Monday, March 31, 2003
SOBER EYES SEE AS CLEARLY THE NEED FOR POETRY
posted by EILEEN |
I'm sick with a little cold. So I’m not sipping wine tonight. Which means, this post (along with yesterday’s) presents me in an unusual sober state. So, sober, I look about – and I’ma like: I’d better recover so I can start drinking again! WORLD – CAN YOU NOT HEAR THE PLANET ITSELF PLEADING: STOP IT! JUST STOP IT!
Madeline Tiger sends over some medicine with a report from a poetry workshop she recently led at an elementary school in Vaux Hall, Union, N.J. She was kind enough to share my poem “Insomnia’s Lullabye” with the kids, and Madeline “I Love Your Enthusiasm!” Tiger reports:
It’s been over a week since I had the lovely opportunity to use your materials in teaching. What a gift! What a treat and pleasure, in the process AND to witness the results. Sorry I haven’t reported sooner, but I slid from that school right into the next; from those fifth grades right into a series of seventh grades... and in the new situation there were far more kids with Spanish backgrounds (and a few Haitians, some German, some Hebrew, some Slavic languages, etc.) and none with Tagalog -- not even the Philippine kids, alas (the few who were in those classes). Of course I often see this phenomenon, probably many other visiting artists have too: when the children from any particular culture find themselves in a distinct minority, they get shy, unsure, and finally unwilling to refer to their own backgrounds and languages and cultures.
Oh it’s really sad: some don’t even want to use their original names, the beautiful names given them in their first languages. I’ve had this experience with kids at all levels; when I taught in college for a while (as an adjunct, in the 80's) I badgered one of the Haitian students and one girl from British Guyana to write from real experience, to find the pride, to use the language (the Guyanese language is English, but with a distinct dialectical style and a lovely music.) Those two did, and now they are in touch with me bearing the good news -- self-fulfillment, cultural pride. One is a marvelous poet and professor at a local college; watch for the name Gretna Wilkinson in poetry journals! And the Haitian woman is an anthropologist at Wesleyan U. (Connecticut). And these two people are among the many there must be out there, in the classrooms, in the cultural setting of this two-faced culture – reminds me how important it is to encourage students to USE their rich backgrounds. Language IS culture, and what they have ...what they can share... is so rich, so important for ALL of us.
With your own work, we gave each child a copy of the two pages of “Insomnia’s Lullabye.” I read it to them, they followed, some of them sort of reading aloud along with me. By this time (I think it was the 4th day of my residency, the last day, alas) they were accustomed to my methods and expectations. They’d already written well, memorized some short poems, shared with each other, and KNEW that poetry could be “strange” or “surreal” and that they could “receive” it NOT by ordinary understanding, but by imaginative thinking, and through the music, imagery, leaps it makes, etc.
Also, that poetry does not have to look like any special shape... that it can even appear in paragraph style (I love to free kids from the traditional notions about poetry, and ESPECIALLY to disabuse them of the rhyming dictum.) Well, we went over parts of the two pages, not even all of it -- I didn’t want to lose the kids in the density and sophistication of the language.
Then and then and then! I gave them 5 sequential prompts and asked them to write, briefly, about each; of course we discussed each one before I asked them to write:
1.) Stars -- their flavor ...
2.) Draw the word “Compassion” with a colored marker or crayon, in whatever color each kid chose for himself (we discussed the meaning of the word, first, and that was interesting in itself). They drew, with care! COMPASSION. Yummmmmm, I was feeling.
3.) “The echo of...”
4.) “The sky hides...”
5.) “I’m delighted by the sound of...” (after discussing your final image of the wind chime and the four poets...). What a wonderful “note” on which to end the writing session and the class and my residency!
What I want to tell you now, though, is how wonderful it was to have this material, and what pleasure you provided for about 50 children -- a pleasure and pride that, I hope, will lap over into a whole school population of 5th graders and their families. And what a rich experience you provided for me.
Oh, another little note: in several classrooms I’ve been using a Mei-Mei Bersenbrugge poem, so along the way I’ve been able to tell the students about “my friend” -- you, who read with Mei-Mei recently. I think it’s always good to bring the REALITY of the poets into the children’s lives, that they be more and more aware of poets as real, regular, meet-able people. Like the little lady standing before them! Who looks so much like a grandmother! (In fact, the school I’ve been in this week is the very school where 4 of my 5 children attended as little kids. What a time-eclipsing experience.)
Enough chatter for now. Thank you again for your timely help.
Quite quite obviously, I’m the one who should thank Madeline! Dear Madeline: from my first language called Ilokano, we sometimes offer gratitude by saying, “Dios Ti Agngina” which can be translated into English as “God will be the one to return the favor.” Dios Ti Agngina.
By the way, you can check out Madeline Tiger’s book Birds of Sorrow and Joy: New and Selected Poems 1970 - 2000 (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003) now available at SPD in Berkeley. When Madeline asked me to suggest a poem from Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole (see link), I was initially flummoxed as I wouldn’t have thought any of my poems to be applicable for elementary schoolchildren. I suggested “Insomnia’s Lullabye” because I thought it to be among the least oblique in the book. Madeline humbles me now by having challenged my preconceptions. In fact, that she also is able to teach a Mei-mei Berssenbrugge poem to children says something (delightful) about the so-called “difficulty” of some poetries.
Anyway, I’m off for an orange juice-sodden sleep. G’night Peeps, she says as she goes coughing into bed. I wish you all a safe, stable night:
I keep tearing off slips from the sky so I can peel off the stars like children's candy on wax paper. Tonight, the stars are flavored strawberry—sufficient to make me recall a birthday party that ended with real strawberries dipped into something white and gooey (though I can't recall: was the sauce vanilla ice cream, melted marshmallows or steamed milk?). Now, my fingers are stained with the sweet juice of a color associated with (com)passion and still—oh, still!—I tear slips from the sky.
I have wondered what the sky hides. I now tell you that the sky camouflages the destiny of forgotten memories. The last piece of torn sky, for one, revealed the pursed lips of a tall man to whom I once whispered, "I hear your voice all the time and it's been years since you've said anything new to me."
Tear the sky and you discover it bleeds as you once bled when I shook your hands from my shoulders as you attempted to console me. What I didn't concede then was that I was bleeding, too, as I felt the weight of your touch evaporate into the dusk graying the light. None were consoled when I added, "This isn't happening. This, too, shall be cloaked by a dispassionate sky."
Have I even mentioned yet the frigorific blast of wind blowing across the midnight-purple surface of the lake?
I tear off another strip and realize, soon, I shall sleep. For I have achieved what I did not know was my goal when my hands started clawing at night's ceiling. I have brought back the memory of three friends who reminded me that flowers bear their own names. Poets know that naming is identity-making. As the trio of happy faces fall from their atmospheric cubicles to which they were consigned by my amnesia, my eyelids begin to droop.
Tonight, the stars circle my pusod like a miniature Milky Way. Tonight, I remember and recover Michelle, Barbara and Joey feeding me balut, sinigang soup, white rice and longanisa. Afterwards, I won't even faint from scouring a huge pot so that I can join in their banter. All this was foretold centuries ago by a haruspex but since he remains quivering now behind the night sky, I had to experience and cure insomnia to remember how moonlight on Fifth Street silvered everything it touched—
like the wind chime and the four poets it delighted with its song.
Pusod = navel
Balut = a delicacy of boiled duck embryo egg
Sinigang = soup of fish and tamarind
Longanisa = sausage
Sunday, March 30, 2003
THE LONELY BABAYLAN
posted by EILEEN |
The tradition of women's writing in the Philippines can be traced back to the pre-hispanic era of the archipelago when, in certain communities, priestess-poets called Babaylan (Bisayan) ...held sway in the spiritual and ritualistic lives of the people. These women provided healing, wisdom and direction for the inhabitants of their barangays (towns) with morality stories, myths, poems, prayers, and chants.
--Nick Carbo, co-editor of BABAYLAN (http://www.auntlute.com/babaylan.htm)
Her staff is broken. She spent the weekend unpacking art works that had been in storage for the past four years. She unearthed a sculpture of a Babaylan. The long-armed priestess is cradling a baby named "Poet." Her hair, like her skirt, is a wooden wave. The baby is safe -- smiling though his eyes are closed. (Gura -- the eyes are closed!) But her eyes! O, the Babaylan's eyes are open and -- due to the deft magic of the woman sculptor (whose name she naturally has forgotten) -- she sees forward as well as backward. O wise artist who, by sculpting a profile, caused the eyes to look where she is going as well as where she has been.
Where she's been is a path that broke her staff. "Which is to say,"
...her most recent performance act as a poet had been to facilitate the rebirth of another poet. That poet contacted her today to say that a journal has accepted more of his new poems; it's not the first time that he has received such a welcome during the past few months. She knows publication is not the point to poetry, but she is happy to see him receive proof that, yes, others can love his words. She can feel him smiling (shyly smiling, but smiling). She can feel his incredulity that this is all happening for him: that he has begun writing poems again (after so many years of silence!), and that the world is actually receptive to them!
Her staff is broken. The staff she'd so often raised towards the sunlit cobalt sky when they discussed poetry...as she whispered the secret certain poets know: the wings of the one who dared to soar was not really formed with wax. Her staff is broken: he no longer needs her.
She is happy that he no longer needs her. But she also concedes the sudden loneliness of Poet now leaving the cradle she had formed with her bared arms, heat simmering where their skin had made contact. His poetry "is coming to the fore again...." He no longer needs her; her job with him is done.
He is leaving her. His latest poems show him now to be writing as fruitfully, as engagingly, as his (to date) more recognized peers. She looks forward to relishing how the world will welcome more of his words. She looks forward to seeing the incredulous light in his eyes replaced by gratitude. For the poem is always a gift: a gift to its maker as well as to its audience.
She leans down and opens her arms, allowing Poet to crawl away. As she expected, a mere few inches from her, the infant suddently grows into a man. Mr. Poet looks at her with "unending love." But she also already feels him turning his back to her to depart. She feels this gesture though he is still standing there in front of her, smiling at her with mirrors as his eyes. She feels his departure ahead of its enactment.
