Tag Archives: Advisors

Flora and Fauna, by Peter Street

Peter Street, Writing for Peace AdvisePeter Street’s latest poetry collection, Listening to the Dark, explores war through the point-of-view of wildflowers.

You may not be surprised to learn the assassins of this war are Convolvulus Arvensis (field bindweed), but if you were pleased to see bright yellow blossoms splattered across the neighboring pastures, you may find the true nature of Buttercups Ranunculus acris deeply shocking.

 

WE THE PROPRIETORS WANT OUR WORLD BACK

EXTRAORDINARY MEMBERS MEETING:
AGENDA: COUNCIL OF WAR:

Copperas Lane, Haigh Hall, Wigan, England, 2012

“Plant geneticists are finding that plants can communicate with each other as well as with insects by coded gas exhalations.”
~James Donahue – Living Universe

 

Rumex obtusifolius

Listening to the Dark, by Peter Street, dock leaves Rumex obtusifolius

Rumex obtusifolius (dock leaves)

Dock Leaves

Dozens of docks
making their way down
through fields
to a meeting place

in the front meadow. Stop
wave and cheer

buttercups and hemlocks
leading lines of wild flowers
down Copperas Lane

towards Haigh Hall
where regiments
of dandelion seeds
are parachuting in……
Taraxacum officinale

Listening to the Dark, by Peter Street, Taraxacum official (dandelion)

Taraxacum official (dandelion)

First To Speak

for all dandelions

I am a dandelion

Yes, one of those who feel
we have more to offer
than this tarmac they like
so much.

It’s why I’m here
to see about a peace deal,
compromise,
their last chance – so to say

before it gets really serious.
Ok, mistakes have been
on both sides, but while

they are trying to kill us all …..

well, it’s like this:
we are a big family
with lots of friends

who are also losing patience.
This is their last chance

Urtica dioica

Open Floor

for All Stinging Nettles

Honest we have tried
our very best to keep out
of their way

we know and respect
how much they like to be in charge
At first we tried hiding
behind old farm machinery

then it was round the back
of rundown sheds
and in dark corners
but it somehow

never quite seemed enough

So we thought it might
now this is only a suggestion
might be worth getting together

call it a new beginning
with dock leaf as a go between.
What do you think?
Ranunculus acris

Buttercups

Agitators.

No

Playtime is over

It’s finally come down
to giving them a taste

of who we really are

their sheep and cattle
took notice when we first
burned their tongues
not forgetting their stomachs

they now leave us alone

No it’s gone way past anything
called reasonable
we need to act now before
they destroy us all

so, who will second this motion

for all of our roots
from all of our families
to creep out of sight

just below the
surface of this world
and take over?
Plantago major

Plantain

Mediator

Please, listen before you go
getting here has taken
millions of years –
we cannot throw that away.

This is not who we are,
we are the chosen ones
healers – not warmongers

you must say no to this motion.

Confusion is getting around
some of the grasses
are sharpening their blades

the hemlocks are being loaded
with more and more poisons
this is getting out of hand

please don’t second this motion
we are better than this

let’s give them one last chance
Wishful Thinkers
Bellis perennis

Daisies

to all lawn daisies

We will stand up
and be counted. Yes,
all the daisies in all the world
are making their way here

to this spot crowding this lawn
before Wigan
here at the side of
Banks Street Chapel
Bolton

where in our hundreds –
thousands maybe we will say
no to war.  If Bolton is difficult

then wherever you are
stand up and be counted
and say no to this madness!
Convolvulus arvensis 

Field Bindweed

Assassins

You buttercups are all the same
we know you hate
all two hundred and fifty
of our family.

Jealous are we?

Because no one would suspect
who we are and what we do –
it’s our beauty you know

from being in the lanes
relaxed, frightened of no one –
this goads you doesn’t it

having to ask us for help

we want to hear it come on
admit – you cannot do
what we do

what we have always done:

your dirty work in choking
the slow death out of all those
you despise because they are
respected

So who is it this time
daises, dandelions, streams
fences who or what?
Symphytum officinale
 

Comfrey (nip-bone)

Aye many a time
I bandaged myself
around their broken bones

after they had been clog
or bare knuckle fighting
all for  the prize of a crust

no myself and my family
are menders of hurt
we do not do war

maybe yourselves need
some bandaging
why don’t you come

and see us sometime
we are always here
and there’s no charge
Centaurea cyanus

Cornflower

blank spacefor Sue Bell

We gave them blue
as much as they wanted
free for ever with no contracts

then in a wisdom we didn’t understand
they tried to poison or burn us out

but going to war is not who
we are maybe it’s about
starting again another go.

Would showing them
a world without colour help?

We could get some friends round
for a fancy knees up
but with no colour and no fun

because that’s how it would be

no for us cornflowers
war is never an option
Fallopia japonica

Japanese knotweed

No colours no fancy knees up
You’ll have us all crying
we’re talking big boys
stuff now

that’s higher in the scheme
of everything  this is what we do
it’s us or them

Look they have been here
in a flicker of time
and already trying

their best to destroy themselves
and us this is survival
so let’s help them on their way

see we can be generous
and yes
we are going to war
Digitalis purpurea

Foxglove

Hello! Is anyone listening?

Yes, I’m a volunteer steward
on this my first conference
so can you all please calm down

and tell me how else

to get your attention
and yes, I’m sorry
if ringing my bells
nearly burst your eardrums

but how else am I going to get you
all heading down Copperas Lane
in single file
behind the hemlocks?
Epilobium angustifolium

Listening to the Dark, by Peter Street, Epilobium angustifolium (willow herb)

Epilobium angustifolium (willow herb)

Rosebay willowherb (Pioneer species)

Carry on kid bout time
wi had sum yung blood
at these things

bells don’t bother us
in fact nowt at all
bothers us willow herb

bar snotty noses
down in that Haigh Hall
meadow wonting war

wiv sin it dun it
survivd it weer not calld
fireweed fa nowt ya know

wars got us noweer
wots lackin  here
is sum common sense

down theer fa dancin
up here fa thinkin
war indeed

they wont their arses kickin’
weer off wam
is anyone cumin?
Carex arenaria 

Sand Sedge

Saying No To The Icebergs

Like all families we have fought

for all our sakes
that is now behind us
there’s an army washing towards us

waves of them
from their land of ice and water
a taster they’re calling it

in case it’s more than that
like wanting to take back

we are not responsible for this

but we have to be ready –
otherwise we will all
be washed away

none of us will survive.
This where our fight really starts
come and stand with us
Listening To The Dark, by Peter StreetPeter Street’s new collection, “Listening To The Dark”, was just released by Penniless Press Publications.  In his latest collection, Peter reflects on the arguments for/against a war with the humans and their ignorance regarding global warming. Says Peter, “This sixth collection covers my travels in Iceland, my life in and around the north west U.K., and the latest flora and fauna.”

Click here to order a copy of “Listening to the Dark” by Peter Street.

Peter Street, Writing for Peace Adviser

In Peter Street’s new ebook, “Rite of Passage”, published by Natterjack, he writes about his experiences as a grave-digger.

“Grave-digging was hazardous work in the1960s. There was very little machinery: graves were still largely dug by spade. There were no Health-and-Safety rules. Opening up a grave, after however many years, to inter a new member of the family, was anything but healthy or safe.” ~Peter Street

Click here to purchase a copy of “Rite of Passage” by Peter Street.

About Writing for Peace Adviser, Peter Street

Peter Street, Writing for Peace Advisor

Peter Street, National and International Poet, was born in Wigan in 1948. He is a qualified Arborist and has previously worked as a forester, a Mediterranean chef, and gravedigger/exhumer. Street has published five previous poetry collections. His first, Out Of The Fire (spike books) was nominated for the 1993 Forward prize. The same year, I.T.V. television broadcast a twelve minutes Remembrance Sunday Special about his time as a war poet during the Bosnian/Croatian conflict. Learn more about Peter Street here.

Writing for Peace News

Writing for Peace Young Writers' ContestThe Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest is officially open! Deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Check out our complete guidelines here.

Our 2013 contest reached students in 21 countries, we hope to double the number of entries in 2014. (Meet our 2013 winners here!) Help us spread the word to schools across the globe. Email editor@writingforpeace.org to learn how your school can receive free bookmarks for participating students.

Call for Submissions!

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here. Purchase a copy of our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

I Do Not Wish to Obsess, by Pilar Rodríguez Aranda

This spring, Writing for Peace looks at gun violence, as well as violence against women and other issues of women’s equality.

Pilar Rodriguez Aranda, Writing for Peace Adviser

No es que quiera obsesionarme

by Pilar Rodríguez Aranda
Translation by Rosarela Meza

No es que quiera obsesionarme
pero cuándo
dejaré de escuchar
noticias absurdas y violentas
(penetración en todos los orificios)
En todos
En todas

Cuándo
dejaré de leer
sobre feminicidios irresolutos
(sospechosos en camionetas negras)
La esperanza ennegrecida
Negro el futuro

Cuándo
dejaré de enterarme
de números y estadísticas
(Más años de cárcel recibe un ladrón
que el asesino de su mujer
si se sospecha que ha sido infiel)

Cuándo
dejaré de conocer
los detalles de sus muertes
(acuchillada 57 veces)
Violada
Torturada

Cuándo
dejaré de alterarme
al imaginar su mirada
su ignorancia y su inocencia

Cuándo
dejaré de creer
que para ser mujer hay que negarse
(no salgas, no vistas, no seas)
que si te atreves a afirmarte
te obligan a callarte
te golpean, te matan
y al final
te culpan

No. No me quiero obsesionar
pero cómo
dejar de pensar
que esos asesinos victoriosos
(que no pueden ser hombres)
existen en la misma superficie
y respiran el mismo oxígeno

Siento que va a caer
una lágrima, pero en vez
bien adentro, algo se endurece

La piedra de la fe, lava
que se enfría
cuando debiera explotar y derretirlo todo

pero para ello, necesitaría un poco más de ternura…
Si no, cómo
podré entonces soltar
esta desesperanza endurecida
para que no me rasgue por dentro
como hicieron con ellas
Todas ellas…

¿Cómo fue que extraviamos
nuestra alma colectiva?
Cuándo… cómo…
No hay duda del qué ni del dónde
Aquí y hoy
aquí y hoy

Cuándo
dejaré de sentir
que hoy y aquí
no nos merecemos

México, DF, 2010

I Do Not Wish to Obsess

I do not wish to obsess
but when
will I stop listening
to absurd and violent news
(penetration in all orifices)
In all of them
All of them

When
will I stop reading
about unresolved femicides
(suspects in black SUVs)
Blackened hope
Blackened future

When
will I stop finding out
numbers and statistics
(a thief gets more years in jail
than a man who has killed his wife
because she is suspected of infidelity)

When
will I stop learning
the details of their deaths
(knifed 57 times)
Raped
Tortured

When
will I stop feeling upset
imagining their gaze
their ignorance and innocence

When
will I stop thinking
that to be a woman one has to deny oneself
(don’t go out, don’t dress up, don’t be)
that if you dare to be assertive
you are forced to be silent
they beat you, they kill you
and at the end
they blame it on you

No. I do not wish to obsess
but how
can I stop thinking
that those victorious murderers
(who cannot be men)
exist on the same surface
and breath the same oxygen

I feel a teardrop about to fall
but instead,
deep within, something hardens

The stone of faith, lava
getting cold
when it should explode and melt it all

But for that, I need a little more tenderness…
If not, how
can I then let go
of this hardened hopelessness
so that it doesn’t tear my insides
like they did with them
All of them…

¿When and how was it that we lost
our collective soul?
When… how…
No doubt about the what and the where
Here and today
here and today

When
will I stop feeling
that today and here
we do not deserve ourselves

Translation by Rosarela Meza

About Pilar Rodríguez Aranda

Pilar Rodríguez Aranda @100TPC 2012Pilar Rodriguez Aranda is a poet, video artist, translator by trade and border-crosser by vocation. She was born in Mexico City, but lived in California, Texas, and New Mexico, for a total of 13 years; she presently lives in Malinalco, Estado de México and tries to commute to the capital city only when necessary.

