Thursday, March 29, 2007
I have always had a romantic tie to Byzantinism. My family is from Northern Italy and all you have to do is go to Venice, Ravenna or Aquilaea to see their glory. Today the city is Turkish and all that makes that culture great is there. I will be blogging from Istanbul and will let you know what it is like to stand before Hagia Sofia and proclaim Solomon I have Surpassed you.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Friday, March 16, 2007
I picked up this book at Seminary Co-op. To say that it is fascinating and horrifying is to make a banal statement. In this work which has recently been translated into English Jean-Michel Palmier tells the world about the oppression of poets, writers and artists whose work truly mattered.
I often find the lack of political engagement among American poets disturbing. I want to scream
NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL BULL SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!! NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR VIEWS ON SOME OBSCURE SINGER OR ART PIECE!!!!!!!!!THERE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS.
In reading this book you see what an engaged intellectual class means to a totalitarian. Alfred Rosenburg, one of Hitler's henchmen once said "Whenever I hear the world Culture I reach for my Revolver" would anyone want to shoot you for the poetry you write?
In Weimar in Exile there is a section I have just reached about the book burnings of May 10th 1934. The books that were burned were the finest works that Europe ever produced and the intellectual life that was crushed by Hitler has never returned to Germany. Weimar gave so much to the world. All I have to do is look out my window in Chicago at the buildings that Mies built here instead of Berlin to see what Germany lost.
America has never been an intellectual country. But it has been our intellectuals who have determined our fate. Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Henry David Thoreau and the rest defined us as a nation and all their books have been banned and burned. Who are the intellectuals who oppose our current Fascism?
I look at the thinkers of Weimar and I wonder.
Thursday, March 8, 2007
I don't ask complete strangers to pose for me
Husky is a term of endearment- what they really mean is fat.
A hologram of open oysters crushed on the rocks fed our need for speed.
Strippers do not Lap Dance for Homeless Guys. The money is not there
It is in Las Vegas and Halliburton.
George Oppen and Louis Zukofsky
Slapping Jack Kerouac until
He dies of bruises and hemotomas.
a Franz Marc painting.
He died you know? In a trench wasted like
Surge troops - Walter Reed- with paintings
Still in his fingertips.
The easiest way to make money is to prostitute
But your flesh becomes raw- like chop meat
And when you do this to yourself
And no one wants to be with you
When the IED enters into the body it tears the flesh
And the helmet cannot be removed
It is fused to the bone
As we listen
Surge into life
Wonder what happened?
The scab is ripped off
The irony of lists and filofax
Crucify your listenings
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Monday, March 5, 2007
AWP happened this weekend. I chose not to attend and I read instead in Iowa City, at Prairie Lights with fellow Iowa Hawkeye and Chicago poet extraordinare Chris Glomski.
I have attended AWP twice once in Chicago and once in Austin Texas and each time I have come away with allot of cheap and great books and a sense that what is wrong with poetry is encapsulated by what is wrong with AWP.
Poetry is a lifestyle hoice.
To be a poet is the be inducted into a community that has at its center a love of language and a revulsion of ease and simple answers. Poets are those people who encapsulate what is to be critiqued and to be discussed and in Ezra's words make things new always.
AWP is the conference of writing programs. While I think that writing programs are important and needed I feel that one of the problems with poetry today is the standardization of poet's lives. Many poet's feel that the way to build a life as a poet is to get an MFA and then get a teaching job so that you have time to write. Arielle Greenberg in her seminal essay on this subject put it well - the MFA is where you obtain connections to get a good job and build a poetic network. How many poet's in writing programs are older? How many are working class? How many are non traditional? How many have actually lived as adults?
The trajectory of networking has nothing to do with poetry and has everything to do with money and power. Poetry requires risk and requires living in the world as it exists. Jen Scappettone told me once that you need to live your life and see where the poetry takes you- to live on the edge.