This is not the first time she has bade farewell to another poet. It will not be the last. But, still, she feels her breath falter. This moment is always the loneliest: not the moment of departure, but the recognition of its inevitability.
Thus, she leaves alone tonight the bottle of the 1994 Penfolds Bin 707 cabernet. She is sick: sore throat, stopped nose, much coughing, a different type of blood in the air.... She drinks glass after glass of orange juice instead of her beloved wine. She is physically sick -- an appropriate state for her body to mirror the latest cause for her loneliness: a poet leaving her because a poet must always move on move on move on....
["I really really value that keep-going" -- Jordan Davis]
Normally, this also would be the time for her to return to her own poems. But.
Pause. She feels she must pause. Another long-haired poet, Allison, recently visited to massage her back. In the Babaylan sculpture, the priestess had slipped the broken staff over her left shoulder. Allison immediately pinpointed the "erector" on her left shoulder as a troubled area -- "even the tiniest bit of imbalance affects the erector; it's too close to your spine."
Allison knows she usually prefers deep massages. The toll of her poems often turns her shoulders and back into stone slabs. She expected a deep massage; she hadn't seen Allison in months. But, unexpectedly, Allison gave her the most gentle massage she ever felt from this artist who also is an athlete. Afterwards, Allison explained. "This is the most fragile I have seen you. Whatever you're going through, it's self-emaciating."
She fingers the broken staff on the Babaylan, the sculpture where the closed-eyed one smiles while the open-eyed one concurrently looks forward and backward. She fingers the broken staff on the Babaylan....
She feels she must pause. But she doesn't. She feels her shoulders become granite as she addresses the blood in the air. She looks behind at her recent past. She looks behind at March 15, 2003:
O "Eerily Quiet Drive" Towards Baghdad
O monochrome of gray wool
smoke cloaking landscape
where snouts once berried juniper
O sky smooth as pelt proclaiming your distance
O cobalt pools once diaphanous as aloe fragrance
Here amidst the waning hours
of a day of "real bullets"
penetrating storms of sand
the general promised, "We will make it painful"
O rain that nurtures by rupturing sky to wash away, wash away
O colts roaming pastures, O hoofs fleshed like pink lilacs
Over streams tree limbs did embrace, did embrace
O Americans not embraced with (80 varieties of) flowers
Soldiers changing socks regularly
cleaning feet with "baby wipes"
O fountains bombarding air with shooting stars
Once upon a time, a law of kisses on both cheeks
O lost legislation for embedding sapphires in eyes
O legions, O lost lost legions
O legions of loss
O lost allegiance
O lost lost allegiance
Thursday, March 27, 2003
O, POETRY! YOU "PUREST LIFE"! BUT HAS THE MOSQUE OF MY EYE EXPLODED?
posted by EILEEN |
Today, a poet called her and whispered, "You encode everything."
She didn't disagree, but she did think that she obviously is doing it incompetently if her process is obvious. For not only did this poet call her, but she also heard today from her kali teacher, Michelle Bautista. At http://gura.blogspot.com/, Michelle's (March 26, 2003) post discussed how the kali martial arts requires sensitivity; Michelle ended her post by noting:
I find poetry and kali have this similarity, this sensitivity. A poet finds their creation from deep within. In the darkness light is born. Going to this place is painful because you let the world into a place you thought was private and the private becomes the public. A place you had thought was seclusion is no longer. And what you come to realize is that the world may come in, but this is still your world. You learn to find an oasis amongst the voices, a silence within the chaos where you can be alone again to find peace. As a poet, I take the world in, transform it, then release it as the poem. The poem is not mine, it belongs to the world. I am simply the go between.
...Eileen Tabios ... has a line, "I have to learn the kali. Kali is like poetry."
Eileen, you may be totally inept at twirling a stick, but you are a fine fine kali student.
At first she smiled. The stick is one of the weapons of kali, as shown in this photo of Gura Michelle at http://www.bwf.org/pusod/kali.html. With wine perpetually flowing through her veins, she, indeed, is inept at twirling the stick -- so much so that she'd come to take a perverse pleasure at her incompetence. Then her smile faded as she inhaled the Gura's message: that, notwithstanding her physical awkwardness with weapons, she was still a "fine fine kali student," meaning: she understood the requirement of sensitivity....
....and that the Gura is confirming this point, not to compliment her, but to alert her that her kali teacher knows that she lapses to being a hermit whenever she rebels against this requirement. To be sensitive is to weaken into strength. To be sensitive is to expose one's self. What, in her poetry, has caused her recently to shy back, to veil her face even in private (her hair a black wave now draped across her forehead and falling below her chin)? What has she seen that makes her long for blindness?
Her computer chimes YOU'VE GOT MAIL. She allows herself the relief of interruption. She turns her face and, peeking through dark silken strands, she reads her new e-mail; it brings a reminder of Philip Lamantia. Once, Philip gave her a copy of his 1970 book, The Blood of The Air. The reminder turns her veiled face toward the bookshelf where Philip's book waits. Her hand reaches for it and she reads from a page opened at random to the poem "Seattle"; her eyes latch onto this stanza:
The mosque of your eye has exploded
Cathedrals with holes where shine the popes in their abortion of winged doubles
Your feet spread like vibrant chords over rustling plastic dolls
Bleeding american flags planted into your eyes knit with nazi stars
leather brassieres wave through the universal televisions
Erupting Mount Rainier Popocatepetl and your eyes
Until the world's secret magicians yell
"Please mend the buttons of my eyes"
The last line of that stanza required an indentation, something she had not mastered on the blog-format. But certain gods are still paying attention to her (have not given up yet on her). Earlier today, a blogger, whose existence she hadn't known but who apparently had been reading her words (her prevarications), e-mailed her instructions on how to create indentations (thank you "Jaquandor" of http://byzantiumshores.blogspot.com).
She looks again at the e-mail that reminded her of Philip; it's from a friend she hadn't heard from in over a year: Steven Fama, also a friend of the enchanting surrealist who once drew a fragile bird in her journal. Steven says he recently discovered her blog, specifically the archived January 10 and 11 posts mentioning Philip and his beloved "Portuguese reserve wine." She had mentioned wishing she could remember the identity of the wine Philip had served her with tapas.
Now, Steven elucidates: "Well, Philip once gave me a bottle of that wine and after I drank it I saved it, saying 'I gotta find more of this.' I haven't tracked it down yet, but I still have the bottle at home."
So after Steven checked on the bottle, he is able to share: "On the main label -- Periquita 1997, produced and bottled by Jose Maria da Fonseca, Succ. The bottle also has a separate label on it saying 1150 Anos -- years 1850-2000' (apparently an anniversary commemoration). The back label says, among other things, imported by Broadbent Selections, Inc, San Francisco, CA."
Thank you Steven. It was sweet spending time with Philip at Niebaum Coppola (the last time we saw each other?). May you succeed in resuscitating Getrude Stein and Jose Garcia Villa from the dead so that they can debate the comma with each other....and, yes, I also am a fan of John Olson's poems (love his Black Square editions book, Echo Regime; see http://www.durationpress.com/blacksquare/echo.htm).
Pause. Again she hears a whisper: "What have you seen that now makes you hide?" She looks around her. Just ghosts tonight. But one of them -- the one with "the eyes of the sun" Philip immortalized in his poem "I Touch You" -- nudged her fingers to another page of his book. On that page, this excerpt from Philip's prose poem "World Without End":
Peace is knocked over with a slumber foot, the match hair, pumice of bleeding liver and core of orange light. Fingers of soul dash the flames from pure saliva's soap, my life at the sacrament of black underground river POETRY THE PUREST LIFE. The world is irrevocable, transmuted today, and never shall day claw me to sleep but night wake the salamander's pickaxe. I cleave open the paper wall. The blood-stained fingers are pushed to the vanishing full pardon of the river and I am salved with the unflickering beacon roaring from the magenta whorl floating through the veil of Hermes Trismegistus, the original voice come from under the wink of 40 centuries. You curl the lip of ziggurats, you warp the palaces of resurrection, the glorification murder is resplendent with the purifying death whose nose moves my hand through the chinks from the underworld. Hail, Prince of Panic, I tumble you under the war bit.
She hears another whisper from the shadow of a princess standing behind her kali teacher: "You want blindness? You think that that can make you flee your poetry? Have you forgotten your kali lineage includes me: the blind Princess Josephine of Samar?"
The poet reaches for her perpetually full glass of wine (tonight the 1999 Dutch Henry cabernet). She sips from the crystal even as she weeps forth blind white salamanders, diving now into the ruby pool of her goblet. No, I have not forgotten. My memory so freely casts off numerous things so that, as regards my Poetry, I will never forget...I can never forget.
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
ROSEMARY GRIGGS: YOU GO, GIRL! (PLUS AN ARS POETICA ESSAY)
posted by EILEEN |
So my girlfriend Rosemary Griggs just won the 2003 Alberta Prize from Fence Books for her poetry manuscript Sky Girl! I'ma just so pleased I'ma gonna have to open up a new bottle (surprise!). Rosemary, here's toasting you with a glass of the 1996 Spottswood Cabernet Sauvignon (a simply outstanding wine from Napa Valley).
Sip. Okay, so in case you don't know Rosemary, she typed up this official-sounding "bio" for WinePoetics whilst taking a break from painting the walls to her apartment:
"Rosemary Griggs received her BA from the University of Iowa and her MFA from San Francisco State University. She produced and starred in her One Act Play, The Letter Witches, at the Phoenix Theatre, San Francisco in January 2003. She is the 2003 recipient of the Alberta Prize from Fence Books for her poetry manuscript Sky Girl, which follows the life of a young woman living in San Francisco and working as a flight attendant prior to and post September 11th."
Now, lemme tell you about this manuscript's "authenticity." In addition to being a talented teacher and writer, Rosemary is, indeed, an experienced flight attendant so she knows whereof she poeticizes. In fact, corner us at a bar (she'd be the blonde and I'd be the brunette) and lissen to her tell any one of her hilarious stories about her job-in-the-air. Like, I've never forgotten her riff on how, check this out, some peeps on planes actually WATCH to make sure there's equitable distribution of those peanut packets! So that if a passenger gets two bags, you will have some disgruntled passenger pipe up, "Hey! How come s/he gets more than one?! How's 'bout me?!"
