Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Featured: The Holocaust & Reconciliation: An Interview with Thomas Orszag-Land

In Europe, Featured, human rights, interview, poetry, writers on June 28, 2013 at 21:28

Thomas Orszag-Land is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent writing from London and his native Budapest. His reviews and polemics have been published by the London Magazine and The Times Literary Supplement, and his poetry by Ambit and BBC World Service.

Enjoy the interview and feel free to comment.


Featured: The Holocaust & Reconciliation: Poetry may salve the wounds that have refused to heal, An Interview with Thomas Orszag-Land

The wounds inflicted by the Holocaust are still refusing to heal – but they are not the only burden of human rights abuse inherited by the 21st century. DAVID CUSCÓ I ESCUDERO, editor of the Catalan cultural magazine “El funàmbu”l (The Tightrope Walker) serving a country that endured unspeakable atrocities during the Spanish Civil War, questions THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND, a Jewish-Hungarian poet, translator and foreign correspondent, on his attempt to look beyond the Holocaust.

David: We are about to publish some of your Holocaust poetry in Catalan translation. We are also very interested in your English translations of outstanding Hungarian Holocaust poetry. Did you write them because you thought that the Holocaust could be fathomed only through literature since the basic facts of that crime were so huge and its premises so horrible that they could be described comprehensibly only in fiction? That would be just the opposite of Theodor Adorno’s dictum that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric” – although he later qualified that, after reading Paul Celan’s poetry.

Thomas: Adorno looked at Auschwitz and despaired. But humanity must look to its future, and cannot afford to despair. I recently attended a meeting of Holocaust survivors, old people who had looked evil in the face as young adults, somehow survived and dedicated their lives to warning the world against attempting such madness ever again. They agitate, they write, they lecture, especially to the young.

But they see that the very occurrence of the Holocaust is vociferously being denied by people who would like to repeat it. These aging witnesses know that they will be silenced soon by illness and death. They fear that, when they are gone, no-one will be left to defend the world against such renewed barbarity.

I do not fear that. I believe that, as Odysseus will sail the seven seas of imagination in Homer’s hexameters for the rest of history, so the passionate warnings of the Holocaust survivors will resound through the ages in the voices of the poets of our own time.

David: In your poem “Caution,” a child summons humanity from Auschwitz. He reminds me of Hurbinek, that unforgettable child in Primo Levi’s “The Truce” who mumbles instead of talking. Despite the pain conveyed by your poem, I sense a spark of optimism here, in the dignity of the child’s response to his own suffering… Is there, to you, room for optimism after the Holocaust?

Thomas: Probably the most important thought in that poem is “hold up your head… while you’ve got it.” It radiates optimism even beyond death. I did not invent that. I found it in a surviving poetic fragment from a slave-labour camp. I’ve just managed to identify its author as Jaroslav Ježek (not the composer of that name), to whom the poem is now dedicated.

Primo Levi and Paul Celan both committed suicide after the Holocaust, perhaps because they saw no room left for decency, let alone optimism, after Auschwitz. Both turned to poetry to shout out their astounded grief and rage at their incomprehensible humiliation and abuse at the hands of the Nazis, for which they had been totally unprepared. But the subsequent generations are not unprepared. They are all survivors, and their enduring capacity for love and decency originates from within. Read the rest of this entry »


Emancipation of the Sign by Franco Berardi Bifo

In art, economics, languages, philosophy, poetry on June 6, 2013 at 20:38

From:  Emancipation of the Sign: Poetry and Finance During the Twentieth Century by Franco Berardi Bifo, e-flux,

Money and language have something in common: they are nothing and yet they move everything. They are nothing but symbols, conventions, flatus vocis, but they have the power to persuade human beings to act, to work, and to transform physical things:

Money makes things happen. It is the source of action in the world and perhaps the only power we invest in. Perhaps in every other respect, in every other value, bankruptcy has been declared, giving money the power of some sacred deity, demanding to be recognized. Economics no longer persuades money to behave. Numbers cannot make the beast lie down and be quiet or sit up and do tricks. Thus, as we suspected all along, economics falsely imitates science. At best, economics is a neurosis of money, a symptom contrived to hold the beast in abeyance … Thus economics shares the language of psychopathology, inflation, depression, lows and heights, slumps and peaks, investments and losses, and economy remains caught in manipulations of acting stimulated or depressed, drawing attention to itself, egotistically unaware of its own soul. Economists, brokers, accountants, financiers, all assisted by lawyers, are the priests of the cult of money, reciting their prayers to make the power of money work without imagination.1

Financial capitalism is based on the autonomization of the dynamics of money, but more deeply, on the autonomization of value production from the physical interaction of things.

