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From Gaza to Sheffield, By Malaka Mohammed

Students stranded at the Gaza-Egypt border. Eyad Al Baba (APA images)

Memories: A Journey From Gaza to Sheffield

By Malaka Mohammed

It was early morning last Wednesday, 18 September, when my father received a call from an official explicitly stating that no student from Gaza would be allowed to travel via Rafah crossing at Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. I was shocked but insisted that I try nonetheless. After a few minutes of further phone calls and nervous hesitation, my father reluctantly gave his permission for me to try. Within two hours, my long and perilous journey to the UK began.

When I reached the Hamas-controlled checkpoints leading to the border checkpoints with Egypt, it appeared that the decision to close off the border crossing was met with a fiery response from students whose right to study abroad was being denied. The room was packed with chants and cries of protest. Many students soon joined them to arrange a sit-in demonstration, physically barricading the road. Unfortunately this came with great risk. Casualties were reported. In one instance, a demonstrator’s leg was broken by cars passing through the human barricade.

The policemen, in an unsuccessful attempt to control the situation, insisted that we retreat. Their efforts were dismissed by the student body, and after an hour of further protest, the head authority of the Rafah border crossing arrived. He made a statement that the crossing would be opened for students one day later, on the condition that we cease our protests immediately.

Skepticism

This promise was naturally met with skepticism. A spokesperson for the students, who had demanded written confirmation of this agreement, was then left with the responsibility to organize the whole student body and delegate members to collect students’ names and passport details, while the officials watched on with amusement.

The moment the registrar submitted our names, a blanket of silence and tension fell over the room. Some of us waited with tears in our eyes, contemplating our futures; a single decision determining the difference between traveling to the outside world to pursue our dreams of higher education, and the other possibility of being stuck behind. Some of the demonstrators fainted from the overwhelming anxiety and the oppressive wave of heat and humidity.

After ten hours of protest and anticipation, the room of more than 1,800 passengers was brought to a standstill by a police officer’s anti-climatic announcement: “You have to leave; we have finished our work for today. Come tomorrow and maybe you will be able to travel.”

After an outcry from the crowd, the police quickly announced that the next thirty names that were announced would be allowed to pass through. Thirty names were called, and none of them were mine. When a few didn’t answer, some more were called.

Astonishment

The names Malak and Malaka were called. Malak did not answer. I could see the police quietly pronouncing my name once more. I made my way towards the two officers. “I am Malaka,” I said to them. To my astonishment, of all those 1,800 passengers standing and protesting for ten hours in the heat, my name was one of the few to be announced. It felt like a miracle.

I made my way to the table where I received my green departure card. I was told to come back the following morning at six o’clock sharp.

As I was turning to leave, I was struck by the sight of my friend. She was standing there crying after an entire day of anticipation. Her name had not been announced. My efforts to soothe her were in vain. School had already started abroad. A choice left in the hands of indifferent officials determined who could leave and who would stay behind. This meant so much in the lives of these other students. I could only hope that her day would come tomorrow.

Nervous

The following day felt like one week tightly rolled into the compact space of 24 hours. It was the first time I had to say farewell to friends, relatives and the land that I have known my whole life. It was a personal experience that can’t easily be communicated.

I was one of many students starting the day with these tearful farewells. And I was not comforted by the stench of hopelessness hanging in the stifling air.

After saying goodbye to my loved ones, I stood in line with my friend Rana. We exchanged nervous glances and agreed that further protests could possibly occur should we be left in the dark for much longer. We repeatedly asked the police officers what was happening, only to be told that the bus for the green card holders would arrive. We waited. Bus after bus stopped. But it was almost two hours later when our bus came.

Still, we were not allowed to board the bus. Instead, we were ushered from one line to the next, having our passports stamped and a series of questions repeatedly asked about our destinations and the purpose of our travel. Eventually we were led towards the correct bus. We could see the Egyptian military, tanks and police officers awaiting us with another level of hostility.

After another period of waiting, a police officer signaled for us to enter the next room, taking us closer to our bus. Moments later, he told us not to move any further. We were left dazed and perplexed, and were forced to wait under the baking sun for another hour.

We were finally led into the Egyptian hall, the last room leading to the bus. At this point we were separated from our luggage and forced to wait. After thirty minutes of negotiation, we were allowed to have our passports checked.

Little did I know it would be another five hours before my passport was verified. I reminded the police officers that the border would be closing in an hour and that I needed to have my passport returned to me.

Like the character K in Franz Kafka’s The Trial, I passed from one line of officers to the next, determined to get an answer that made sense and led me to my passport. I was directed from one empty office to the other, my passport nowhere to be seen. I could see my chance of leaving slipping out of my hands like grains of sand in an hourglass. With one last morsel of resilience, I kneeled on the floor and prayed. At last, my name was called and I was finally able to receive my passport.

It was nightfall by that time. I was left to deal with a rather threatening situation for a single young woman entering Egypt.

Threatening situation

Within Egypt’s current political climate, strict curfews are applied to drivers, resulting in a scarcity of transport at certain times. I knew that I was in a position where I would need to find transport urgently, or as the police kindly phrased it, I would be left to travel alone in the Sinai desert — an area deemed incredibly dangerous and volatile for all travelers, regardless of their gender and origin.

In a state of growing concern, I was fortunate to come across some of my international friends who were also leaving Gaza. Luck was on my side; they had already booked a taxi with a known Egyptian driver and kindly invited me to join them. During this drive to the hotel we were stopped and questioned by Egyptian military officers. They seemed particularly keen on questioning Palestinians.

Faced with blatant disapproval and derogatory body language, we were reluctantly allowed to pass when I had given suitable answers to the officers’ questions. I was lewdly and repeatedly propositioned by officers. The whole experience was humiliating and dehumanizing, to say the least.

Scared

Having reached the hotel, I parted from my friends. The threatening atmosphere in Egypt was so frightening that I was afraid to allow myself even a moment of sleep for fear that something would happen.

In my haste to leave, I booked another flight — with Emirates Airlines — to take me from Egypt to Dubai. I spent the rest of the night calling my family members and waiting in the hotel lobby, Internet access at hand, typing away at a laptop. In the background I could hear Egyptian television broadcasters spreading rumors of kidnappings and murders committed by citizens of Gaza in the forbidden sand dunes of the Sinai desert.

I felt like an imposter, unwelcome in foreign lands, even though we practice the same religion and culture, speak the same language, and ultimately share the same gene pool.

Having faced a last hurdle of interrogation at the airport, I boarded a bus and then the plane that would take me to the UK. During the sleepless flight, I reflected on my ordeal in Egypt. My only consolation was finally arriving in Britain where I would be able to pursue my studies in international politics and law.

Upon reaching Gatwick Airport, I immediately noticed how kind and polite the immigration department was. The immigration officer asked me if I had my papers confirming my scholarship from the University of Sheffield. His only response when I told him that all my documents were in my other bag was “it is okay.” He had a soft smile.

I then waited for the head of the student union at Sheffield University, Ally Buckle, who kindly picked me up from the airport to take me to Sheffield. I have reached my destination safely, but I still feel traumatized by the situation in Egypt.

Uncertainty

Having reached my destination, I think of hundreds of students who are still stuck in Gaza and cannot leave. My friend Manar has lost her scholarship at Canada’s Trent University as she couldn’t make it to Egypt for a visa interview. My friends’ schools have started and Rafah has been closed for the last five days.