She originally wanted to become a filmmaker, and started doing video while in college. Her piece “The Idea We Live In,” won first place at the 1991 Athens International Film and Video  Festival, in Ohio, and at the Bienal de Video de México, 1992 (plus an honorary mention for scriptwriting); “The Unexpected Turn of Jim Sagel,” was “Best New Mexican Film” at the Roswell Film Festival in 1994, and “Return, or the Inexactness of Centre” was selected for the 2008 International Videopoetry Showcase (Argentina). Her video work has been shown in several festivals and museums in Europe and America. She has received grants from the Mexican Institute of Cinematography (IMCINE), the National Fund for the Culture and the Arts (FONCA), and the City of Austin Arts Commission, among others.

As a writer, she published her first poem in a student magazine, and since then, she has continued to publish poetry, articles and reviews in various magazines and anthologies in North America, like Voices of Mexico, Replicante, Ruptures, Tribuno del Pueblo, Saguaro, The America’s Review, Bilingual Review, DoveTales, and Mujeres de Maíz Flor y Canto, and Voces sin fronteras II, Éditions Alondras, Montreal, Quebec, to mention a few. In 2012 she published her first book of poetry, Asunto de mujeres (Story of Women), Cascada de Palabras, México. In february of 2013, she received as an award for her poem Nuestras Luchitas, a scholarship to participate at the 8th Annual San Miguel Writers’ Conference.

She makes a living as translator (http://pilartraductora.blogspot.mx), but has also published, most recently in the anthology Cantar de Espejos: poesía testimonial chicana de mujeres (Song of Mirrors: Chicana Women’s Testimonial Poetry) UNAM/Univ. del Claustro de Sor Juana, 2012. She just edited and translated into English, the anthology ¡Esos malditos escuincles!, 25 young Mexican poets 30 and under, for Big Bridge webzine.

She considers herself an “artivist” and is a founding member of the collective Contra la violencia, el arte (Against Violence, Art), and coordinator for 100 Thousand Poets for Change, Mexico chapter.

Writing for Peace News:

Pilar Rodriguez Aranda Joins WfP Advisory Panel

Pilar Rodriguez Aranda, Writing for Peace AdviserEver since I understood the positive effect breaking the cycle of silence and bearing witness, I have felt my writing had a purpose. So, I have tried bringing to light subject matters that usually are kept secret (incest, abuse), or that are unpleasant (like femicide) to talk about; I also have felt strongly the incoherence of War and the discourse behind the “reasoning” for its existence. A society that accepts the death penalty or justifies war, is only reinforcing the acceptance of violence as normal.  Everywhere I’ve lived, I have become involved with the community, and the themes and concerns have usually been the same: art and culture, women’s issues and peace. However, it really has been in the last 2 years that I have found a way to finally merge my passion and my writing through my participation in 100 Thousand Poets for Change. In both editions I have found myself working (and learning from) the youngest of poets as well as from very young students who are still searching for their calling. After having learned more about Writing for Peace and their work with young people, it seemed natural to follow my “habit” of laying out bridges. I am grateful to be part of this project and hope to bring to it many Mexican and Latin American young voices.

~Pilar Rodriguez Aranda

Check out Pilar’s links here.

DoveTales is now available for purchase!

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013We are excited to announce that the print copies of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, “Occupied” 2013. Support Writing for Peace  now by purchasing your copy here.

DoveTales is a full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from our contest winners, established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writing for Peace Artist-In-Residence Pd Lietz’s artwork is featured on the cover and throughout the journal.  We are grateful for the support of Colgate University Research Council, which provided a $500 grant as a partial underwriting of the initial publication of DoveTales.

In our first issue of DoveTales, writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways. Contributors include: Chrissie Morris Brady, Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Pd Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon, John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas. Contributor biography pages will appear on our website soon.

All proceeds for Writing for Peace publications and products go to support our mission, including future Young Writers Contests, DoveTales and other peace publications, and workshops. We invite you to show your support for the Writing for Peace mission by  purchasing your copy today!

Young Writers Contest

Winners for our 2013 Young Writers Contest were announced on May 1st!  Check out the announcement here. Winners will be contacted soon to make arrangements for award payments. Every participating young writer will shortly receive a certificate of participation. Finalists will be notified individually and may be considered for future publication.  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

Open Forum: MCH-What’s Going On?

Writing for Peace Adviser, Mary Carroll-Hackett, invites all young writers to join her students in posting and discussing current event articles on her open Facebook page,  MCH-What’s Going On?Learn more about Mary Carroll-Hackett’s work here.

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz

A Glimpse, by Alexandra Kinias

Every Month is Women’s History Month, by Andrea W. Doray

This is Where I’ll Die, Translated by Maija Rhee Devine

Like Taking Off Boots, by Maija Rhee Devine

The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart, by Adriana Paramo

Weary of a Violent Vocabulary, by Andrea W. Doray

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Weary of a Violent Vocabulary, by Andrea W. Doray

This spring, Writing for Peace looks at gun violence, as well as violence against women and other issues of women’s equality.

Andrea Doray, Writing for Peace Board MemberWeary of a Violent Vocabulary

by Andrea W. Doray

 The other day, the building where I was working was on lockout. There was a shooter in the office park and police had sealed off the area. They were pursuing a person of interest in the incident, an alleged gunman who was still at large and presumed armed and dangerous. The targeted victim survived the attack and was transported to the hospital with unknown injuries.

Lockout, shooter, sealed off.

Gunman, at large, armed and dangerous.

Target, victim, attack.

Considered alone, each of these words and phrases has a very different meaning from when they are strung together to describe yet another event of violence in our communities. Such words, common enough on their own, are now a part of a growing lexicon of carnage, a new vocabulary of violence.

I, for one, am sick and tired of it.

I’m sickened by the loss, the grief, the terror, the waste…sickened by randomness, senselessness, and injustice.

And I’m tired of trying to use our everyday language to give these vicious acts some sort of meaning.

When did “lockout” come to mean more than forgetting my keys, and a “shooter” more than a short glass full of strong stuff?

Why are victims “targets?” Targets are for archery practice and marketing plans and weight-loss goals, not the end results of violent actions. And I’d much rather leave high-speed chases to the Indy 500 and abductions to aliens.

And when did a suspect become a “person of interest?” This sounds more like speed dating to me. I can’t help but wonder if this is a case of art imitating life or life imitating art…in this case, a TV drama of the same name.

I do understand, of course, why we need to use such language carefully, including the word “alleged.” The right to a presumption of innocence in the United States is not shared in all courtrooms around the world.

Of course, this word-choice policy exists to prevent a rush to justice—generated by a rush to scoop the news that often results in misidentification, miscommunication, and wild speculation—but lately, this concession has been stretched to ridiculous levels. For example, as the hearings for James Holmes were taking place recently, I heard the events at the theaters in Aurora, Colorado, described as the “alleged shootings.”

Wait a minute…all the circumstances surrounding this tragedy are yet to be known fully, but the shootings themselves aren’t “alleged”—they happened.

That’s one reason why I’m sick and tired and saddened that a beautiful, powerful, well-respected, and well-loved language is being corrupted to include this new vocabulary of violence.

I’d much rather think of an “attack” as coming from the flu, and of a “shot” as something to protect me from it.

That’s a lexicon I can live with.

 

 About Andrea W. Doray

Andrea W. Doray, Writing for Peace Board MemberAndrea Doray is a writer, media watcher, and careful consumer of the news. She serves as a board member for Writing for Peace and is a contributing editor on its international journal, DoveTales.

Learn more about Andrea W. Doray here.

 

Writing for Peace News:

Mary Carroll-Hackett Joins WfP Advisory Panel

Writing for Peace is pleased to welcome Mary Carroll-Hackett to our Advisory Panel. Mary is an award-winning author, poet, editor, and educator.

Jonas Salk said “Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors.” I heard my mama say this when I was a child, and it, from that moment, changed and shaped the way I saw and moved through the world. As a parent and as an educator, to me, there is no greater gift nor more sacred trust than to honor the gifts given me by those who came before by doing whatever I can to help the young ones following behind us, Writing for Peace, particularly for me with their work with young people, will be the way we heal this world, heal and love each other. I’m humbled and honored to be a part of it.

~Mary Carroll-Hackett

Mary Carroll-Hackett, Writing for Peace AdviserMary Carroll-Hackett earned an MFA in Literature and Writing from Bennington College in June 2003. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in more than a hundred journals including Carolina Quarterly, Clackamas Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, The Potomac, Reed, Superstition Review, Drunken Boat and The Prose-Poem Project, among others. Her awards include being named a North Carolina Blumenthal Writer and winner of the Willamette Award for Fiction. She had an O Henry Recommended recognition for her story “Placing,” and her collection of poems, The Real Politics of Lipstick, won the 2010 annual poetry competition by Slipstream. Her chapbook Animal Soul, is forthcoming this year from Kattywompus Press. She has taught writing for nearly 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.

Mary Carroll-Hackett invites all young writers to join her students in posting and discussing current event articles on her open Facebook page,  MCH-What’s Going On?.

Learn more about Mary Carroll-Hackett’s work here.

 WfP Adviser Visits Fort Collins High School

Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace Adviser

Kellan McTague, a junior at Fort Collins High School, shared that his grandfather had been a veteran of the Korean War. “Your grandfather saved my life,” said Devine.

Author, poet, and Writing for Peace Adviser, Maija Rhee Devine, visited Fort Collins High School last week to read from her debut novel, Voices of Heaven. The novel was first written as a memoir about her experiences as a young girl during the Korean War. As the North Korean and Chinese armies invaded, Devine’s family fled along with thousands of others through snow and freezing temperatures, carrying their possessions in bags on their heads. Some men, she said, balanced mattresses on their heads in hopes that the extra padding would protect them from flying bullets. Students in Mitch Schneider’s language arts classes listened with rapt attention as Devine described how her mother would cover her eyes when they came upon bombing victims, or as people beside them were struck by sniper bullets. They boarded a boxcar without windows or seats where desperate men clung to the outside of the cars, until they froze and fell to their deaths.

Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace Adviser

Fort Collins High School sophomore, Margarita Gutierrez, and visiting author, Maija Rhee Devine.

Devine explained the Confucian culture that made boys necessary to families, not only for the security of elderly parents, but to perform the ceremonial feasts that ensured the well-being of three generations of ancestors in the afterlife. A man and wife who were unable to produce a male heir would commonly secure a mistress, either maintaining a second household, or bringing her into the home. This was the case in her family, when fifteen harmonious years of marriage failed to produce a male heir. Her novel opens with her family preparing for the arrival of the new mistress amid rumors of war.

Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace Adviser

Fort Collins High School student, Erik Garcia Arellano, and visiting author, Maija Rhee Devine.

Devine said the process to transform her memoir into a novel had taken ten years, but ultimately had freed her to explore voices of other characters within the story. She read about the arrival of the new mistress from her own perspective as a little girl, as well as her mother’s, father’s, and the mistress herself. Devine challenged Schneider’s students to think back to an emotional event in their own lives and write about it in the voice of another character.

The Voice of Heaven, by Maija Rhee DevineMaija Rhee Devine, a Korean-born writer whose fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Boulevard, North American Review, and The Kenyon Review, and in various anthologies, holds a B.A. in English from Sogang University in Seoul, and an M.A. in English from St. Louis University.  Writing honors include an NEA grant and nominations to Pushcart Prize and O. Henry Awards. Maija Rhee Devine is a member of the Writing for Peace Advisory Panel.

Learn more about Maija here.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013DoveTales is now available for purchase!

We are excited to announce that the print copies of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, “Occupied” 2013, are now available to purchase on our website here.

DoveTales is a full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from our contest winners, established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writing for Peace Artist-In-Residence Pd Lietz’s artwork is featured on the cover and throughout the journal.  We are grateful for the support of Colgate University Research Council, which provided a $500 grant as a partial underwriting of the initial publication of DoveTales.

In our first issue of DoveTales, writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways. Contributors include: Chrissie Morris Brady, Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Pd Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon, John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas. Contributor biography pages will appear on our website soon.

