Tag Archives: Robert Kostuck

Recommended: NDN: the words of a little hawk, by Elaine Gerard

In keeping with our goal of developing empathy, compassion, and awareness through education and creative writing, Writing for Peace is encouraging expanded reading through our partnership with Poetic Justice Books. This is the first of our Advisers’ Recommended Readings, a review by Writing for Peace Adviser Robert Kostuck.

NDN: the words of a little hawk

by Elaine Gerard

reviewed by Robert Kostuck

 

Difficult subjects often make for strong and worthwhile poetry, and in NDN: the words of a little hawk, Elaine Gerard is never at a loss for subject matter. In “My Uncivil Heart,” she delineates the balance between her Native American heritage and the mainstream social expectations.

“. . . I see out of the corner
of slatted dark eyes,
the tattered edge of an arrow
and the shaggy heart
of the Indian beast
that wishes to rival
the best efforts of
your teacup world.”

Indeed, her heritage is the basis for her approach to all experience, strident and complex panegyrics which illuminate whatever touches her heart. Cultural awareness can be difficult when one is in the default position; beyond that position it becomes the root of everything. Social interaction, relationships with people or nature, sex, introspection, and healing fall within her scope. Her eye is unflinchingly honest, and a poem like “Desert Rain” is objective—as good writing must be—never falling into self-pity.

“a baby girl stirs in my belly
safe from this red shower
he stands over me with a fist,
I slipped and fell and now,
it’s pouring in my kitchen and
I don’t have a way out of the rain.”

This unflinching eye also acts as witness to the beauty of the natural world. As a member of the Blackfeet Indian Nation, Gerard lives her affinity for the landscape and sensory impressions of Montana. One can easily visualize this geography in the section titled Montana In My Blood, and “Sleepy Highway” perfectly illustrates this.

“This Montana day,
this long road
is lined with
thoughts of chickens,
truckloads of hay
and winter wheat
sleeping in brown dirt,
it smells like sage
and a thousand pieces
of my past . . . .”

The section titled “Letting Go” is a perfect example of objective soul searching, intensely personal evaluations, meditations on what it is to be human. The expression of self, composed for the self, offers the opportunity for reflection, consideration, and closure. Lines from “Remembering to Forget” concisely illustrate what a talented writer can do when given the opportunity for self-evaluation.

“I dig into my heart
to squeeze the feelings out,
in amazement at my life,
allow my soul to embrace
and maybe to love
the gentle pain of past losses,
to acknowledge my present life,
and all its goodness . . . .”

Part of the “Prologue” to this volume encapsulates what a reviewer can be at a loss to say. Would that others take a lesson from this highly recommended work, looking within themselves to discover who they really are.

“Life spits out a silent little girl who watches the world, a beleaguered teen into the mean streets and a married woman out the door of life as a divorcee. She is finding her way.”


Robert Kostuck is the guest editor for the February 2020 online issue of DoveTales. The theme is “Gardens in the Desert: Cultivating Awareness.” Broadly interpreted, this theme can encompass — Emotional, psychic, intellectual, physical, or social growth.

— The myriad ways we plant, nurture, harvest, or reap.

— Real or metaphorical gardens as destinations, refuges, nexus points of transformation, or starting points.

— Relationships real or imagined: the arid and/or seemingly empty places in interpersonal connections. The spaces in-between. Memory gaps, the gaps between intention and action, the passage of time forgotten. Empty pages, deleted hard drives, houses emptied of possessions, minds cleared of thoughts and desires.

— Bringing life to actual deserts, urban deserts, arctic deserts, lives that are deserts, relationships that are deserts, deserts of the past or future.

— Awareness = seeking, cultivating, residing in, exemplifying.

Submission window open through November 01, 2019. Submissions of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, interviews, art, and photography are all welcome.

 

Copyright © 2019 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Writing for Peace News, August 5th, 2019

Writing for Peace News

DoveTales Online

DoveTales Online, One World, One People went live on August 1st. Find work from our panel of advisers, emerging, and award-winning writers and artists, as well as the winning stories, poems and essays from our 2019 Young Writers Contest. Stats confirm we’re reaching a much broader audience online. We’re also sharing DoveTales pieces on our Facebook page, so keep and eye out for them!

Now Reading for February Issue of DoveTales Online

The reading period for our next DoveTales Online, Guest Edited by Writing for Peace Adviser, Robert Kostuck is now open. He has themed our February issue, “Gardens in the Desert: Cultivating Awareness.”

In a world where mass shootings have become commonplace, where  politicians and their supporters revel in violent and divisive rhetoric, where television sets and the internet spew hate-filled propaganda, awareness can seem like an oasis in the desert. How will we cultivate gardens of empathy, compassion, and common sense in these barren deserts?

2019 Writing for Peace Online Youth Summit

Now accepting submissions for the Youth Summit here.

Theme: Day By Day, Hand in Hand: Seeing & Creating Peace in Daily Action

This year’s summit will focus on the power of individual, community,  and grassroots activism, exploring what we as individuals can do in our day to day lives to work toward the peace we all desire and deserve.