Or, picture this scene from Rosemary's eyes. Say it's a crowded airplane. Perhaps it's been stuck on wait mode on the tarmac for some reason or another. Finally, the plane takes off. And when the plane reaches a high enough altitude so it stabilizes, the flight attendants begin to serve a meal -- in this case, a long-delayed meal. Okay, now picture this scene from Rosemary's eyes (I know I said that already but you gotta put yourself in her modestly-heeled flight attendant shoes). As flight attendant, she has just pulled aside the teeny curtain to bring the food service cart down the aisle. And in that moment, she turns to look at the crowded cabin. EVERYONE IS STARING AT HER, BATED HUNGER IN THEIR EYES. NEVER HAS SOGGY CHICKEN OR PASTA EVER BEEN AWAITED WITH SUCH KEEN ANTICIPATION!!! A type of tension you could cut even with a plastic knife, peeps....
Sip. Anyway, Rosemary naturally tells me of the good news as soon as Fence Books tells her (was I a close second right behind your Mom? Hi Rosemary's Mom Who's Now Reading My Blog. Please Understand, Dear Rosemary's Mom, That I Am Just Pretending To Be The Unruly Persona On This Blog, Which Is To Say, I'm Not Really A Bad Influence On Your Daughter! Hic.) And here is a poem from Rosemary's first and award-winning book: Sky Girl, due out this Fall 2003:
It rained, she says, watching the tires
smear on the street.
The rings of mascara under her eyes--
we woke up at 7th and Folsom.
All day I've been braiding her hair.
All day the sky's been dark and
no one passing says a word.
No one is listening.
I tell her my arms are tired.
I tell her that time she found the rabbit
nailed to the wooden gate--
I did it.
She doesn't care.
She has a drink in her left hand,
a braid in her hair.
Rosemary, dear, I am so so proud of you!!! Didn't I foretell that a book based on your "sky girl" experiences would be a winner? You go, girl!
So, how 'bout other items that offered temp relief today from mulling over the War:
Today, I finished judging essays and poems for, for....now where the heck is that piece of paper? Ah yes, this is what I was judging for: the "Growing Up Asian in America" contest described by sponsor Asian Pacific Fund as "the largest celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage in the nation." There were submissions in three categories: kindergarten to 5th grade, sixth to eighth grade, and 9th to 12th grade -- which is to say, these were the literary works of young peeps. Which is to say: I have to say that I found the innocence in the works I read really poignant. This is the generation that's likely to live through the aftermath generated by the current War....I had to pause every once in a while to .... take a deep breath as I immersed myself in the young uns' words written before we engaged in Iraq. Mostly, the writers spoke of beloved grandparents and the importance of protecting nature against pollution. But among the most moving works were the few who did touch on war -- i.e. hearing of the effect of Vietnam on their grandparents....
Well, so that wasn't much of a distraction from what Josh Corey appropriately calls "Topic A," was it? Okay, how about an essay from my most obscure book Ecstatic Mutations (Giraffe Books). Someone mentioned it to me today, giving me a reason to look at it again. This was an essay commissioned by the journal Pen & Ink's special issue on writers "whose backgrounds [are] seemingly not compatible with the creative writing life." It was this presumption that most made me wish to participate in their forum; I used this essay to enact a "performance act" (described below)....and I think the fact that I find myself discussing this essay with someone years after the book's publication relates to that desired "performance." (Hello Dear One, as I know you're reading me!)
And as I refreshed my memory today on this essay, it also reminded me of a brief conversation I'd had with Nick Piombino about timelessness. So, sip, I thought to blog the essay which, after all, is also a de facto ars poetica statement (one of the millions that I make up whenever I'm bored since, ultimately, I don't believe (my) Poetry is something I can articulate).
I would update the essay's referenced concept of poems as foretellings by sharing what I initially shared with gracious Nick: that a poem as a foretelling is not as flakey as it sounds in terms of viewing it as the poet practicing lucidity. So that if I, as a poet, do my job in partly paying attention to my environment, I (whether consciously or subconsciously) tap into trends or patterns that some poems may extrapolate into some act or event. So that a poem's prediction is really an accurate extrapolation of information that already exists, if the poet discerns it (sort of how I'd "foretold" great things for Rosemary's "sky girl" manuscript!). Huh -- or maybe that does sound flakey. Or wine-inspired? Anyway, here's the essay:
Why do I write? To Feel Myself and My “Other(s)” As Alive
. . . an infinite series of times, in a dizzily growing, ever spreading network of diverging, converging and parallel times. This web of time -- the strands of which approach one another, bifurcate, intersect or ignore each other through the centuries -- embraces every possibility. We do not exist in most of them. In some you exist and not I, while in others I do, and you do not, and in yet others both of us exist. In this one, which chance had favored me, you have come to my gate. In another, you, crossing the garden, have found me dead. In yet another, I say these very same words, but am an error, a phantom.
-- Jorge Borges
I write poetry because I am looking for Home – the home that is within a “parallel universe” to the one in which I have written this essay and you, the Reader, are reading it. Once, I tried to determine how I came to be lost. But my memory is blank against the origin of my search. So I concern myself instead with addressing how I might return to and/or remain in that space. By writing poems that I wish to explore the notion of and/or manifest Beauty, I manage sporadically to return to my desired parallel universe in which Beauty need not struggle to exist – the space in which I most feel alive. In my home, it would have been inconceivable that I would have – as I have in this world where this essay is published – worked as a wool-suited banker felling trees to document mounds of contracts that people sign with each other because money is so important and, where money is concerned, trust is not affordable.
Sometime in late 1997/early 1998, I stumbled across a scientific text, Nicola Barker’s PARALLEL UNIVERSE. That tome is basically my “found” autobiography. I share these excerpts:
-- Matter as a knot in fabric of spacetime: bent space & curved time
-- Parallel or distorted duplication of what already exists is an important feature of parallel universes according to the way some physicists view them. Accordingly, there are parallel you's and me's somehow existing in the same space and time that we live in but normally not seen or sensed by us. In these universes, choices and decisions are being made at the very instant you are choosing and deciding Only the outcomes are different, leading to different but similar worlds. . . . Doppelgangers or people that are perfect duplicates of other people. These "doubles" are sometimes "space-invaders" coming from a distant galaxy. . . . Could the forces of the universe create parallel beings like ourselves and could those beings be in communication with us in some manner that we may only be beginning to detect?
-- double-slit experiment: The two worlds would exist side-by-side until the particle reached the screen. Then the two worlds would overlap or merge. Why would the worlds merge after splitting apart? The answer was self-consistency. The universe was continually splitting and merging each and every time that anything interacted with anything else. Each split was necessary to produce the wave behavior and each merger was necessary to produce the particle. . .
-- In this view the wave represents not possibilities or likelihoods but realities -- an infinite number of them. The wave is composed of particles in parallel worlds. Split and then merge and all is well that ends well.
Thus, I write poetry to exercise my imagination and hopefully allow my desire for Beauty to govern the future life I have yet to live. I am very careful about what I write, as I have discovered that my poems often come true – that my poems are foretellings. I believe this reflects what the Danish poet Paul LaFleur once said which I find quite applicable to my life: “Being a poet is not writing a poem, but finding a new way to live.” Sometimes, I write a poem about a fictional person who ends up being someone I later meet. Sometimes, I write a poem about effecting some wish and see it subsequently unfold in physical reality -- perhaps partly because the writing of such poem allowed me to recognize (and, thus, act on) a hidden, previously inarticulated desire.
In this world, one looks at me and sees someone who switched careers to become a poet. The truth is that what seems to be my career switch was simply a move I finally became strong and/or wise enough to make. Or, as an excerpt from PARALLEL UNIVERSE explains, “What makes parallel universes moral is that they provide an infinity of possibilities but it is self-consistency that makes it work.”
By “self-consistency,” I mean that my career switch was inevitable for I do believe poets are born [as much as] made. That I am a poet, therefore, means I was born one and until my so-called career switch, this world had merely seen one of my doppelgangers who worked in finance for nearly a decade. (Finance? Let me share, by the way, that I can barely add so that my banker-doppelganger clearly proves that God has a (perverse) sense of humor.)
But this “self-consistency” also means, I believe, that my work as a banker – and before that as an economist and stock market analyst – were neither a waste of time nor irrelevant to my life today as a poet. For Poetry encompasses everything. All of life, all of nature, is relevant to the Poet. When Pen & Ink requested that I write from the perspective of one “whose chosen profession isn't regarded as traditionally being compatible with creative writing” I agreed because I disagreed with this theme’s implied premise. That is, that some activities are better preparation than others for the poet, for the artist. From my history of “switching careers” more than once, I stress that all facets of life prepare the poet. Nothing in life is incompatible with poetry (even the facets of existence that one could consider ugly).
Incidentally, four years after changing my lifestyle to spend nearly every day in the writing studio writing poems, I have started to meet others like me who spend their time in this world trying to return to a parallel universe. Several are poets, which would seem to be logical for do not such things labeled as “transcendence” and “longing” fuel much of poetry? We recognize each other when we meet, primarily by the furrows carved by tears against our cheeks. Tears – they often well up from having ripped off halos for the ecstasy of the fall. These otherworldly poets are like fallen angels: when we see sacred cows, we think only of sucking their bone marrow.
Another excerpt from my found autobiography are the statements, “Anything that can happen, even though extremely remote, is contained in the wave….The different possibilities are limited only by the imagination of the experimenter.” Thus, it is time for me to acknowledge: this essay is yet another of my fictions which, nevertheless, is not comprised of lies. I simply wrote the words in this essay because I am sounding a trumpet call to those Philippines-based readers whom I may already have met in a parallel universe. You know who you are. You are the ones who know what I mean when I say that Beauty is defined partly as Rupture. You are the ones who understand quantum physics: that the observer affects the reality of what is observed. I have written this essay as I would write a Poem – to provoke a relationship with that Reader(s) who, in this world, is also my Other(s).