All proceeds for Writing for Peace publications and products go to support our mission, including future Young Writers Contests, DoveTales and other peace publications, and workshops. We invite you to show your support for the Writing for Peace mission by  purchasing your copy today!

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries. We will announce the decisions of judges William Haywood Henderson (fiction), Phyllis Barber (nonfiction), and Michael J. Henry (poetry) on May 1st, 2013. Every participating young writer will receive a certificate of participation, which will be mailed this month. The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz

Every Month is Women’s History Month, by Andrea W. Doray

This is Where I’ll Die, Translated by Maija Rhee Devine

Like Taking Off Boots, by Maija Rhee Devine

The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart, by Adriana Paramo

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart, by Adriana Paramo

Adriana Paramo,  Gobi Desert

The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart

by Adriana Paramo

Sixty million years ago, this part of the Gobi desert called  Bayanzag was the bottom of an Ancient Sea. The place is known as Flaming Cliffs and if anyone has ever heard of them it is because of the dinosaur skeletons and eggs that have been discovered there.

The Flaming Cliffs are not the Grand Canyon or the Badlands. They are quite unimpressive. Really. And if it wasn’t because the sunlight reflecting off the cliff walls makes the formations look more spectacular than they really are, you could drive by and miss them.

Yet, I love these two tiny words: Flame and Cliff.
Both so inherently dangerous.

Flame conjures up images of things set ablaze, things that burst into strident blasts of angry red and hues of passionate orange.

The word flame makes me think of my middle school years when girls used to remove the hair on their arms by passing a candle rapidly over them.  They burned the hair off their arms to make them caressable, to offer them naked and soft to boys with clumsy hands and sticky fingers.  They singed the fuzz on their arms out of love. So that they were welcomed and accepted and kept.

But only little girls do such silly things. When they grow up so does their pain, the caliber of their offerings, and their boldness. Some of them favor self-immolation over singeing. They offer themselves in sacrifice by setting their whole bodies ablaze.  They do it as a form of protest, of martyrdom, out of scorn. They sacrifice their flesh and bones in the name of love. Afghan women wishing to escape abusive marriages, Tibetan nuns protesting Chinese rule, Indian widows seeking eternal love throw themselves into their husbands’ funeral pyres.

Think heat, your skin peeling off, first crispy then waxy like a candle left out in the sun. Think pain, the fat of your body coloring the flames with traces of bleeding green and tender yellow, turning your midriff into a volcanic blow torch.

Flames. Kisses. Passion. That short-of-breathness, the giddiness of a torrid affair, the first love, the first kiss, the first time. Consuming flames that devour and destroy, leaving nothing behind but a mound of smoldering twigs.

Flames.

I once loved a boy who loved alcohol more than he loved me.
“Why do you drink so much?” I asked him one day.
“Because I like how it burns my throat,” he said. “It’s like a flame rushing down my windpipe all the way to my belly. You wouldn’t understand.”

I didn’t.

Cliff.  That’s the word that comes to my mind when I think of roller coasters, paragliding, bungee-jumping, sky-diving and gravity-defying stunts, a list that comprises my worst fears. I’m afraid of free-falls, of losing control, of letting myself go. I imagine how splendidly irrevocable the pull of gravity must be as one goes off a cliff.  The word cliff evokes memories of that last scene in the movie Thelma and Louise when the women are cornered by police only 100 yards from the edge of the Grand Canyon. They weigh out their options and rather than to be captured and spend the rest of their lives in jail they decide to keep going. Thelma steps on the accelerator and drives the 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible over the cliff.

I once loved a boy who loved his mother very much. On one Mother’s Day, after a weekend out in the country with pals and cheap booze, he drove to his mother’s house. He was too drunk and drove too fast. He missed a bend and his car flew off a cliff. It was a difficult rescue, the firefighters later said. The boy was tall and skinny; he wasn’t wearing a seat belt; the car catapulted his body into the air first, and later into the belly of the cliff.
The casket was sealed.
No one was allowed to see his mangled body.
A gaping abyss swallowed him whole.

 

“The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart” was reprinted with permission from Adriana Paramo’s blog, TWL. Travel, Write, Live.

 

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserAbout Adriana Paramo

Adviser Adriana Paramo is a Colombian writer and cultural anthropologist who, following research in Kuwait and the United States, advocates for immigrant women’s rights. She designed a tool to assess the quality of life of Indian servants living in Kuwaiti work camps, reflected in her CNF manuscript, “Desert Butterflies.” Her memoir, “My Mother’s Funeral,” set in Colombia, will soon be published by CavanKerry Press.  Learn more about Adriana Paramo here.

Looking for Esperanza, by Adriana ParamoAdriana Paramo wrote about her extensive work with Florida’s immigrant farming community in her book, “Looking for Esperanza,” the winner of the 2011 Benu Press Social Justice Award in Creative Nonfiction.

Looking for Esperanza: The Story of a Mother, a Child Lost, and Why They Matter to Us chronicles Paramo’s fieldwork and the anonymous voices of the women she encounters while looking for the mother in the story. It also yields the heartbreaking reality of life for these unvalued women who are treated, in Paramo’s words, “like meat scraps on the cutting board.”

Across Florida, in vegetable fields, citrus groves, ferneries, and packing houses, Paramo finds what she describes as “an underground subculture of hungry undocumented women, a hidden world of wage slaves, a microcosm of false names, false Social Security numbers, and false hopes.”

The book concludes with a collage of thoughts from various undocumented women, including one that captures the hopes that compel these women to make the choices they make: “I pray that my children remember me; I ask God they don’t forget that I left Mexico for their own good, so they could have a better life.”

Purchase the book on Amazon.com here.

 

Writing for Peace News:

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013DoveTales is now available for purchase!

We are excited to announce that the print copies of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, “Occupied” 2013, are now available to purchase on our website here.

DoveTales is a full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from our contest winners, established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writing for Peace Artist-In-Residence Pd Lietz’s artwork is featured on the cover and throughout the journal.  We are grateful for the support of Colgate University Research Council, which provided a $500 grant as a partial underwriting of the initial publication of DoveTales.

In our first issue of DoveTales, writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways. Contributors include: Chrissie Morris Brady, Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Pd Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon, John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas. Contributor biography pages will appear on our website soon.

All proceeds for Writing for Peace publications and products go to support our mission, including future Young Writers Contests, DoveTales and other peace publications, and workshops. We invite you to show your support for the Writing for Peace mission by  purchasing your copy today!

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Participation certificates will begin going out this month. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz

Every Month is Women’s History Month, by Andrea W. Doray

This is Where I’ll Die, Translated by Maija Rhee Devine

Like Taking Off Boots, by Maija Rhee Devine

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

A Stranger in Trouble (Part II), by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble

(Part Two)

by Vicki Lindner

Vicki Lindner, Writing for Peace Advisor

March 18

Endless visitors last night. First came Farayela, the night mama, my favorite. Her face is warm, and she has a talent for a graceful sympathy, different from pity. She brought her sister and her sister’s baby. Then the night nurse, Lila, and her friend, the hospital receptionist, Anwar, came in.  Anwar means “light.”  “Very beautiful!” she glowed about me, although she couldn’t have been talking about my face. All were escorted by Achmed, grinning with sparse teeth, shouting, “These are my brothers!” and “Vicki—good! Vicki—beautiful!” Sister Vittoria also visited  (“God Bless! God Bless!”) and we discussed my case. She said she is not afraid to die, but she couldn’t stand to be violated. I said I knew everything that happened in that hotel room would eventually become irrelevant if I could stay alive. Yet, when I was sure he would kill me, I felt calm, able to accept my fate.

Achmed, who was there, told a story translated by Sister V: A French girl, wandering through The Valley of Kings, plunged into a deep hole. Her parents searched for a year before they found her body. As she succumbed to thirst she wrote a note stating, “Nobody pushed me. I fell down here myself,” and instructed her family what to do with her things. “She accepted death,” commented Sister Vittoria approvingly, then added, “Never go alone. Alone is dangerous!”

The fervent call of the mosque marks another hour.

A while ago the police interrogated me again. A domestic presented Dr. Zein with my knapsack and belongings. Although they initially said I had not been robbed, only the receipts for my Barclay’s travelers’ checks were in my yellow money belt, now minus its strings. The $100 in cash I’d changed into pounds on the black market and American Express card are also gone. Since there is no branch of Barclay’s in Aswan, I can’t apply for a refund until I return to Cairo. Fortunately, I’d left my passport at the hotel desk, or he would have stolen that, too. The police passed it around, scrutinizing the photograph of my real face, and recorded the numbers of the missing checks. All this took a long time. Finally, the young man, manager of a travel agency, serving as interpreter, said, “Forget we are police and speak to us as friends. We want to know if you think all Egyptians are like this man. No, I will not say man, because he is an animal. You are a writer—what will you write about us?” Then the police apologized for “all of Aswan, although this man is not from Aswan,” and “for all of Egypt,” and Achmed lead me back to my room.

Sister Vittoria just came in (thanking God in Arabic) to assure me that they would soon catch “Sash.” His real name is Ascherif, she said. He used his Egyptian identification card to sign into the hotel, and the Cairo police have forwarded his record and photograph. “They know his mother. They know his father. They know where he lives. The police say he is married!” she added incredulously. “Perhaps he tried to make like this with his wife, and she ran back to her family.”

March 20

Yesterday Dr. Hassan fixed my broken nose, supposedly a “minor procedure.” But when I saw two old-fashioned metal gas tanks and an anesthesiologist, I knew I was in for it. Sister Carmen held my hand as he gave me the needle. “I will be here and I will pray,” she said. I woke up, thirsty, with wads of stuffing up each nostril, a soggy bandage smothering my nose. All night people screamed a frantic prayer in the hospital garden, accompanied by drums and the muezzin, blaring through the mosque’s megaphone. Sister Vittoria says this is a strange prayer for mercy: “They pray until someone faints.” This morning my throat hurts. Sister Carmen told me they put a large tube down it—larger than they use in Europe—and I’d lost a lot of blood.

Sister Hildegarde brought me lunch and tucked in my sheets, while Achmed, hovering about, brushed invisible crumbs off the cabinet, straightened my blanket, and looked at me with pained eyes. I began to cry because these strangers were offering me such deeply felt attention. They didn’t understand. When my tears began, Achmed put his hand over his own face and rushed out of the room, and Sister H. trilled Italian consolations.

Farayela flew by the door on her way to an errand, her black head scarf streaming behind her, and shouted in her new English words: “I love you.”

The entire hospital has been to visit me. “They are upset,” interpreted Sister Vittoria, “because they heard you were crying.” The nice doctor with very dark skin said, “All the people of Aswan feel shame and say, ‘If we catch him, we’ll kill him.’” Before leaving for Egypt, I made an impassioned speech opposing capital punishment on a TV talk show. I’m glad to say I’m still on the same side. I tried to kill “Sash” with his own gun when I thought he was going to kill me, but I wouldn’t want to see him executed in the name of my revenge.

March 21

I’m starting to feel restless and wander through the hospital corridors. Many of the patients are afflicted with eye diseases and bilharzia. There is a fever ward downstairs, as well as a separate wing for TB patients. I am in the post-operative ward, where few of the patients seem ill; (in the U.S. they would have been released a week ago, and I would have been sent home with a large bill after an exam in the emergency room.)  They sit on the wooden benches, drinking tea, or lie, sometimes two or three to a bed. Family members hover over the patients, nursing and feeding them. An entire family of sisters and their children have checked in down the hall because one of the little girls, Fateh, had an operation to separate the fingers of her deformed hand. The mothers are young—teenagers—and wear gold on their necks and ears. All day they sit in the “lounge,” or gaze out the window, holding their children, who don’t have toys and play no games. All of them eat the free government food and follow the hospital routine, although only one little girl is a patient.

At visiting hour legions of relatives swarm noisily through the corridors. Entire towns seem to be camping in some patients’ rooms, eating and drinking, throwing fruit peels on the floor, or huddling in bed with the sick one. They laugh and talk, creating a loud, cheerful clamor. Sister Hildegarde says that my sink is broken because the visitors sat on it.