In Gaza, life is full of uncertainty. There is nothing you can take for granted besides corruption, cruelty, and potentially a life of lost opportunities. These fears are never more than two steps from one’s own shadow.

The odds of obtaining an international scholarship are slim enough, never mind other circumstances that are well out of our control: obtaining a visa and finances within a short deadline, the journey through the infamous Rafah crossing, the political instability in Egypt, the blanket of curfews in the Sinai desert, the perpetual threats to a young woman’s safety, the cruelty and discrimination of the military and, finally, the flight out.

Nothing is certain, and a lifetime of aiming for greatness can be shot down in the blink of an eye.

About Writing for Peace Adviser Malaka Mohammed:

Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace AdviserMalaka Mohammed serves on the Writing for Peace Panel of Young Advisers and will be a keynote speaker in our annual Youth Summit in March of 2016. She is a Palestinian activist and freelance writer living in Sheffield. She has graduated with a BA in English literature from the Islamic University of Gaza and a MA in global politics and law from the University of Sheffield in Britain.

 

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Writing for Peace News

Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“Black Lives Matter is bigger than police brutality.”

Follow the latest Popular Resistance developments here.

 

DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverPurchase your copy of DoveTales “Nature” and support Writing for Peace! To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales help to cover the substantial costs of funding our mission.

DoveTales are available through our website here.

 

 Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved

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Tree, by Azfar Ali Rizvi

11399_425513554192798_758677447_nTree

By Azfar Ali Rizvi

Among other things that almost all children universally share, is a tree. It could be the one in the backyard of our oldest house. The tree you played around. It could be the one you carved your name in, or the one you buried your pet cat under. Sometimes it’s simply the one you held close, while curiously looking at the funeral of your best friend’s brother. Or worse your own brother’s. Trees are our saviors, whether we acknowledge or not. They allow us to celebrate our gains and mourn our losses. They let us be.

This fleeting thought was triggered by news last year that the 007 Skyfall director Sam Mendes will bring to life the much loved British Author Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series. Blyton has left behind an unmatchable legacy– her books not only sold over 500 million copies across the world, but were also translated into 40 languages. Pippa Harris, co-founder of Neal Street Productions, the company responsible for this ambitious task, expressed her excitement over the development, saying, “The Magic Faraway Tree is one of the most loved children’s books series from an iconic author whose work has been adored by generations. To be able to adapt these for the big screen is incredibly exciting.”

So I picked it up again last week, and saw the merit in C.S. Lewis’ words: “ … a story worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then.” I can read it again and again, and find something new every time. Storytelling at it’s best, the series sparks imagination about peace, diversity and family values. It reminds of us the potential of love and coexistence in a small world. This is a story that opens a portal to another world in every week, and gently nudges the readers to accept contrasting nuances and cultures. As adults, we tend to forget this as we take the world head on, and life gets in the way of our understanding of stories.

A good story amuses us; a great story allows us to fantasize and bend this world and the situations we find ourselves in, to allow us to clearly focus on the moral aspects of what’s happening. Hence, I consider it a privilege to be a small part of WFP. Every year, we are treated to some of the most challenging, unique and diverse perspectives from around the world. WFP is simply championing the cause of barebones storytelling for peace. My allegiance is not just because I crave a peaceful future, but also because writing liberated me from the clutches of my past, and allowed me to soar to a better future. A future where I could be with my tree and carry it on my sleeve.

 

Azfar Ali Rizvi, Writing for Peace Adviser2Azfar Rizvi is a proponent of social justice, and a driving force behind interfaith, cross-cultural and pedagogic initiatives across three continents. He is a Toronto based documentary filmmaker, Photographer, an academic and a cross-platform communications strategist.

Originally from Karachi, Azfar experienced extremism in his early years after surviving violent ethnic cleansing first hand. The incidents shook him to the core and he started exploring reasons behind extremism through this writing; something that evolved from local dailies to covering systemic national issues for news and current affairs publications across Pakistan. Before transitioning into television news and documentaries, he took to presenting radio with the country’s first English radio network at the time.

Learn more about Azfar Rizvi here.

 

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Writing for Peace News

Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“Black Americans, Indigenous peoples and immigrants who are standing up to highlight the injustices they suffer on a daily basis are creating a long overdue teachable moment for whites in the United States.  Whites who believe in equality, an end to prejudice and equal justice for all are standing with them; together we can make transformational change on racism and prejudice.”

Follow the latest Popular Resistance developments here.

 

DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverPurchase your copy of DoveTales “Nature” and support Writing for Peace! To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales help to cover the substantial costs of funding our mission.

DoveTales are available through our website here.

 

 Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Posted in Activism, Advisory Panel Contributors, Environment, Inner Peace, Nonviolent Resistance, Peace, Writing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Purse String Stagecraft, By David Scott Pointer

brain-barcode

   Purse String Stagecraft

By David Scott Pointer

 

Flesh-eating economic system

innards,

rolling

over community blood pressure apparatus,

attached to intergenerational empty wallets

attached to local and international poverty

attached to invisible, intertwined groups

with similar, different interests systemically

turned upon each other like pit-bulls or birds

innards

opening up the doors of paddy wagons

dispensing

box spring-bounce house, driver euphoria

disguising decades old ‘screen test’ metal

rebranded as unfortunate rough ride…….

splashed into teenage brain cells

addicted

to corporate college, mass consumerism

revisionist

page-turner TV, sound byte burn-bits

strategically misusing blackness stilled

aiding 1% adding machine economics

 

 

Brake Slamming Role Players

 

Police act like casting agents

while

driving

prisoner transport van, vamoose,

stomping on, lead-footing gas…

catapulting cuffed, unsuspecting

prisoners head-neck first into

their ‘screen test’ debuts, with

slim chance at Hollywoood, now

enroute to overcrowded hospital

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser David Scott Pointer

david-scott-pointer-writing-for-peace-advisor

David Scott Pointer is a long time social justice/political poet. His father, a piano playing bank robber, died when David was just 3 years old, leaving him to be raised by his grandmother, who determined that the best way to keep her young charge from emulating his “scoundrel” father was to socialize him to be a good soldier.  David’s earliest memories are of training for battle in his backyard in Kansas City, Missouri. Learn more about David and his work here.

 

 

quill3Victoria’s Writing Tips~

Creating Story Tension with Characters

By Victoria Hanley


An important part of writing a story is creating a convincing antagonist to oppose the main character. For this writing exercise, bring to mind someone from real life whose personality grates on you and whose perspective seems to be all messed up. Now, write a scene from that person’s viewpoint. Describe the world through their eyes, and do your best to imagine and express the turbulent tides of their emotions. How will this help you to create an interesting antagonist for a story of your own?

 

Meet Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace Adviser

Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace AdviserVictoria Hanley’s novels have won many honors and awards at home and abroad, and inspired two nonfiction writing books: Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write, and Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market. She teaches writing at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver and at Northern Colorado Writers in Fort Collins.

Learn more about Victoria’s books, read her blog, download a free chapter of Wild Ink, and watch Victoria in action at www.victoriahanley.com.

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Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, “The Climate Deception Dossiers,” proves that the corporations which profit from the burning of fossil fuels knew about global warming decades ago, knew their industries contributed to it and responded by funding propaganda to deny global warming and pushing policies that increased their profits at the expense of a livable future.”