The passage from the industrial abstraction of work to the digital abstraction of world implies an immaterialization of the labor process.

Jean Baudrillard proposed a general semiology of simulation based on the premise of the end of referentiality, in the economic as well as the linguistic field. In Le miroir de la production (1973), Baudrillard writes: “In this sense need, use value and the referent ‘do not exist.’ They are only concepts produced and projected into a generic dimension by the development of the very system of exchange value.”2′

But the analogy between economy and language should not mislead us: although money and language have something in common, their destinies do not coincide, as language exceeds economic exchange. Poetry is the language of non-exchangeability, the return of infinite hermeneutics, and the return of the sensuous body of language.

I’m talking of poetry here as an excess of language, as a hidden resource which enables us to shift from one paradigm to another.

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Reposted with permission from: e-flux

Featured: Poetry of Wanda John-Kehewin

In books, Featured, literature, North America, poetry, writers on April 2, 2013 at 20:41

Cree poet Wanda John-Kehewin studied criminology, sociology, Aboriginal studies, and creative writing while attending the Writer’s Studio writing program at Simon Fraser University. She uses writing as a therapeutic medium through which to understand and to respond to the near decimation of First Nations culture, language, and tradition. She has been published in Quills, Canadian Poetry Magazine, the Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast anthology Salish Seas, and the Writer’s Studio emerge anthology. She has shared her writing on Vancouver Co-op Radio, performed at numerous readings throughout the Lower Mainland, and read for the Writers Union of Canada. Her first book of poetry “In the Dog House” was recently published by

Featured: One Thousand Cranes by Wanda John-Kehewin

Someone set sail one thousand cranes last night in the spirit world of amethyst dreams. Someone wished the sun to kiss your cheeks and opalescent moon beams to paint light in the darkness so you never lose your way.

Someone dreamt of a painted sea turtle, last night who knew one thousand secrets who was the keeper of the door way to the spirit world that sits on the oceans edges-he said.

Someone wished for you last night an orchard of cherry blossoms dancing gracefully in the wind reminding you to be gentle and kind to yourself and never forget to dance in the wind as cherry blossoms soar in warm winds, dance with them just be and remember me- they said.

Someone dreamt of you in the spirit world last night in a valley of fuchsia baby azaleas and a white camellia in your hair reminding you to patiently wait for the sea turtles secrets at the edge of the ocean.

Someone wished for you last night one thousand cranes to guide you to them in the twilight and astral of your sleep- They say when sorrow is too great they do not want to come too soon for you may never want to leave the dream world- And so they wait at the edge of your dreams with love resonating, encompassing you, for love has no timeline and reaches beyond the edges of the human sorrow.

Someone whispered to you last night, you will dream of them on a white Manchurian crane when you are ready to let their essence into the light and finally smile when you think of them; place blue bells in the lightest room to remind you of how grateful they were to know you and love you. Place lavender under your pillow for tender dreams where loved ones meet And we will fold one thousand cranes in a field of flowering sweet pea flowers and budding zinnia and we will let soar one thousand cranes over a thousand dreams above our temporary goodbye and we will have wished someone else peace, love, strength, light in the darkness- And one thousand cranes…

Reposted with permission from: Wanda John-Kehewin


What Hangs on Trees: Legacy and memory in the southern landscape by Glenis Redmond

In ethnicity, history, human rights, literature, North America, poetry, politics on January 19, 2013 at 00:13

From: What Hangs on Trees: Legacy and memory in the southern landscape by Glenis Redmond, Orion Magazine,

It was at this port of entry that my ancestors embarked on a life of servitude. I began to quake with awareness. The Atlantic holds the story of my lineage, fragmented by the Middle Passage. Reckoning with the land and all that it holds means peering into the shadow side. The shadow side permeates everything I do and write. It is in something as simple as being referred to as a southerner.

Slaves and descendants of slaves had to be creative and resourceful in order to survive treacherous circumstances. These qualities are embedded in our legacy of dance and song, in spirituals and ring shouts. Such art forms were expressions of the soul, meant to empower the participants to transcend the daily grind of slavery, punishment, and unbearable labor. As a writer, I dance the limbo. I am negotiating that “tight space.”

