“A poet is someone who stands outside in the rain, hoping to be struck by lightning.”
No bells ringing
no incense burning
no one but you.
No spoken sounds
no embracing arms
no one else but you.
Inner voices buzzing
you’re coming to you.
With or without stilling
something is flowing.
a cavern resounding
of echoes beyond.
What will you bring
when you return?
Figments of darkness
bursts of light?
hewed a little larger?
Raphael Block is a poet living just outside of beautiful Sebastopol, California, north of San Francisco. His book, Spangling Darkness, is being published as part of our Spring 2013 Season of Poetry.
Welcome to our new blog, Poet’s Comments into the World. Continuing the on-going commentary by poets and others on poetry, contemporary culture and the world. James Downs, Associate Editor, proposed this for poets and readers of poetry to have a place to enter into discussion. James will continue editing this blog and we welcome your comments, ideas, critique etc. For poetry submission please see our submission page. This blog is for an on-going conversation, we welcome your input.
Welcome to our new re-visioned website and this our latest version of our poetry journal. We started this in the late 90s as an occasional mail-out newsletter, changed to a twice yearly on-line version in the mid 2000s and now we change again to a blog format that will allow us to updated it with new poetry weekly, and even daily, as new pieces come in. This format will also allow us to archive, on-line, all the work that we post forever, thus the Forever Journal. Come back again and again, check out the new work and look over all the work that has been posted. Poetry is our gift to the world as it is the poets and you, the reader.
last night the pond was the size of a small hat
ten or fifteen of you holding on enough water
only to cover your back and keep the sun off
foot prints of coon and coyote dog and deer
and small bird circling down from reed covered
banks across cracked mud and soggy bottom
you squirm hoping against time and biology that
legs will sprout in time a race against summer sun
large and small creatures an eternity of narrow chances
one of you moves from runny mud back legs
near strong enough unsure that this is the time
but choices going fast as noon day
feeble hop out of dwindling mud toward
parched landscape that may offer escape
from the certainty of diminished water
you will make it if time and biology
“These poems ring with clarity, restraint and humanity. My admiration for Shadab Zeest Hashmi’s poetry continues to grow.”
— Sam Hamill
Shadab’s poetry does what some commentators over the years say is impossible; to write extraordinary poetry while making a political statement. Shadab does this and more. Her poetry is beautiful, there is no doubt about that, go to any page:
from Swat page 52
I would have bottled the tingle in birdsong
eaten the coconut-white river
climbed the far end of the ladder
and it is full of subtle and not so subtle political insight:
from The Road page 54
The sirens of her police escort
will neatly bury
of the explosion
in the mosque
but mostly she brings the two together, not to make the political beautiful, not to make the horrible beautiful but to do as Gandhi said in a quote I once saw on a high school teachers wall. ” It has always been about beauty, always!”
from U.S. Air Strikes page 68
Just when I finished rinsing the carafe,
a whole city was under cement dust and smoke,
and I thought I heard screaming behind walls of fire
in the kettle’s sharp whistle,
just when I added the cloves,
the last green lime.
You see she will not let you collapse into horror, she will demand that beauty stays with you and heals you as she shows you what we do in each others name. What we do and what we must not do, she shows us what in truth we must do, we must always be about beauty.
You really must read all of this book.
John Peterson, publisher
About the book
“The bride who contemplates her half paralyzed face on the eve of marriage (in the opening poem “Facial Palsy”) is emblematic of the larger story of Pakistan: an ancient culture fractured by new and divergent identities. The poet, like the bride whose face is divided into “lit” and “dim” halves, gazes into the mirrors of history and politics to make sense of the disjunctive parts that refuse to come together as a whole. The very multiplicities of culture that the poet celebrates (“Socrates/mangoes cut in cubes,” “Iqbal’s poems on marble construction paper,” “rouge from Paris, coconut oil from Orissa”) are also the cause of dissonance (“War cries of the Greeks/ in plume red/Mongols/ in horse-leather red,” “Gunga Din’s ghost lifted from the tennis courts/of Peshawar Club”)— dissonance that is further amplified in the post-9/11 wars to which a Pakistani-American response in poetry has thus far been absent. Kohl & Chalk is that response in the voice of a daughter, a mother, a global citizen.”