Follow the latest Popular Resistance developments here.

 

DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverPurchase your copy of DoveTales “Nature” and support Writing for Peace! To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales help to cover the substantial costs of funding our mission.

DoveTales are available through our website here.

 

 Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Posted in Activism, Advisory Panel Contributors, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Environment, Racism, Take Action, War, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Poems from The Night I Heard Everything, by Mary Carroll-Hackett

 

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Poems from The Night I Heard Everything

By Mary Carroll-Hackett

 

She Gave Her Meat and Milk

to her children, for years, claiming to be a vegetarian, her portions of each meal steaming on their plates, any extra, carcass picked clean with her mother’s fingers, pulled from the bony chicken bought carefully on sale at Food Lion, the cold white sweetness in their glasses, the brown earthiness of tough stew beef simmered tender with onion gravy—they ate what was hers, and they grew. She smiled at the milk mustaching their little mouths, the clanging music of forks hitting plates, and ate her own bowl of beans, greens grown in the garden she kept, rice to fill the same space beneath her ribs where once these babies—now children, now adults–had swam. She ate whatever remained, every bite a prayer they never heard her say.

 

Dirty Feet

and dirty fingernails, angels, ten thousand of them, living in trailers, canned angels, holy meat, languishing in the Carolina heat, driving up from Kinston, and Shelby, and Bear Grass, and Calico, driving in the vans they bought second hand at Car Coop, headed to the ocean, to Buxton, to Avon, to Duck, for a day, for a week, seeking some sun, and some water. Wings tucked into tank tops, t-shirts from Walmart, glittered with sayings like Hot Stuff, Daddy’s Girl, and Talk to the Hand. They dig angel toes into the hot sand, and pray over pimento cheese sandwiches, and pickles and Tupperware pitchers of tea. On the best days, they run into the sea, hugging their dirty-faced babies close, then holding them up to the wide white sky, whispering in ten thousand languages: Remember, no matter what they say, you can fly.

 

In Lousiana, They Say Not to Plant

on Good Friday, that blood will run from the cold ground, but Miss Pearl, my mountain grandmother, believed otherwise, believed that any seed planted that day would thrive. Her gnarled fingers clawed at the clay outside the cinderblock house she and Pap built in their sixties, the block painted as pale green as the peas she set to climb on sticks, on poles, on whatever she scruffed up into the garden. Peas and potatoes dug into the that hillside in Nebo, later when it warmed, tomatoes and okra, some soft-faced petunias, touching their velvet bodies with her cotton-picking scarred hands. But not beans, she planted no more beans after that winter my mama was twelve and Pap had run off and not come back for that long cold time, leaving her with a tribe of children to feed on nothing but the beans she’d scratched from the garden the summer before, and canned, stacked on shelves, on the floor, jar after jar green in the weak light from the window.

Years later, in the slow places all lives go, in the soft twilight of her dementia, where no matter what he’d done or that he was gone, she still hunted for Pap, this time between the night hallways and the doors my mama kept locked—to keep her from safe from wandering—in those waning days without calendars to consult, without schedules to turn to, she still knew it was Good Friday, still scrambled from her bed, still called for my mama to Come on git to the garden, where there were seeds to planted, needs to be tended, souls to be fed.

 

The Skin Project

involves yours, and mine, lined and curved and carrying all that we have managed to survive, fifty lifetimes in fold and lip, teeth like tines against hip, lavender ankle, tangle of feet, no longer choosing, simply following my finger to trace the line of your cheek, your hand losing its path, bent knee, the laughter of thighs, the sigh of my belly. You whisper into my ribs, wait for the echo, I know what you want me to speak—This, this is the way. Put your head on my chest and listen to what my heart says. We both know bones to be brighter in winter, lips and kiss an entirety, words we couldn’t know when we were young pass forth to tongue, go toward—not back—this ancient act, this searching for forms of fire.

 

What Hands Do After a Death–

they forget. Her hands didn’t know anymore. Nothing other than the bean pods, planted outside the door, the leathery switch and hang of shell and seed, her hands didn’t know themselves, knew only the snap and swing of vining things, beans like leather britches, sewn together and hung, like the old women had shown her. Her hands had always known, as had her feet, the fold of towels, the path back home, the perfect curve of cursive vowels the nuns demanded, the subtle stitch of crewel and needle pulled, the three-strand braid—all now unsprung. Now her hands dropped and wrung and slapped and stung, the drinking glass shattered to shard on hard cold tile, the thread in knots, ink shot across the page in hieroglyphs, ancient outlines of hurt. Only dirt made sense, the growth and give, then decay of seeds, her hands needing to dig, until a proper hole was made, so that something, anything, might live.

 

How to Save the World, and Ourselves

When the name of a place is a bird, when the bird is a song, when the song is a prayer, when the prayer is a footstep, when the footstep is a drum, when the drum is a womb, thundering open, giving birth to a sky so wide that even the stars chase across it, falling, calling out to each other, we can save it, we can, if we just remember.

 

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser Mary Carroll-Hackett

Mary Carroll-Hackett, Writing for Peace Adviser2Mary Carroll-Hackett earned degrees in Philosophy, Anthropology, and Creative Writing from East Carolina University, then the MFA from Bennington College. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in more than a hundred journals including Carolina Quarterly, Clackamas Literary Review, PedestalMagazine, Superstition Review, Drunken Boat, and The Prose-Poem Project, among others. She was named a North Carolina Blumenthal Writer and winner of the Willamette Award for Fiction. Her chapbook Animal Soulwas released in 2012 from Kattywompus Press, and a full-length collection, If We Could Know Our Bones, from A-Minor Press in January 2014. Another full collection was released in March 2015, The Night I Heard Everything,from FutureCycle Press. Another chapbook, Trailer ParkOracle, is forthcoming from Aldrich Press in November 2015. She has taught writing for twenty years, and in 2003, founded the Creative Writing programs, undergraduate and graduate, at Longwood University in Farmville, VA, serving as Program Director of those programs until Fall 2011. She also founded and edited for ten years The Dos Passos Review, launching Briery Creek Press, and The Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry. Recently, she also joined the low-residency faculty for the MFA program at West Virginia Wesleyan. Mary is at work on a memoir.

The Night I Heard Everything is available here, from FutureCycle Press.

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Writing for Peace News

 

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserUpdate From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

“We are at a crossroads to either a future of global corporate governance or a chance for democracy. As Chris Hedges writes in his new book, “Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt,” a revolution is coming but we can’t guarantee which way it will go. Will you be there to fight for justice? You have an opportunity to do that now.”

Read Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese latest article at Popular Resistance.

 

DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverDoveTales “Nature” is now in the distribution process, making its way across the globe through the USPS. We’ve sent two shipments this week, and a third will go out on Saturday!

To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales go a long way toward the substantial costs of funding our mission.

DoveTales are available through our website here.

 

 Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Poems from ROOTWORK, by Veronica Golos

Veronica rootwork croppedPoems from ROOTWORK

by Veronica Golos

From The Lost Notebook, Mary Day Brown_________________
 
Elba, New York, late evening, December 6, 1859.
five days after the hanging of my husband John Brown
 
This morning they began to arrive. First
a small wagon, a man, his young son
beside him. Then an entire
family, three children, father
mother, grandmother.
Even some we had
helped on to Canada. I stood
in my doorway, as the tract around the house
filled with horses, wagons, those who
had walked. Mr. Epps was nearby,
Mr. Riddick, silent as always.