All the patients and their visitors are friendly, curious about me. They beckon me into their rooms and motion me to sit on their beds. They bring me flowers, fruit, and a sweet pastry called basboussa. Yesterday someone gave me a bunch of roses, fragile red petals darkening in Nile heat. A fat businessman with gold teeth, Hassan, always hanging out in the lounge, waves to me and shouts, “Vicki! Com-a. Drink-a tea!” Najud, the prettiest sister, insisted on doing my laundry in the bathroom this morning, and I let her, although I wanted to do something for myself. My favorite is a teenaged boy, Wassim, who has been here for two months because he first fractured, then burned his left arm; the skin grafts, done by a foreign specialist, didn’t take. He swiftly parades the corridors, as if he has a secret mission to accomplish. Sister Vittoria says that Wassim likes the hospital: “Why not? He eats very well for no money and goes about all the day.” I give him the chocolate wafers and hard candy that the sisters give me; today I gave him a pen. He pockets these presents, winks mischievous eyes, then sails off down the hall with the satisfied air of a stockbroker who made a killing. Today he delivered a dozen oranges, his part of our unspoken “deal.”

Zeinab, the skinny mama, kissed the bread before she gave it to me.

March 22

I thought I was recovering my equilibrium, but last night, my dreams transported me back to the Hotel Abu Simbel again. Finally I gave up trying to sleep and went to the nurse’s station for a sedative. The nurse, doing needlework, didn’t have one. Farayela came in, and I told her, via gestures, that when I closed my eyes my heart beat wildly and I felt afraid. She understood immediately, and placed her own hand on my heart, as if to calm it. She rapidly translated what I had indicated into shrill, intense Arabic for the benefit of the nurse and the patients who were hanging out in the station. She and I understand each other although we don’t speak the same language. Before this, I met no Egyptian women on my trip. In the streets they hurried toward an errand, their heads and bodies shrouded. Sometimes they smiled, or beckoned me to a more comfortable seat on the bus, but none tried to communicate. All of my conversations were with men. If I had not ended up in the hospital, I might have passed through without getting to know any women, or experiencing the tenderness they’re offering me.

This morning, in fractured Italian, I told Sister Hildegarde that I can’t stop thinking about what happened to me. “No Pensare” she advised. Or, “Don’t think.”

My left eye has opened, revealing a familiar green pupil, swimming in a bloodshot white. Immediately I started reading William Faulkner’s  Absalom! Absalom!, the only novel I brought with me.

Because I am eager to leave the hospital, the sisters suggested I do more walking. This afternoon Sister Carmen took me up to the roof of the hospital, where the nuns, the Mons Camboni, have their quarters. This order was founded to help black people, she said, and works mostly in Africa. Egypt is a training ground for the sisters who will travel to the hotter, less healthy climate of the Sudan. She showed me where they sleep, two to a room, and their garden of basil and tomatoes. Sister Carmen is the youngest, new to the order. She told me that she is finding it difficult to adjust to the hospital culture. “They do things so differently here,” she said. “If a patient is on the verge of death, the nurses say, ‘God’s will,’ and after that they do not give medicine or water.” She has seen patients die who might have been saved if it was not for “God’s will.” “Night duty was terribly hard for me in Europe,” she continued. “It was almost impossible to stay awake. It is no problem for the nurses here. They simply fall asleep at 11:30, and if the patients want something, they wait until morning.” In Egypt, she continued, the hospital is like a free resort; relatives visit the patient lucky enough to be admitted, bringing money and food. Once installed in a coveted hospital bed, patients expect intravenous feeding, and plenty of injections and pills. Otherwise they think nothing is being done for them.

We drank tea from flowered china cups. I felt surprisingly weak, and asked to return to my room.

Now, lying in bed, I’m thinking about these gentle, but vigorous sisters, who work astonishingly hard. They have no day off, and rarely leave the hospital, except to visit a sick relative, or attend a religious retreat. They perform their duties with a jovial concern, not to please the patient, the doctors, for money, or for themselves; they are working for God, infusing what they do with an abstract, almost mechanical quality that must be devotion. Everything I’ve done, I did for employers, friends, or my own satisfaction. I always expected a reward– credit, pleasure, a paycheck, a line on my resume… Even in the Zen center in Jemez Springs, I sat zazen in the freezing cold at four a.m. to gain enlightenment for myself.

As I write, Moustafa, the orderly, is removing the mattresses from the extra beds in my room so that the nurses on night duty can get their rest. Sister Vittoria says that she trained Moustafa herself when he was young, dissolute, and smoked hashish, but now, God Bless, he is married.

March 23

This morning I woke up obsessed with getting out of the hospital. When I look at the curling green wall, I can only think about the reason I’m here, and I want to get on with it, start to forget. When I realized I’d lost my money, I was still too much in shock to care; now, I’m beginning to worry. How long will it take to get the refund I need to fly to Barcelona to meet Jimmy and Joan?  How will I deal with my life? With men, already a problem? I lie in bed and read Absalom! Absalom! through persistent tears. Sister Vittoria came to comfort me. She said that Dr. Zein has heard they caught “Sash” and he never repeats rumors. I ate two cookies, two custards, drank a Coke and some sugary tea. My spirits lifted.

March 24

Dr. Zein himself paid me a visit this morning, holding his dignity overhead like a large umbrella. “Carry on with your breakfast,” he ordered sternly. ( It’s hard to slurp cold pea soup and talk to this important person at the same time.) He had heard I was crying and asked to leave. “Point one:” he began. “It is our duty to care for you. Point two: We are not annoyed by your presence here. You must not be annoyed with us.” Sister Vittoria interrupted. “She is not annoyed. She is upset.” They think I am crying because I am angry with them; I feel ashamed of my tantrum; my emotional outburst now seems ungrateful to me….

One a.m. Awake again.  It gets harder, not easier to sleep as my body recovers. Afraid of the dark, I got up and wandered into the lounge. One of the patients was playing a tape deck, and Wassim was dancing, gracefully dangling his bandaged arm, to a haunting melody. He wriggled his eyebrows at me. They don’t understand why I want to leave the hospital. “Stay one more week; stay a month!” Hassan encourages.

Farayela says she wants to go back to New York with me. She zooms her hand like an airplane and laughs. “What about your husband?” asks Sister Vittoria, and answers, “He will cry one day, then marry someone else.”

The night plainclothesman has offered to marry me, via Hassan, but inquired whether I am a “woman” or a “girl”—i.e. a virgin.

March 25

This morning I woke up more anxious than ever to leave the hospital. Outside I heard a continuous, high-pitched wail. I ran to the window. A chorus of black-shrouded Nubian women were flailing their arms in precise motions of abandon, jumping up and down, and emitting the same loud, single-pitched cry. Hassan motioned me away, (“Vicki, Come-a! Drink-a tea!”), but I was riveted. I assumed someone had died, but Sister Vittoria said no, a girl had burned herself; girls from rural villages throw themselves into the fire when they are betrothed by their families to a man they don’t love. “They cry before death here,” Sister V. commented. The patient lies in our ward under a blanket tent. From her room issue thinner versions of the shrieks outside. Now the villagers are performing what looks like a ritualized remonstration—arguing in artificial voices, pulling at each others’ clothes.

I went back into my room, agitated. My horror for myself, amplified by what has happened to this girl, burst in my chest. I told Sister Vittoria that I am afraid I am doomed; I was meant to die.  I told her about my dream, how I invoked the gun by writing that novel. She said positively, “No, it is over. You will live, and die when you are old. You will write better now. You will understand terror, cruelty, and pain.”

The village women have squatted down on the hospital grounds and around the ugly, concrete apartment complex across the road, like inert, black feathered crows. The midday sun burns. The girl’s brother is weeping in the lounge, his head on his knees.

A few minutes ago the resident doctor, wearing a vivid turquoise shirt with aqua trousers, staunch Sister Clelia, the Minister of Tourism, the Publicity Director for the Government of Aswan, and the Governor’s personal representative filed into my room after a single knock to present me with a “purse” of twenty-five pounds to defray my expenses in Cairo. I dredged my body out of the covers, tried to look happy, and accepted their apologies for “all of Egypt.”

Later, Sister Hildegarde asked me if I wanted to visit the burned girl. Perhaps she thought that seeing another victim would take my mind off myself. We went into the darkened room: the sister lifted the blankets. About seventy percent of the girl’s body is hideously charred, the brown skin shredding away from raw, red patches. “No Vivire,” said Sister H; she will not live. The girl did not try to kill herself, said the sister, she is retarded, and, by accident, set a gasoline can on fire. That is why her people are so sad. The entire ward is also depressed. After lunch everyone, including Hassan and the peripatetic Wassim, went back to bed and lay on their backs quietly. No one talked. A little boy, hit by a car, has also been brought in. Sister Hildegarde says he won’t live either.

At five the hospital admitted the Nubian villagers to the ward. I sat on the bench outside my room, watching the crows fly through, wailing, chanting, some crying, or emitting a theatrical high shriek, pulling at each other, all black-shrouded with blue-stained lips and tattooed chins—a horde of furies, repudiating centuries of celebrated Egyptian dying and eternal life.  I felt my heart beating in my throat; I could barely breathe.

Sister Vittoria came to rescue me. She spoke to Achmed in fluent Arabic. He was upset. “Nubians—bad!” he said. “Why are they crying? What happens is God’s will. What is the point to cry?”

My namesake saw I needed to get away. She took me for a walk through the housing project across from the hospital, telling me stories about her patients, their unhappy marriages, the nurse who was beaten by her husband. I asked if she feels sad when a patient dies. She said, oh yes, but in the beginning she was distraught, cried constantly. She thought, “How will I be a nurse?” As we walked, people from the apartment complex ran up to greet her, and invite us in. She told me that she no longer visits, because her former patients try to give her everything they have, are insulted if she refuses. The Nile wind whipped the desert dust into a granular sunset; shouting boys played a lively soccer game. I felt stronger, less terrified, glad to be alive again. On the way back, we met the young nurse who walks with a limp. Sister V. told me that her leg is attached to the middle of her foot instead of joining it at the ankle. A good orthopedic surgeon offered to operate, but she declined. “God made me this way,” she said. “Why should I change?”

Now I am back in my room. The burn case is near death, a poisonous vapor in the hospital atmosphere.  Zeinab, the skinny mama, has curled up on the foot of my bed so I won’t be alone.

Sister Vittoria claims that there are bureaucratic problems preventing my release. The hospital administrator below Dr. Zein refuses to take responsibility, unless Dr. Zein personally approves; he is touring the villages and can’t be reached by phone. Also, the police must support my release “more strongly,” and my passport must have a special stamp. “This is why the sisters leave Egypt with liver trouble,” said Sister V. “But don’t worry; I am pushing them.” She told me that they have not caught “Sash”—it was only a rumor.

Zeinab came back in, dressed in her black street clothes, and kissed me three times before going home.

March 27

Just as I resigned myself to a long stay, Sister Clelia told me that I may leave tomorrow night. She is going to the station to buy me a train ticket to Cairo—a gift from the nuns.

The burned girl died today. The noise level was normal in the ward, and everyone seemed in a good mood as usual. The little boy who was hit by a car is “quite better” Sister Vittoria said.

My last night. Farayela walked me past the dead girl’s room to the window at the end of the corridor. She undid the bolts and threw it open. The dogs barked amorously at lights glinting in this most everlasting of skies. “Vicki… …Aswan,” she said with deep pride. This is the only tourist sight I will see in this ancient market city—a glittering nightscape from the hospital window.

 March 29

Finally I’m in the cheap Tulip Hotel, facing my weak, frightened self amidst honking traffic and Cairo’s disorienting crowds. The sisters and Achmed put me on the train this morning. Sister Clelia demonstrated how to double lock the cabinette door. Achmed warned me not to speak to a soul, and Sister Vittoria whispered that I must avoid a suspicious character who turned out to be the conductor. Achmed had to hurry away before the train pulled out of the station, because he was scheduled to have a small operation, maybe his reward for guarding me so well. Sister Vittoria slipped me an envelope, saying, “To read someday.” In it was a postcard with a picture of Christ, punctured arms outstretched, pale face bleeding profusely beneath the crown of thorns. On the back she had written, “Aswan, March 28, 1981. God is love.”