Observe me by reading this poem masquerading as an essay. And read one more excerpt from PARALLEL UNIVERSE: “Patterns of probability are quite weird. They are unobservable. But when observed, the patterns suddenly change, with the result that matter appears with the property sought for. And the patterns can act together to produce a new physical possibility.” Dear Reader, will your future behavior be at all affected by your having read my thoughts – the thoughts that can be encapsulated in my noting the lack of a horizon that would demarcate the span of imagination? I have lived the proof (reduced by two words, “career switch”) that imagination and creativity need not be limited by factors that some arbitrarily define to be the “appropriate” preparation for the creative writing life. And, now, dear Reader, how will you – and your own creativity -- affect me seemingly an ocean away, but in reality as close to you as the very air against your cheek?
P.S. Occasionally, I do wonder if I'm insane....before my furrowed eyes look in front of me and, ta-dah! there's the ruby-stained crystal goblet to blame!
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
SOME THINGS I WHISPER WHEN NO ONE LISTENS
posted by EILEEN |
Rome and the Ilokos burns again / the blaze scarring mountains / as it searches for intimacy / with my "hermit's cave" / as if vision unfettered by distance / cannot suffice / to make my nose twitch / "suspend breath" / from the scent of seared skin / on horses stabbing hoofs at the moon / impassive witness to / emptied saddles and bloodied stirrups
Dissonance -- the only music played today. UPI reports that the Moroccan government is accused of "providing unusual assistance to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq by offering them 2,000 monkeys trained in detonating land mines.
"The weekly al-Usbu' al-Siyassi reported that Morocco offered the U.S. forces a large number of monkeys, some from Morocco's Atlas Mountains and others imported, to use them for detonating land mines planted by the Iraqis.
"The publication quoted a highly-informed source as saying, 'that is not a scientific illusion but a well-known military tactic.'"
And in addition to the monkeys, the gentle dolphins....the gentle ones conscripted to search for mines along the coast of Umm Qasr....
....even as the people of Vietnam, Russia, the Philippines , Jordan , Israel , China , Nigeria , Great Britain, Egypt, India, the United States, France, Spain, Cuba and Germany scream themselves hoarse at deaf politicians:
"The Nation elicited comment on reaction to the war against Iraq from all corners of the globe. What follows are capsule reports from countries both directly and indirectly involved in the conflict: http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20030407&c=1&s=dispatches"
As always, war's conflagration is as unpredictable as a forest fire. She stands on the ledge outside the entrance to her cave, peering down at the blaze. Its flames are too near. Its flames more widespread than anticipated (Saudi newspaper editor Khalid M. Batarfi: "Arab pride is at stake here. American propaganda said it was going to be so quick and easy, meaning we Arabs are weak and unable to fight. Now it is like a Mike Tyson fight against some weak guy. They don't want the weak guy knocked out in the first 40 seconds.")
For years, she had planned for her sanctuary on this mountaintop. She whispers as her left hand strokes the brow of the mountain lion by her side, "This is not my war...."
But no one listens, just as no one listened to her in the 18th century.
Well, one person is trying to listen, trying to see -- another woman with uncut hair imagining the air Gabriela Silang once inhaled/exhaled. A poet with a permanently full glass of wine (tonight, the dregs of the 1998 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir) by her computer who brought Gabriela into the 21st century by imagining a life for her through a series of poems. A poet who wanted to create a second chance for 18th century Gabriela whose life was cut short prematurely by invaders and colonizers -- Gabriela, the Philippines's first woman general who led one of the longest revolt against colonial Spain.
"Otro vaso y me voy
Y nos marchamos
Tonight I want to exemplify
how to italicize the word God
-- from "Thoughts As Gabriela Awakes"
A poet who, today, saw the latest in a long line of lovers hide his eyes rather than listen to what she wanted to say. She thinks, Why must "consistency" be defined with so much loneliness?
Today, she wanted to speak -- deliberately in fragments. Like:
"She wants space to fall to each side of her like traction, not weight dispersed within a mirror. At any time, an echo of what she says will multiply against the walls in balanced, dizzying jumps like a gyroscope in the heat, but she is alone."
-- from "Tan Tien" by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge
By remaining stone
left shoulder defeated
the one trained in "Swedish
Sports Orthopedic Shiatsu
and Deep T"
Shoulder as boulder
She once suggested
you sculpt poems
to free long-haired women
trapped in stone
"Do you hear them whisper
as you pass through canyons?"
She once pleaded
from unruly chips
to open your flesh
Athena also rises
from the gape of wounds
Monday, March 24, 2003
FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE, THIS IS MY REALITY (AKA, HERE'S A KISS ON YOUR HEAD)
posted by EILEEN |
And though not always
shining above you, the stars
can still be reached by
the columns of rain
splattering the pavements.
-- from "A Bottle" By John Yau
Do you have in the feminism of your immediacy
--from "ANYTHING SUDDENLY" by Jordan Davis
Give me your best,
change my silver
for the gold of wine.
In it I'll drown my sorrows
--from "Bubbles" by Ubadah ibn Ma al-Sama, d. 1030, Cordoba
From afar (VEEEEEERY FAR), a poet sends me an e-mail with the following message:
"Seriously, please don't take the current war too personally. I know where you're coming from, and it's all part of the poetic persona, not to mention the humanistic one. Walking on eggshells here, but my advanced years lend a measure of pragmatism cum skepticism where geopolitical and military affairs are concerned. And sometimes there ARE necessary wars. Not that I'm totally approving of Bush's moves. It's just that wars have been such a part of humankind's still adolescent story, and it will still take some time (and more effort at cleansing, in more ways than one) before the world enters an era of peace and enlightenment. At least that's what my Saturnian mentors told me before depositing me here to observe you people for a while. I must say that I agree with them, given my experiences with earthlings. Smile now, if only weakly..."
Huh? Dawg! Are you senile with yo "advanced years" or drunk with your Saturn reference? And when I attempt the "weak smile," dawg, I only coughed out tonight's wine -- and I wouldn't want to do that to the 1998 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir!
Anyway. This weekend, I hosted a family visiting from New York. At one point, I served them desert. Since I don't cook, I bought desert. A delicious blueberry pie from "Christine's Handmade Pies by Upper Crust." The pie came with a teeny U.S. flag and a card that quoted a 1902 issue of the New York Times for once printing: "Pie is the American synonym of prosperity, and its varying contents the calendar of the changing seasons. PIE IS THE FOOD OF THE HEROIC. No pie-eating people can ever be vanquished."
I can't recall now whether it was the 7-year-old or the 13-year-old who turned to me and said, "Aunt Eileen. We should send pies to the troops in Iraq so they won't be vanquished."
Hic. That's me: many young peeps's favorite aunt! Sip.
Okay now. There's gotta be some lucidly GOOD NEWS somewhere in my life?!!!! She turns to scroll through her e-mails. Her eyes lit up. Yo, peeps! (Yes Stephanie, it is addictive!). Yo, peeps -- check this out. ZYZZYVA is going to publish my play!!!! The one I did for Small Press Traffic and for which Summi "Incredible Body" Kaipa stripped down and past a fishnet body stocking (sorry you missed it, Joe Massey!). The one I wrote up in five minutes while hemming and hawwwing (over wine, natch!) with Michelle Bautista. The one with the bogus title, "But Seriously, When I Was Jasper Johns' Lover..."! Oh, but now -- don't tell editor Howard Junker -- I want him to think I really spent days, if not weeks, if not months tinkering with my play! It's my first produced play (thanks for asking, SPT curator Kevin Killian!) and now it's going to get published!!! Dang -- that is definitely worth a 3rd...I mean, a 2nd glass tonight!
Okay...last but not least, I just finished reading Jordan Davis's Million Poems Journal (Faux Press, 2003). Congrats Jordan! That's a fine achievement. There's a well-known pot, uh, I mean poet out there whose most recent books are based on daily memoir poems (he's released two collections so far -- that should be enough of a hint). He should read your book and re-learn ambition in what he's trying to do with his poetry. Anyway, peeps, check out Jordan's book, which contains many fine poems including "Nationalism" that begins
The German part of me drinks beer
And stares into the sun
The Welsh Scots, Irish parts of me
Take whiskey "from the gun"
The English part prefers caffeine
But also treasures rum
But give wine to the French of me
And then your night's begun --
G'night Peeps, especially you: David "Check Out The Arab Wine Poets Of Spain" Hess. Thanks for the tip, Sweetie. You itched my bad memory and made me go over to the bookshelves....where I found a book that I had to dust before cracking open for an evening's enjoyment. So, did you mean, mayhap, the following:
Reflection of Wine
By Abu l-Hasan 'Ali ibn Hisn, 11th century, Sevilla
Light passing through wine
reflects on the fingers
of the cupbearer
dyeing them red
as juniper stains
the muzzle of the antelope.
THE EMBROIDERED WRAP
By Ibn Khafaja, 1058-1138, Alcira
Her glance, like a gazelle's,
her throat, that of a white deer,
lips red as wine,
teeth white as sea foam.
Tipsiness made her languid.
The gold-embroidered figures
of her wrap swirled round her,
brilliant stars around the moon.
During the night love's hands
wrapped us in a garment of embraces
by the hands of dawn.
By Ibn Siraj (d. 1114, Cordoba)
When I saw the day
going off dying
and night approach
full of youth
when the sun was sprinkling
the last saffron rays
over the hills
and beginning to sift shadows
of black musk powder
opver the valleys
then I caused the moon of wine
to come out.
you were the planet Mercury
and our guests, accompanying stars
or, last but not least, David "Thanks For Reminding Me Of These Wonderful Arab Poets" Hess, perhaps you (also) meant:
TO A PERSIAN REED BLOWN ABOUT BY THE WIND
By Abu l-Hajjaj ibn 'Utba, 13th century, Sevilla
Look at the reed
rocked by the wind
bending over our wine cups.
Was the dew she drank
and she must now
wave her plumes about
in search of wine?
The way she moves
her slender waist
pleases the eyes
and the soul.
Let's give her a drink
from our glasses.
Since she is tipsy,
we can forgive her
for kissing us on the head.