Russell calls those who live in the mainstream world but who have been brought up in the African-American community “the placeless.” A foot in each world, they have the burden and the privilege of translating our heritage, language, and understanding to the dominant culture. Former poet laureate Rita Dove calls it the “burden of explanation.”

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Reposted with permission from: Orion Magazine


What is Poetry by Juan Tomas

In art, languages, poetry on January 9, 2013 at 23:59

From: What is Poetry by Juan Tomas, The Montreal Review,

To consider a question such as what is poetry, is tantamount to asking what art is, or what is music. Depending upon what period in man’s linear history, and in which culture we examine, the answer might be as varied as the nuances of a sun setting, or the shape of waves rolling in over a beach. If we examine any poem from the past, we will inevitably impose upon it our own twenty-first century interpretation, which might not coincide with the original contemporary view of its origin. Inspite of these obstacles, this essay examines poetic language and why it has been interpreted as an expression of some higher truth. With that in mind, this essay will demonstrate, through one specific poem, that poetry uses language to express the emotion of the human soul. It is therefore a window to the essence of its author, and of mankind’s collective soul.

If it can be said that poetry is a window to the essence of its author, then it is only proper that an examination be made of what constitutes a poet. Percy Bysshe Shelly makes a suggestion regarding that question in his remarks for an essay entitled, The Four Ages of Poetry from the opus A Defense of Poetry. Shelly writes that “In the infancy of society every author is necessarily a poet, because language itself is poetry; and to be a poet is to apprehend the true and the beautiful, in a word the good which in the relation, subsisting perception and expression.”(348) We know that language is the medium, or the means by which a poet expresses poetry, however, we might also ask why poetry and not prose is so appealing. Do the elements of rhythm and rhyme found in poetry give it some magical credibility, some appealing attraction? Do we believe a pronouncement made in rhyme over simple prose?

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Reposted with permission from: The Montreal Review


Zen and the Art of Poetry: An Interview with Jane Hirshfield by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler

In art, books, Europe, interview, literature, North America, poetry, religion, theory, writers on January 1, 2013 at 19:48

From: Zen and the Art of Poetry: An Interview with Jane Hirshfield by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler, AGNI online,

IK and KT: Were you a Buddhist first and then a poet, or a poet first and then a Buddhist?

JH: If I think about this, the question begins to feel constrictive. At any moment is a person “this” or “that?” To label oneself is to close off the possibilities of being. But in the sense you are asking, the ordinary, narrative sense, poetry came first. I began to write poems as soon as I learned to write. After my first book came out, when I was 29, my mother pulled out of a bottom dresser drawer a big piece of paper I was given, probably around second grade, on which was written: “I want to be a writer when I grow up.” I have no idea where that came from. But writing was the way for me to craft a self I could unfold on my own, in private, and to find a life that was mine, one that didn’t belong to others.

Still, the two paths have intertwined for me from the beginning—the first book of poetry I bought, from a stationary store on East 20th Street, was a one dollar Peter Pauper Press book of Japanese haiku. I was maybe eight years old. I don’t know what drew me so strongly to those poems or what I could have seen in them at that age, but I recognized something that I absolutely knew I had to have in my life. The path has also been circular. Poetry brought me to Zen, and Zen returned me to poetry. In 1985, I took on the co-translation that became The Ink Dark Moon, a collection of poems by the two great women poets of classical-era Japan, whose work I had first read in a handful of English translations when I was 17. Their poetry, steeped in both eros and Buddhist views, was part of what turned me toward Zen as well as part of what shaped my sense of poems—how they move, what work they do. I had no idea then that I would work further on these women’s poems; if anything I thought that a path not taken. I did know that I wanted the book to exist, and I waited 15 years for someone else to translate it, before suddenly finding the chance to do it myself after all. So you see, each mode—poetry, Zen—has always returned me to the other. Thus far, they have been the left foot and the right foot of my life. It may, I suppose, look exotic. But from the inside, this life has felt like the most ordinary course possible, one choice simply following another.

IK and KT: In your essay, “The Question of Originality,” you write: “Originality requires the aptitude for exile.” Can you talk about any experiences of exile you may have had, and how they may have fed your work?