I will not weep.

All day, the crowd grew, many wearing black armbands,
mostly the negroes, & there were
hundreds—& a number
of whites as well. There was little talk. Whispers
as someone moved to make room.
Dusk settled upon us; campfires flared—
huge stars, the ground
a hard sky. Somewhere, someone
began to sing:

My Lord what a Morning
My Lord what a Morning
Oh My Lord, what a Morning
When the stars begin to fall.

People stood, swaying, firelight flickering.
It was a song well known,
their voices came together, a keening sound.
A sole harmonica,
far back in the crowd. I could hear horses snorting,
the rustle of animals in the woods.
The words, no, the feeling inside the words, for him,
made me tremble. I had to sit. His chair,
where he liked to rest
as the sun went down.

From The Lost Letters, John Brown to Mary Day Brown

Charlestown Prison, Jefferson County, Virginia,
December 1, 1859.

Dearest Wife,

Mrs. Frances Harper has agreed to deliver this letter.
I trust her completely, as do you. She will help, I believe, in the days
to come. Trust, also, in the Lord.

I say trust in the Lord & yet I send this missive
full of questions. What have I left
undone, unsaid? I do not doubt the Lord, but
we tried to rally great numbers, & we did fail. Have I
sacrificed my sons as Abraham might have done? Have I
laid down others upon an altar? Did I
judge wrongly? That slavery will come to its end
through fire, that I do not doubt. It is my own life
that I wonder, have I done it right?

I know the Lord is righteous, & the passion the enslaved
bring to Bible removes any doubt – yet, Mary, the suffering.

We lived together at Kennedy’s farm, negro and white,
your daughters too. All were upright & were branded with friendship,
not iron. Can not the world be as this? Together & in dignity?
 
All fallen as we are?

Your husband, John Brown

Veronica Golos, Writing for Peace Adviser release, small

.ghost code. before.
Here
sand is flat
and the wet
salt ticks
through air
the sea slurs

into the hair of tides
I am still damp
when I wake from before
deep in this
in-between

I hear the low bells
charge the air
a bonnet
of ringing about my head

O I remember     once I loved a bound man

I hid
his flowers
under the floorboards
and the small
shells
of his loving
I buried
beneath the tulips

I owned nothing
not   myself   only
his kindness
dripping down my throat
for me to taste

Veronica Golos, Writing for Peace Adviser release, small

From The Lost Notebook, Mary Day Brown

Elba, New York, May, 1855.

It is dark & I write by a thin light.
The children still sleep.
John Brown away to Kansas with his sons.
I am gaining something here. Hard
work does not fray me; I am a dry
cord, wood piled & ready to be burned.

Yesterday, two Abolition Ladies visited
to bring us funds. They lifted their skirts
above the mud.
I was planting with my negro neighbors, Mr. Epps & Mr.
Riddick. We’d already shorn their sheep. We were heavy
with work.

“Oh, I see,” Mrs. Wrightworth said. “You
have no men folk here.”

I write this, my anger a blue flame.
My neighbors turned—walked
the steep hill toward their farms; the maples
were shaking in the light.
Here, in Elba, finally, it is spring.
Outside is all loveliness—the lilacs are just about to
bloom

through. I am so ashamed.
The good-intended
can cut a wound & worse, they do
not know what they do.

About Writing for Peace Adviser Veronica Golos

Veronica Golos, Writing for Peace Adviser B&WVeronica Golos is the author of Vocabulary of Silence, winner of the New Mexico Book Award, poems from which are translated into Arabic by poet Nizar Sartawi, and A Bell Buried Deep, co-winner of the 16th Annual Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize (Story Line Press), to be re-issued by Tupelo Press. Her most recent poetry book is Rootwork: The Lost Writings of John Brown & Mary Day Brown, (3: A Taos Press, 2015). Golos is the Poetry Editor for the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion (Harvard Divinity School), and co-editor of the Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art. She lives in Taos, NM, with her husband, David Pérez. Learn more about Veronica’s work here. ROOTWORK is available for purchase through 3 Taos Press.

 

 

quill3Victoria’s Writing Tips~

Writing Through Sorrow

By Victoria Hanley

For this writing exercise, I encourage you to remember and record a sorrow that you have lived through. When and where was it? Who was there, and what happened? Write it all out, and let your emotions come through, as if your words are tears on the page. Keep writing, and let it all pour out of you, even if it feels as if your tears are an ocean. Write, write until your heart begins to feel something new, until you have some bit of freedom from this sorrow.

Meet Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace Adviser

Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace AdviserVictoria Hanley’s novels have won many honors and awards at home and abroad, and inspired two nonfiction writing books: Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write, and Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market. She teaches writing at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver and at Northern Colorado Writers in Fort Collins.

Learn more about Victoria’s books, read her blog, download a free chapter of Wild Ink, and watch Victoria in action at www.victoriahanley.com.

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Writing for Peace News

Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserRead Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese latest article on TPP Fast Track here.

Follow the latest Popular Resistance developments here.

 

DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverDoveTales “Nature” is now in the distribution process, making its way across the globe through the USPS. We’ve sent two shipments this week, and a third will go out on Saturday!

To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales go a long way toward the substantial costs of funding our mission.

DoveTales are available through our website here.

 

 Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Posted in Activism, Advisory Panel Contributors, Racism, Writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

DoveTales “Nature” Release, and 2015 Contest Winners

2015 post Header2015 Book Release

Our 2015 DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, “Nature” Edition is now available for purchase! The “Nature” edition is our largest undertaking to date, with 82 wonderful contributors, plus our nine Young Writers Contest Winners from 2014. The book is 398 glorious pages. Special thanks goes to Colgate University Research Council for their generous sponsorship.

DoveTales "Nature" Cover

Contributors include:

Jordi Alonso, Pilar Rodríguez Aranda, Jasmine V. Bailey, Pratima Annapurna Balabhadrapathruni, Danny P. Barbare , Zeina Hashem Beck , Sarina Bosco, Elena Botts, Bredt Bredthauer, Lauren Camp, Hélène Cardona, Ariella Carmell, Mary Carroll-Hackett, William Cass, Yuan Changming, Jennifer Clark, Edward D. Currelley, Lorraine Currelley, Darlene P. Campos, Maija Rhee Devine (이매자), Virginia Bach Folger, Stuart Friebert, Eve Gaal, Kelle Grace Gaddis, Frederick Glaysher, Sharon Goodier, Ben Gunsberg, Sam Hamill, William Haywood Henderson, Jane Hertenstein, Don Hogle, Qumyka Rasheeda Howell, Elizabeth Hoyle, A.J. Huffman, Lauren Kessler, Ross Knapp, Page Lambert, Charles Leggett, Vicki Lindner, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, John C. Mannone, Mark Mansfield, Jeremy Nathan Marks, Kevin Patrick McCarthy, Sandra McGarry, Dean K. Miller, Mark J. Mitchell, Roseville Nidea, Stephanie Noble, Barry W. North, Cheryl Pearson, Adrienne Pine, Jeannine Pitas, Jessica Placinto, David S. Pointer, Laura Pritchett, Claudia Putnam, Lisa Rizzo, Nicholas Alexander Roos, Sy Roth, Elizabeth Schultz, Tshombe Sekou, Alan Semrow, Annette Marie Smith, Patty Somlo, Howard F. Stein, Fred Tarr, Samantha Terrell, Jari Thymian, Debra Lynn Turner, Smriti Verma, Wang Ping, Jing M. Wang, Mercedes Webb-Pullman, Laura Grace Weldon