Epilogue: The scars on my wrists and ankles faded quickly, and my post-traumatic stress symptoms did, too. Sister Vittoria had suggested I see a psychiatrist (“It will be worse six months from now than it is now”) and I did work with a therapist, unraveling the reasons why I’d opened my  door to a  drunk with a gun  when I wanted to double lock it instead.  After that, I became more self-protective. Ultimately, though, I attributed my recovery to my experience in the Government Public Hospital in Aswan. After reading up on trauma therapy, I realized that the Egyptians provided excellent care. The hospital, although far from modern, treated me, free of charge,  for almost two weeks, managed my physical symptoms, sedated me, assuaged my terror by stationing guards, fixed my broken nose, and gently but firmly provided me with physical and psychological coping strategies before allowing me to continue my journey in a very strange world. The nuns, the doctors, the visitors, the “mamas” had offered me their consolation and honest outrage. More important, they had spiritualized my emotional survival with their blend of passionate faiths, and what felt like global, unconditional love. I initially believed, like most egocentric Americans, that my personal qualities—my intelligent interest in the foreign culture? My accepting attitude?  I was a writer, taking notes?—inspired the healing empathy I got. For years I did correspond with the nuns and Dr. Zein, who, like the police, wondered what I would write about Egypt, and asked to read whatever I wrote. From a translation of the newspaper clipping the hospital administrator sent, I learned that “Sash,” a former tour guide, was captured in the act of assaulting a French woman and was sentenced to seven years of hard labor. Decades later, my eyes are still drawn, like magnets, to the line drawing illustrating the psychotic criminal; the dark moustache framing a sour frown, the cleft chin, remain startlingly familiar, intimate, like the face of a long lost lover in perverted reverse….

Time heals misconceptions as well as rope burns.  As the years went by, I wondered whether undefined factors—having little to do with me– inspired the treatment that had successfully restored me to myself.  (Dr. Zein’s words, “It is our duty to care for you,” echoed anew.) Jimmy, the wise poet I visited in Spain, told me that Muslims regard a foreign tourist as a wealthy infidel, ripe for petty harassment, until misfortune strikes; at that point, he said, the outsider becomes “family,” and the real journey begins. Perhaps there was something to that: I remembered the Egyptians on the Cairo-bound train, poor people, who collected a pound in coins for me, despite my embarrassed protests. And I recalled others, who approached in the crowded labyrinth of the capital’s streets, expressing horror over my bruised eye, begging me to reassure them that “one of us did not do this.”  Then, 19 years later, fate opened another door…

In 2000, a year before the world I believed in fell apart, a Jordanian university student appeared in my office; she wanted to write the story of her fraught escape from a cruel father, and a culture with few opportunities for educated women.  Could I help?  In one of our conferences, I told her a bit about my stay in the Egyptian hospital. “Is there a custom that might explain the care and kindness I got?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” she replied.  “There is a saying…I  will bring it to you.” She printed the proverb on a copy of an Arabic folktale: “A Stranger in Trouble is a Gift of God. “

“A Stranger in Trouble” was published in American Literary Review in Fall, 2006 and nominated by the magazine for a Pushcart Prize. An earlier version, “Aswan Diary,” was published in the British  journal, Margin, in 1989.

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser, Vicki Lindner

Vicki Lindner is a fiction writer, essayist, and journalist who has published a novel, Outlaw Games, and many short stories, essays, magazine and newspaper articles. She has written about a wide variety of subjects: cooking, bird watching, loneliness, dinosaurs, sculpture, not having children, travel, and medical malpractice. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies, including The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Fiction, Chick-Lit; Post Feminist Fiction, Witness, the Best of Terrain, Del Sol, The American Literary Review, Gastronomica, New York Stories, In Short: An Anthology of Short Creative Non-Fiction, American Nature Writing, Northern Lights, and The Seneca Review. Her short story about karate, “Barefoot to the Bridge in Winter,” was the Fiction Premiere for New York Woman. Most recently, Lindner’s essays were published in Shadowbox and Western Humanities Review. Learn more about Vicki Lindner here.

 

Writing for Peace News:

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on the topic of gun violence can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts

The  “Occupied” 2013 issue of DoveTales has gone to press! The release date is slated for March 30th, but you will begin seeing some exciting changes on the website before then. Stay tuned, and thank you for your support!

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.


A Stranger in Trouble (Part I), by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble

by Vicki Lindner

Vicki Lindner, Writing for Peace AdvisorBefore I left for Cairo, I fell asleep reading The Egyptian Book of the Dead.  I dreamed a two-headed mummy hid in the hall of my apartment building, waiting to kill me. I woke up, afraid. Warnings foreshadowed my solitary journey –my first to a Muslim land.  Avigail, an Israeli, then a Nigerian who did social work in North African villages, advised me not to go there alone. “Why not?” I asked.  I hated tours, and none of my friends wanted to join me…. Egypt had been a tourist destination since Herodotus’s time… I’d meet plenty of travelers… Besides, I needed an inspirational trip—a reward to myself for finishing a novel—and for me inspiration was synonymous with risk.  In 1981 I rejected the idea that a woman couldn’t move freely. I thought fear was old-fashioned, in itself, restricting.  I believed—correctly, as it turned out—that the world would take care of me.

A month later, on a second class train from Luxor to Aswan, I met, but didn’t recognize, the specter from my gloomy nightmare. Now I see there had been other bad omens: in crowded buses and dark corridors unseen hands felt and pinched me; a spicy kebab from a street stall produced acute food poisoning. In Luxor, an unctuous character named “Magic Man” followed me everywhere, insisted on carrying my bag to the train station.

Still, most Egyptians were enthusiastically friendly. In 1979, our President had reduced Egyptian-Israeli hostilities by negotiating the remarkable Camp David Accord; although the 1980 peace settlement was already unraveling, some shouted “Jimmy Carter” in delighted voices when they identified me as American.  In Groppi’s, a smoky café on the Midan Talaat Harb, I’d met a handsome, brooding doctor, who’d taken me to view the moonlit Sphinx; in two weeks, after my tour of the South, I hoped to get together with him.

That morning, though, on route to the ancient desert city, my come-what-may mood had changed; I felt tired, lethargic; my stomach churned with ominous liquid growls again. I decided to skip the Temple of Edfu; suddenly, I was bored with faded friezes and tombs, populated more by pushy trinket salesmen than the spirits of gilt pharaohs and their eagle-crowned gods. A ragged boy ran through the orange peel-strewn car, beating a cringing puppy with a stalk of sugar cane.

A man boarded the train and sat down beside me, as if our meeting had been pre-arranged. (I now think “Magic Man,” my persistent shadow, had marked me for him.) In perfect English he said he was an Egyptian-born Jew, living in Israel. Soon he confided that he worked with the military on “intelligence” and showed me the handgun in his shoulder bag. He told me he was delivering a document to Egyptian authorities. To a traveler in a dramatically foreign land, this unlikely revelation didn’t seem strange. “A spy!” I thought, a gullible writer, recognizing a character from her novel, starring, as it happened, an ex-con toting a symbolic Beretta. This pleasant, mild-mannered man—he introduced himself as “Sash”– helped me find a hotel room in the tourist-glutted town, took me to dinner, then stowing his pistol in my wardrobe, read my future with tarot cards. He swigged rum from the bottle, not taboo for tourists, but vaguely alarming. Predicting I would meet with accident, he departed, intoxicated, and promised to return the next morning to guide me through Aswan. Having had more than enough of this man, I wondered how I’d get rid of him.  A few minutes later he knocked again; he had to speak to me about something important—a problem with the hotel management. Succumbing to fate, to me, indistinguishable from fiction, I reluctantly opened the door.

To abbreviate a painful story, difficult to tell, “Sash” was a psychopath, and, I later learned, a dangerous criminal, wanted by the Cairo police for crimes against other tourists. As he vented his illness on me at gun point, he raved about his mother: Why was she a prostitute? His father was a good man! In the morning a bellboy heard my muffled groan, and found me, tied by the neck, hands, and feet to the bathroom pipes, severely beaten, bleeding from the nose and mouth. After torturing me for hours, Sash had forced me to swallow twelve tranquilizers, robbed me, and escaped. Somehow, I’d emerged from my drug-induced coma, worked the gag loose, and mumbled for help. I remember struggling to focus my blurred eyes on the aghast Egyptian faces and feeling joyful elation before I sunk back into sleep; by a mysterious reprieve, I was alive. When I regained consciousness again, I asked for my journal and continued writing about my trip….

March 15

I don’t know what day of the week it is. I seem to be in a large, old hospital. Last night, as soon as I came to, a nun and a blue-gowned lady led me to a sink and washed my hair with cold water. “Why are you washing my hair?” I asked. They said because it was covered with blood. They X-rayed my face on a large, old-fashioned machine. I can’t see out of my left eye, but they don’t think anything is wrong with it. Then they took me to an office downstairs, where a number of well-dressed men, supposedly police, were waiting. One of the sisters held my hand. “Don’t be afraid,” she said. They asked if I remembered what happened and I said, “Yes. Everything.” I thought I spoke loudly and answered their questions with perfect clarity.  Now I don’t remember the questions or the answers. I guess I grew incoherent, because the man in charge, the hospital director, said to the police, “The patient is tired. She must return to bed.

March 16

Just forced myself to get out of bed and look at my face in the broken mirror– a dull purple flesh mass, a featureless, sexless, rain-soaked prune. My nose points to one side; my left eye is swollen shut, and both eyes are buried in puffed fuchsia rings. It could be worse; my teeth seem okay, and the nun told me my skull wasn’t fractured.

A plainclothes policeman, wearing a gellabaya and turban, sits outside my room during the day and is replaced by another plainclothesman at night. The day-guard comes into my room, escorting visitors, bringing me tea and fruit, and performs small nursing duties, staring at me with distraught compassion. He takes my hand and repeats the only English sentence he seems to know: “I am Achmed, your brother!”

The nurses are sisters from an Italian order of nuns. Sister Hildegarde, who speaks only Italian, says, “La Vita! Brutto e bello!” as she briskly tucks in my sheets. Sister Vittoria, my namesake, has taken me on as her personal charge. Tiny and vibrant, smiling with silver-capped teeth, and speaking in a loud, rasping voice, she bounds in and out like a creature with rubber feet, announcing her presence with “God Bless! God Bless!”  I told her at the moment I was sure I was going to die I recited Hail Mary’s to myself though I’m not a Catholic. “Who taught you that prayer to Our Lady?” she asked, surprised.  (I said “A friend,” but I don’t remember learning it.) She said she has never seen a case like mine in her twenty-five years as a nurse in Egypt. Things like this do not happen here. Women are beaten by their husbands, but not by strangers. If a strange man speaks to a woman on the street, she can have him arrested. She showed me my blood-soaked T-shirt and the yellow scarf he used to gag me, rolled in a newspaper in the cabinet beside my bed, along with the sandals with the broken thongs he used to tie me. “Don’t tell them I showed you this!” she whispered. “We will wash the clothes!” I want to throw them and my own body away.

Egyptian visitors file in to see me. They stare at the foreigner, not with the prurient curiosity I expect, but with sorrow and compassion. Some seem on the verge of tears. “Maleesh!” they say, wiping their eyes, “Maleesh!” Sister Vittoria told me that maleesh means “Never mind.” “They say that too much here,” she advised. Others ask, “Kwaiisa!” which means, “Are you all right?” and when I answer, “Yes,” they exclaim, “Ilhamdulallah!” in jubilant voices, or “Thank God!” Everyone says, “We are so sorry!” and takes my hand. The doctors come by, sometimes in brigades of four, and shake their heads sorrowfully. One boomed in basso profundo, “We will punish him, but God will punish him more!” The blue-gowned ladies, hospital domestics called “mamas,” stroke my forehead and bring me tea, half composed of sugar. According to Sister Vittoria, the Governor of Aswan rushed to my bedside when I was unconscious. Although the newspaper has not reported my case, the whole town is talking about it; such things do not happen here.