Join young artists, writers, and activists from around the world in conversation about the matters you care about in this online gathering. Our keynotes, young people making significant change in the world, and submitted creative work from participants, invite open and caring conversations about peace and activism in our troubled times.

Young Writers Contest

Our 2020 Young Writers Contest will begin accepting entries on September 1st. We invite teachers to make our contest a part of your regular writing curriculum. Contact us at editor@writingforpeace.org.

Now accepting applications to our Panel of Advisers

Among our panel members are poets, novelists, memoirists, and essayists – artists who have achieved a level of personal integrity in their work that inspires each of us to search for our own truth. Some panel members inspire us through their life choices, perhaps recognizing a calling toward peace after they were already well established in other careers. They show us that it is never too late to find personal fulfillment in working toward a greater good.

Advisers will be asked to contribute periodically to our blog and DoveTales Online Journal, and help with the local promotion of Writing for Peace events, publications, and readings.

Please send resumes and letters of intent to editor@writingforpeace.org.


Keep the faith and keep on writing!

Poetry       Fiction       Nonfiction       Art & Photography       Young Writers    About DoveTales      Submissions    

Copyright © 2019 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

DoveTales Reading Period Open

The DoveTales Online reading period will open on August 1st, 2019, and close on November 1st, 2019. This, the second issue of our online journal will be published on February 1st, 2020. Our guest editor is Writing for Peace Adviser Robert Kostuck. He has chosen the theme of “Gardens in the Desert: Cultivating Awareness.”  Check our Guidelines for further information.

DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts is an extension of our mission to promote writing that explores the many aspects of peace.  Our goal is to expose young writers to a diverse collection of thoughtful works by our advisers, established, and emerging writers.

DoveTales includes art and photography, as well as poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, occasionally including interviews with writers and individuals working to promote peace through environmental, human rights, and  social justice activism.

Pilgrim’s Progress, by Robert Kostuck (Part 2)

Butterfly, The Pilgrim's Progress, By Robert Kostuck

The Pilgrim’s Progress

(Part Two of Two)

By Robert Kostuck

Sunday, January 28th, 1945

Now we have rumors of surrender, spoken in hushed voices. What will happen? The Russians will turn to our nation of islands built on the cracked spine of the Pacific Ocean. Depredations continue. We wash linen and clothing without soap, in cold water. Two days ago some rice was delivered, heaven-sent. Unlike my village here the men still go out to fish. Part of their catch is donated to the hospital, also heaven-sent. Mostly there is dashi with fish and greens, also some rather dried-up roots. Someone brought us a large basket—almost 90 kilos!—of last year’s sweet potatoes. Flavor and fiber. Shizuko tells stories of growing up in poverty on a farm. She is eighty-one years old, strong as an ox and missing two fingertips on her left hand.

“Ten years old,” she says. “An argument between me and a knife for cleaning fish. The knife won! Clean living, young woman. Rice wine and plenty of vegetables. Makes one strong and long-lived. Your Buddhist grandmother was right. Too much meat makes the body weak. You have doubt? Look at me!”

I tell her about my tuberculosis, how disease comes with indiscretion to any and all. Always there is weakness and lassitude, other times I cough so much I think it will be my last breath. Because of my illness, I am segregated from the rest of the ‘staff,’ and most definitely from the patients. My volunteer work is limited to laundry and gathering firewood for cooking. There is a park near the city center, once beautiful with decorative cherry and peach trees. Unhindered, each week we go there with the cart and the old men and the young girls cut down the trees. Everything is burned for cooking fires and the wet, green wood smolders and fumes and blows sparks upward to heaven. I want to go on my knees and pray at this perverse cooking fire shrine, bow and make obeisance like Obāsan in front of her Buddhist altar.

*

Thursday, February 1st, 1945

I’ve temporarily stopped working on the novel.

It is becoming difficult and somewhat pointless to continue keeping a journal. I discovered a ream of typewriter paper in one of the abandoned administrative offices here at the hospital. I made a brush from a thin bamboo and my own hair. Ink? That must be the office worker’s India ink that comes in a bottle. I pour a bit in a dish and pretend I have ground a black stick into the sumi stone. Mind you, all pretend. The ink is inferior for anything but practice. My calligraphy takes on a dream-like quality, one day elaborately cursive, next day crude as a child’s first attempts. And that is just my handwriting.

My sister writes:

Yuriko-chan, we miss you and pray for you. Your illness is such that no one will prevent you from leaving the hospital. Here is food, comfort, and the love of family. How can you expect to get well living in a place filled with the sick and dying? Please, Sister, listen. Come home.

*

Sunday, March 25th, 1945

Spring. Patients sun themselves. I am one of them. The wind from the sea and the scents of new life. It seems everyone except me knows how to plant a garden. Seeds for cabbage, onions, and daikon; more donations. Shizuko oversees all, orders the volunteer nurses here and there. The girls obey. Measuring out the space for the rows in the lawns behind the hospital. Grinding up the beautiful lawns and tossing out the white boulders of an unkempt decorative rock garden. In the distance a child’s loud and happy voice shouting, “Ma! Come look!”

