more often not. In Pashto, they lilt internally from word to word in a kind of two-line lullaby that belies the sharpness of their content, which is distinctive not only for its beauty, bawdiness, and wit, but also for the piercing ability to articulate a common truth about war, separation, homeland, grief, or love.

Landays are centuries-old custom among Afghans, traditionally passed along in the oral tradition, and passed down through generations. The topics of the landays included in the June 2013 issue run the gamut—love, marriage, war, the status of women, drones, politics, courage, nature, and the Internet. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, these captivating two-line poems offer unique insight into the contemporary life of the more than twenty million Pashtun women who span the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

*****

About Poetry
Founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, Poetry is the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world. Monroe’s “Open Door” policy, set forth in Volume 1 of the magazine, remains the most succinct statement of Poetry’s mission: to print the best poetry written today, in whatever style, genre, or approach. The magazine established its reputation early by publishing the first important poems of T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, H.D., William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, and other now-classic authors. In succeeding decades it has presented—often for the first time—works by virtually every major contemporary poet.

The entire June 2013 issue will be available online as of June 3 at http://www.poetrymagazine.org.Digital copies of the June issue of Poetry magazine, as well as a digital subscription, are also available.

The June 2013 issue of Poetry is accompanied by an exhibition at the Poetry Foundation gallery in Chicago, Shame Every Rose: Images of Afghanistan, which will feature a selection of Seamus Murphy’s photographs. The exhibition will run from June through August 2013 and is free and open to the public.

About the Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit http://www.poetryfoundation.org.

About Everything Afghanistan
“Afghanistan’s recent history is a story of war and civil unrest. A country once prosperous now suffers from enormous poverty, a lack of skilled and educated workers, a crumbling infrastructure, and widespread land mines. It’s being heard about in the news every day but the media approaches this country from its dark side only. Here at Everything Afghanistan we try to show the world the other side of this war torn country. Despite years of bloodshed and destruction, there is still so much beauty that remains unseen.

Here we post about Afghan related things, from politics and events to its culture and traditions. This blog is against the US invasion of Afghanistan.” Amina jalalzei, a.k.a. Vicoden

About Mirman Baheer, the Ladies Literary Society
“Over 300 members of Mirman Baheer, the Ladies Literary Society, stretch across the provinces of Afghanistan. Women write and recite landai, two-line folk poems that can be funny, sexy, raging or tragic and have traditionally dealt with love and grief. For many women, these poems allow them to express themselves free of social constraints and obligations. 5 out of 100 women in Afghanistan graduate from high school, and most are married by the age of 16. This kind of expression is looked down upon in society, forcing the women writing to keep their craft a secret.” The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Meetings of the poetry society are held in Kabul, but with 8 out of 10 Afghanistan women residing in rural areas, many women call in to the meetings. Zarmina Shehadi was one of those callers. She lit herself on fire two years ago. Her family denies her suicide, claiming that she lit herself on fire to get warm after a bath. “She was a good girl, an uneducated girl. Our girls don’t want to go to school,” her mother said. Zarmina is the most recent of Afghanistan’s poet-martyrs.

About the Pultizer Center on Crisis Reporting
The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is an innovative award-winning non-profit journalism organization dedicated to supporting the independent international journalism that U.S. media organizations are increasingly less able to undertake. The Center focuses on under-reported topics, promoting high-quality international reporting and creating platforms that reach broad and diverse audiences. MORE

The Pulitzer Center will present I Am the Begger of the World, a reading and film screening event, on July 30, 2013, at Culture Project in New York City and on Wednesday, July 31, 2013, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Farrar, Straus and Giroux will release I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan in spring 2014.

The primary narrative content for this post is courtesy of The Poetry Foundation.
Examples of Pashto Landay, A form of Afghan poetry courtesy of Everything Afghanistan
“I will die …” Landay courtesy of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
Photo credit ~ Seamus Murphy for The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
Video by Seamus Murphy for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

When the Earth Was Green

red-barn-234412802562298lCythe nights are wild and the days full of clocks
and the people weep in the darkness and by day
fumes block meditations on the sun, like lost
children, at dusk they swim in songs of the
heart and yearn for the times when day was
day and a fecund Earth was green with crops

***

I can’t make out where this painful photograph began its life. It’s just one of many that cries out for our compassionate action – our adovocacy, our adjustments in priorities, and our change of personal habits that are not productive of sustainability.

We have the power to resolve hunger and distribution issues. We apparently don’t have the will. Among other things, our governments would rather go to war then feed and educate their citizens.

484849_569191203111652_220190573_n

In my city, the cost of a facelift runs from $7,000 – $30,000. In 2012 the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reported 84,685 surgical procedures among patients age 65 and older. The last I read, it cost $4,000 for United Nations to put a well in a village that has no access to clean water. I wonder what would happen if the money for facelifts went to build wells.