It is good for me to have so many distraught visitors. I have to sit up, pronounce my name, shake hands, and look cheerful for their sakes. When I am alone in my room, (they are keeping the other two beds empty), I stare at the curling fresco of leak-warped green paint on the wall and am immediately transported back to that hotel, where it all happens again. Cockroaches and ants inhabit the drawer next to my bed, and the sink is broken. The door to the room, missing its handle, is pulled open by a string. Outside the window I see a Bedouin village that specializes in smuggling contraband to and from the Sudan on camel back, according to Sister Vittoria. It is three o’clock and the mosques all over Aswan release their call to prayer, the closest one blaring the same sounds that the distant ones echo in thinner voices: “Wooooo-adddd Le Alllllahhhhhhh! El Allllahhhhh” There is no god but God. The desert air collects into a visible wave, quivers around this onslaught of devout exaltation.

March l7

Yesterday afternoon I was brought back to the police for a second interrogation. This time everyone was solemn. Sister Vittoria, Sister Carmen, and staunch Sister Clelia, the Mother Superior, sat beside me in their white uniforms with helmet-shaped head cloths, like a holy rear guard.  I was handed a glass of tea. They asked if I was Christian. “Not exactly,” I replied. I didn’t want to admit I am half-Jewish, usually atheist, so I placed my hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth in the name of God.

This seemed to be a criminal trial, although the accused was absent. The police, dressed in starched pastel, made up the jury. At the desk, wearing a double-breasted European suit and lavender shirt, was a young, red-haired man they called “The Judge.” When he reached into his well-tailored pocket for a Cleopatra, the others competed to supply him with one of their cigarettes. Glasses of cold rose hip tea and tiny cups of Turkish coffee were brought in by the domestics. Everyone seemed ill-at-ease. Dr. Zein, the hospital director, who carries his weighty dignity like an awkward parcel, asked questions, then translated my answers into Arabic, written down by a scribe.

“Miss Vicki,” Dr. Zein asked, “who paid for the room in the Hotel Abu Simbel that you occupied? You or the man who assaulted you?”

“I did,” I replied.

“What was the number of this room?

“Miss Vicki, when you were found you were covered by a blood-stained, yellow blanket. How do you explain the presence of this blanket?”

“Miss Vicki, were you raped?” There was an uncomfortable silence. I hesitated. Rape was too benign a word for my experience. “Do not be afraid to tell us,” encouraged Dr. Zein. “To rape without force is not a serious crime in Egypt; to rape with force is extremely serious.”

I said, yes, Sash had raped me, but had been mainly interested in abnormal sex. I waited for lascivious questions. There were none. “Abnormal sex,” translated Dr. Zein. The tribunal of fashionable men nodded.

I put all my energies into recounting the story so they would understand, demonstrating on Sister Carmen’s soft arm the way “Sash” had twisted mine when he led me from the bed to the bathroom. When they asked how he forced me to take the pills, I pointed an imaginary pistol at her head. I described my escape attempt, how I grabbed his gun, which wouldn’t fire, how I cried for help, hit him beneath the nose, a blow I’d read would cause instant death, which he didn’t feel. I spoke in a voice that sounded histrionic, even to me; I waved my hands in dramatic gestures. More well-dressed men entered and took seats. But the harder I struggled to re-enact this play, the less real it seemed—a B movie. I imagined how I, an unmarried, thirty-seven- years- old foreign woman, who’d invited a drunk into her bedroom, must appear to them. I thought, “They’ll never think I’m telling the truth.”  I barely believed my story myself. I turned to Sister Carmen’s gentle face; “Do they believe me?” I asked.

“Yes,” she answered quietly, “they feel his guilt.”

Then the lights went out. (Aswan has frequent power failures, despite the famous High Dam.) The police lit candles and waited for a generator to kick the electricity back on. I looked at these elegant men, supposedly police, at the flickering, half-lit room through my one good eye. I envisioned my purple, swollen face, my hospital gown. How had I journeyed so rapidly from the familiar security of my New York apartment to this unlikely space?  I must be dreaming I’m in Egypt, I thought.

When the lights flickered to life, Dr. Zein asked the final question: “Miss Vicki, what are the injuries to your body?” With silent indignation the sisters pointed to my swollen hand, scarred by rope burns, the burns on my ankles, my bruised neck and face, my broken nose, and the welts on the back of my head.

“We are so sorry,” somebody said.

Sister Vittoria guided me back to bed and gave me two containers of zabadi, or yogurt. “They are hot!” she said of Egyptian men. “He drank liquor so he could do that to you!” Then she praised the police. “They are very good,” she said. “When they put their minds to something they do it right away. They will catch him, don’t worry about that.”  She believes the police are everywhere, disguised as peasants and laborers; wearing these costumes, they accompany the sisters when they travel.

A Stranger in Trouble, by Vicki Lindner, will continue on Wednesday (3/21).

“A Stranger in Trouble” was published in American Literary Review in Fall, 2006 and nominated by the magazine for a Pushcart Prize. An earlier version, “Aswan Diary,” was published in the British  journal, Margin, in 1989.

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser, Vicki Lindner

Vicki Lindner is a fiction writer, essayist, and journalist who has published a novel, Outlaw Games, and many short stories, essays, magazine and newspaper articles. She has written about a wide variety of subjects: cooking, bird watching, loneliness, dinosaurs, sculpture, not having children, travel, and medical malpractice. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies, including The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Fiction, Chick-Lit; Post Feminist Fiction, Witness, the Best of Terrain, Del Sol, The American Literary Review, Gastronomica, New York Stories, In Short: An Anthology of Short Creative Non-Fiction, American Nature Writing, Northern Lights, and The Seneca Review. Her short story about karate, “Barefoot to the Bridge in Winter,” was the Fiction Premiere for New York Woman. Most recently, Lindner’s essays were published in Shadowbox and Western Humanities Review. Learn more about Vicki Lindner here.

Writing for Peace News:

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on the topic of gun violence can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts

The  “Occupied” 2013 issue of DoveTales has gone to press! The release date is slated for March 30th, but you will begin seeing some exciting changes on the website before then. Stay tuned, and thank you for your support!

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

A Tribute to Sam Hamill, by Martín Espada

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdviserCommemorating Ten Years of Poetic Resistance, PAW Post No. 28

Writing for Peace  commemorates the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with Daily PAW Posts from a host of contributors. 

*Parental Guidance Warning –The poets featured during our February Daily PAW Posts write of war and its effect on the human heart. Writing for Peace has not censored these poems, and we encourage parents to review the content before sharing them with children.

To purchase a copy of POETS AGAINST THE WAR from Powell’s independent bookstore, click here.

Small Writing for Peace logo

Our final post is from Martín Espada, who shares his tribute to Sam Hamill and Poets Against the War, originally given at the 2012 Split This Rock Festival in Washington, D.C. on March 22nd, 2012.

Martín Espada

I am honored to speak today at this tribute to Sam Hamill and Poets Against War.

Poetry saved Sam Hamill. Poetry saved him from a life of violence, self-destruction and incarceration.  This poem is dedicated to him.
Blasphemy
          For Sam Hamill

Let the blasphemy be spoken: poetry can save us,
not the way a fisherman pulls the drowning swimmer
into his boat, not the way Jesus, between screams,
promised life everlasting to the thief crucified beside him
on the hill, but salvation nevertheless.

Somewhere a convict sobs into a book of poems
from the prison library, and I know why
his hands are careful not to break the brittle pages.

 

Allow me to introduce Sam Hamill.

Sam was born in 1942 or 1943 to unknown parents.  Adopted and raised in Utah, he was beaten and abused, a runaway, a petty thief, in trouble with the law, in and out of jail.

In the moving poem, “Plain Dumb Luck,” he writes of being “huddled in a cell in Fredonia, Arizona/ rolling cigarettes from a Bull Durham pouch/ locked up for the crime of being fourteen and homeless.”  A sheriff tells him to “Go home, son,” but “Home was the road/ for a kid whose other home was hell./ I’d rather steal than taste that belt again./ I stole.”

And yet, by poem’s end, forty years later, the poet concludes that he is “the luckiest son-of-a-bitch alive.” It was his “dumb luck” to discover poetry.  From the practice of poetry everything else would flow.

At City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, there was more “dumb luck:” a serendipitous encounter with poet, translator and critic Kenneth Rexroth, who would become Sam’s first mentor.  As Sam recalls:

I was fifteen years old, and I was smoking a lot of heroin and trying to be cool, man, and I really loved poetry. And Kenneth convinced me that destroying myself was not really the best possible solution, and that I needed to look at the world’s literature, and not just my own life, in order to be hip, if you will. So he had a huge influence on what became of me thereafter.

What became of Sam Hamill?

In the words of Hayden Carruth, “No one—I mean no one—has done the momentous work of presenting poetry better than Sam Hamill. His editing and publishing, his criticism and translations, his own very strong and beautiful poems have been making a difference in American culture for many years. What a wealth of accomplishment!”

Sam has published over 40 books. His collections of poetry include Destination Zero, Gratitude, Dumb Luck, Measured by Stone, and Almost Paradise.  His essay collections include A Poet’s Work and Avocations. He taught himself classical Chinese and Japanese, and is the leading translator of poetry from these ancient languages. His translations include Narrow Road to the Interior and Other Writings of Basho, Crossing the Yellow River, The Poetry of Zen, and the Tao Te Ching.

He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Mellon Fund. In 1973, he co-founded the legendary Copper Canyon Press, serving as editor there for more than thirty years, publishing Rexroth, Carruth, McGrath, the posthumous works of Neruda.

When Sam began his Zen practice and declared himself a conscientious objector, he took a “bodhisattva vow” to become a peacemaker. (Sam is a tough pacifist. I used to tell him that he put the “fist” in “pacifist.”)

Small wonder, then, that Sam felt  (and I quote) “overcome by nausea” when he was invited to participate in a White House symposium called, “Poetry and the American Voice,” hosted by First Lady Laura Bush. The symposium, set for February 2003, was cancelled when word got out of Sam’s plan to gather anti-war poems for presentation to the First Lady.

Never tell Sam: Don’t say that. He fought back by founding Poets Against the War. PAW collected, posted and archived more than 20,000 poems and statements against war. As Sam puts it, “Never before in recorded history have so many poets spoken in a single chorus.” He also edited the anthology Poets Against the War, published by The Nation Books.

In the foreword to that extraordinary anthology, Sam Hamill writes:

Can (thousands of) poems inhibit this or any administration planning a war? It is only one step among many. But it is an important step, as each is. We join physicians against the war, teachers against the war, farmers against the war, and others. Poets Against the War helped bring about hundreds of poetry readings and discussions around the world while compiling a document of historic proportion. And when our critics on the right suggest that poetry might somehow divorce itself from politics, we say, ‘Read the Greeks, read the classical Chinese; tell it to Dante, Chaucer, Milton or Longfellow. Tell it to Whitman, Dickinson or Hughes. Tell it to García Lorca, to Joseph Brodsky or to the Chinese poets living in exile in our country…A government is a government of words, and when those words are used to mislead, to instill fear or to invite silence, it is the duty of every poet to speak fearlessly and clearly.

Albert Camus writes: “henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions. Sam Hamill has become the living embodiment of this principle. He and PAW defined a culture of conscience in this country. When future generations want to know the truth of these times, they will not turn to Colin Powell’s testimony at the United Nations. They will turn to the words of Sam Hamill. They will read Poets Against the War.

Sam is a true visionary. He sees through ancient eyes, “fearlessly and clearly.”  His translation of the poem, “Song of the War Wagons” by Tu Fu, written in China more than 1200 years ago, speaks to us of war today:

We’ve shed a sea of blood.
Still the emperor wants more.
East of the mountains, a thousand villages,
ten thousand villages, turn to bitter weeds…
Our boys lie under the weeds.
Being right is necessary but not sufficient.  In 2003, when he founded PAW, Sam was right about the “sea of blood” and the “emperor” who wanted more; but he also had the integrity to take action, regardless of consequences. Ultimately, Sam Hamill is the kind of visionary who rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.  This is from his poem, “Ars Poetica:”

  
 We go down to the sea and set sail
 For a world beyond war,
       knowing
 we will never find it.
       We are not heroes.
 We sail The Justice and The Mercy
 because these boats need rowing.