(Poems by Arab poets are from Poems of Arab Andalusia, trans. by Cola Franzen from the Spanish versions of Emilio Garcia Gomez, City Lights)
Sunday, March 23, 2003
TRIBUTE TO RACHEL CORRIE
posted by EILEEN |
Last week, 23-year-old Rachel Corrie died when she was ran over by a bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier. Rachel was an international observer and activist for the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinan-led group that uses nonviolent methods to challenge the Israeli occupation. One of her former teachers, Cassandra Sagan of Portland, OR, recently disseminated this letter:
One of my most beloved students was killed in Gaza on Sunday. Here are a few of the poems she wrote as a Fifth Grader in '91. Please pass this small memorial on to anyone who loves poetry, or peace, or courage.
As I drove to work Monday morning I heard the news that Rachel Corrie, a peace activist who had been trying to protect a Palestinian home from being destroyed, had been run down by an Israeli bulldozer. I was overwhelmed with horror and grief. Rachel had been a student in an after school poetry workshop which I taught at Lincoln Elementary in Olympia, Washington in 1991 when she was in Fifth Grade. Rachel wrote poetry as beautiful as anything ever written in the English language--in fact, when she wrote "Breezy" our first day of class, I suspected that she had read it somewhere and written it from memory. Once I got to know her, I realized how brilliant she was. Rachel was one of those profoundly wise "old souls" we occassionally are honored to meet.
Although she never knew it, Rachel Corrie had become a legend among the over 10,000 students and teachers with whom I have worked in the years since she was in my class. "Poetry Contest" is a game which I play with my students. I hand out a sheet of paper with five or six poems on it, omitting the names of the poets. Some of the poems on the page were written by some of the most famous poets of the 20th century, and some were written by students in my classes. My bet is that it will be hard to tell them apart, proving to the kids that they have the creative brilliance to write deeply and wisely and well. EVERYONE raises their hand and votes that "Breezy" was written by a famous poet. There's an audible gasp in the room when I tell them that it was written by Rachel Corrie when she was in Fifth Grade.
When the wind comes whispering
to the sleeper's ear
it shares secrets of its flights
o'er pale dove's wings,
of it's turning up grains of sand
into polywog's lazy reveries,
of its stopping to
which sail boats
blue and gold.
Of its running in the garden
and closing its eyes and
the luscious rush of
This is an unfinished "legend" that Rachel began, also in '91:
Purple was as lonely as a small, cold star.
Purple came upon the world as an adult.
The people met her
and she smelled like deep mud.
Purple tried to talk to the people
but she sounded like a stale echo.
They ignored her.
Purple went into the woods
and she hid in the flowers.
The flowers let her sleep in them.
When Purple left in the morning
she smelled as tempting and sweet
as blackberry jam.
Purple was full of joy,
and she rose into the treetops
like the sun in the wintertime.
Purple played in the trees
and when she left at dusk
she sounded cheerful, like whispering.
Then purple saw a hummingbird
and she sprang after it.
The hummingbird was a thoughtless tune.
Purple touched it but did not hold on
and she fell like a tired feather.
Purple traveled and spread herself
to snakes and shells,
she swam with the fish,
she bathed in the sunset.
Another poem that I have shared with many thousands of people read over the years is Rachel's
Letter to a Peanut
Oh peanut! You look like a dry brown lizard.
That is your shell!
You feel coarse, like a dirty chalkboard.
That is your shell!
You sound like a pebble bouncing in the
palm of my hand.
That is your shell!
Now, I lick your shell--
Oh sour, hot, rough salt!
Peanut do you know your color?
You are now a darker brown, almost green.
It's because you are wet.
Now I peel away your hard shell.
Little strings peel off.
There are two of you, Peanut!
One of your light brown selves,
it has split!
How queer you are peanut!
I will eat you peanut!
Mmm. You taste good, like nothing I know!
Now, Peanut, you are gone!
Rachel is gone but will never be forgotten. She put her life on the line for what she believed, and was literally run down in her prime, the first international activist to be killed in the Middle East in 30 months of fighting. May her memory be a blessing and inspiration for all of us. At this time of violence and war, may her memory be a prayer and a movement toward the peace which she lived and died for.
Due to my incompetence with anything resembling technology, I haven't figured out how to input indents in this blog-format. So I wasn't able to indent several of the lines in Rachel Corrie's poems that are intended to be indented. Nonetheless, I think you can see how her Poetry makes its, and Rachel's, presence felt.
Tonight, hunkered down with the 1999 Summerfield Reserve Cabernet from Central Victoria, Australia.
Saturday, March 22, 2003
IN SEARCH OF COMFORT (FOOD)
posted by EILEEN |
As the war unfolded over the past few days, Nick Carbo shared how he searched for comfort partly by recalling a certain dish from his (and my) childhood, a meal that now symbolizes "home" as a sense of safety. This was a Filipino meatloaf dish using either embutido (ground pork) or morcon (sliced beef). Nick embedded the recipe into this poem (and, yes, this recipe does work!...or so I understand through the grapevine since, cough, I, um, cook only in theory):
RECIPE FOR MORCON OR EMBUTIDO
OR MEATLOAF WHILE BOMBS ARE DROPPING
A bulb of strong garlic
is called bawang in Manila,
a bawang could explode
because it is also a kind
of crazy firecracker
sold for new year's eve. So
take a few cloves of bawang,
crush them till they bleed.
Set crushed bawang aside.
Take one pound of ground
beef and one pound of ground
pork and mix well in a porcelain
bowl bought from a Baghdad blogger.
Break a raw egg and mix
with the meat.
Add the bawang.
Add a half cup of raisins.
Add salt and pepper.
Add a sprinkle of ground cloves.
Add a chopped up yellow onion.
Use both hands to penetrate
fingers into the raw meat
mixture, mash everything together
until all spices and ingredients
begin to coexist, cohabitate,
collaborate, and coalesce.
Place meat mixture into
loaf pan and bury two
hard boiled eggs in the mix.
Do not cover. Do not use
duct tape or plastic sheeting.
Place loaf pan in a preheated
400 degree oven and bake
for an hour and thirty minutes
or until you see the top
turn a healthy crusty brown.
After ten or fifteen minutes
you will begin to smell the scent
of your childhood. Let the scent
permeate your whole house.
Pray for those whose houses
are about to explode.
Jose "Butch" Dalisay is one of the Philippines' most respected fictionists; as I write this, I am enjoying Oldtimers and Other Stories (U.P. Press, 2002), his latest collection of short stories which he kindly sent. Butch, thanks for the gift!
When not writing his fictions or searching global nooks and crannies for additions to his collection of fountain pens, Butch writes a column for the Manila-based Philippine Star entitled, appropriately, "PenMan." I'm reprinting excerpts form his March 24, 2003 column....for obvious reasons:
A better Balikatan
On this week of war, my thoughts go to my many friends in the United States—in California, Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, and New Hampshire, among other places—who must be profoundly distressed and embarrassed by the invasion their government has unleashed on a country whose leadership it happened not to like. America’s been on my mind a lot lately, not just because of George W. Bush’s warmongering, but also because my mother’s there this very minute, gone to visit with my sister, who’s chosen to live in Virginia with her American husband—and so, like millions of other Pinoys, I now have a personal connection to the United States, an interest in its welfare and its behavior in the world.
America’s a country with which we’ve had the longest love-hate relationship. Spain left a deep and indelible legacy to Filipinos, but this was almost a grudging legacy, something we wrested despite Spain’s contempt for our abilities. America made it look—at least when the shooting was over—like she truly loved us, like she wanted us to learn something valuable she knew. She was knifing us in the gut and bleeding us for our resources even as she held us in her sweet embrace, but we clung on, unwilling to believe that such a benign countenance could mask any insidious intent.
How easily we forgot that America caused us so much suffering and grief barely a century ago, during a war that claimed, by some estimates, half a million Filipino lives; we were, as I often remind my American friends, their first Vietnam. (And I’m never really surprised, given how insular many modern Americans are, that they profess absolute ignorance of a “Filipino-American War,” even as a sidelight to the better-known but less troublesome Spanish-American War; what surprises and dismays me is how many Filipinos seem to have forgotten or never even knew this.)
How quickly we fell in love with the new language, with the new easygoing ways of what Nick Joaquin, born in the cultural cusp, calls sajonismo. Within a decade of the occupation, schooled in “Hiawatha,” we were writing and publishing poems in English; by the time another 15 years had passed, we published our first acknowledged classic in the short story, Paz Marquez Benitez’s “Dead Stars.” We took to Hollywood, to Coke, and to the automobile with an alacrity that would have put Americans themselves to shame. And when GI Joe gave us a helping hand in freeing ourselves from the Japanese in World War II, we blushed and gave America the best of our natural wealth in gratitude. Some of us grew up knowing both the good America and the bad one; most of us—blinded by poverty and ignorance—chose to see only the good. And now, with American bombs falling on a small impoverished nation that could have been Vietnam—or us—in another time, many of us can’t even bring ourselves to see the patent injustice of the thing, of Bush’s brazen arrogance in imposing his will on the world, against a global wave of protest and indignation.
I feel sick to the pit of my stomach—but better and more productive than puking, I’ve told myself to focus on the good, on the better America, on the knowledge that a critical mass of decent and sensible Americans exists to counterweigh any misimpression that their President may have created of a brutish and brainless bully. After this war, it won’t only be Iraq that will need rehabilitation—so will the US, which, thanks to its ham-fisted leadership, has successfully squandered much of the sympathy and goodwill it generated in the wake of 9-11.
[...] When I want to restore my faith in a better America, I turn to examples like those of Jerry Burns, a professor of English who came here some years ago on a Fulbright grant and who, after immersing himself in our literature, returned to the States to teach it to his students, as a way of opening their minds to a world bigger than themselves. Jerry teaches at Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, New Hampshire; I’ve never been to Rindge, but I imagine it to be the kind of hometown with steepled white churches and riotous autumnal colors and football-crazy Saturdays that we reserve our warmest American memories for—and that, in some strange way, breeds future Presidents and molds their values while they lie soft in the teacher’s hand. I think of people like Bob Boyer and John Holder, professors both in another small but progressive American college in De Pere, Wisconsin, frequent Philippine visitors who for years have sponsored Filipino academics to teach their students, again to expose them to a world of equals....
