Hold It All

Category: World Literature

Sending a Poem and Its Translation to a Friend

This is by Nicanor Parra.
Sound familiar?
Parra.
As in Violeta Parra (Nicanor’s sister).

As in Gracias a la Vida.
As in her own recording of same
(YouTube hers, not Mercedes’s)
As in try and not feel indescribable shivers even if you’ve heard it 279 times {“That’s all?”} before.

Bow our heads
For these two Treasures
Sister and Brother
From Chile, South America.

Treat Yourself

Read Virginia Woolf on Montaigne.

 

Share the Wealth with Matthew Miller: Rumi, Sufi Path of Love, and the Politics of “Mysticism”

Matthew Miller will lead us in a wide ranging discussion about Persian Sufi poetry. He will touch on the problems with many popular translations of Rumi and explore the “Sufi path of love” by introducing us to a few new Sufi poets who have not received as much popular acclaim in the “West.” Laced throughout this discussion will be a consideration of how the “mystical” and political are intertwined in both liberatory and oppressive ways.

Matthew Miller grew up in Cincinnati, OH, spent many, many years in school in St. Louis at Washington University, and current lives in Washington, DC. His day job is as an assistant professor of Persian literature and digital humanities at the University of Maryland, College Park. In his free time he tries to be a social justice activist and urban farmer, too.

Join us
Sunday 31 May
7:00 p.m C.S.T.
Via Zoom
Email me for URL
Markjchmiel@gmail.com

Drs. Matt Miller, Nima Sheth; Neil Munjal; photo by Dr. Neeta Shenai

Putting Marginalia to Use

for Danielle Mackey

Eduardo Galeano, The Book of Embraces
31 Saturday October 2009

I reread this book for one reason:  To see if it could help me generate some ideas as to form and content for my third book, which still will deal with Palestine.

So, all I scribble below is from marginalia—ideas, chapter or unit titles, possibilities—I  have made as I read these short, lyrical, lightly dense meditations that still make me think: Ah, this is my form, too!

Today as I finished the book in Borders waiting for Sharifa and Dania, it occurred to me: 10 themes each with 10 chapters, fractured and sequenced, with the ten chapters on Hedy being the “spine” of the work: a link between Shoah and Nakba. This is reflected below in the end of these notes.

It really will be a meditation on history.

Lexicon entries
The Occupation
What Prison can do to a Man [Hitler story]

Ghadeer, 400 words [tell me your story]
Different fonts of Arabic words…. Calligraphy
Reading Chomsky/1/2

Take a quotation and revise it to tell my story
Transformations/1 [Halper]

People I Know: The Actor
People I Know: The Survivor
People I Know: The Professor Read the rest of this entry »

Reminder to Self

When you encounter those who are wicked, unrighteous, foolish, dim-witted, deformed, vicious, chronically ill, lonely, unfortunate, or handicapped, you should think: “How can I save them?” And even if there is nothing you can do, at least you must not indulge in feelings of arrogance, superiority, derision, scorn, or abhorrence, but you should immediately manifest sympathy and compassion. If you fail to do so, you should feel ashamed and deeply reproach yourself: “How far I have strayed from the Way! How can I betray the old sages?” I take these words as an admonition to myself.

Ryōkan-san

“It’s the Old Thoreau Tradition”

This morning I was reading a 1972 interview with poet Allen Ginsberg and came across the following exchange…

YLP: I was surprised to see the importance young Americans grant now to the Do It Yourself thing.
Ginsberg: It’s the old Thoreau tradition. The reason for that is that if you don’t do it yourself you are a prisoner of the robot state, the electric company the transportation company, the food monopolies and the chain stores. You live in a suspended state where you don’t even know where your power comes from, you leave the faucets running and the lights on all night just because you don’t even know that the water supplies are slowly diminishing and maybe we have only another twenty or thirty years of clean water before it all goes away. You live in a situation where you let people dump your garbage out in the Atlantic Ocean so that in the last twenty years 40 percent of the life of the oceans has been destroyed…. Read the rest of this entry »

Two Ways of Looking at a Plague…

Ernesto Cardenal, Zero Hour And Other Documentary Poems
New Directions, 1980

Dear Chase & Liz,

The Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal died on March 1. I’m going back over his works this spring under quarantine. I first read Zero Hour in 2008, and it was a godsend, a goad, a glory. A little more than 100 pages, Cardenal’s exteriorismo invites you into a world of injustice, resistance, and revolution, the last of which the U.S. government was determined to kill off, and did by the late 1980s. Translator Robert Print-Mill has this to say: “Cardenal’s recording of the present or the past is aimed at helping to shape the future—involving the reader in the poetic process in order to provoke him into full political commitment, thus fostering the translation of the poet’s more prophetic visions into sociopolitical fact.” Without Cardenal, without this book, I could not have written Dear Layla [see therein, Reading/5 (Subversive/3)]. The following are some passages from several poems that caught my attention…

The Brazilian miracle
Of a Hilton Hotel surrounded by hovels.
The price of things goes up
And the price of people comes down.