Art and Photography by

Chrystal Berche, Sylvia Freeman, Kevin Houchin, Paula Dawn Lietz, Carl Scharwath, Christopher Woods

Plus 2014 Young Writers Contest Winners:

Fiction: Angela Yoon, 1st; Jiace Cai, 2nd; Cassidy Cole, 3rd
Nonfiction: Ben Gershenfeld, 1st; Evan Kielmeyer, 2nd; Yen Nguyen, 3rd
Poetry: Dashiell Yeatts-Lonske, 1st; Matthew Rice, 2nd; John Vernaglia, 3rd

Editor: Carmel Mawle
Associate Editors: Craig Mawle, Phillip M. Richards, Willean Denton Hornbeck, Le Hornbeck, Michelle Catherine
Contributing Editor: Andrea W. Doray

Small Writing for Peace logo2015 Young Writers Contest Winners

2015 Young Writers Contest Judges2015 Contest Judges

We would like to acknowledge all of the young writers who took the time to research a new culture and write a story, essay, or poem for the Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest. Completing this challenge is no small achievement, and we salute your commitment to expanding your knowledge base and developing your craft. We would also like to thank the teachers and mentors who encouraged their students to take our challenge, and then inspired and guided them to prepare their best work. We were tremendously impressed with the quality of all the entries this year.

In Fiction

First Place: “Haozhen” by Tiffany Wang
Denton, Texas, USA

Second Place: “Between Islands” by Janghwan Bae
Bundang-gu, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea

Third Place: “Ronin: the Fallen Samurai” by Moon Hyung Lee
Seoul, South Korea

In Nonfiction

First Place: “A Reason for Hope” by Min Seong Kim
Fairfax, Virginia, USA

Second Place: “Jews and the Black Death” by Hannah Rosenthal
Hauppauge, New York, USA

Third Place: “The Problems of Stressful Educational System in Singapore” by Vincent Yohanes, Indonesia

In Poetry

First Place: “The Third Daughter” by Allie Spensley
Avon Lake, Ohio, USA

Second Place: “A Red Eulogy” by Lisa Zou
Chandler, Arizona, USA

Third Place: “Terrorism, an unknown entity” by Moiz Khan
Roanoke, VA, USA, Pakistani exchange student

2015 winning entries will be published in our 2016 DoveTales. Participation Certificates and Awards will be sent out next week. Be sure to watch our blog and Facebook page to learn more about these talented young writers, and what our judges had to say about their work. We would like to thank our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Steve Almond, Nonfiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry.

Congratulations to all our contest winners!

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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2015 Progress Report, by Carmel Mawle

cropped-winslow-homer-american-painter-1836-1910-girl-in-a-hammock-187312015 Writing for Peace Progress Report

By Carmel Mawle, Founder and President

One of the questions I am most frequently asked by fellow activists is, “How do you keep from getting burned out?” I always struggle a bit with this one. Like many artists I know, I’ve never found a way to face the suffering of the oppressed, the groaning of this beautiful planet earth, without internalizing that pain. As activists, we have different burn-out thresholds, and our resilience may rise or fall depending on health or other stress factors. We do need to make decisions about energy expenditures, and be aware of those times when our reserves are low. But, if you are lucky enough to have an artform in which you can express that awareness, if you can take the pain and suffering of the world and create art with the intention of shaking the imperial foundations and corporate pillars, then you might have already learned one of the hidden joys of artivism – pour your heart and soul in, and it fills you up. Creation heals us and increases our capacity. As Kurt Vonnegut put it, “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.”

Writing for Peace was founded on the premise that the very act of writing is transformative. We experience that shift when we read, slipping into a character’s mind, like walking in another man’s moccasins, to think their thoughts, and understand their reasoning. Imagine how exponentially greater the transformative impact when we are creating the story, researching the environmental, familial, or political pressures crushing down on our characters, and imagining our way into their consciousness. This is empathy, the seed of compassion, and the foundation of a more peaceful world.

One of the coolest aspects of Writing for Peace is when we check in with our young writers a year later. We ask them how their writing is coming along, and where they see it going in the future. This year we also thought it would be interesting to ask a more philosophical question: What does “writing for peace” mean to you? The answers are always moving and inspiring. For those of us who need the periodic boost to the energy reservoir, it’s helpful to shift our focus to where something positive is happening. Here are some examples:

Writing for Peace holds a special place in my heart because it’s really the first time I had written a fictional piece that digs so deeply into the struggles and wonders of cultural identity. It gave me the valuable opportunity to think about what peace really means, and how to apply the concept to a cultural perspective. Writing for Peace was truly a catalyst for my passion for writing, and I am honored to have participated in it. One of the best things about it is that it is open to the entire world; anybody can submit a piece of writing, and anybody can be encouraged to explore our world’s cultural diversity. Some of the most inspirational world leaders have all started out writing pamphlets or articles for a certain cause because to them and to me, writing has always had the power to move minds. Writing for Peace can truly make future world leaders.

~ Angela Yoon, Grade 10, Gangnam-gu, Seoul-si, South Korea

The next major phase of my writing came in the form of college essays. I carried the same lessons I learned from Writing for Peace—incorporating personal examples, evoking pathos, and writing with passion—into my college essays. The consummation of my college writing/application process occurred when I was accepted into Cornell University, where I will be writing the next chapter of my life.

~ Ben Gershenfeld, Grade 11, Voorhees, New Jersey, USA

To me, the moment that I was silent with incredulity at the sight of my name on the award-winning essays of Writing for Peace Young Competition, was one of important milestones in my journey to become an international journalist. Writing For peace brings me a great deal of personal experiences and knowledge that at a certain extent dissolves my cultural preconception and at the same time boosts my self-confidence.

~ Yen Nguyen, Grade 10, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I hope to continue to explore issues of current events and global citizenship through my writing. To me, Writing for Peace is a vessel for empathy between people who have little in common. It strives to break down barriers which we’ve erected over millennia, and I’m thrilled to be a small part of it. 

~ Dash Yeatts-Lonske, Grade 10, Rockville, Maryland, USA

 

In the future, I plan to continue writing and using this art form as a mechanism for spreading messages of peace.

~John Vernaglia, Grade 8, Medford, Massachusetts, USA

 

When I talk with our readers and advisers, I hear it again and again, “These young writers give me hope.” I feel the same way. How can we not be inspired by young writers who maintain their optimism despite what might be an unprecedented awareness of global crisis? But hope is a two-way street, a reciprocal commodity. While their optimism may give us hope, our faith in these young writers, our commitment to educate, support, and lift them up, also gives them hope. In the words of Cassidy Cole:

Writing for Peace, and all that it stands for, is what this world needs in the light of peace, happiness, equality, and a more desirable place. Just the pure existence of an organization that aims to create compassion and peace through creative writing gives me easeful thoughts for our future. Writing for Peace gives me hope and I am utterly inspired by its vision and what the organization does. This organization is the light of not only what lays on the other side, but the light that guides all us writers there.

 ~ Cassidy Cole, Grade 8, Denver, Colorado, USA

 

All of our 2014 winners’ work is featured, along with works from many of our advisers, and other established and emerging artivists, in our “Nature” edition of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. This beautiful book will be released a week from this coming Friday, on May 1st. Watch our blog, website, and Facebook page for information on how you can purchase your copy, and support Writing for Peace.