JH: I think the sense of exile I have always felt led me to practice Zen. I should add that Zen is what was congenial to me, but I certainly don’t believe there’s only one correct spiritual path—there are as many spiritual paths as there are people, and probably sparrows and frogs and pebbles as well. Still, for me, the not uncommon sense of being exiled from presence in the world brought me to both Zen and poetry. Perhaps urban, contemporary life is already an exile of a kind, perhaps it was more familial, perhaps it was spiritual. There is a Taoist poet in Women in Praise of the Sacred, Yu Xuanji, who said at the end of one poem, “Everywhere the wind carries me is home.” That was not something I felt as a child.

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Reposted with permission from: AGNI


Wine and Spirits: Baudelaire’s Orgy and Attention by Michael Kinnucan

In art, education, philosophy, poetry, religion, society, writers on December 21, 2012 at 18:06

From: Wine and Spirits: Baudelaire’s Orgy and Attention by Michael Kinnucan, Hypocrite Reader,

Weil’s description of efforts of attention is an attempt to silence the future by turning us away from the objects of attention and toward attention as such. No time is wasted so long as it is spent attentively; to the question “what should I attend to?” Weil answers that the question itself is always a mistake, that it is sufficient simply to attend. The suspicion that one may be attending to the wrong thing is precisely what will prevent you from ever attending; let the question go, let your moments go, find your way out of time for a while.

In Baudelaire’s formalized conception of drunkenness, one can get drunk on almost anything: wine, poetry or virtue, it doesn’t matter at all. Drunkenness is defined by its opposite, and its opposite is consciousness of time as a ticking clock. We are temporary, temporal beings, and all the clocks tick us away; we have only so much time to spend. How shall we spend it? By forgetting that. If Weil tells us: always attend, because there’s only one thing to attend to, Baudelaire tells us: always get drunk, because there’s only one thing to forget.

Baudelaire’s endless fascination with the figure of the poet can be read as an inquiry into the question: What does it take to “marry the crowd”? Baudelaire’s poet is “accursed,” loathed by his family, misunderstood by his readers, absolutely alone; all this is not evidence of despair but a prerequisite for intoxication. The proud bourgeois cannot marry the crowd because he is too full of himself, too busy; he has too much to lose. He does not have a free and arbitrary will, only petty interests. The poet, to plunge at every movement, must have nothing to lose in the fall. Even Baudelaire’s famous irony, most vicious when turned against himself, reflects not world-weary bitterness but the pleasure of crowds. Irony serves the poet as self-flagellation serves the monk: it humbles the flesh to free the spirit. The poet lacerates his ego because his ego is what holds him back from the crowd.

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Reposted with permission from: Hypocrite Reader


The cruel irony of an Emily Dickinson biopic by CambridgeBlog

In film, history of art, literature, poetry, privacy on November 5, 2012 at 21:28

From: The cruel irony of an Emily Dickinson biopic: “Fame is a bee./It has a song—/It has a sting—/Ah, too, it has a wing” by CambridgeBlog, This Side of the Pond,

We know that she was an avid, almost obsessive reader. We know that she had intense emotional changes with each new season—present-day doctors would probably diagnose her with seasonal affective disorder and put her on medication; scholars call it her mystic day cycle. We know that she was deeply affected by the supposed spiritual salvation of her classmates at Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary (a component of Calvinism, they believed that one was damned until he or she had an extremely painful yet enlightening ‘conversion experience’ brought on by God) and suffered a nervous breakdown when she wasn’t saved. We know that she spent the last half of her life in her bedroom, seldom seeing anyone other than her family, furiously writing poetry and letters. We know that she loved dogs and that the Civil War’s death toll broke her heart. We know that she published only a handful of poems in her lifetime because she refused to dumb down her language and imagery for the general public and because of her disdain of the idea of fame.

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Reposted with permissions from: CambridgeBlog


The Difficult Art of Prose by Thomas Wright

In academia, Europe, history of art, literature, universities, writers on November 1, 2012 at 14:00

From: The Difficult Art of Prose by Thomas Wright, The Oxonian Review,

Wilde made another extravagant advance at Oxford—in the art of English prose. It was Walter Pater, the Brasenose Classics tutor, and sinless master of purple aesthetic prose, who influenced him in this context, as in so many others. “Why do you always write poetry?” the diffident don asked the Magdalen undergraduate at their first meeting, “Why do you not write prose? Prose is so much more difficult”. Wilde later confessed that he “did not quite comprehend what Mr. Pater really meant,” having always supposed, from his reading of Carlyle and Ruskin, that prose sprang “from enthusiasm rather than from art. I did not [know],” he admitted, “that even prophets correct their proofs.” “And it was not,” he remembered, “until I carefully studied [Pater’s own] beautiful and suggestive essays on the Renaissance that I fully realised what a wonderful self-conscious art the art of English prose-writing really is. Pater’s essays became to me ‘the golden book of spirit and sense, the holy writ of beauty’.”