“We won’t grow rocks,” says Shizuko. “Better to grow melons and radishes and cucumbers. You came to the right place to be sick. Too bad there’s no medicine.”

She eats less and grows stronger. I eat less and grow weaker.

I sit on a bench in the sun. Sometimes I fall asleep. Messengers and medics arrive in trucks belching smoke and deliver official documents and angry wounded soldiers. So many important papers, so many men. Mail deliveries are sporadic. If my Kuri still writes I have no way of knowing. In my mind I continue to compose the new story. I think it will be my final novel. After this I will retire to my childhood home at the age of forty-two and spend my spinster days writing poetry and feeding my sister’s chickens. If I get better. When I get better.

The new book is equal parts fantasy and autobiography. In fact as I have it now it begins and ends with autobiography. Paragraphs, sentences, entire chapters form, dissolve, and reform in my imagination. Beginning and ending = memories of my own childhood. I never cut my finger with a knife. We had a servant who helped in the kitchen. I see now that my cherished memories were made possible by the labor of others. I was a spoiled child and I became a spoiled woman. The parties, the drinking, the public scenes. We build our lives around fantasy. In the end I am left taking orders from an eighty year-old woman, left eating roots and weeds.

Today I stood at the side of the road as a convoy passed from somewhere to somewhere. Not one soldier saw me, not one turned to look. So now I am invisible, turned into a pattern of leaves and shadows of leaves, turned into smooth river rocks and silky red fox fur. Invisible.

*

Tuesday March 27th, 1945

I drift. Somehow I have run aground in an abandoned fishing village. From the signs everyone left quite suddenly. Nets rot in the boats, gulls pick listlessly at offal on the wet sand. A bicycle leaning on the single automobile, the hood of the vehicle still warm. Smoke curls from the finest house: a western-style stove warm with embers; a pot of broth hastily removed and set to the side. Watery fish broth: I eat until I am full. Back on the beach I find a beautiful seashell, large as my head. When we were children we held shells to our ears, told each other: You can hear the ocean.

I sit on the bench and watch Shizuko guide other hands in the garden. And now sick, coughing Yuriko has been conscripted! My pages of calligraphy discovered! I am pressed to the honorable task of writing letters for the unschooled soldiers. They say tuberculosis is catching but the men crowd around me. Dear Keiko-chan. Fumiko, mother dearest. Brother, I hope this letter finds you well. Secrets and fears, anxiety and anger, sadness and yes, sometimes love. One insists I write to his former employer: You bastard! Where are my back wages!? I never realized the importance of writing for those who cannot read or write. The stories and desires are warring with the plot of my novel. Who will win? The finger or the knife? I will call it unasked-for research notes. Already new stories fill my thoughts, overflow, pool around my heart like moonlight on still water.

*

Monday, April 2nd, 1945

Letters are gathered. I fold the pages into envelopes, write out the addresses. We put the letters in a bag and give them to a surprised military messenger on the way to Kyoto or Tokyo—he’s not sure. Of this I am certain: the letters will never be delivered. The soldiers remain steadfast in their devotion to the Emperor. For them there is no disruption of daily life—this in the face of food shortages!

The worst days are when my appetite returns and there is nothing to eat.

*

Saturday, April 14th, 1945

Shizuko’s garden is lush with tiny green shoots. I’m a small-town girl who forgot her roots in the city. The garden amazes me. I am beginning the second batch of letters but these are now more ‘thinking out loud’ than notices of day-to-day happenings. My novel—all jumbled in my mind now—soldiers and nurses telling stories, prophecies soon to be fulfilled, dreams for the future. They ask about my life as a famous writer. I tell them if they never heard of me then I’m not so very famous. I embellish anecdotes from a not very wild past. Some wildness. That good-looking actor with the dark eyes and quick laugh, for example. Crazy about me, followed me everywhere for months, told me he would die without me. I don’t have to embellish that.

*

Monday, April 23rd, 1945

Today we sent out another sack of letters. Where will they go?

*

Saturday, May 19th, 1945

Today is my birthday. Unlike most women I am not ashamed to tell my age. Today I am forty-three years old. Shizuko clucks her tongue.

“You look older than me,” she says.

I tell her: “I am sick and dying. Disease, unfathomable, directed by a mysterious and probably uncaring god. Besides, you were raised on rice wine and vegetables. Me? I ate too much meat and drank too much Irish whiskey and Russian vodka. And the men! Tempting me, leading me astray!”

We laugh at that.

She holds up her amputated fingers. “We both lived the life we wanted.”

“Yes,” I say, “the life I wanted. Now I am a respectable public scribe composing confessions, testimonials, and love letters for free. If only they could see me now.”

I think: This is the life I was meant to live.