Jerry Burns developed a course, titled “Beyond Britain and America: Other Literatures in English,” that featured a segment on the Philippines, for which Jerry set up an e-groups that included not only Jerry and his students, but a number of Filipino and Filipino-American writers who he had invited to participate in online discussions. These were, among others, Jessica Hagedorn, Luisa Igloria, Luis Cabalquinto, Vince Gotera, Neil Garcia, and myself. For several weeks, questions and answers flew across the wires on subjects as diverse as—in Jerry’s own musings—“family structure and gender relations, Catholicism, the period of Martial Law under Ferdinand Marcos, nationalism versus the heritage of colonialism, food as a preoccupation of daily life, and many others, [which] received detailed, often personally reflective replies from the writer-critics. Sometimes class members got more than they bargained for, when a question would prompt musings on the creative process or a trigger an extensive debate on, for example, the differences between Filipino and Filipino-American writing.
“Not surprisingly,” Jerry continues, “some of this discourse went over the heads of students with little prior background in Philippine literature, not to mention the cultural politics of emigration to the US....Nevertheless, many on both sides expressed appreciation for the quality of the learning experience. [...A] student, Rebecca Thibault, said that 'I was a little skeptical at first because I did not want to ask a ‘real writer’ some menial question that would probably sound so stupid to them.... But I was so excited when I came back to the Yahoo site and my question had a lengthy reply. I really wish this could be done for more English classes.’ For his part, Manila-based poet and critic J. Neil Garcia found some of the students’ questions taxing: for all their apparent simplicity, they were so broad as to ‘devour any simple answer that anyone can give.’ But he credited the project for pushing him to think about Philippine literature and his own work in unexpectedly fruitful ways.”
To advert to that controversial military exercise between American and Filipino troops in the [Philippines's] Muslim South, this was another kind of Balikatan [exercise]—the kind we won’t earn too many dollars from, but which will do much more to guarantee a future of real peace and understanding in a world benighted not so much by mustard gas but by sheer ignorance.
Wines Tasted & Recommended From This Weekend:
From Pride Mountain, the 2001 Chardonnay, the 2001 Viognier (outstanding!), the 2000 merlot (though still needs more time in the bottle), and the 2000 cabernet.
At Philip Togni, did barrel tastings of the 2001 cabernet, both free run and pressed. This wine is developing even more fabulously than the already high rating of 94-96 range given by Robert Parker.
1998 Kistler Chardonnay (Durrell Vineyards)
1999 Verite Le Joie
1998 Oliver's Taranga Shiraz from McLaren Vale
License Plate Seen Today:
WINE LOVERS MAKE GRAPE LOVERS
Friday, March 21, 2003
AMANDA DAVIS: I MISS YOU
posted by EILEEN |
The MacDowell Artists' Colony. 1999. Amanda Davis was among the other writers in residence when I was there. For whatever reason, we didn't hang out together, finding companionship in different circles. But she, like most everyone else in residence, was in the audience when I did a poetry reading. I was trying to do something more interesting than reading a poem from a page. I thought that I would, at the end of reading a particular poem, fling up to the ceiling small bits of colored paper. Those pieces of paper then were supposed to float softly down in a pleasing fashion onto the the seated crowd. I think I had an idea that the cloud of fragmenting colors would physically manifest the poem I wanted to share.
It was a bust. I couldn't find light colored paper, like origami paper. I could find only stiff colored cardboard. I cut them up anyway, determined to go through with my original idea. Well, when I flung the paper up towards the ceiling, they shot up like pellets and fell down like pellets. No soft floating through the air. More like a quick barrage of colored stones that, in my memory, left most of the audience in a stunned silence that drew itself out into a diplomatic silence. Absolutely graceless. I felt humiliated, even though I fortuitously had introduced the performance with, "I want to experiment with my approach here."
Afterwards, Amanda came up to me. She said, "I am really really glad I was here tonight to see you perform."
Perhaps other words were said, but it was a quick conversation. The message was clear: Experiments can fail; there's no need to feel bad.
And after her words, I did stop feeling bad at my dufus performance.
I never saw Amanda again, though heard of her achievements. Shortly after our stint together at MacDowell, she released a short story collection entitled Circling The Drain: Stories (Perennial, 2000), about which a New York Times reviewer said:
"Amanda Davis writes gently, even poetically, about extraordinary brutality. She has a distinctively creepy, noirish sensibility. . . . a well-guided tour of scarred souls who've witnessed terrible things, and surprisingly, found odd bits of beauty in them."
My failed experiment must have been nothing for someone who can convincingly write personas who "witness terrible things" and discover "odd bits of beauty." It's an ability that suggests open-mindedness, empathy and clarity -- I am sure Amanda possessed these attributes, to the benefit of her writing.
One of the stories in her collection was expanded into her critically-acclaimed novel Wonder When You'll Miss Me (William Morrow) which was just released. And it was during a book tour that Amanda's life was prematurely cut short. Her father James Davis had been piloting a small plane that carried Amanda as well as Amanda's mom, Francie. They were flying from Asheville where Amanda had done a reading at a bookstore. The plane crashed in the North Carolina mountains, killing them all a few days ago.
I never knew Amanda intimately. But my grief is for more than a mere acquaintance. The moments of civility and compassion of which Amanda was so capable are so desperately needed in these times.
Thursday, March 20, 2003
IMAGERY AND THE WAR(Y): MAYBE PRESIDENT BUSH HAS BEEN LOOKING AT TOO MUCH NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC?
posted by EILEEN |
No one in
Anthropology, a book
on Mead’s dupings
by natives (they gave her
what she wanted
--from "A Browse" by David Hess
Today I worked on an essay on Filipino artist Santiago "Santi" Bose (1949-2002), specifically a series involving photographs taken of him around the world and with various personages, but with his face always covered by a white sheet of paper or cloth. You can see the article up in April at OurOwnVoice (www.oovrag.com/~oov), but here are some of my notes:
By placing himself in situations of hiding his face, Santi manifested the difficult, complicated space of the diaspora where Filipinos experience invisibility, objectification and racism. Certainly, one may mask one’s face out of fear. One also may cover one’s face to symbolize how others project their preconceptions about ethnic minorities. By offering a white page instead of his face, Santi was creating a blank space still waiting for its images, text, and/or colors. The viewer, thus, sees a mirror. The viewer is the one to make up the image on Santi’s face, which is to say, the viewer is the one to define who “Santiago Bose” is supposed to be. By offering up the definition of his identity to the viewer, Santi created a space where the viewer then either responds with indifference, or also the worst of best parts of one’s nature.
A possibility -- but all too rare a possibility -- is that the viewer might take the time, care and respect to look behind the page to see Santi’s real face. But how many people bother to look at Filipinos as who they are besides their diasporic contexts which often are not their choice? When a Filipino travels beyond the Philippine borders, how often are they seen as human? In Greece, for instance, a dictionary there defined “Filipina” as “maid.”
And why did Santi cover his page with a white page? Why not a brown page? Would it be to raise the specter of assimilation, certainly not an unusual mode of behavior among certain Filipino immigrants to the U.S. or other Western countries?
Ultimately, Santi’s approach engenders that great question that I believe all great art asks of its viewers: “What does this work of art say about who I, the viewer, am?” How a viewer might define Santi will say more about that viewer than Santiago Bose. That is the nature of the image presented by Santi through this series.
Consequently, Santi not only directly addressed Filipino culture (the implications of the diaspora) but he found a formal approach that allowed him to meet the “aesthetic” test of whether form equals content. In turn, by meeting this threshold, this body of work becomes even more effective.
Imagery, of course, is manipulable and one of its masters has been National Geographic (NG). I was reminded of NG today when decolonialism scholar and teacher Leny Mendoza Strobel informed me of a Bay Area organization called "Books for the Barrios" that sends books to schools in the Philippines. She said that the original board members who were asked to join the organization resigned due to conflicts over the kind of books that should be sent. Apparently, except for math and science books, some of the material sent to the Philippines are those dumped "as garbage" by U.S. schools. Leny appropriately asks, "Do the children of the Philippines deserve to get the 'garbage' of American schools? In the past, we have been colonized by books through the American public school system that was imposed on us. I hope we will consider the effects and consequences of what we 'give'."
As it turns out, one of the more controversial publications for potential donation is the NG. Leny explains, "The NG has been around for over 100 years; its board members are mostly upper middle class white men with strong corporate and government connections. It has secured its place in the American imagination (as a reflection of how the 'average' American 'wants' to see the world, esp. third world peoples and cultures) through its sophisticated use of photographs and very carefully worded captions. As a 'science and entertainment' magazine, it has succeeded in providing a mirror, to the average white middle class (predominantly male) of his own identity as being superior (also called 'modern' or 'civilized')...an identity that gives him a sense of security and comfort about his place in the world.
"Many of the NG photos are digitally altered now -- the 3rd world peoples are made to look darker for example. Third world peoples are always shown as 'exotic' and in the process of being 'civilized.' There are a lot of bare-breasted women to highlight this exoticism but not a lot of naked men with penises showing (they are digitally erased so as not to be offensive). We are conditioned to think that photographs are 'objective', i.e. 'what you see is what you get, the truth sort of, but what the looker doesn't know is that the photographs have been carefully chosen, they may have been posed or composed. Then they go through a rigorous selection process composed of the photo editor, the writer and the photographer. The photographer doesn't make the final choice, the editors do that and, again, are careful to represent only certain kinds of images that are not offensive, that are uncontroversial (not too violent, pls!), and avoid those that would make the looker uncomfortable in his own perch on top of the world.
"Obviously, it has been very successful in this regard considering its status as a magazine. But it also has made enormous contribution to the way the attitude of the West towards the rest of the world has been shaped. And unfortunately, this constitutes a kind of a colonizing gaze, a patronizing one that masks itself as innocent and guileless."
For more information, Leny suggests Reading National Geographic by Catherine A. Lutz and Jane Collins, which she just finished teaching in her class entitled "The Practice of Culture." For her class, Leny said she told her students that the issues raised above "doesn't mean that they should stop looking at (they don't really read it) NG...but that they can now know what's behind those images, how they are constructed, for whom they are constructed, who benefits from such constructions, and what effects these have on different groups of people that look at the magazine."