The time has come for us to stand up and express our gratitude for all that rowing.  Please welcome my compañero, my hero, Sam Hamill.

*********

Writing for Peace applauds each of the poets who shared their anti-war poems with us this month, every poet who took part in the PAW resistance of 2003, and especially our adviser Sam Hamill, whose moral courage continues to challenge us to search for understanding and stand for truth.

 

Martin Espada, Writing for Peace Daily PAW Post Guest PoetAbout Martín Espada

Called “the Latino poet of his generation,” Martín Espada was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1957. He has published more than fifteen books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His latest collection of poems, The Trouble Ball (Norton, 2011), is the recipient of the Milt Kessler Award, a Massachusetts Book Award and an International Latino Book Award. The Republic of Poetry, a collection published by Norton in 2006, received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A previous book of poems, Imagine the Angels of Bread (Norton, 1996), won an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Other books of poems include A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen (Norton, 2000), City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (Norton, 1993), and Rebellion is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands (Curbstone, 1990).  He has received such recognition as the Robert Creeley Award, the National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.  His work has been widely translated; collections of poems have been published in Spain, Puerto Rico and Chile. His book of essays, Zapata’s Disciple (South End Press, 1998), has been banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona. A graduate of Northeastern University Law School and a former tenant lawyer, Espada is currently a professor in the Department of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Learn more about Martin Espada’s work here.

 

Writing for Peace News:

During the month of February, Writing for Peace has offered a post each day in honor of the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War. We hope all our readers have been as moved and inspired by these poets as we have.

In March, our focus will shift toward other aspects of peace, as we take a step back from the inflammatory debate about reducing gun violence and explore the issue through poetry, essays and fiction. We won’t continue the rigorous posting schedule of February, but you can continue to count on us for two to three posts per week.

2013 Young Writers Contest

The 2013 Young Writers Contest closes at midnight, Mountain Standard Time on March 1st.  Announcements will be made through our blog on May 1st 2013.  Contest guidelines are posted here.

DoveTales Update!

We’ve already extended our release date twice, and we’re going to do it once more (knocking on wood).  The print copies of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts will be out by the end of March. E-books will likely be offered sometime before that. We beg your continued patience, and assure you it will be worth the wait. Our first issue is absolutely beautiful!

Thank you for your support, and continue to check in with us here for news about DoveTales.

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veronica Golos Interviews Sam Hamill (Part II)

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdviserCommemorating Ten Years of Poetic Resistance, PAW Post No. 27

Writing for Peace  commemorates the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with Daily PAW Posts from a host of contributors.

*Parental Guidance Warning –The poets featured during our February Daily PAW Posts write of war and its effect on the human heart. Writing for Peace has not censored these poems, and we encourage parents to review the content before sharing them with children.

To purchase a copy of POETS AGAINST THE WAR from Powell’s independent bookstore, click here.

Small Writing for Peace logoIn this special interview, Veronica Golos talks with Sam Hamill about the role of poetry, living reality, and love.

(Part Two of Two)

 Veronica Golos:

I’ve just finished reading an interview with you by Lisa Morphew, in the Ashville Poetry Review, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2012, Issue 22.  It is very personal, and you answered willingly and at length about your past, about the era into which you came to manhood.  It seemed a tribute to Kenneth Rexroth actually.  He spoke against, as you quote, “a society which grows daily more depraved and destructive…the poet is always called upon to play his role of prophet, in the Biblical sense, whatever else he may be about.”

I was struck by the intimacy of the interview, especially questions about your relationship to your late wife, Gray.  I bring this up, because your poem, Visitation, published in the inaugural issue of the Taos Journal of Poetry & Art, of which I am co-edited, has haunted me.  There is such vitality to your voice, such subdued passion, and here in this poem, it seems to me, such a delicate touch, a very Japanese feel to it.  If I may quote it:

 Visitation

I wake suddenly, in the middle of the night,
and realize I’m stroking the pillow beside me,
dreaming of my wife who is six months dead.

I rise and brush my teeth and pour a stiff drink
and go out into the garden to sit
on the old iron bench and think.

It’s after midnight and the moon is full.
And after a long silence, I hear, faintly,
a woman’s heels’ chink, chink, chink,

against the ancient cobblestone
beyond the garden wall
as she makes her way down the street.

In the Asheville Poetry Review interview, you also say the Bodhisattva, “perceives the cries of the world.”

I’d like to pull these together – this deep and abiding speaking as a social “prophet,” as one who hears the cries of the world, and a writer of such a love poem, full of absence and grief.

Sam Hamill:

How can we actually learn what love is without learning to fully love this earth on which we stand?

 
I think of W.C. Williams writing in The Wedge that “everything is about the war,” and that he as a poet is simply working in a different sector of the field. Every serious poet, consciously or otherwise, is composing his or her own cosmology. Opening the heart to the truth of experience and engaged imagination, one is “given” the poem via his or her Muse and must compose him/herself via deep listening in order to transform the gift of inspiration into the artifact, the experience, of the poetry. Master K’ung reminds us that emotions are, of themselves, neither good nor bad, (we all have them), but what we make of them matters most. I think anger (not rage) can be a motivator to overcome injustice and cruelty. Even the murderers and torturers are human, misguided in their actions and misunderstanding “reality.” And yet murderers and torturers must be brought to justice.

I could go on at length about what Williams (and Olson & Creeley & Levertov & Duncan) mean about “field composition,” but that would require a whole essay. Suffice to say that “organic poetry” is a means of opening the heart while upholding the deepest values of our lives. The real value of poetry, to me at least, lies in the ways in which poems—my own and many others’— shape and inform, revolutionizes, my life. My *whole* life. I don’t, for instance, enter contests, the beauty pageants of the poetry community. One of my great masters, Tu Fu, died an unknown poet. Two centuries later he was recognized as one of China’s greatest poets ever. It’s not about recognition or popularity contests. It is simply a way of life… I am given poems to compose and I compose by listening to what speaks to my heart and ear. The voices and melos are a plenitude of wisdom and beauty. As Gary Snyder said long ago, “As a poet, I hold the most archaic values on earth.” Being, the Buddha observed, is agonizing or suffering. Poetry is one of the ten thousand paths to the Buddha; through poetry (as various as that word may be), we may find self-realization and do away with the “I-and-thou” and competitive mind-set that makes war possible (as well as poetry contests) and we come into a world of only “we,” we-are-oneness” in our struggle in this sentient interdependent world. To value life requires valuing the cosmos that makes life possible. How can we actually learn what love is without learning to fully love this earth on which we stand? —The very dirt and stone of it. We must protect it from capitalism just as we must protect those who suffer most from organized oppression. We must love and resist and rebel.

 

Sources:

Ashville Poetry Review, Vol 19, no. 1, 2012, Issue 22

The Progressive, Interview by Anne-Marie Cusac, Apirl 2003, www.progressive.org/mag_cusachamill

Paul e Nelson, http://paulemelson.com/organic-poetry/why-poetry-matters-sam

Poet Reflects on 30 Years of Publishing Poetry    www.kearneyhub.com/content/tncms/live/

Poets Against the War  2006  http://poieinkaiprattein.org/poetry/poiein-kai-prattein-and-the-poets

A Monks Tale, by Sam Hamill

EYES WIDE OPEN  www.rattle.com/poetry/2011/03/eyes-wide-open-by-sam-hamill

Poems, by Sam Hamill    www.lorenwebster.net/In_a_Dark_Time/category/poets/sam hamill

An E-view with Sam Hamill by Rebecca Seiferle, The Drunken Boat   www.thedrunkenboat.com/hamillview.thm

Veronica Golos, Writing for Peace Advisor

About Writing for Peace Adviser, Veronica Golos

Veronica Golos is the author of two books, Vocabulary of Silence (Red Hen Press, 2011), winner of the 2011 New Mexico Book Award, poems from which are translated into Arabic by poet Nizar Sartawi, and A Bell Buried Deep (Storyline Press, 2004), co-winner of the 16th Annual Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize, nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Edward Hirsch, and adapted for stage and performed at Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA.  A Bell Buried Deep is set to be re-issued by Tupelo Press, with an introduction by Patricia Smith, in 2014.

Golos’s poems are included in The Poet’s CraftAnnie Finch, Editor, 2012, University of Michigan Press; Collecting Life: Poets on Objects Known and Imagined, 3: A Taos Press, 2011, and in journals including Spillway, Meridians, Drunken Boat, Orion, Cimarron, Contemporary World Literature, Sin Fronteras, Verso (Paris), Poetry (London), Rattle, World Literature Magazine Spring’s Forum. Translated Poems from Vocabulary of Silence have appeared in over 24 journals and publications throughout the Middle East including (Syria), www.nabee.awatf.com,  www.saddana.com, (UAE),www.shenrayar.com/ar, (Iraq)  www.Alimbaratur.com (Denmark) and Maqal (Kuwait).

Golos is Acquisitions Editor for 3:A Taos Press, and co-editor of the Taos Journal of Poetry & Art.

 

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace Advisor

About Writing for Peace Adviser, Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill is the author of more than forty books, including fifteen volumes of original poetry (most recently Measured by Stone and Almost Paradise: New & Selected Poems & Translations); four collections of literary essays, including A Poet’s Work and Avocations: On Poetry & Poets; and some of the most distinguished translations of ancient Chinese and Japanese classics of the last half-century. He co-founded, and for thirty-two years was editor at, Copper Canyon Press. He taught in prisons for fourteen years and has worked extensively with battered women and children. An outspoken political pacifist, in 2003, declining an invitation to the White House, he founded Poets Against War, compiling the largest single-theme poetry anthology in history, 30,000 poems by 26,000 poets. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Mellon Fund, and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission; other honors include the Stanley Lindberg Lifetime Achievement Award for Editing, the Washington Poets’ Association Lifetime Achievement in Poetry Award, two Washington Governor’s Arts Awards, a Western States Book Award, a PEN-Oakland Anti-censorship Award, a PEN Center/USA First Amendment Award, the Charity Randall Award from The Poetry Forum, and the Condecoración de la Universidad de Carabobo in Valencia, Venezuela. His work has been translated into a dozen languages. He lives in Anacortes, Washington.

February Writing for Peace News:

All during the month of February, Writing for Peace is commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with a Daily PAW Post. If you are interested in arranging a reading this month in honor of Poets Against the War, please contact us with the details at editor@writingforpeace.org, and we will be happy to share your information on our site.

2013 Young Writers Contest

Contest Deadline is March 1st! The Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest is in full swing, with entries coming in from all over the globe.  The contest is open to writers of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, for ages 13 to 19. Spread the word to young writers everywhere! You’ll find contest guidelines here.

DoveTales,  An International Journal of the Arts

The first issue of DoveTales will be released this month, featuring poets, writers, artists and photographers from all over the world.  We are also looking forward to seeing the winners of our 2012 Young Writers Contest in print. Watch our posts for news of the journal’s release. The new submission guidelines will go up on March 1st. Thank you for your support!

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Veronica Golos Interviews Sam Hamill (Part I)

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdviserCommemorating Ten Years of Poetic Resistance, PAW Post No. 26

During the month of February, Writing for Peace  commemorates the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with Daily PAW Posts from a host of contributors.

*Parental Guidance Warning –The poets featured during our February Daily PAW Posts write of war and its effect on the human heart. Writing for Peace has not censored these poems, and we encourage parents to review the content before sharing them with children.

To purchase a copy of POETS AGAINST THE WAR from Powell’s independent bookstore, click here.

Small Writing for Peace logo

  In this special interview, Veronica Golos talks with Sam Hamill about the role of poetry, living reality, and love.

(Part One of Two)

 

Veronica Golos:

Well, I feel as though I do know you — one of the many benefits of Face Book.  We share many of the same views on a whole host of topics, including, I believe, the role of poetry.  The role of poetry especially for “American’ writers.

I thought we might begin with a quote from Camus, one you used in an article.