*

Sunday, July 29th, 1945

Who will read this? I lost my appetite. My breathing became so shallow. I thought I was dying. I think I am dying. The girls put me in a tiny hut away from the hospital. They cleaned it out and called it a cottage but it smells of rotted plants and gasoline. A disused storage shed. Each day Shizuko comes in the morning with tea and broth. Unable to stand and use the clay pot in the corner of the room I soil myself in the night. She cleans me. The other volunteers check on me during the day. Outside someone burns incense. A moaning prayer rising and falling in pitch. I have to ask: What day is this? It is Sunday, July twenty-ninth. Why do you need to know? You see, I tell them, I am keeping a journal. I am making notes for my next novel. I am composing—creating—recording—remembering—

*

Tuesday, July 31st, 1945

I can breathe again. The air is hot and dry. There is less food. Wild mushrooms and bits of strange fish in the dashi. What would a sweet potato taste like? Fresh bamboo shoots?

One of the girls brings me a dish with radishes, cucumbers and salt! From Shizuko’s wonderful garden. We are growing our own food. While I was isolated all of the soldiers were evacuated to Tokyo and Yokohama Bay. Now it is just the volunteers and no one to serve.

*

Friday, August 3rd, 1945

Today is the Day of the Ox, hottest day of the year. Shizuko brings back eels from the fishermen and roasts them on an open fire near the garden. As per tradition of course they are expected to keep us cool on this hottest day and provide us with strength for the rest of the year. Much work for a tiny eel! For some reason I am the first served. Everyone watches me eat and swallow. Day of the Ox. Now there’s a folktale I never thought to re-write.

I seem to have misplaced my notes for The Shell God.

*

Sunday, August 5th, 1945

I feel stronger. Does tuberculosis completely leave the body? Obāsan was a spiritual woman. Maybe I can still be like her. I resolve to change my ways.

*

Monday, August 6th, 1945

Today I woke before sunrise. Everyone else is still asleep. The hospital silent and empty. Shizuko was correct about today’s weather—country folk have a secret sense about nature. Clear skies and a breeze from inland. The odors of outdoor fires, of earth giving up summer. Premonitions of autumn. My heart is calm. I think the rest of the year will be calm also. I feel stronger. Maybe I will yet return to Hashikami—my very idealized fishing village. I’ll end my days filling volumes of thin rice paper with poetry, scattering grain for my sister’s chickens and ducks. After all this sickness and traveling—to return. To stay.

To remain.

[THE END]

[The Pilgrim’s Progress was originally published in Roanoke Review, fall, 2013, Vol. 38.]

 

About Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace Adviser

Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace AdviserRobert Kostuck is an M.Ed. graduate from Northern Arizona University. Recently published fiction and essays appear in many American and Canadian literary journals. He is currently working on short stories, essays, and a novel; his short story collection is seeking a publisher. Learn more about Robert Kostuck and his work here.

 

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Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserCommunities Standing Up

“This week we are inspired by the communities that are standing up to police abuse and by the students in Mexico and Hong Kong who are placing themselves at risk in order to fight for their rights.”

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

Writing for Peace Granted 501 (c) 3 Federal Nonprofit Status

What does 501(c)3 status mean for Writing for Peace? Well, some things will not change; our administration will continue to be board operated and volunteer based. That means 100% of contributions go directly towards the considerable costs of publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We are grateful for the support of generous donors and the Colgate University Research Council.

Here’s what will change: Your donations can now be deducted from your Federal income tax! For those who chose to support us before that was the case, we are deeply moved by your belief in us, and we are so happy to finally be able to say your contribution is a deduction. For your records, our Federal Tax ID Number is 45-2968027.

If you’re a believer in Writing for Peace, we hope you’ll consider donating to support a simple mission with a profound affect on the lives of our young writers. You can make your contributions here.

As Jordan Dalton (16), put it:

Jordan Dalton, 2013 Fiction, First Place“Since writing my entry for Writing for Peace, I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world. Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired. We all have the ability to create, and create in the name of beauty and change. I can only hope one day to spend my life doing just that.”

 

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestCheck out our 2015 Young Writers Contest! Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

 

Your Library Isn’t Complete Without DoveTales!

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The “Contrast” edition includes the beautiful black and white photography from Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

 

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Pilgrim’s Progress, by Robert Kostuck (Part 1)

Butterfly, The Pilgrim's Progress, By Robert Kostuck

The Pilgrim’s Progress

(Part One of Two)

By Robert Kostuck

 

Thursday, July 6th, 1944

The Emperor’s decree: all civilians who commit suicide before the arrival of American troops on Saipan will be assured equal spiritual grace in the afterlife, same as soldiers who die in combat.

*

Friday, July 14th, 1944

Thousands of men and women—NOT soldiers—took their own lives. Thousands. One era ends but nothing supersedes what has gone before.