Nothing of the sort is happening at AWP. AWP is a place to make connections and to professionalize yourself. But being a 'professional' poet is ludacris unless you are Pablo Neruda. As poets retreat into academia and are published by ever smaller presses and websites they abrogate their prophetic role and retreat into hipsterdom.
In the end getting together with other poets for mutual strokes is ok- but it is not poetry. Poetry requires active engagement with language and with life. When I was in Iowa City this weekend after our reading I realized that in the end does poetry matter? Of course it does-- but another question is worth asking- if you were to be executed for being a poet would your work cause you to be killed? If it would not maybe you should rethink being a poet?
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In her book Infidel deconstructs fundamentalist Islam but you could in many ways Replace Islam with any number of Christianist fundamentalists and achieve the same result.
Quotes from Amazon.com
"when you meet the unbelievers, strike them in the neck" -- were direct quotations. "I hated to do it," she wrote, "because I knew that I would find bin Laden's quotations in there." And there were consequences: "The little shutter at the back of my mind, where I pushed all my dissonant thoughts, snapped open after the 9/11 attacks, and it refused to close again.
I found myself thinking that the Quran is not a holy document. It is a historical record, written by humans. . . . And it is a very tribal and Arab version of events. It spreads a culture that is brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war."
That moment led Hirsi Ali to her most profound conclusion: that the mistreatment of women is not an incidental problem in the Muslim world, a side issue that can be dealt with once the more important political problems are out of the way. Rather, she believes that the enslavement of women lies at the heart of all of the most fanatical interpretations of Islam, creating "a culture that generates more backwardness with every generation."
We in the West should be clear about what we believe.
Infidel a word that has been used by Muslim and Christian to denote someone who is outside the community- in Christian the Koinonia, in Islam the Umma. Since the Hejira and the birth of Islam the Greco-Christian and Semito-Islamic worlds have been at odds.
It is intellectually dishonest to call one community better or smarter or more advanced than the other. While my ancestors were tattooing their skins blue and living in Feudalism the Islamic cities of Cordoba, Baghdad and Cairo were the centers of world culture. But later when Europe was developing the Enlightenment Islam went into decline. The debate between the Islamic and Christian worlds is long and bitter. Despite the best efforts of well meaning liberals Muslims and Christians have never lived together in peace and mutual respect. Not in Spain, not in Sicily and not in Anatolia in all of these places one ruled over the other with bare toleration never equality.
In Islamic nations Christians and Jews are treated as Djimmi’s and Christian nations like Armenia were eradicated in Christian ones like Spain Islamic culture was destroyed and the Muslims forced to immigrate or convert our history is long and acrimonious. It is not helpful to pretend that either group is better or worse both are equally guilty.
The fact is however that in one part of the world-until recently- Muslims, Christians and Jews and other groups did live in harmony; Europe and North America. The fact is that Liberal Democracies with a strong separation between Religion and State have proven good ways to keep Islamists and Christianist extremists at bay and allow for dialogue.
This sense of separation has been challenged of late by religionists on the Left and the Right. Be it Liberation Theology, Islamic Fundamentalism, Christian Fundamentalism or Hindu Fundamentalism the great Liberal secular consensus that was established in the American and French Revolutions and confirmed by men like Gandhi and many others has become a challenged doctrine.
There have been many reactions to reform movements that Ali wants so much for Islam.
In fact today’s fundamentalisms are responses to reform. Wahabi Islam began its life as a reaction to Sufism with its emphasis on tolerance. In fact before Wahabism was born the Sufis were quite powerful in Mecca and around the Islamic world. Wahabism made sure that this tolerance ended.
The same is true in Christianity. The Pentacostals and Fundamentalists that arose out of Reverend Darby and his group were created in reaction to the Social Gospel. Fundamentalism is born of intolerance.
Questioning fundamentalism is not bigotry.
This is the issue is it not? Tolerance is a fine value but Freedom is a better value. People should not have the right to oppress others even if the majority feel that their views are Godly whether they are Osama Bin Laden or Focus on the Family.