The Washington Post 2013-03-23: UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon warned that by 2030, nearly half the world’s population could be facing a scarcity of water, with demand outstripping supply by 40 percent. One in three people already live in a country with moderate to high water stress, Ban told a U.N. event marking the opening of the International Year of Water Cooperation 2013. more »

A Wikipedia article on hunger notes:

Throughout history, the need to aid those suffering from hunger has been commonly, though not universally, recognized. The philosopher Simone Weil wrote that feeding the hungry when you have resources to do so is the most obvious of all human obligations … Weil writes that Social progress is commonly held to be first of all “a transition to a state of human society in which people will not suffer from hunger.”

© 2013, poem and essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Kim Newberg, Public Domain Pictures.net

Related articles:

THE LIVES OF WOMEN

www-cover… For when I shut myself off the outer tick
I find myself listening to the quickening beat
of this dear planet as if it were my own heart’s clock.”
The Composition Hut, Myra Schneider in What Women Want

In this short collection of nineteen poems  - including the ten-page narratively-driven long-poem, Caroline NortonMyra Schneider manages to cut through our many-layered lives. Her poems often move from the intimacy of  personal experience to a broader frame of reference. The opening poems are nature-and-spirit driven and bespeak a love of and concern for environment. The second part of the collection fulfills the polemic promise of the title to present hard lives and harder times in a clear and righteous outcry.

Among the opening poems is Losing, written for her publisher. Myra starts with the unimportant lose of socks and moves on to finding what is valuable:

“a sparrowhawk perched on your gate, eyes alert
for prey, words that toadleap from imagination,
from heart – to make sure every day is a finding.”

In two poems she hints at the symmetrical beauty of mathematics, “… the square root of minus one you once grasped, dumbfounded.” A visit to the Garden is bursting with color and movement and triggers speculations …

“but what does it matter? You know too well
how the years have shrunk your future,
that the past is an ever expanding suitcase.”

… and further along in the poem she closes with …

“to your feet, to the bees still milking
flowering raspberries. You free a frog
watch it hop back to its life.”

I was riveted by the story of Paula Schneider in Crossing Point, as Paula (probably Myra’s mother-in-law) crosses with her children from Germany into Holland during World War II. This is included in the second half of Myra’s book, which comes to the business at hand: injustice as it affects women and children.

Interesting that this book came my way when I am standing by two friends whose physical and emotional frailty are much entwined with their relations with fathers and husbands or boyfriends. It’s not that things haven’t been improved since our parents’ days…at least for many of us it has. It’s not that there are no kind and enlightened men. Certainly there are. It’s not because women and society are without culpability, because they are not.

The complexity of the gender and social issues examined are clear in Myra’s long poem, Caroline Norton, about the nineteenth century writer and poet,  social reformer and unwitting feminist. Caroline came to the latter two occupations, not so much by choice as necessity. As the poem folds out, we see that the brutal husband who separated Caroline from her children (with tragic results for them), was abetted and aided by the women in his life, influenced as they were by a social context in which women and children are property with no legal rights of their own. No doubt those women were numb to the implications, threatened by the hint of change, and anxious to bolster the sense of surperiority they got out of putting this woman down.

Myra stands firm in her poetic commitment to continue the fight started with Caroline Norton, since half the world is still under siege and the other half still begs improvements. We read about the child-bride (Woman) and the woman who is stoned (Her Story). One wonders what happens to the children – boys and girls – of such women. The short story here is that: What women want is justice.

For two years, I have enjoyed Myra Schneider’s work and appreciated her commitment to encouraging others to honor their inner artist, through her books on writing, her classes, and her support of Second Light Network (England), an association of women poets over forty. I suspect that her work doesn’t have the audience it deserves. I hope the day comes when that is remedied.

The closing poem in What Women Want:

WOMEN RUNNING
by Myra Schneider, 2013, All rights reserved
posted here with Myra’s permission

after Picasso: Deux femmes courant sur la plage
Look how their large bodies leaping
from dresses fill the beach, how their breasts
swing happiness, how the mediterraneans
of sea and sky fondle their flesh. Nothing

could rein them in. The blown wildnesses
of their dark animal hair, their hands joined
and raised, shout triumph. All their senses
are roused as they hurtle towards tomorrow.

That arm laid across the horizon,
the racing legs, an unstoppable quartet, pull
me from my skin and I become one of them,
believe I’m agile enough to run a mile,

believe I’m young again, believe age
has been stamped out. No wonder, I worship
at the altar of energy, not the energy huge
with hate which revels in tearing apart,

in crushing to dust but the momentum
which carries blood to the brain, these women
across the plage, lovers as they couple,
and tugs at the future till it breaks into bloom.

What Women Want, publisher (Second Light Publications)

© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Cover art and poetry, Myra Schneider, All rights reserved