 

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Writing for Peace News

Victoria’s Writing Tips~

Writing for Peace is pleased to introduce our newest adviser, Victoria Hanley. Victoria is an award-winning author, known for her exciting young adult and middle grade fiction, as well as her nonfiction books dedicated to developing the craft of writing. Victoria has offered to provide bi-monthly writing tips for our young writers (and the  rest of us). Thank you, and welcome to Writing for Peace, Victoria!

Writing Exercise for Peace of Mind

By Victoria Hanley

No one else will read what you’re about to write. This is because you need to know you can confide in yourself no matter what you have to say.

Write about something that’s troubling you. Let the emotion pour through you, and use your strongest verbs and most illuminating adjectives to describe how you feel and what’s going on. When you’re done, hit the delete key–or if you’ve written on paper, feed the page through a shredder or tear it up.

When at least two hours have passed, write again, and this time write anything that occurs to you that might be able to solve your problem.

 

Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace AdviserMeet Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace Adviser

By studying fiction, I’ve learned that a good story is built around conflict. However, a good life is built around peace.

~ Victoria Hanley

Victoria Hanley spent years preparing for a writing career by holding as many contrasting jobs as possible, from baking bread to teaching anatomy and hosting radio shows. She’s lived in California, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Oregon, and Colorado, and traveled throughout North America via plane, train, bus, car, and bicycle. Who knew she’d be the author of 7 books published in 12 languages!

Victoria’s novels have won many honors and awards at home and abroad, and inspired two nonfiction writing books: Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write, and Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market. She teaches writing at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver and at Northern Colorado Writers in Fort Collins.

Learn more about Victoria’s books, read her blog, download a free chapter of Wild Ink, and watch Victoria in action at www.victoriahanley.com.

 

Writing for Peace May Day Events

  • 2015 DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts “Nature” Edition Book Release! Watch for news of the latest DoveTales, a truly extraordinary and beautiful edition of our annual journal.
  • 2015 Young Writer Winners Announcements! Find out what our prestigious judges (Antonya Nelson, Fiction; Steve Almond, Nonfiction; and Stephen Kuusisto, Poetry) have to say about our talented young writers!

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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Staunching Wounds, By Richard Krawiec

 

antonio-rotta-helping-hands-approximate-original-size-24x30Staunching Wounds

By Richard Krawiec

 

Recently I met with a group of women who had suffered terrible transgressions and losses in their lives from an early age. Deaths of loved ones, violent rape and abuse, humiliations by friends and abandonment to strangers.

We all know the clichéd responses to this, right? When life gives you lemons…put it behind you and move on…etc.etc.

But I think there is something ultimately dismissive in failing to recognize that sometimes we suffer damage we can’t get beyond. Sometimes we suffer damage that creates a wound so deep it will not heal. We can learn to live through it, we can try to accommodate it, to go forward despite the wound – but the wound remains. It’s what is meant by the term ‘survivor’ I think. The person who knows what happened can’t be ignored, or changed, but has found a way to live past without denying the damage.

Many of us have things happen to us that are difficult to move on from. I had a girlfriend who was haunted by the memory of watching her father die on their kitchen floor, begging God not to take him from his family. I can’t seem to get past my best friend as a child growing into an estranged teenager who blew his brains out with a shotgun; I’m still haunted by memories of the time I walked out of a Juvenile Court in Pittsburgh without the 5-year-old girl who was returned, by the courts, to her sexually abusive father.

I know these incidents pale in comparison to what others have to deal with. I didn’t survive the concentration camps. I wasn’t a child growing up in war-torn Gaza. No gang of soldiers raped me in a tent. I wasn’t that girl, that friend.

So it always feels childish, whiny to admit these things still create a profound sorrow in me when I think about them. But we don’t choose our damage, and to a large extent we don’t choose, at least initially, our ability, or inability, to deal with the traumas of our lives. Aren’t our ways of response to at least some extent conditioned by those around us, especially those around us when we were growing up?

On another thread a woman speaks about visiting her father in the hospital and holding his hand, like she used to when she was a child. I can’t remember ever holding my father’s hand. He wasn’t a cruel or abusive man, but he wasn’t attentive in that way.

When friends died in high school – from hanging, drug overdose, leukemia – I don’t remember any of our parents offering support, advice, condolences or ways to deal with the loss to those of us who remained.

When you don’t have a way to deal with a wound, it remains unstaunched. People find different ways, not so much to move forward as to cover it up, to bandage pain with sex, drugs, violence. Because they don’t know how, or aren’t allowed, to look at it. Just put it aside, we’re counseled, forget about it, so you can become a productive member of society again. It’s a type of cultural denial, isn’t it? But what do people do when they can’t. Well there is the previously mentioned trinity –drugs, sex, violence. But there are other ways for people who can’t articulate but somehow know their concerns aren’t being addressed.

Some people turn to writing, others to song, painting, dance. Because nothing offers a better path into the interior, a more honest and unflinching way to look at what has happened, as well as a better vision of new paths out of that darkness, than art. I think it was Springsteen who once said the best part of him existed in his songs. In real life he could be a mess. I know that feeling. God, do I know it.

But the point is, art offers us the potential to examine the past and an array of paths – spiritual, moral, ethical, philosophical, psychological – that can lead to a future full of what, in another context, David Brooks calls “the eulogy virtues”.

I never thought I’d say Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote a probing piece -but there it is. In today’s NYT, Brooks talks about something that resonates with what I’m thinking about here. He discusses how we live in an age of self-absorption; we are told to be individualists, “be true to yourself…follow your own path.” It’s easy, Brooks says, “to slip into self-satisfied moral mediocrity.”

And he contrasts this with those whose lives had followed a pattern of “defeat, recognition, redemption. They have moments of pain and suffering. But they turn those moments into occasions of radical self-understanding…The people on this road see the moments of suffering as pieces of a larger narrative.”

What’s the connection with this and damage? I guess that what I’m trying to say is this – the culture that says take an anti-depressant when your loved one dies so you can obscure your pain is not a culture that accepts damage. Damage is distasteful, unpleasant, not something we want to discuss. Let’s all get beyond it as quickly as possible so we can go out and have fun.

And if you don’t? Why isn’t there something wrong with you?

Because if we really, truly looked closely at the damage people endured, and it’s long-lasting effect on them, wouldn’t we have to do something to help?

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser Richard Krawiec

Richard KrawiecRichard Krawiec is the founder of Jacar Press, A Community active Press dedicated to paying writers and working in under-served communities and has worked extensively with people in homeless shelters, women’s shelters, prisons, literacy classes, and community sites, teaching writing. Richard’s second book of poems, She Hands me the Razor, (title poem nominated for a Pushcart Prize) was published by Press 53. It was one of 17 finalists for a SIBA Award. His latest collection is Women Who Loved Me Despite (Press 53).  To learn more about Richard Krawiec, check out his page here.

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Writing for Peace News

Meet Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace AdviserAs a Palestinian, peace for me is the the end of Israeli policies of the occupation of our historical lands, ethnic cleansing, colonization, and racial discrimination that have been continuously condemned by human rights and international law organizations, yet Israel chooses to ignore all these calls with full impunity. Peace is by putting so much pressure on this settler colonial state to abide by human rights and international law. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is one of the tactics that has proved its success to tell Israel that you’re no more impune; the world is watching and looking for a peaceful Globe. I use writing as a way to raise awareness and to express myself. It is good to have approachable platforms that one can use to reach a large number of audience around the world.

~Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Malaka Mohammed is a Palestinian activist, freelance writer living in Sheffield, and our newest member of the Writing for Peace Young Adviser’s Panel. A powerful voice for peace and justice, Malaka graduated with a BA in English literature from the Islamic University of Gaza and a MA in global politics and law from the University of Sheffield in Britain. Read Malaka’s articles on Huffington post here.

Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserBeyond Extreme Energy: Uniting to Retire Fossil Fuels

Clearing the FOG speaks with activists from Washington State to Washington, DC who are taking on Big Energy to say “no” to more fossil fuel infrastructure. We begin with four organizers who walked across the United States last year to raise awareness about the climate crisis. They visited front line communities along the way. When they arrived in Washington, DC, they spent a week protesting the little known Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as part of the Beyond Extreme Energy coalition. Now they are planning more resistance. In Washington State, the “SHell No” campaign is organizing a Flotilla to keep Shell Oil out of the Port of Seattle. We’ll discuss why direct action is the necessary tactic to end fossil fuels and move to renewable energy sources.

Writing for Peace May Day Events

  • 2015 DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts “Nature” Edition Book Release! Watch for news of the latest DoveTales, a truly extraordinary and beautiful edition of our annual journal.
  • 2015 Young Writer Winners Announcements! Find out what our prestigious judges (Antonya Nelson, Fiction; Steve Almond, Nonfiction; and Stephen Kuusisto, Poetry) have to say about our talented young writers!

 

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Posted in Activism, Advisory Panel Contributors, Israeli Occupation, Israeli/Palestinian Conflict, Peace, Violence Against Women, Writing for Peace News, Young Advisers | Leave a comment

Hospital Earth, By Djelloul Marbrook

earth

Hospital earth

Can we walk around?

His wounds are giant screwholes
by which we hold down our grief.

We are her bronze plaques,
saying tragically usual things.

Can we walk around
to persuade ourselves life is going on
if only in a shudder of green scrubs?

Words bore into our granite minds,
janitors will polish us at night
with solvent dreams,
gurneys will rush past bearing
the bungles of civilizations,
our griefs will surpass relatives’
because we have had time for terror
to sink in, its pink hue announcing
the costliness of another day.

Can we walk around,
buy gewgaws in the gift shop,
slug a machine, slurp coffee
and listen to the wind arguing
with canopies while gauges
inside measure varying degrees
of hopelessness and shifts change
the greater hopelessness of going home?

Can we walk around
to jig corrosion out of of our bones,
to look in on the casualties of war
and infamous diplomacies
that bring earth to this hospital
of emergency operations
to fix the heart with threads of soul?

Who is dead,
whose death awoke us past midnight
and trucked us here in an ambulance
of schadenfreude because it’s not us,
not yet, so we can celebrate,
mock-solemn as we are,
with another war?

Who is dead?

That is why we walk around to see,
to understand why we are here,
not sleeping in our beds
but pretending we know what to do,
how to grieve, who to grieve, when
all we know is how to bolt ourselves in
against demons riding tsunamis
and calling themselves our friends.

Can we walk around
to shake this dream
or will security bar us
and in whose name?

About Writing for Peace Adviser Djelloul Marbrook

djelloul-marbrook leaning“Our poetry, our fiction, our art is the news of our society, not the fog that a handful of oligarchs call the news. War means profit to these oligarchs. How to smash this lock on the way we view conflict? First, writers must be conscious of their role as rogue operatives. They must subvert the propaganda machine that conceals the real purpose of war in geopolitical blather. We have examples of this—the scriptwriters of the films The International and Lord of War. They showed us that war is a racket, like insider trading.”  ~Djelloul Marbrook

Djelloul Marbrook is the author of three poetry books, Far from Algiers (2008, Kent State University Press, winner of the 2007 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize and the 2010 International Book Award in poetry), Brushstrokes and Glances (2010, Deerbrook Editions), and Brash Ice (2014, Leaky Boot Press, UK). His poems have been published by American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Taos Poetry Journal, Orbis (UK), From the Fishouse, Oberon, The Same, Reed, Fledgling Rag, Poets Against the War, Poemeleon, Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology, Atticus Review, Deep Water Literary Journal, and Daylight Burglary, among others. He is also the author of five books of fiction: Mean Bastards Making Nice (2014, Leaky Boot Press, UK), Guest Boy (2012, Mira Publishing House CLC, Leeds, UK), Saraceno (2012, Bliss Plot Press, NY), Artemisia’s Wolf (2011, Prakash Books, India), and Alice Miller’s Room (1999, OnlineOriginals.com, UK). He won the 2008 Literal Latté fiction prize for “Artists Hill” (http://www.literal-latte.com/2008/11/artists-hill/), an excerpt from Crowds of One, Book 2 in the Guest Boy trilogy, forthcoming in 2015 from Mira). His short fiction publishers include Literal Latté, Orbis (UK), Breakfast All Day (UK), Prima Materia (NY) and Potomac Review (MD). He serves on Four Quarters Magazine’s poetry peer review board and maintains a lively Facebook and Twitter presence. A retired newspaper editor and Navy veteran, he lives in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley with his wife Marilyn. Learn more about his work here.

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Writing for Peace News

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserOur pressure is working!

“Obama wanted Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by the end of March but the largest coalition to ever work to oppose Fast Track has made that impossible. Through phone calls, emails, visits to members, rallies, bird-dogging and more, Congress is feeling the heat and struggling to get votes. We expect that Fast Track legislation will be introduced in mid-April.”

Writing for Peace May Day Events

  • 2015 DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts “Nature” Edition Book Release! Watch for news of the latest DoveTales, a truly extraordinary and beautiful edition of our annual journal.
  • 2015 Young Writer Winners Announcements! Find out what our prestigious judges (Antonya Nelson, Fiction; Steve Almond, Nonfiction; and Stephen Kuusisto, Poetry) have to say about our talented young writers!

 

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Do You Have Any Magic? By Julene Bair

By Julene Bair

 

In my dream, a little girl stands in a dim room beside a row of women. The women, dressed demurely in cardigans over dark shifts, sit erect in straight-backed chairs, their hands folded in their laps. The girl moves from woman to woman, asking, “Do you have any magic?” Each in turn smiles indulgently at the girl. “Oh my! Why no, dear.”

The little girl, of course, was me. And the women were the distilled, reticent essence of every woman I’d known growing up. Take for example the members of the Sunny Circle Home Demonstration Unit, the farm-based ladies club my mother once belonged to. True, most of those women lived up to the club’s name. They were sunny, not dour, and wore bright dresses, not dark shifts. They laughed often and seemed relaxed, even as they held fancy saucers shaped like lily pads—with raised rings on them that keep their delicate cups from skidding or splashing coffee onto the hostess’s homemade cookies.

But they never confided a personal concern or expressed an opinion that might differ from anyone else’s. This left them little to talk about other than the weather and what they’d cooked for supper the night before and how their gardens were growing. Lord forbid they complain about a thoughtless husband or probe a religious question or share a political insight. They had to live among these same few neighbor women for the rest of their lives and were therefore careful not to say anything they couldn’t live down.

