Hold It All

Category: Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine

Internationalista (Daydream/2)

It’s Nablus spring 1989
The intifada is in full bloom
And there’s always something happening in and with and from the resistance
International delegations come and go
10,000 photos are taken of David
(A Palestinian teen-ager with stones)
Squaring off against Goliath
(An Israeli tank)
The leaflets and communiqués everywhere
The women come into public space and assert their voices
And the mighty State of Israel has a major PR problem
Unnoticed is the older man with wavy grey hair
Like so many non-Palestinians, he, too, adopts the kaffiyeh
He studied some Arabic in Beirut and Sāo Paolo
He’d always been thinking of how to make “it” happen
To birth the revolution
Here, there, and everywhere
He wasn’t as talkative as he was in his thirties
He listened far more intently
Suffering can do that to a person
He’d seen so much misery
No, he wasn’t religious at all, but he found himself saying “crucifixion”
A fate he had several times narrowly escaped himself
He arrived with a Brazilian passport: “Joāo Azevedo”
He came on fire for the people living under a dehumanizing system
He came, thinking, once again: If I’m going to go out
(translated: to die)
Better to die in the struggle
Than being interviewed for the 200th time by a cynical, smug journalist whose specialty is retro features
Better to be with the rock throwers than those who blithely and brainlessly pay their taxes to support the occupiers
Better to go and blend in and enjoy every bite of falafel and hummus and
Say “gracias, uh, shukran”
To every Palestinian grandmother, wife, or teenager who offers sustenance
Better to connect the blood red dots once again
From the Guatemalan Highlands to Ramallah
From Santiago to Gaza City
From San Salvador to al-Quds
Better to recognize the Palestinians as sisters and brothers
Compañeros and compañeras
And offer them one’s silence
One’s experience
One’s impatience
One’s indignation
One’s stories from crisscrossing a planet crucified by capitalism
Better to join the demonstration
Tear gas won’t faze him
Beatings—even at his age (61)—don’t evoke fear
In the afternoon near the sooq
He meets a new resister
(They are everywhere)
The older man extends his hand to the youth,
Smiles and says,
“Ismii Che…”

OK, Henry
I’ve got some down time over here
I wrote this for your pleasure

Hasta la Intifada Siempre

Perry

–from Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine

Where the Tortured and the Torturer Shook Hands

How many of our most famous novelists, for instance, have bothered to take the two-and-a-half hour flight from Miami and see for themselves what’s going on here?
—Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 

I first read Seven Days in Nicaragua Libre in the mid-eighties; Ferlinghetti and I had both visited Nicaragua in 1984 (I on a Kentucky Witness for Peace delegation). I looked at the book again ten years ago, when Becca Gorley and I were reading from the City Lights Pocket Poets series. At that time, I was, still, trying to write something about our times in the West Bank and Gaza, and Ferlinghetti’s account was one of several books I read for provocation and inspiration. Many things, you can’t force; Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine was self-published in summer 2015.

A man of the Left, Ferlinghetti saw Nicaraguan history this way: “What has happened here, rather, is the overthrow of a tyrant (Somoza) supported by the U.S., and the attempt to overthrow the economic tyrant of colonialism in which Latin America has been for centuries the cheap labor market for North American and multinational business.” Many U.S. citizens may suffer amnesia about this appalling history but Latin Americans have a long memory. Read the rest of this entry »

The Pithy, the Necessary, the Clear, and the Plain

Charles Reznikoff: Man and Poet, edited by Milton Hindus
National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine at Orono, 1984

Poetry presents the thing in order to convey the feeling. It should be precise about the thing and reticent about the feeling.

— A.C. Graham quoting a Chinese poet from long ago

 

This thick volume is a collection of reminisces, literary analyses, and appreciations of Charles Reznikoff: Objectivist, American-Jew between two worlds, New Yorker, walker, miniaturist, transformer of documentary mass of data into free verse art, survivor of mean anti-Semitism growing up, self-published devotee to his own writing, lawyer who never practiced, maker of a preferential option (in writing, anyway) for the humblest, and chronicler of the Jewish history.

I first learned of Reznikoff from writings by Eliot Weinberger and Allen Ginsberg. In the summer of 2010 I plunged into his works and Hindus’s volume during the generation of what became Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine. Read the rest of this entry »

Like Staying up All Night with Your Best Friend

Allen Ginsberg, Allen Verbatim: Lectures on Poetry, Politics, Consciousness, edited by Gordon Ball

There are many influences that went into my creating Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine, and Allen Ginsberg was a major one. Here are quotations from reading Allen Verbatim in 2006, with my comments relating to subsequent Dear Layla project in brackets…

So what I do is try to forget entirely about the whole world of art and just get directly to the most economical—that is, the fastest, not most economical—the fastest and most direct expression of want it is I got in heart-mind. 107 [The chapters in novel are certainly economical!]

Start with what you desire, heart, instead of what you think you are supposed to do. 124 [E. once told me after she received my correspondence, “That’s the best love letter I’ve ever received.” That became the end of the novel many years later.]