*

Sunday, November 26th, 1944

I thought to keep a journal but everything is moving too fast. War, food; dying, food; family, food. It comes down to having something to eat. Can’t write with an empty belly. Time to leave the city—all ‘loose ends’ will be left unresolved. Where will I be welcome? There is really no future for us—for our country. Everything is changed.

Today I look to nature for my writing inspiration. A butterfly, still alive in the midst of autumn. I watch it—glistening and at the same time a bit shabby. A warm day, the door to the hospital kitchen open to the grounds, and this yellow and orange butterfly on the bush near the door. I sit on the step and I am inspired—until I realize the insect is dead. Touch it—it flutters to the ground, brittle, broken. I am like these butterfly wings—wanting to fly but no longer of this world. I told my sister Kuri everything. She begs me to come home and stay there. I will return when I have decided who I am. Who will read this?

*

For future generations: I am Yuriko Suzuki, the well-known author. I was born in 1902 in Hashikami on the northeast coast of Honshu, some miles south of the city. I had an excellent education for a girl, considering the cultural expectations for women in Japan at the turn of the century. Part of my education came from six years attendance at the Catholic Missionary school in Hachinohe. Both of my parents converted to Catholicism before my birth and the Catholic faith is something I will reject and embrace for the rest of my life. I have one older sister, Kuri, with whom I maintain an intimate and intense relationship.

The early years of my career began with a prolific output of short stories. Subsequent success and popularity owe much to the traditional subject matter of this early work. For example, “Shitakiri Suzume” (The Tongue-Cut Sparrow) is a traditional folk tale updated to reflect contemporary society. My modern version seems traditional—up to a point. There is nothing to indicate the time period or place, until the old man in my version of the story takes the smaller basket from the sparrow and brings it home to his greedy wife. In a traditional telling, the basket turns out to be filled with gold, silver, diamonds, rubies, coral, and coins. It is precisely at this point in the story that I introduced my twist on this traditional tale. “The basket was full of treasures—a razor with steel blades, dresses of the newest American fashion, leather shoes, a pearl necklace, lottery tickets, chewing gum, English cigarettes, and a black and silver camera.”

I love quoting myself. Like the American Nathaniel Hawthorne my “twice-told tales” had a built in audience since one would be hard pressed to find a Japanese reader who lacked knowledge of these folktales. At the same time, a gentle humor, picaresque characterizations, and social satire were the very elements that led to my success as a novelist.

In the early 1930s I gained a degree of notoriety due to my involvement as one of the cosmopolitan members of the literary and artistic avant-garde of Tokyo. In 1934, two decisive things occurred in my life. My first novel, Chrysanthemum was published; and I was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After that I wrote in a frenzy. My published writing after 1934 consisted of no less than an average of two novels each year for the next six years. One critic favorably compared Season of the Cranes to the English author Jane Austin, “—because of Miss Suzuki’s formal and mannered approach to delineating adult relationships in a socially stratified society.” I quote from the newspaper and magazines clippings my sister has saved in a large photograph album. Myself, early on I learned to feign indifference to fame and fortune. It does one no good to expose one’s desires, even to so-called friends.

I differed from my peers in the use of the romance novel (everyone wants to experience love!) as an expressive vehicle and by the obvious fact of my being a woman. While authors such as Tatsuzō Ishikawa, Ashihei Hino, and Shirō Ozaki had a decided influence on my work, Catholicism and the folktale tradition also had a great effect on her view of the human condition.

In 1941 war deprivations in society finally caught up to the publishing industry, severely curtailing the publication of new work not related to the war effort. That year I took an assistant editor job with the Tokyo magazine Chūōkōron. Contributions were limited to occasional articles and essays on games, cooking, history, and anonymous book and film reviews. None of my journalistic work was even remotely political in nature except for “My Childhood,” a series of essays that sharply contrasted an idealized national past with an uncertain national future. I wrote these essays during the winter of 1942-43. After that I felt I had nothing left to say. War controls destinies. I was no exception. I left Tokyo for the small fishing village of my youth. For ten months I lived a withdrawn life, solitary and self-contained. I questioned my actions in this life. I wondered, and constantly doubted, whether or not I had done anything worthwhile.

In November of 1943 I relocated to Hiroshima.

For one year I have worked as a volunteer in the military hospital. Days I attend to injured soldiers, nights are spent revising the notes for my new novel, The Shell God. It is decidedly a roman á clef, quite the opposite of my previous belles lettres. Realism, not romantic fantasy. There is too much of life and death here in the hospital for me to imagine anything else. I will tell the soldier’s story. He is Everyman, and in his limitless wandering he makes solid our nation’s torn and dying soul. His name is Ando; the woman he loves, Matsuko. Like the traveler of old he will make a pilgrimage through the rural world of the past.

The hospital is filled to the roof with fear. Fear smells like pus and hydrogen peroxide, night soil and ether. Days the men spend bragging. Nights are for nightmares and screams. The volunteers—me and the other women and girls—have sleeping quarters in the same building. Quiet only comes before dawn. In the past year three men have committed suicide. Two with knives, one jumped from a window on the third floor. That one broke his spine and did not die for two and a half days. There is immense difficulty in feeling sympathy for the injured and frightened soldiers who take their own lives. Yet some days I pity them enormously. Some days I envy them.