Kiirsti Peterson studied at the University of Barcelona, Spain in the summer of 2012 and had the opportunity of seeing the work of the amazing architect and builder Antoni Gaudí. Here are a few of the photos she took.
Over the course of my working life I have joined two unions the International Union of Operating Engineers and the Service Employees International Union where at one point I was on the contract negotiating team. In management positions I have manged non-union and union employees. I have found that as rule union shops tended to have the better working condition, wages and benefits. As a manager, working with a union allows both employees and management better working conditions as both have a spelled out set of rules to work with. Management must abide by the rules and employees as well must abide by their agreed upon contract. The upshot was that it allowed management to do the job of managing rather than baby sitting which tended to be the case in non-union shops.
I have likewise worked in so called “right to work” state. These states tend to have lower union activity. In these states not only did employees not have union protection but also the states tended to have poor state labor boards that accorded workers little state protection. I recall in Mississippi and Alabama workers pay was the Federally mandated minimum wage where in a state like California with strong labor representation the state mandates by law a higher minimum wage that helps worker enjoy better living conditions. Without union representation there is no way for workers to negotiate for better wages. Required uniforms in California must be provided by the employer at no cost to the employee by law. In Mississippi and Alabama uniforms are required but employees must pay for them. Without active unions there is little motivation for states to provide adequate coverage for workers.
I recall as a director at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto California how management, though required by law to allow and not interfere with union organizing activities, spent many hours in management meetings actively looking for way to get around the laws that protected union organizing activities within the Hospital and on Hospital grounds. Much of the talk was very derisive.
One of the definitions of union from the on-line Merriam-Webster dictionary: “a political unit constituting an organic whole formed usually from units which were previously governed separately…” That is what a labor union is “an organic whole” and its history developed from the specific destructive working conditions that grew out of the industrial revolution. Union growth reached its peak in the US in the 30s,40, and 50s. Unions seek a resolution of problems in the workplace by joining together as “an organic whole” responding to a real problem.
Two interesting notes on Labor Unions from Wikipedia:
“The percentage of workers belonging to a union (or “density”) in the United States peaked in 1954 at almost 35% and the total number of union members peaked in 1979 at an estimated 21.0 million. Membership has declined since… . Private sector union membership then began a steady decline that continues into the 2010s, but the membership of public sector unions grew steadily (now 37%).”
“In 2010, the percentage of workers belonging to a union in the United States (or total labor union “density”) was 11.4%, compared to 18.6% in Germany, 27.5% in Canada, and 70% in Finland.”
There have been concerted efforts in the US since the 50s to undermine union activities, one of those being the so call “right to work” (but as some commentators say “to work for less”) laws. Union busting efforts in Michigan follow this path lead once again by the reactionary Republican Party.
But it is my opinion that this latest “union busting” is doomed to failure as union and non-union supporters press once again for a redress of grievances and take the only course of action available when government sides with those who would deny people the right to organize in their own behalf. The streets of Michigan are filling as we speak.
Death of Indian Sitar Master 12/12/12
This morning I saw the notice that Ravi Shankar died at age 92. Over the years I have had three remarkable experiences at Ravi Shankar concerts. The first in 1968, recently back from Vietnam, I sat through a most remarkable concert at the Greek Theater in LA. I experienced a true standing ovation where the audience was literally lifted out of our seats, I do mean literally, we could not stay seated. In the 80s I attended a concert a UC San Diego and in the 90s at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine
in San Diego where Shankar and his students gave a symposium and concert on Indian Classical Music. Each experience for me was a revelation at a perfect moment, a journey into the magical realm of music where healing and spirit brought life and love into the world. I have been blessed and may Ravi Shankar continue his journey of love and life. Blessing to you Ravi Shankar.