… in which the prose sentence is completely personal, comes from the writer’s own person—his person defined as his body, his breathing rhythm, his actual talk. 153 [This is why this book of correspondences worked best for me.] Read the rest of this entry »

To Contend, To Enliven, To Distance, To Advocate, To Investigate, To Rally, To Prioritize, To Surprise

I’ve read Anne Waldman since 2001 (Fast Speaking Woman: Chants and Essays got me started). Her epics, poems, interviews, and edited anthologies (from the Kerouac School at Naropa) stimulate and open up possibilities. One of her most engaging books is OUTRIDER: Poems, Essays, Interviews. For you, friends in the writing sangha, I offer the following passages:  May one or more of these be a goad, an encouragement, an invitation.

Worry the essential library. Write what you would want to read. Utopian poetics, what you want to read. 15

A good idea: Contemplative education. Non-competitive education. 17

Maker of books she might be. Maker of schools. 23

Encourage street corner culture. What happens below the radar. 27

Nowhere to go again but the library. 29

To contend, to enliven, to distance, to advocate, to investigate, to rally, to prioritize, to surprise. 31

To vocalize. To mouth the impossible. 31

I have declared in one manifesto, a writing beyond gender, and have tried to inspire a poet’s Bodhisattva Vow, in which one becomes a bridge, a path, a shelter, whatever is required, for others. And one reads and studies and performs… for the benefit of others. 46 Read the rest of this entry »

Short, Savory, and Sound: Aitken’s Miniatures

In fall 2000 I first encountered Robert Aitken Roshi with his book, The Dragon Who Never Sleeps, a collection of scores of four-line poems, or gathas.  Nine years later, I read his Miniatures of a Zen Master, which served me as a model text —compressed, no excess verbiage, just the pith.  Among Aitken’s inspirations were Thoreau’s journals, and  Bashō and Kenkō’s prose works. In my journal, I wrote “Merge Aitken  with Galeano.  This is the path.  Write one book, 130 chapter titles….His table of contents is an inspiration, for a terse, spare next book.”

The result  several years later was  Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine.  While Aitken wrote in short paragraphs, I typically  composed in short stanzas: transfigured recollections, meditations, lists, stories I carried around for thirty years.  He was a beneficent influence in the generation and shaping of the novel.

Here are some of my favorite Aitken miniatures …

_____________________

A lot of us start out on the practice because we don’t accept ourselves fully. Under good tutelage we find ourselves in a process of forgetting ourselves, and realize that this is really the way to uncover the unique one that has been there all along. Give the Tao a chance. Give yourself a chance. [17] Read the rest of this entry »

“The Hebrew socialist revolution against the fascist national Golgotha”*

Notes on Eliot Katz, The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg

Example of George Steiner’s championing learning by heart: Ginsberg knew  hundreds of poems from memory [20]

In Dear Layla and Book of Mev: The multiple instances of  Clara’s “beautiful friendship,” as in theme of interpersonal solidarity, Part 3 of Howl  [84]  Maria Goreth and the elderly, Nora’s letter, Teka’s eulogy, Carla and Perry,  Sabine and Danesha, Layla and Perry…

Book of Mev and Dear Layla: Hold it all, again—don’t have to choose one or other—realism or surrealism, narrative or anti-narrative, elevated diction or American speech; can embrace multiple interests and mix them in original, personal, and surprising ways.  [90]  Kerouac’s advice: “Something that you feel will find its own form.” Read the rest of this entry »

Slow Reading

A young friend decided to read
Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine
(Her family are refugees from there)

Most chapters are a page maybe two
She is reading two chapters a day
H. D. Thoreau said: “I have no time to be in a hurry”

When It Comes to My Novel, Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine, Elie Wiesel Took the Words Right out of My Mouth

I no longer see literature as an art or entertainment. For me literature must fulfill a certain mission in categories of history and justice. Literature is the art of correcting injustices. If there is nothing else I can do, I write a book. This is precisely the task of the witness today, of the modern storyteller, of the Jewish writer. We use words to try to alter the course of events, to save people from humiliation or death.

–Elie Wiesel, Against Silence, edited by Irving Abrahamson, v. 3, p. 116

 

“I’ll Never Know, in the Silence You Don’t Know, You Must Go On, I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On”

Working on a kind of sequel to Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine, I am imagining a character named Bella Levenshteyn, who in her twenties devotes herself to learning Yiddish, the language of her ancestors.  At one point, she confides to Perry that she once went on a  five-week reading binge of the essays, poems, articles, and reviews by  Yankev Glatshteyn, the foremost U.S.Yiddish writer in the middle of the 20th century.

I’ve been reading several recent works of scholarship on that period, and found some stimulating provocations in Anita Norich’s work, Discovering Exile:  Yiddish and Jewish American Culture during the Holocaust.

The following  passages may inform, or work themselves—somehow— into my story.

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People are quite familiar with the conventional label for the Nazi genocide of the Jews, “the Holocaust.”  Norich considers the period well before that word assumed its ascendancy: “Under increasing pressure of news from the war front and silence from home, Yiddish writers re-imagined modernism, the Enlightenment, political engagement, literary conventions, and symbolic language.  The destruction of European Jewry was called by its Yiddish name, khurbn, before it was known as the Holocaust, before the numbers of dead were revealed, even before the concentration camps were built. What Yiddish-speaking Jews meant by khurbn … was a long history of disasters into which the rise of Hitler, the Nuremberg Laws, Kristallnacht, and a host of other disastrous events could fit.  The particularities of Nazism’s rise were not, at the time, perceived as unique, unparalleled, or apocalyptic by the people against whom they were directed.” Read the rest of this entry »