My own health deteriorates.

*

Saturday, December 9th, 1944

The village sits close to the sea. Pine trees spread down the slopes and line the streets, almost reaching the beach. On foggy days, the village and huge pines vanish in the mist. On these days I wander the enclosed beach, hearing only the splash of unseen waves, and the muted sound of my own footsteps in the wet sand.

The pines are dull aches in the fog. With effort I recall sentinel duty, passwords, and sharp voices. Slow my pace as memories seek and find me; then walk on firmly, resolute with even steps, pacing like an acolyte. My boots scrape the sand. Waves scratch the shore. I think it is home. It might be anywhere.

*

Monday, December 25th, 1944

Today is the Christian holiday of the birth of Jesus Christ. Rumor has it that there will be no attacks or bombing nationwide. The Americans take a day of rest. Our only doctor has been called to another hospital. He left today, hoping for an uninterrupted train journey. We wish him a safe trip. It is almost impossible to keep the sheets and bandages clean without soap. One of the older women, Shizuko, ordered two of us to bring heavy flat stones from the river. We hauled them in a cart. She put the stones in the bottom of the basins and showed us how to rub and clean the fabric on a rock, like long ago.

My sister Kuri writes:

Yuriko-chan, forgive me. I was not able to hide your fine city clothes. Our house was searched and all available clothing was taken. What would the army want with fashionable western dresses? Mother dear was heartbroken. The fishing boats lie in disrepair. The men stopped going out soon after you left for Hiroshima. They say there are demons and ningyu in the water. Superstition, but who can blame them? The men spend all day in the forest digging bamboo shoots and trapping songbirds.       

We had to kill the goat and now all that is left are a few chickens and ducks. We all soon will be vegetarians like Obāsan!—you know how she was confirmed Buddhist all through her life. I often wonder how mother and father ever converted to the faith Catholic. Although I know you are helping the war effort I miss you and I wish you would return. Love, your sister, Kuri.

My own physical pain from the complications of the tuberculosis is exacerbated by these hospital experiences. Perhaps by sublimating personal experience within fiction I will finally be able to have something to say, will be able to say it well.

*

Tuesday, January 2nd, 1945

I sleep in my clothes. No fuel for any type of heat. Coal, oil, gasoline—all gone. Wood is for cooking and sterilizing medical instruments. One young man, a boy really, a city boy with a Kyoto accent. His left leg was amputated one week ago just below the knee. Now gangrene sets in. His body flames with fever and the air in the ward so cold you can see your breath at noon. Burning and freezing at the same time. And moldy rice. Moldy rice! Me, who used to stay up until dawn at wild parties. Writers, artists, actors. The endless tables of food—the saki, beer, and gin and tonics. Now I am happy to share roots and weeds with my fellow volunteers. Kuri-chan, when did we ever go hungry?

*

(To be continued next Monday…)

[The Pilgrim’s Progress was originally published in Roanoke Review, fall, 2013, Vol. 38.]

 

About Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace Adviser

Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace AdviserRobert Kostuck is an M.Ed. graduate from Northern Arizona University. Recently published fiction and essays appear in many American and Canadian literary journals. He is currently working on short stories, essays, and a novel; his short story collection is seeking a publisher. Learn more about Robert Kostuck and his work here.

 

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Writing for Peace Granted 501 (c) 3 Federal Nonprofit Status

What does 501(c)3 status mean for Writing for Peace? Well, some things will not change; our administration will continue to be board operated and volunteer based. That means 100% of contributions go directly towards the considerable costs of publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We are grateful for the support of generous donors and the Colgate University Research Council.

Here’s what will change: Your donations can now be deducted from your Federal income tax! For those who chose to support us before that was the case, we are deeply moved by your belief in us, and we are so happy to finally be able to say your contribution is a deduction. For your records, our Federal Tax ID Number is 45-2968027.

If you’re a believer in Writing for Peace, we hope you’ll consider donating to support a simple mission with a profound affect on the lives of our young writers. You can make your contributions here.

As Jordan Dalton (16), put it:

Jordan Dalton, 2013 Fiction, First Place“Since writing my entry for Writing for Peace, I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world. Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired. We all have the ability to create, and create in the name of beauty and change. I can only hope one day to spend my life doing just that.”

 

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserA Declaration of Principles and Action for a New World

“We will combat the toxic forces on which domination and tyranny variously rely, such as the patriarchy, hegemony, colonialism, and racism that exist within external oppressors, and even within our own movements at times.”

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestCheck out our 2015 Young Writers Contest! Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

Your Library Isn’t Complete Without DoveTales!

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The “Contrast” edition includes the beautiful black and white photography from Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Gentle Strength, by Robert Kostuck

Writing for Peace is excited to introduce three wonderful new members of our advisory panel: Robert Kostuck, Djelloul Marbrook, and Patricia Jabbeh Wesley. Each of our new advisers has achieved an inspiring level of personal integrity in their work, and dedicated their writing toward the advancement of truth, justice, and peace.