We cut through the canyon of windows [in Manhattan] and trillions of dollars

Who is that other monster rising up in the night?
The Chase Manhattan Bank screwing half of humanity.

THE EARTH BELONGS TO EVERYBODY, NOT THE RICH Read the rest of this entry »

A Meditation on History by Vasily Grossman

Can we call someone a great man if he has not brought into people’s lives a single atom of good, a single atom of freedom and intelligence?

Can we call someone a great man if he has left behind him only ashes, ruins and congealed blood, only poverty and the stench of racism, only the graves of the countless children and old people he has killed?

Can we call someone a great man because his unusual intelligence, able to detect and co-opt every dark and reactionary force, proved as virulent and destructive as the bacteria of bubonic plague?

The twentieth century is a critical and dangerous time for humanity. It is time for intelligent people to renounce, once and for all, the thoughtless and sentimental habit of admiring a criminal if the scope of his criminality is vast enough, of admiring an arsonist if he sets fire not to a village hut but to capital cities, of tolerating a demagogue if he deceives not just an uneducated lad from a village but entire nations, of pardoning a murderer because he has killed not one individual but millions. Read the rest of this entry »

The Path of Sympathy in a Time of Plague

Tarrou was swinging his leg, tapping he terrace lightly with his heel, as he concluded. After a short silence the doctor raised himself a little in his chair and asked if Tarrou had an idea of the path to follow for attaining peace.  “Yes,” he replied. “The path of sympathy.” Albert Camus, The Plague, 225

 

The best part of Camus’s novel is the theme of commitment.  In a time when there is plague (HIV/AIDS, empire, military occupation, to name three contemporary plagues people suffer from), what options do people exercise?  Tarrou, Rieux, Grand, and eventually Rambert all take in one way or another “the path of sympathy,” the way of “comprehension,” which is Tarrou’s word for his code of morals.

Tarrou, who wanted to be a saint without God, is a hero, even with all his contradictions (and don’t we all have our own?):  he looks unflinchingly at the plague and works to combat it, and risks his life. Ultimately, he dies. He is like Rachel Corrie: This must stop – but he couldn’t stop the plague, he could only accompany the victims.  And not be condemning or judgmental.  

And what is true religiosity in a time of plague? It is praxis, it is the path of sympathy, and you can take the dogmas, doctrines, and rituals—who needs them? It is Yitz Greenberg’s anguished cri de coeur: No theology talk is credible; pull the children out of the burning pits!

This means knowing that children are being burned alive (recall Steiner’s  refusal to sit still). This means going near to where the children are, you’ve got to see it.  And then doing something.  But we keep our distance; we offer solidarity from afar, which alas isn’t much. Or is it? I myself said that “the real work” on behalf of Palestine was back in the US, what were we really doing to fight the plague there, in Gaza? It may have seemed heroic and risky from the stateside perspective. But I was convinced that we have more to contribute here, working to cut off the source of the funding and ideological support for the occupation, than doing accompaniment work.  But it’s ambos: Both/and: I had that opportunity then, I have this opportunity now, to be vigilant.  Here’s Rieux’s critique of distance:  “…sometimes at midnight, in the great silence of the sleep-bound  town, the doctor turned on his wireless before going to bed for the few hours’ sleep he allowed himself. And from the ends of the earth, across thousands of miles of land and sea, kindly, well-meaning speakers tried to voice their fellow-feeling, and indeed did so, but at the same time proved the utter incapacity of every man truly to share in suffering which he cannot see. ‘Oran! Oran!’ In vain the call rang over oceans, in vain Rieux listened hopefully; always the tide of eloquence began to flow, bringing home still more the unbridgeable gulf that lay between Grand and the speaker. ‘Oran, we’re with you!’ they called emotionally. But not, the doctor told himself, to love or to die together—and that’s the only way. They’re too remote.” [124] Read the rest of this entry »

Real Butchers

Leo Tolstoy, Hadji Murat
Translators, Pevear and Volokhonsky

I should read this short novel every year, in January. This time I read it thinking of Vietnam, the American occupiers (Russians), the indigenous resistance (Chechens), and the rivalries among the Vietnamese (Shamil v. Hadji Murat). Then there’s destroying the forests with herbicides (and the Russians cutting down the forest trees [441]). And the mutilation of corpses as in “beers for ears” (Hadji Murat’s head carried around in a sack). And these passages for meditation…

But deep in her heart Aksinya was glad of Pyotr’s death. She was pregnant again by the salesclerk she lived with, and now no one could reproach her anymore, and the salesclerk could marry her, as he had said he would when he was persuading her to love him. 410

HM: “Fear came over me and I ran away…Never afterwards. Since then I always remembered that shame, and when I remembered it, I was no longer afraid of anything.” 422

To disagree with Nicholas’s orders meant to lose all that brilliant position which he now enjoyed, and which he had spent forty years acquiring. And therefore he humbly bowed his dark, graying head in a sign of submission and readiness to carry out the cruel, insane, and dishonest supreme will. 443-4 Read the rest of this entry »