Posts Tagged ‘Literature’

Angry Poetry Week Continues: Powers of Recuperation by Adrienne Rich

March 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Today’s poem was written by the iconic feminist poet and essayist Adrienne Rich, who passed away yesterday at the age of 82. Rich’s literary works inspired countless feminist authors and activists over several decades. Rich was revered for her social commentary as well as her deeply moving personal reflections.

She lived and wrote openly as a lesbian for most of her adult life, beginning in an era when homosexuality was condemned by more than just knee jerk christian conservatives. As an author and activist she fought bravely for not only the rights of women, but for all who are disadvantaged in our society.

Her list of works and awards span over 7 decades, and she is one of the most anthologized authors of the 20th century. Although her writing style may have not been the in your face, bludgeon you with a hammer type poetry that’s been featured this week, her message was always loud and clear, and succinctly relevant. I would be remiss if I didn’t honor her today by sharing with you one of her poems.

Sleep well dearest Adrienne; You are cherished by many, and you are already missed.

Without further adieu, I share with you:

Powers of Recuperation
by Adrienne Rich
A woman of the citizen party—what’s that—
is writing history backward
her body
              the chair she sits in
to be abandoned
The old, crusading, raping, civil, great, phony, holy, world,
               second world, third world,
               cold, dirty, lost, on drugs,
infectious, maiming, class
war lives on
A done matter she might have thought
ever undone though
from before her birthyear
and that hyphen coming after
she’s old, old, the incendiary
endless beginner
whose warped wraps you shall find in graves and behind glass
Streets empty now
           citizen rises
         shrugging off
her figured shirt pulls on her dark generic garment
identity inklings
  watch, rings, ear studs
now to pocket her flashlight
         her tiny magnet
shut down heater
            finger a sleeping cat
lock inner, outer door
key in crevice
      listen once twice
to the breath of the neighborhood
take temperature of the signs
     a bird
               a frost settling
… you left that meeting around two a.m. I thought
someone should walk with you
Didn’t think then I needed that
years ravel out and now
who’d be protecting whom
I left the key in the old place
in case
Spooky those streets of minds
shuttered against shatter
articulate those walls
pronouncing rage and need
fuck the cops
      come jesus
blow me again
Citizen walking catwise
close to the walls
heat of her lungs leaving
its trace upon the air
fingers her tiny magnet
which for the purpose of drawing
particles together will have to do
when as they say the chips are down
at riverbank
          seven bridges
Ministers-in-exile with their aides
limb to limb dreaming underneath
conspiring by definition
      trajectories arched
in shelter   rendezvous
two banks to every river  
     two directions
to every bridge
twenty-eight chances
every built thing has its unmeant purpose
Every built thing with its unmeant
    unmet purpose
every unbuilt thing
child squatting    civil
engineer   devising
by kerosene flare   in mud
possible tunnels
carves in cornmeal mush   
canals by index finger
all new learning looks at first
like chaos
the tiny magnet throbs
in citizen’s pocket

Bends under the arc walks bent listening for chords and codes
bat-radar-pitched or twanging
off rubber bands and wires tin can telephony
to scribble testimony by fingernail and echo
her documentary alphabet still evolving
Walks up on the bridge   
    wind-whipped      roof and trajectory
shuddering under her catpaw tread
one of seven
built things holds her suspended
between desolation
and the massive figure on unrest’s verge
1pondering the unbuilt city
cheek on hand and glowing eyes and
skirted knees apart

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Angry Poetry Week: Trajectory of the ‘Civilized’ – Michelle Beltano Curtis

March 28, 2012 2 comments

Our next poem for angry poetry week comes from Michelle Beltano Curtis, who writes the blog Carving Out a Voice. Michelle writes about a number of issues, including themes about feminism, the environment, otherness, sexuality, aging and illness, in a very distinctive unmitigated voice. Her work has appeared in Ginger Piglet, Voice It!, Lambda Literary Review, and more.