Leny tells of an incident in her class when her "students were looking at a photograph of a family in Central America and their house was under flood waters, knee-high. The mother is shown bathing the baby in the floodwater. The caption said that the flooding is due to the illegal logging of the forest. The students were aghast that a mother would bathe her child in that water. I then told them that when I was young I always looked forward to the flood season and that I actually would take baths in flood water, too. I asked why they were making such a big deal about the photo.
"And one student said, 'that's true, when you think of it, it's not a big deal!' Then another student said, 'oh, and if I look at this photo and I'm aghast about this mother, then it does tell me something about how third world peoples are (they are unclean!) compared to my own hygiene practices, and then it makes me forget that perhaps the illegally logged forest that caused the flooding was the very same log that built my house!'
"This is how critical reading of NG can be. The students now understand how the 'us' versus 'them', 'primitive' vs 'modern' and other dualisms are created and how these are detrimental to the way we look at differences. They can see how buying into the ideological agenda of the NG sabotages their desire to see the world as interconnected and interdependent."
Poet Barbara Jane Reyes links this issue to the invasion of Iraq in terms of the (upcoming pun intended) black or white mindset that's influenced the Administration's decisions. With her typical lack of ALL CAPS, she writes, "pop culture -- friends, joe millionaire, star trek, mtv, britney spears -- is deceptively benign, and probably has little to do with policy making and war declarations, but it certainly does a lot to shape public opinion and skew perceptions on issues such as race, class, and gender. it's kind of like many women's experiences of looking through fashion magazines and thinking we need to lose 20 lbs or throw up our dinner so we can be 'beautiful.' it's horribly reductive, these photographic images meant for consumers."
Barbara then correlated the issue to NG: "i am interested in NG being considered as scientific, hence objective, hence free from cultural/racial/socioeconomic bias, hence the formation of commonly accepted/master narratives on civilization based upon NG's photographic depictions -- and in relation to the western world's take on the middle east as terrorists, extremists, suicide bombers, and muslim religious fanaticists (certainly not civilized/refined christians) -- and by sharp contrast, depicting them as such poor, poor, poor people who need what we can charitably give them."
According to Leny, those interested in these issues may be interested in The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism, Travel Writing, and Imperial Administration by David Spurr and Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis by Renato Rosaldo -- all about the anthropological and journalistic gaze...
As for me, Hic. I was thinking of protesting the war by deferring any more fine wine recommendations until the U.S. leaves Iraq. But I refuse to bow down to the imperialists. That's the "If You Have To Ask It's Not Shock-And-Awe" Imperialists. So, in defiance, I Sip. Tonight the 1997 Turley Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel (Grist Vineyard).
As she sips, she considers the updated definition of a "Superpower"'s army as one digital camera per soldier, the implications of a U.S. and its allies' victory for the oil contracts signed by French and Russian companies with Saddam's administration, the security of Ted Koppel's toupee despite the whirling winds of the desert, the new mutual admiration society formed by journalists and the military which she (also a former professional journalist) thought a bit too incestuous, and more and more and too many more fragments of the day....
...until her thoughts circle back to Santiago Bose and the last painting she saw by him. Titled "Sitting In Darkness," the painting featured schoolchildren facing a blackboard. The teacher is U.S.-American, newly arrived following the U.S. military victory in the Philippine-American War over 100 years ago. The painting, however, was overlaid with shaman symbols and other details that turned the painting into what critic John L. Silva once said about Santi's paintings: "a pause for meditating on the screwed up situation we're in."
Santi's painting had been part of a 2002 exhibit entitled "Brown Man's Burden." Along with a floor-based installation by French-Filipino artist Gaston Damag, Santi's painting inspired Barbara to write a prose poem now featured below (thanks for sharing, Barbara):
BROWN MAN'S BURDEN
(After Santiago Bose's SITTING IN DARKNESS and Gaston Damag's DISPLAY Floor Installation, Babilonia 1808, Berkeley, May 17, 2002)
"REVIEW THE PARTS OF THE BODY. HAVE THE PUPILS READ AGAIN" words sparkling upon canvas shoved to margins by Warhol and American Gothic centrally depicted faceless bodies of symbol prayer coldly anthropologized this way things always transpire in colonized lands language wrested from the people by soldier teacher conquerors with textbook arsenals of indoctrination we learn to subject ourselves to objectification margins always contain undeniable silent worlds whose custodians sift through trash with faces of erased wonder here high culture repels itself from discernible truths prayers carved beeswax here artists speak pop culture neon sign spirals emblems of manifest destiny only recognizable relics of past present futures "HAS HE A GUN IN HIS HAND" concealed impenetrable dark indigenous gods severed and scattered slavery not just implicit in the usage of "postmodern"
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
posted by EILEEN |
Jean Gier writes:
Check out this blog by some young folks in Baghdad. The URL: http://dear_raed.blogspot.com/
It's very current, with fairly long posts -- I don't know how long their postings can continue...below is a short excerpt of the latest:
:: Thursday, March 20, 2003 ::
"It is even too late for last minute things to buy, there are too few shops open. We went again for a drive thru Baghdad’s main streets. Too depressing. I have never seen Baghdad like this. Today the Ba’ath party people started taking their places in the trenches and main squares and intersections, fully armed and freshly shaven. They looked too clean and well groomed to defend anything. And the most shocking thing was the number of kids. They couldn’t be older than 20, sitting in trenches sipping Miranda fizzy drinks and eating chocolate (that was at the end of our street) other places you would see them sitting bored in the sun. more cars with guns and loads of Kalashnikovs everywhere. // The worst is seeing and feeling the city come to a halt. Nothing. No buying, no selling, no people running after buses. We drove home quickly. At least inside it did not feel so sad..."
And while I was writing this post for WinePoetics about this blog entitled "Where is Raed?" I noticed one more post on it by "salam":
air raid sirens in baghdad but the only sounds you can here are the anti-aircraft machine guns. will go now.
It is dawn in Baghdad. The radio just announced: "The war in Iraq has begun."
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
NOT PONO (AKA W(H)INES FROM THE FRUSTRATION VINTAGE)
posted by EILEEN |
Ripped black satin. Duende is mad and now I am looking at the world through a veil of damp hair, eyes crazed...and, worst, the poems so far far away...
The U.S. Empire. Well, before Iraq, there was the Philippines, among others. Today, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Annie Nakao reminds us that there also was Hawai'i. Nakao's topic today is George Kahumoku Flores:
One hundred and six years ago, Flores' great-grandparents, along with more than 21,000 native Hawaiians, signed a petition protesting the impending annexation of the Hawaiian kingdom to the U.S. This was four years after the last queen of Hawai'i, Lili'uokalani, was overthrown by a cabal of rich American sugar growers, with the help of the U.S. Marines...Flores just feels the way things went down in 1893 wasn't right, not pono.
The Queen wanted to do things the pono way," he says. "Instead, they stole our land, our harbors, stole the queen's lands.'
So every Nov. 11, the date of Lili'uokalani's death, the day it is said the seas turned gray and an eerie wailing was heard throughout the land, Flores stands alone at Iolani Palace, where she once ruled, with his sign that reads, "America Betrayed our Queen, princess, nation, people, destiny and much more."
By his thinking, everything that's happened since, including Sept. 11, 2001 and this business with Iraq, just replays what happened in the islands, and the rule of the gun.
"American's doing it again, just like they did to us," Flores said. "I don't wish war on anybody. They should have been teaching me that in school, but I served two terms in Vietnam and went to college before I learned that."
Those vigils at Iolani Palance have helped.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm out there alone," he says. "It takes some balls to preach against the majority. But I don't care. We ahve to make it rignt. We have to make it pono."
And the will of the people continue to be thwarted. A rare bright spot in my recent reading of the news was Artnet.com's announcement that the auction of Andre Breton's estate has been cancelled. I was one of many who had signed a petition against breaking up the contents of Breton's studio. It is unbelievable to think that -- in France, no less -- there was no means to be found for keeping his studio together in one place (duh, like a museum? I believe there are plenty in France...) But I woke up this morning to the following item on ArtnetNews:
CORRECTION: BRETON AUCTION TO PROCEED
The auction of items from the estate of Andre Breton is proceeding at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris as originally planned, contrary to yesterday's report in the Artnet News....The presale exhibition of the collection starts on Apr. 1, 2003, with the sale scheduled to take place over several days, beginning with books on Apr. 7 and concluding with the sale of photography and primitive arts on Apr. 17. In between are sessions devoted to manuscripts (Apr. 11-12), folk art and coins (Apr. 14) and modern art, prints and Old Masters (Apr. 14-15). French culture minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon did announce that the government might pre-empt certain works. Published reports have put the total value of the material in excess of $30 million.
Pour non-French wine into glass. Tonight, I'm finishing the bottle I opened yesterday of the 1998 Fox Creek McLaren Vale I.S.M. Shiraz Cabernet Franc. Sip. Morose sip. You know what Peeps: I think I'll list out a w(h)ine-litany. It may be my last chance for a while to complain about things that would be too petty to serve up as war approaches and unfolds.
--People who choose not to respond to (sane, courteous) e-mails rather than having the courtesy -- and guts -- to respond to them. By not responding, they probably feel they can pretend they never got the e-mails (unless both sender and recipient are on AOL) -- when, really, it's just plain rude to leave the other party hanging. Can we try to avoid making *technological advance* not a synonym for *rudeness advance*?
--Bloggers who've been around longer than the group of poet-bloggers who started blogs up within the past few months; for discussion's sake, let's call the first group FOGEYS and the second group KOOL-AIDS. Certain FOGEYS sniff that certain KOOL-AIDS are not doing the blog thing correctly for some reason, e.g. that there's a specific nature/format/yadda to blogs and the KOOL-AIDS should abide. Hey -- does this remind you of critics-who-would-be-poets professing that there is/are certain ways of creating a poem? These are poet-bloggers, peeps, which is to say, these participants are poets. Is the job of a poet to toe the line? Get over yourselves, FOGEYS. Learn tactics, at a minimum. Ya think KOOL-AID's gonna give you cultural capital by, yawn, acknowledging that the blog is supposed to be a certain way? The technology is in the hands of poets....