In this first of three introductory posts, meet Writing for Peace Adviser, Robert Kostuck.

Gentle Strength

Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace Adviser“Becoming a member of Writing for Peace will put me in closer contact with like-minded individuals who promote compassion through communication. I believe that we serve by example in our daily lives; that writing can be a record of our service and examples and go beyond the moment/s of our inspiration.

“On a personal level, I believe that when gender parity is achieved in all human cultures, we will begin to address all of our world’s ‘problems,’ i.e., starvation, disease, lack of medical care, religious-based conflicts, economic disparity, and so on. Through my writing I try to create tiny worlds where girls and women go from being victims to becoming survivors; and thereby achieve a type of parity. Creating characters who draw on their strengths and wisdom and, hopefully, inspire readers to do the same.”

~Robert Kostuck

Robert Kostuck is an M.Ed. graduate from Northern Arizona University. Recently published fiction, essays, and reviews appear or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, The Southwest Review, Kenyon Review Online, Louisiana Literature, Tiferet, Alimentum, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Crab Creek Review, So To Speak, Flyway, Silk Road, Zone 3, EVENT, and Saint Ann’s Review, Roanoke Review, Concho River Review, Clackamas Literary Review, and Concho River Review. He is currently working on short stories, essays, weavings, a novel; and the primary series of Aṣṭāṅga Yoga. His short story collection is seeking a publisher. He lives near an ocean; his heart belongs to the Chihuahua and Sonora deserts.

Learn more about Robert’s work here.

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Writing for Peace News

Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf
Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now The United Nations Has Failed To Act

by Writing for Peace Adviser Margaret Flowers, and Kevin Zeese

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserThe recent report by the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 national Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. It’s affects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed. Read the article here.

 DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Young Writers Contest Now Open!

2015 Young Writers Contest JudgesOur Young Writers Contest is now open! To date, Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our wonderful panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

he recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed. – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf
Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act

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The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed.

– See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

2014 DoveTales “Contrast” Edition Released

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed. – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” edition, is now available for purchase. The 2014 issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

My Mother’s Funeral, A Review by Robert Kostuck

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserMY MOTHER’S FUNERAL

by Adriana Páramo

CavanKerry Press, 2013, 258 pp., $21.00, ISBN 1-933880-39-2

A Review, by Robert Kostuck

In My Mother’s Funeral, Adriana Páramo slips between her mother Carmen’s life before children, her own childhood memories, and the present—wake, funeral, cremation. Woven into these personal experiences is an omnipresent Columbia: the open spaces of Mariquita, the squalid poverty of Medellín and Bogotá, rival drug gangs, politics, Catholicism, the Communist Party revisited.

Objectivity is difficult to achieve in a book-length essay; Ms. Páramo, however, succeeds admirably—she gently and firmly pieces together the tapestry of the mother and daughter relationship; readers will find common themes presented in even-handed and sometimes startling prose. Her writing is educational without being didactic; emotional without being sentimental.

Politics in Colombia were harsh in the 1950s. Her rarely-seen father, ‘Mr. B’, a cachiporro (liberal), seduces the innocent Carmen, and after the wedding rushes her away from her home—a few hours ahead of the godos (conservatives). First night together is spent in a whorehouse; for the remainder of the marriage Mr. B comes and goes as he pleases, impregnating Carmen and then vanishing for months or years at a time. At one point her sister Dalila acquires a partially-decomposed adult male human skeleton—courtesy of a ‘snatcher’, recommended by the nuns—and together sister and mother boil and clean the bones. Assembled, Dalila receives her coveted A+ in anatomy and the unnamed skeleton literally hangs around the house, a possible replacement for the missing Mr. B.

The baby of the family, Adriana curls up with her mother in the kitchen or in bed, listening to the stories of the world filtered through a tabletop radio: sports, agony aunties, soap operas, tangos, boleros; Carmen singing along with the radio, Adriana, watching her mother “morph into a woman”.

“Tal vez mañana puedas comprender / Que siempre fui sincera / Tal vez por alguien llegues a saber / Que todavia te quiero. Maybe later you might understand / That I was always sincere / Perhaps someone will help you see / That I still love you.”

Childhood for Adriana, is a combination of head-long curiosity and goofy naiveté. Carmen, and to a lesser extent, her sisters, guide and guard the young Adriana. Memory is selective; what Adriana shows us is how this mother shapes her daughters: strict, efficient, economical—she maintains a poor but tidy home and life for her children. Lessons by word or example are rarely repeated; they become the very fibers of her daughter’s body and personality. Toward the end of the memoir, Adriana writes,

“Our financial situation started to improve when we moved to Medellín, and Dalila, Amanda, and Ligia got secretarial jobs that required them to wear nylons, high heels, and modest suits. Eventually they began going back to school at night, but they never stopped working, never stopped rescuing Mom and their two younger sisters from the constant panic of uncertainty. I owe everything I am to the women in my family—to my sisters and Mom. Nobody else.”