Pater’s Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873)— the book that, as Wilde famously remarked, had “such a strange influence over [his] life”—contains essays on philosophers, poets, and artists of the Renaissance such as Leonardo, Botticelli, and Michelangelo. Pater enters into a work of art imaginatively, elucidating the impression it makes on him and defining its especial character. He calls this the “true truth” about an artwork, next to which the factual truths concerning its production and history are insignificant. Pater developed a distinctive impressionistic, and unashamedly subjective style, in which he could at once convey these ‘true truths’, vividly evoke the works of art under discussion, and also celebrate the ecstasy of the “aesthetic experience”, art offering, in his view, a heightened form of sensual and spiritual pleasure rather than moral or intellectual instruction. The baroque prose poems Pater carved with such fastidious care were aimed at a cultivated general readership, rather than at scrupulous Oxford scholars, who were not slow to point out their inaccuracies.

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Reposted with permission from: The Oxonian Review


Featured Essay: The Sea by John Zerzan

In civilisation, ecology, Featured, literature, nature, philosophy, poetry, society, writers on September 8, 2012 at 01:01

I have a special post for you today. Throughout the ongoing process of communicating with websites in the hope of receiving permission to repost their content, I had a few wonderful exchanges with writers and researchers. One of them was John Zerzan, author and philosopher, who sent me his latest essay for publication on this website. Enjoy the essay and feel free to comment.


Featured Essay: The Sea by John Zerzan

Last remaining lair of unparalleled wildness. Too big to fail?

The whole world is being objectified, but Melville reminds us of all that remains. “There you stand, lost in the infinite series of the sea.”i What could be more tangible, more of a contrast with being lost in the digital world, where we feel we can never properly come to grips with anything.

Oceans are about time more than space, “as if there were a correlation between going deep and going back.”ii The Deep is solemn; linking, in some way, all that has come before. Last things and first things. “Heaven,” by comparison, is thin and faintly unserious.

“Over All the Face of Earth Main Ocean Flowed,” announced the poem by John Milton.iii Given its 71 percent predominance on this planet, why is our world called Earth instead of Sea? Much of the land, in fact, could be defined as littoral areas where land and sea meet.iv The sea is a textured place, infinite in its moods, forms, energies—and not so easily de-textured. But we see what happens when culture is privileged over place. The sea, where all life began just this side of four billion years ago, must still sustain us. Not only are its waters the original source of life, it also shapes the climate, weather, and temperature of the planet, and therefore the status of terrestrial species.

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Marilyn Monroe’s Unpublished Poems by Maria Popova

In books, poetry, psychology, society on July 28, 2012 at 18:20


From: Marilyn Monroe’s Unpublished Poems: The Complex Private Person Behind the Public Persona by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings,

Her personal library contained four hundred books, including classics like Dostoyevsky and Milton, and modern staples like Hemingway and Kerouac. While she wasn’t shooting, she was taking literature and history night classes at UCLA. And yet, the public image of a breezy, bubbly blonde endures as a caricature of Monroe’s character, standing in stark contrast with whatever deep-seated demons led her to take her own life.

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Denise Gigante on John Keats

In audio, literature, poetry, writers on May 20, 2012 at 10:19


Denise Gigante on John Keats – Entitled Opinions, Stanford University

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Denise Gigante is a professor in the English Department at Stanford University and teaches eighteenth and nineteenth-century British literature with a focus on Romanticism. Her books include “The Keats Brothers: The Life of John and George” (Harvard UP, 2011), “Life: Organic Form and Romanticism” (Yale UP, 2009), “The Great Age of the English Essay: An Anthology” (Yale UP, 2008),  “Taste: A Literary History” (Yale UP, 2005), and “Gusto: Essential Writings in Nineteenth-Century Gastronomy” (Routledge, 2005). She has published several essays, notably on Milton (Diacritics), Blake (Nineteenth-Century Literature), Coleridge (European Romantic Review), Keats (PMLA), Sartre and Beckett (Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net), Tennyson (NCL), Mary Shelley (ELH), and the philosopher Slavoj Zizek (New Literary History). She is currently working on a new book entitled The Book Madness: Charles Lamb’s Midnight Darlings in New York, which is forthcoming from Harvard University Press.

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