Oh, who gives....! Sip. This wining and whining only emphasizes just how petty some concerns are. Yank the attention away from wallowing in the frustration. Or, at least to bigger things. Like, another excellent essay from Philippine Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros entitled "DEAD LINE." First, he cites the March 8-14 issue of The Economist which featured an article, "If war comes" The last paragraph notes:
"The biggest loser will be the Philippines. Electronics make up almost 70 percent of its exports, and it sends 30 percent of them to America. It consumes more imported oil per dollar of GDP than any other country in Southeast Asia. It suffers from terrorism, insurgencies and crime. Its ballooning public debt is already weighing on the economy. And it is the only country in the region with a direct stake in any war against Iraq. More than 1 million of its citizens work in the Gulf countries, and help keep the economy afloat by sending much of their wages home. If a war sends them fleeing, the Philippines will have to cope with both a refugee crisis and a current account crisis. No wonder the stock market and the peso are under pressure."
De Quiros notes that "the truly frightening thing is that though the publication's prediction is dire, all it reckons are the general effects of a war on Iraq on this country. It has not begun to appreciate the particular effects of a war on Iraq on this country given its blind endorsement of it. What it reckons for instance is merely the grave loss to the country's economy if the war in Iraq sends the Filipino OFWs [overseas workers] in the Gulf fleeing. What it has not begun to reckon is the horrendous plight the nationals of a country supporting the US war will be thrown into in the Middle East."
"...The near-universal perception in the Middle East is that Bush's war in Iraq is not anti-Saddam Hussein, it is anti-Arab and anti-Muslim...."
"Why we, a country that has, as The Economist puts it, 'a direct stake in any war against Iraq' should choose not to see this, only President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo can explain. Criminal does not begin to capture the enormity of it. Ms Macapagal is an economist. Mar Roxas is an economist. But their economics clearly has very little connection with the one The Economist, or the rest of the world, goes by. But economics can go hang. Just think of the physical wellbeing of our OFWs in the Gulf. Our open endorsement of a US attack on Iraq puts them in extreme jeopardy. It makes them targets for persecution, discrimination, harassment, abuse, opprobrium, quite apart from murder and mayhem."
Then the money issue, always relevant in war. De Quiros also cited the same thing I'd observed earlier about GMA's incompetence at negotiating with Washington. What is the Philippines getting for its support? De Quiros:
"Turkey was being offered a whopping $30 billion in grants and loan guarantees by the United States to open its military facilities to 62,000 US troops. Yet the Turkish parliament, after assessing the political costs of the 'carpet sale,' rejected it in a stunning vote. Pakistan has gotten more than $1 billion of its debt condoned and will get over the next few years several hundred million dollars in aid for various projects from education to science development, quite apart from improved access to US markets for Pakistani apparel.
"What have we got for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's ardent support for Bush's 'war against terror?' For which we are willing to risk the lives of the OFWs, for which we are willing to stoke a war in Mindanao, for which we are willing to turn this country back into an American colony? More or less $100 million in military aid. An additional $30 million was promised earlier, but Bush himself vetoed it for carrying more appropriations than he asked for."
De Quiros, thus, stands by the same prediction he made last February 24:
"(President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) will leave an economy in shambles, the peso shrunk to, well, choose your metaphor for diminutive, as the effects of the war she is supporting kick in. She will leave the OFWs in the Middle East desolate and helpless, scorned, discriminated upon and in fear for their lives and homes. She will leave a nation that will be the laughing stock of the non-aligned coalition and a pariah in the international community. She will leave a country torn by strife and bloodshed, turned now into a real laboratory for terror and mayhem. She will leave a people that have lost their peace, their freedom and their hope, while flying the banners of war, bigotry and the Burning Bush."
Now you know why I -- unlike many Filipinos -- was not impressed when GMA decided not to stand for re-election. But that's not all! De Quiros concludes, "And in the end, the United States won't do anything for this country anyway, to make up for all the harm it has caused."
Yep. Sip. Heck, it's not as if the U.S. even cleaned up after its radioactive self when it pulled out of its military bases there in the Philippines...Pinoy-peeps: DON'T YOU THINK IT TIME WE ALL DECOLONIZED?!! A good first step: read Leny Mendoza Strobel's book, Coming Full Circle: The Process of Decolonization Among Post-1965 Filipino Americans (Giraffe Books, 2001).
Meanwhile, following President Bush's announcement, the following was sent out from one of the most brilliant minds I've ever met, Barbara Kishenblatt-Gimblett (who also authored the fabulous book, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage (University of California Press, 1998)):
Dear friends, family, and colleagues,
Has Bush's decision ended your opposition to the war on Iraq? Our protests are more important than ever!
The Saturday 3/22 protest march will start at noon at 42nd St/Times Square, move down Broadway to Union Square, University Place and end at Washington Square Park. Here's the United for Peace announcement of the march.
There's also a plan:
IF WAR BEGINS, CONVERGE ON TIMES SQUARE
5:00PM on the first day of bombing
(the next day if bombing begins at night)
If the bombs start falling, we call on you to join with United for Peace & Justice and other groups for massive, immediate protests. In New York City, converge on Times Square from all directions at 5:00PM on the day the bombing begins (the next day if the bombing begins at night). Bring a portable radio and tune it to WBAI 99.5FM for important news and updates.
If you want to get regular e-mail announcements of protests, you can subscribe by sending your name to
You can also check protest Internet sites at:
Monday, March 17, 2003
NO SUCH THING AS A "SHORT WAR"
posted by EILEEN |
Well. So I just saw President Bush's speech on giving 48-hour notice for Saddam to Git or Iraq is invaded. Well. Not surprised, of course. I've said earlier that the President wasn't gonna let popular opinion get in the way. That's why I tried to do my bit on this blog about supporting peaceniks but didn't do much folo-up coverage of the peace protests (the inevitability -- nay, the predictability -- of politicians' thoughts can be so damn depressing). Ya didn't need to be Einstein to figger out -- Bush was going to go into Iraq come what...
Sip. Of course the whole thing drives me to drink....
This weekend, as I was driving around, I saw gas prices at about $2.50 a gallon. So, here's how economics work, that is, the way this Administration expects and hopes from a "brief" military engagement. Bomb, bomb, bomb. Then go in there and help set up post-Saddam government. Rebuild Iraq. Yadda yadda about how great we are at helping to rebuilt Iraq. But, oh my -- to rebuild Iraq means that Iraq needs money to finance such rebuilding. Loosen that Iraqi oil on the world market. Oil prices drop. U.S. economy benefits. Yadda. Ooooohhhhh: and mebbe the economy benefits enough by the time the next reelection comes!
Sip. Pouring myself a 3rd glass here. One should never drink alone, especially a fine wine like the 1998 Fox Creek McLaren Vale I.S.M. Shiraz Cabernet Franc. But.
I remember one e-mail circulating about cyberspace before today's announcement by President Bush. Something about how the U.S. currently doesn't use Iraqi oil so this really isn't a War-For-Oil kind of war. Sigh with sip. Lemme tell you something about economics. Oil suppliers supply a global market, okay? You don't need to draw a direct supply/demand line between Iraq Oil and U.S. consumers. Oil is as fungible as cash, Baby. And Iraq is sitting on humongous reserves.
On another level, this debacle is what happens when one doesn't understand history. As so many, including Philippine "National Hero" Jose Rizal, have said, "Those who do not know the past are doomed to repeat its mistakes."
Shortly after President Bush's speech, Muslims on T.V. were spouting all over the place about how, long term, this decision by President Bush is going to back-fire as it will only radicalize anti-U.S. sentiment among the global Muslim population. Duh. Seems so basic to me as a Filipino. What do I mean? Well, speaking of debacles, after the U.S. military "leaked" information a few weeks ago that it was going to return to the Philippines, Filipino politicians said that their announcement was premature -- thereby dealing a blow to the U.S.' desire to reconvene their Asian military presence there in the Philippines, particularly given the instability on the Korean peninsula. (Which is not to say that the U.S. will not succeed in returning to the Philippines; after all, the U.S. has dollars and the Philippines can use said dollars -- but that's another story.) The point is: why do you think there's anti-U.S. military sentiment among Filipinos? Because the U.S. invaded over 100 years ago. So, think of the next 100 years unfolding with anti-U.S. sentiment ingrained among the Muslim population in the Middle East. And that population (unlike Filipinos) are not pre-disposed to be U.S. allies!
Peeps -- we might physically go in and out of Iraq in a so-called brief time frame. But, let's understand this quite clearly: in what's about to unfold, on the reverb, there is no such thing as a "short war."
Let me say again: I AM DAMN PROUD MY WAR-RELATED POEMS STINK TO HIGH HEAVEN. Ugh.
As for Poetry, maybe this eve doesn't call for fine wine. Maybe scotch. Take it away Juaniyo Arcellana -- you fallen angel, you:
Christ died today
the movie houses are closed
in the overripe kaimitos
the white worms are happy
On the stage of history
denials, betrayals, shedding of skin
on the third day will rise again
the mystic chameleon.
Sip. "The mystic chameleon," indeed: the poem carves out a space for hope?
I can't (at this moment, and perhaps forever) articulate the depths of my rage over the times. So let me share a poem. This prose poem is from my first book, Beyond Life Sentences (Anvil, Manila, 1998).
A Poem Is A Comrade
I was lowering the flag, and grieving its ebb. Too often, life recedes into acts that can never be taken back or never again will be repeated. It was a banner I folded into oblivion: there is a country I have lost. Nor was there consolation that eve in the act of mourning. The clouds conceded with a grey heaviness overhead.
Men were a generous forest. The fall of one tree never provided surcease -- even temporary -- to my greed. All I could see were new limbs for my eager hands to clutch, then breach. And for what? A pitiable surrender? Resignedly, I notched each a memorial with another line around my throat. The break of day could never be premature.
You have been my consolation, Comrade. We are two rebels in hiding long after the oppressors have won -- the slums of their city invades our forest's demarcations! Our hair whitens together. But never, Comrade, never will we revert to buying real estate to become landlords. We continue to fell the insidious sparrows. There, my friend, there is yet another peak to be forged. Behind it, the sun rises. Hala Bira! The light burns. We never close our eyes.