Hold It All

Month: April, 2011

“Agent Orange Has Given Me a Death Sentence”

Through information provided by Virgina, who works with Veterans for Peace, I have been examining more closely the on-going effect of Agent Orange and came across this recent testimony from the Guardian.



During the Vietnam war, the US army sprayed 18 million gallons of the toxic chemical Agent Orange over Vietnam to destroy food sources and defoliate hiding places of the Viet Cong. Thirty years after the war, three million Vietnamese are still suffering from the effects of the poison, which can cause birth defects and cancer, has had a devastating impact on the environment and is now affecting a third generation of victims. Vietnamese victims have yet to receive any compensation. Dang Hong Nhut was 29 years old when she joined the resistance forces against the US army and was heavily exposed to Agent Orange. She works with The Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange and The Vietnam Agent Orange Campaign to lobby for compensation for the victims.

I was born in 1936, in the Cho Gao district of Vietnam, close to the Mekong Delta. Life was very hard when I was a child. The French had colonised Vietnam and there was a resistance war, and a lot of fighting in our village. Read the rest of this entry »



[This book’s] style and method—the interplay of text and photos, the mixture of genres, modes, styles—do not tell a consecutive story, nor do they constitute a political essay. Since the main features of our present existence are dispossession, dispersion, and yet also a kind of power incommensurate with our stateless exile, I believe that essentially unconventional, hybrid, and fragmentary forms of expression should be used to represent us… [O]ur truest reality is expressed in the way we cross over from one place to another. We are migrants and perhaps hybrids in, but not of, any situation in which we find ourselves. This is the deepest continuity of our lives as a nation in exile and constantly on the move.

–Edward Said, After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives (with photographer Jean Mohr) 


[Darwish] offers us a multivocal text that resembles a broken mirror, reassembled to present the viewer with vying possibilities of clarity and fracture.  On the page different kinds of writing converge:  the poem, both verse and prose; dialogue; Scripture; history; myth; myth in the guise of history; narrative fiction; literary criticism; and dream visions.  Each segment can stand on its own, yet each acquires a relational or a dialectical meaning, a history, that is contingent upon the context provided for it by all the other segments of the work.  … Suspended between wholeness and fracture, the text, like Palestine, is a crossroads of competing meanings.

–Translator Ibrahim Muhawi, on Mahmoud Darwish, Memory for Forgetfulness: August, Beirut, 1982


Instead of the loud, direct tone of other literary writings that denounce aggression and glorify resistance, Habiby manages to accomplish the same with wit, irony, sarcasm, ridicule, over-simplified candor, understatement, double meaning, paradoxes, puns, and play on words.

–Salma Khadra Jayyusi on Emile Habiby, The Secret Life of Saeed, the Ill-Fated Pessoptimist

Allons! (Walt Whitman Appreciation Night)

Some people open the Bible
and let their eye fall on a line
to bring consolation or insight
I turn to Leaves of Grass
To quicken pulse
To expand heart
To spark smiles…

The following is from Walt’s Song of the Open Road. I adapted these sections just a tad.


Allons! through struggles and wars!
The goal that was named cannot be countermanded.

Have the past struggles succeeded?
What has succeeded? yourself? your nation? Nature?
Now understand me well—it is provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary.

My call is the call of battle, I nourish active rebellion,
He going with me must go well arm’d,
She going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty, angry enemies, desertions.

Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!

Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

Camerado, Compañera, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?