When I went to college, I was at first aghast at the topics that some of my new friends considered suitable for conversation. Nothing, not even their sex lives or their parents’ marital problems, seemed off limits. When sad, they shed open tears. Witnessing such “blabbing and blubbering,” as I thought of it then, embarrassed me. But over time I grew less inhibited and came to cherish my intimate friendships with women.

I had no interest whatsoever in moving back to remote western Kansas, where I was raised—until, that is, three decades after my escape, when I met someone who caused me to consider doing exactly that. My father had died a few years before, and on a routine visit home to see my mother, I decided to take a drive into the surrounding countryside in search of water. My father had been a dry-land wheat farmer in my childhood, but, like many others in the region, had since converted the farm to irrigation. Each year, farmers were pumping billions of gallons out of the Ogallala Aquifer, the vast groundwater reserves underlying the High Plains all the way from South Dakota to Texas. This concerned me, as I’d read that the aquifer was being depleted and many of the spring-fed creeks and rivers had dried up.

I did find water that day. Reassured that irrigation had not—at least not yet—robbed the surface of every last drop, I was sitting in the shade of a cottonwood tree beside the creek when a pickup came into the pasture pulling a stock trailer. At first I was afraid the driver would accuse me of trespassing, but far from it. His name was Ward. After we’d chatted for a while, he said, “I know who you are!” It turned out Ward had read my first book and liked it so much he’d considered writing to me through my publisher. This astounded me. As far as I knew, the only people back home who’d read that book were my mother and my high school English teacher.

The story that unfolded between this man and me—together with a crisis that wasogallalaroadcover unfolding in my family around the future of our farm and the crisis facing the aquifer—became the subject of my second book, The Ogallala Road.

Now, years later, on the verge of publishing that book, I was terrified. The publisher planned to send me on tour. Soon, I would be standing before audiences in Kansas and other plains states, arguing that to use water the way we were doing was a collective crime against nature and future generations. The claim seemed beyond denial to me. In many places, the aquifer was already drained of the water that had made plains life possible for the last ten thousand years. In most other places, it would be used up before the end of this century. But irrigation played a huge role in the economy of the region. Those whose livelihood depended on the Ogallala were not likely to take the criticism well. Knowing I’d written the best, most passionate story I could didn’t change my impending fate.

Not only that. I’d centered much of the story on meeting and falling in love with Ward. Loving a man so thoroughly Kansan—in his bearing, assumptions, and way of life—had shown me that, however liberated or worldly I thought I’d become, my ties, like his—to the prairie, sky, air, water, soil, plants, animals, and people of home—ran deeper than my ties to anything, anyone, or anywhere else. “We don’t talk about private matters in public,” my parents had always warned me—for good reason it seemed to me now. Shortly, I would be embarrassing myself in public and inciting ire everywhere I traveled. Instead of tapping keys on my computer, “telling tales out of school”—another of my parents’ favorite sayings—I wished I’d just kept my hands folded and my lips sealed, like those women in my dream. Who was I to challenge the status quo back home? It would have been easier to look the other way and say nothing.

Except it wouldn’t have been easier. Not really. In inheriting part of the farm, I’d also inherited a share in the profits that came from irrigating. As a writer, it came naturally to me to explore the problems that troubled me most, and I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t spoken up. But now that “speaking up” was going to entail not just typing, but actual blabbing back home, yet another Kansas-ism took on new meaning. You could take the girl off the farm, but apparently you couldn’t take the farm culture out of the girl. I’d learned much the same thing loving Ward. To be from a place is to be of it.

Those women, in their dark dresses and denial, couldn’t have shown up in my dreams at a more critical moment. I knew I didn’t want to be like them. They had been so uptight and contained, unable and unwilling to share all that life had taught them, when even the little-girl me knew that life had taught them a lot. Take their hands, which they kept folded in their laps. Those hands had planted thousands of seeds and nursed them to fruition. They had diapered babies and bottle-fed piglets, calves, and lambs. The women had been witness, midwife, and nurse to life’s miracle ever since they were little girls. They had even borne life forth from their own wombs. They might as well have been magicians, yet they denied any knowledge of the magic they wielded.

Behind every magic trick is a secret, and behind life there is a not-so-secret yet very magical substance. Loren Eiseley, one of my favorite writers, put it this way in The Immense Journey: “If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in water.” Substitute the word “life” for “magic” in that sentence. There could be no life without water. It is what makes the earth habitable. Like me, Eiseley grew up on the plains, where water could not be taken for granted and where every man, woman, and child knew this. Every woman of my childhood certainly knew it, yet I never heard one of them express concern for the water that was being drained from under her land.

Like the dream women, I’ve been witness, midwife, and nurse to life for as long as I can remember. My father used to raise sheep, and when lambing season rolled around in January, it fell to my brothers and me to fill quart-sized Coke bottles with warm formula, affix big nipples onto them, and hold them, one in each hand, for the orphans. I will never forget the way their dangly tails danced as they suckled or how eagerly they butted the bottles, sometimes knocking them right out of my hands. I remember everything about those lambs—their pungent smell; their many voices, each one distinct and insistent; their tiny hooves against my thighs as they tried to climb me to get at the bottle sooner; their bony foreheads and warm but still nearly naked backs under my palm as I pushed them back down.

I felt their need in my own body, where I knew what a hunger pang was and what thirst felt like and where I’d registered the lambs’ heat and life on my own skin. The body is where all feeling resides. When I first heard the phrase, “feel your feelings,” it struck me as ridiculous. Isn’t that what a feeling is—something you feel? But being aware of a feeling depends on there being an open pathway between your body and your mind.

In repressing their fears and concerns and keeping mum, in having no outlet for their tears and their voices, the women of my childhood, like so many women of that generation, were prevented from feeling their feelings. When doctors and magazines told them that formula was better for babies than their own breast milk, they must have known, in flesh, blood, and bone, this was not true. But to breastfeed was to risk social stigma, so they denied their own bodily wisdom.

I’m sure I would have obeyed the cultural messages too. If I had been a woman of my mother’s generation, I would have walled my body off from my head, and paid, as my mother did, with chronic stomachaches, which she chalked up to “just nerves”—or resorted to calming drugs. But I was luckier than my mother. I had the benefit of friendships with women who created, among themselves, their own culture.

Thanks to the many friends who listened to me with open minds when I spoke and who offered me uniquely feminine nurturance and support when I cried, I don’t need the dream women to explain magic to me anymore. There is an open channel between my body, where I feel the thirst of life to come, and my mind, where I can shape the words to argue on behalf of that life. I know what magic is here on this earth and can speak for it myself.

Previously published by Wellesley Centers for Women.

Bair Jacket Photo-edited-by-drpAbout Our Guest Writer, Julene Bair

Julene Bair is the author of two books, most recently The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning.

 

 

 

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Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserPraise For The Radicals

In his recent article, “The Dance of Liberals and Radicals”, the liberal Robert Kuttner writes, “No great social change in America has occurred without radicals, beginning with the struggle to end slavery. Causes that now seem mainstream began with radical, impolite and sometimes civil disobedient protest.”

We at Popular Resistance share the view that there need to be people and groups who see the bigger picture, who fight for what is not on the table and who are willing to put their bodies on the line to make change. Those are the people we try to lift up in our daily coverage of the movement because they are rarely recognized and are usually lacking in resources.

 

 

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