Camus reminds us that if art ‘adapts itself to what the majority of our society wants, art will be a meaningless recreation. If it blindly rejects that society, if the artist makes up his (sic) mind to take refuge in his dreams, art will express nothing but a negation. In this way we shall have the production of entertainers or of formal grammarians, and in both cases this leads to an art cut off from living reality.

Did or does PAW prove that in fact there is an “American” art NOT cut off from living reality?  For my own recent poetry book, Vocabulary of Silence, I read a great deal of translated Arab poetry, and certainly so much of their poetry is part and parcel of their living reality. An awareness of the world and a response to it.

May we start here, and I’ll pick up questions from your reply?
Sam Hamill:

Living reality is learning the names of children bombed from drones, remembering the heroes who exposed this country’s war crimes, war crimes that continue day by day. 

26,000 poets writing almost exclusively in American idiom suggests that the poetry of engagement is alive in this country. What is the general political reality? That our poetry would make no difference in the political arena except as agitation. We were a “liberal minority” in a country that has loved and profited from war from Day One.

Nevertheless, many of the nightmares predicted in the poetry became reality on the ground. I was granted five minutes of fame, not for organizing against the war, but for embarrassing the White House. Our major media asked questions worthy of a bright third grade student —”Is it poetry if it doesn’t rhyme?” “Do you think a poem can stop a war?” “If your poetry doesn’t change anything, why write it at all?” I was subjected to ad hominem attacks in the op/ed pages of the NY Times and the Wall St Journal, in both instances by former Nixon speech writers, telling me that I was a nobody. The fact remains: Poets Against War was an effective call to resistance. And while we couldn’t stop the attack, we helped turn the tide of American opinion against the slaughter. But the slaughter continues in new incarnations. Living reality is learning the names of children bombed from drones, remembering the heroes who exposed this country’s war crimes, war crimes that continue day by day.
 Veronica Golos:

I’ve been reading some of the really excellent interviews (there are so many) with you.  In all of them, you offer an affirmation of poetry, an affirmation that poetry matters.  Of course, as an author of over 40 books and translations, teaching in prisons, continuing the PAW, and your keen awareness of the present state of the world, you have viewed both poetry and the world for a long time.

In your interview with Paul E. Nelson, you are quoted: “In order to transcend a materialist culture we have to have spiritual values.  We have to have a spiritual economy, an economy of the soul. Poetry is part of that commerce.  It lives outside the mainstream economy.”

Could you elaborate on this?  Especially in light of these continued and ever expanding US wars, of which you speak so eloquently and forcefully?

Could you give us examples of how your Zen practice, and the righteous anger you express, combine in your poetry?
Sam Hamill:

The poem is ultimately a gift, a bestowal. It’s an investment in human character. 

Poetry begins with the gift of inspiration—drawing in the breath of one’s Muse to become pregnant with meaning; that “meaning” is transformed into the energy of poetry through insight and craft in order to become the poem. The poem is then given away on the breath of the poet. This transference and transformation of energy and insight then becomes inspiration for the next listener who also passes it along. The poem is ultimately a gift, a bestowal. It’s an investment in human character.

I have lived my life in accord with what the Chinese call san chiao, the “three systems of thought” that include the sometimes seemingly conflicting teachings of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Lao Tzu tells us that “no name names the name” of the Tao, that words have limits and understanding Tao lies beyond words. Master K’ung teaches us that “all wisdom is rooted in learning to call things by their right names.” Buddhism teaches us to practice compassion and right mindfulness in a world in which “being is agonizing,” and that we already have within us our own awakening. I take these fundamental teachings not as religion, but as applied practical existential philosophy. Lao Tzu says, “You find yourself by serving others.” My primary service has been to poetry, to the life of poetry— as poet, as editor, as translator. Buddhists say, “There are ten thousand paths to the Buddha.” Poetry is one of those paths.

We live in a house that is burning down around us. Corporate capitalism has no spiritual values. We call our country and ourselves “exceptional,” and divorce ourselves from the suffering we inflict all around us. Our leadership needs a “they” to create fear, some “other” that is threatening us even as we manufacture the threats as we did with Iraq. But there is no “they.” There is only a “we,” as in human being, and our violence turns back on us constantly. When a house is burning down, you can’t sit idly by and claim to be working on your own spiritual advancement. You must act to put out the fire and try to save lives. The Bodhisattva “perceives the cries of the world,” and refuses to enter nirvana until all sentient beings become enlightened. His or her actions begin in compassion for those who suffer the most, but extend ultimately even to those who are murderers and the accomplices of murderers. I think of the courage of Albert Camus who pleaded against the death penalty even for war criminals. Every day we see our language corrupted by our political class, we read of drones bombing children while our president tearfully addresses the slaughter of children by a mad man. Lies and hypocrisy and greed rule our public air waves and our political process. Camus tells us that the line between murderers (and their accomplices) can be clearly drawn by those who refuse to become accomplices and says, “we must resist with our whole being.”

The poem is the dance of heart and intellect among the ten thousand things. Like any other kind of writing, it can be trivialized and corrupted. But the true poem arises naturally and is less “about” the poet than about human character and shared experience. Many of us, I believe, are deeply inspired by those who have been silenced. When silence is complicitous, we must speak out and speak clearly.

 

Veronica Golos, Writing for Peace AdvisorAbout Writing for Peace Adviser, Veronica Golos

Golos is the author of Vocabulary of Silence (Red Hen Press, 2011), winner of the 2011 New Mexico Book Award, as well as A Bell Buried Deep, co winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize (Story Line Press). She was Poet in Residence at Sacred Heart Academy in Greenwich, CT in 2005, at the Nassau Museum of Art, and Yaxche School in Taos,New Mexico. She has lectured on Teaching Poetry to Children at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College and Colorado State College. Golos’ work has been widely published and anthologized nationally and internationally, including Meridians, Drunken Boat, Orbus (London), and Liqueur44 (Paris). She has performed at the Nuyorican Café, LincolnCenter, and Cornelia Street Café in NYC, and many venues in the Southwest. A lifelong activist for social justice, humanitarian and peace causes, Golos uses her poetry not only to interpret and question but “to challenge and act.”

Learn more about Veronica Golos here.

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace Advisor

About Writing for Peace Adviser, Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill is the author of more than forty books, including fifteen volumes of original poetry (most recently Measured by Stone and Almost Paradise: New & Selected Poems & Translations); four collections of literary essays, including A Poet’s Work and Avocations: On Poetry & Poets; and some of the most distinguished translations of ancient Chinese and Japanese classics of the last half-century. He co-founded, and for thirty-two years was editor at, Copper Canyon Press. He taught in prisons for fourteen years and has worked extensively with battered women and children. An outspoken political pacifist, in 2003, declining an invitation to the White House, he founded Poets Against War, compiling the largest single-theme poetry anthology in history, 30,000 poems by 26,000 poets. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Mellon Fund, and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission; other honors include the Stanley Lindberg Lifetime Achievement Award for Editing, the Washington Poets’ Association Lifetime Achievement in Poetry Award, two Washington Governor’s Arts Awards, a Western States Book Award, a PEN-Oakland Anti-censorship Award, a PEN Center/USA First Amendment Award, the Charity Randall Award from The Poetry Forum, and the Condecoración de la Universidad de Carabobo in Valencia, Venezuela. His work has been translated into a dozen languages. He lives in Anacortes, Washington.

February Writing for Peace News:

All during the month of February, Writing for Peace is commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with a Daily PAW Post. If you are interested in arranging a reading this month in honor of Poets Against the War, please contact us with the details at editor@writingforpeace.org, and we will be happy to share your information on our site.

2013 Young Writers Contest

Contest Deadline is March 1st! The Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest is in full swing, with entries coming in from all over the globe.  The contest is open to writers of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, for ages 13 to 19. Spread the word to young writers everywhere! You’ll find contest guidelines here.

DoveTales,  An International Journal of the Arts

The first issue of DoveTales will be released this month, featuring poets, writers, artists and photographers from all over the world.  We are also looking forward to seeing the winners of our 2012 Young Writers Contest in print. Watch our posts for news of the journal’s release. The new submission guidelines will go up on March 1st. Thank you for your support!

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

My Brother’s Computer, by Maija Rhee Devine

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdviserCommemorating Ten Years of Poetic Resistance, PAW Post No. 24

During the month of February, Writing for Peace  commemorates the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with Daily PAW Posts from a host of contributors.

*Parental Guidance Warning –The poets featured during our February Daily PAW Posts write of war and its effect on the human heart. Writing for Peace has not censored these poems, and we encourage parents to review the content before sharing them with children.

To purchase a copy of POETS AGAINST THE WAR from Powell’s independent bookstore, click here.

 Small Writing for Peace logo

Writing for Peace Welcome guest poet, Maija Rhee Devine.
My Brother’s Computer was originally written in Korean and translated to English by the author.

My Brother’s Computer

 
My brother is 77 years old.

At fifteen, recruited by Korean Navy
To do a job like Radar’s in M*A*S*H
He rode in U.S. Patrol Craft 703
Ready to kill, in a wing of 260-battle-ship fleet
Commanded by General Douglas MacArthur.
One September night,1950, Korean Navy blooded
N. Korean communists on Youngheung Island
Planted Korean flag atop the hill
He sped away for his night shift in PC703
Only to learn at dawn
The fourteen war buddies he left behind
Were bullet-riddled to unidentifiable bodies
By enemy troops who sneaked
across the tide-drained strait.

I’ve sinned
I’ve sinned by staying alive
What can I do to cleanse this sin?
What can I do with my life
To make it worth fourteen lives?
Shriveled under that weight
He mourned each day for six decades

As shrunken is his computer
Out its phlegm-congested throat come mysterious groans
The battery has already given up its ghost
Why don’t I get you a new one? I offer during my visit to Seoul.
Oh, no, no.  My daughter-in-law’s getting
A new computer.  Her old one will be my new one,
He says.

Until the “new” one arrives, he goes through these steps.
He turns on the surge protector, which he turns off each night.
Presses the “on” button.
Then the “F 1”
“F 10”
“Enter”
“Esc”
The Windows screen blinks through its many phases
When it’s done, he presses “Begin,” “Program,” “Internet.”
If the “Internet” doesn’t surface
He enters the time, date, and year.

Then clicks “Apply” and “Confirm”

Ahhh!  The internet’s up!

At his age, I’m lucky he knows what a computer is.
And here comes his E-mail message
Limping, coughing, and wheezing across the Pacific Ocean
Lands on my morning tea in Missouri
Hot, heart-shaped.

Published in a Korean literary journal 윌더니스, 2011 겨울호

 

Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace Guest PoetAbout Maija Rhee Devine

Maija Rhee Devine, a Korean-born writer whose fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Boulevard, North American Review, and The Kenyon Review, and in anthologies, holds a B.A. in English from Sogang University in Seoul and an M.A. in English from St. Louis University.  Writing honors include an NEA grant and nominations to Pushcart Prize and O. Henry Awards. Her novel, The Voices of Heaven, is set during the Korean War, and flows from first-hand experience of growing up in Seoul during the war and its aftermath.  Long Walks on Short Days, her poetry chapbook about Korea, China, U.S. and other countries she traveled to, is available now through April 5, 2013, at http://finishinglinepress.com for preorders.

 February Writing for Peace News:

All during the month of February, Writing for Peace is commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with a Daily PAW Post. If you are interested in arranging a reading this month in honor of Poets Against the War, please contact us with the details at editor@writingforpeace.org, and we will be happy to share your information on our site.

2013 Young Writers Contest

Contest Deadline is March 1st! The Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest is in full swing, with entries coming in from all over the globe.  The contest is open to writers of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, for ages 13 to 19. Spread the word to young writers everywhere! You’ll find contest guidelines here.

DoveTales,  An International Journal of the Arts

The first issue of DoveTales will be released this month, featuring poets, writers, artists and photographers from all over the world.  We are also looking forward to seeing the winners of our 2012 Young Writers Contest in print. Watch our posts for news of the journal’s release. The new submission guidelines will go up on March 1st. Thank you for your support!

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.