This is the heart of the memoir: what a daughter learns from her mother: how to be a girl, how to become a woman; and when that mother begins to fade from autumn into winter, how to become her mother. When Carmen, beset by Alzheimer’s, visits Adriana the wife and mother at her new home in Alaska, she relates a story about her pregnancy with Adriana so at odds with the life lessons she’d imparted over the years that her daughter feels an urge to “. . . jump into the lake and sink slowly into its frigid waters.” The fantastic and heartbreaking revelation adds another thin, sharp layer to this complex mother and daughter relationship.

Returning to Colombia in torn jeans and a gypsy blouse, Adriana arrives at the wake, faces somber and seemingly more mature sisters and a brother. Funerals are holidays for the dead, a time when far-flung family reunite and wonder aloud what went right and what went wrong. Her sisters and brother are emotional but methodical—Adriana feels like the only one with an incomparable loss—the woman who as a child promised her mother that she would always remain her little girl. A few days stretches into a painful eternity, and when the siblings return home to divide Carmen’s possessions, Adriana is nostalgic, then practical:

“I imagine landing in Miami, trying to make it through customs with a fern, a plastic chair, a flyswatter, a river stone, and a broom, and I have to laugh at my childishness. I discard my mental list. Instead I take a pair of earrings that belonged to my grandmother, (. . .) a photo of the six women—my four sisters, Mom, and me—that my brother took the day I left Colombia; the locket with a photo of my daughter that Mom wore around her neck like an amulet. I also seize the printout of Mom’s last EKG, taken two days ago.

“(. . .) I don’t know this yet but in six years I will look at this EKG and realize that the ink is fading away and with it the only existing traces of Mom’s heartbeat. I’ll have it tattooed around my left bicep, much to my family’s dismay, so that her heartbeat and mine will always be together.”

My Mother’s Funeral is the literal translation of that EKG tattoo, spanning decades, continents, and lives; a heartbeat that remains long after we scan the final page and move on into the days to come.

Robert Kostuck, Writing For Peace Guest WriterRobert Kostuck graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Masters in Education. His published work appears in the Kenyon Review, Concho River Review, Zone 3, Tiferet: Literature, Art, and the Creative Spirit, Silk Road, and others.

Writing for Peace News

Onward Into 2014!

Last year brought growth and many exciting firsts for Writing For Peace. Here’s a brief overview of 2013:

In 2013 our Advisers continued to demonstrate a commitment to peace and the power of writing through their work, their inspirational blog posts, brilliant ideas such as Mary Carroll-Hackett’s educational Facebook page for young writers, MCH-What’s Going On? and Pilar Rodriguez Aranda’s efforts to reach Spanish speaking young writers by translating our 2014 contest guidelines. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Sam Hamill‘s new and revised translated collection of Chinese poetry, Crossing the Yellow River is being published by Tiger’s Bark Press. His Selected Poems (not yet titled) will be published by Lost Horse Press in September 2014.
  • Lorraine Currelley was selected as an Artist-in-Residence for the 2014 Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC) and as a new member of the Pearls of Wisdom Storytellers. Her Poets Network & Exchange will publish their first poetry anthology in 2014.
  • Veronica Golos is working on a new book, Root Work: The Lost Writings of John Brown and Mary Day Brown. “Of course John Brown was a great abolitionist and so was his wife, Mary and she also had 13 children. I have Ghost Code poems and Runaway poems also in the book. This is a way to make history live again, to get inside it so to speak.”
  • Richard Krawiec supports a community of writers and activists through education and his ever expanding Jacar Press.
  •  Maija Rhee Devine spoke with young people in South Korea and the United States about her award-winning books, The Voices of Heaven and Long Walks on Short Days, her experiences as a young girl during the Korean War, and her work with Korean Comfort Women.
  • Dr. Margaret Flowers continues her peace and healthcare activism. She currently serves as Secretary of Health on the Green Shadow Cabinet. Her recent article, Major Social Transformation Is a Lot Closer Than You May Realize — How Do We Finish the Job?, is also co-written with Kevin Zeese, and published on AlterNet.
  • Adriana Paramo‘s new memoir, My Mother’s Funeral, explores the volatile relationship with her mother, and their love that defies cultural forces, Bogotá street violence, and Medellin drug lords.

This is just a sampling of the wonderful work all our advisers do. Please watch our blog for their posts, follow their work, and support the poets and authors whose writings and activism encourage a more thoughtful and peaceful world.

In 2014, we look forward to hearing from Board Member Andrea W. Doray, who recently returned from Nepal, and to continued growth – including the occasional review on our blog! On this first day of the New Year, we welcome guest writer, Robert Kostuck, who reviews Adriana Paramo’s memoir, My Mother’s Funeral.

Happy New Year, Writers for Peace! And thank you for your ongoing support!

 

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.