This particular poem from Michelle rails against humanity’s systematic destruction of our planet in the name of Man’s one true god, capitalism. It contains disturbing imagery, and is a very haunting, angry condemnation of the nearly irreversible damage we have managed to wreak upon our planet in a very short time. 

Without further adieu, I give you:  

Trajectory of the ‘Civilized’
Michelle Beltano Curtis
 In honor of Allen Ginsberg
The inventor’s hands are speeding cars
following roadmaps of the damned,
metal and glass and gleaming light
of power plants and toy factories
expelling great gasps of endless vapors
hexavalent chromium, strontium chromate,
toxins in our air tongues can only trip on,
turn lakes and rivers neon green, vapid blue,
unthinking orbs mark the journey
skies a burnished haze of baby shit at dawn,
and aren’t the evening skies of dusk delightful
in rainbow shades of obliteration?
An unnatural world in endless trails of duplication
we buy for bottom dollar with the click of a mouse.
Instant gratification for our ultimate destruction.
 Hidden at last in heated ash of an angry Sun
we forgot to fear, respect, worship,
trailing incense, canted whispers,
aberrant kisses for Moloch as the forgotten
ends of some unjustified means bring us closer to the end—
to pyramids of rotting flesh, burnt offerings
for Madagascan cockroaches
in endless ecstasies—putrid meat
in razor jaws, and we’re on top where
always they insisted we should be,
skin excoriated by excruciating heat,
querulous children with castigated raisin eyes.
Blank sockets occupied once by pale marbles of
millennia ago— before we discovered the interstellar cacophony,
invented macros for love and invention, bought-sold-bartered
love, friends, sex, emotion, through airwaves
once meant for the simple act of sustaining life, breath.
Pale marbles in a vertical reality of grasslands and hippopotami
with angular jaws echoing like caverns
their trembling of equine energies,
organic angels without harpsichords
or unrequited love or beards and skirts
or adam’s imperfection; that fucking rib.
No vindicated harpes of eve
or revelations of marriage beds or boys in backseats
no sin on their minds none existed.
Just thumping flesh and pulsing tides
of tangled ecstasy and moaning limbs,
fucking and crying; enraptured motion and ethereal air
amid fat raindrops or crystalline stalactites
of winter’s clean, crunchy breath.
Death was life, cyclical journey of cleansing,
fertilizing the roots of new creation
within the ruins and the world cracked open
in splendiferous greens and vibrant hues of red, ochre, azure,
earth’s children huddled in the bosom of her
protective ranges; no us, them,
only all—in the occupation of survival
in the same rhythm of the world, freed
in the youth of the world to flourish to harvest to die
again and again.
Moloch, they worship you and they will sacrifice us all, and in our blind
passivity we deserve your sweltering damnation.
In the end, only that which birthed us will survive to mend
herself among cooling surf and settling rock to create anew
her own treasures of tree and pheasant and monarch.
And in a million years the scientists and archeologists who begin to discover
remnants of a world torn asunder will someday shake their heads at our
foolhardiness while they marvel at our cleverness
all the while fear brings a palsy to their people upon the revelation –
of greed among their own.


America the Pacified (via Carving Out a Voice)

August 31, 2011 2 comments

As most of you may know, I tend to write a little on the angry side 😉 I also love to read other works that lean to anger and outrage as well. My partner Michelle tends to write angry in her poetry (which I love by the way), and she does it better than anyone I know.

Without further adieu, I share with you America the Pacified.

By Michelle Beltano Curtis

Made dumb by reality television
numb by nightly news,
interpreting everything in a lens
of red, white and blue.
A contest of who killed who,
focusing only on minutiae,
views askance, never mind truth;
what’s not reported when focusing
on the robber down the street
or the prize awarded some pale boy
for doing what he already should?

Sheep for the slaughter
enthralled by credit cards.
Buy another cardigan to trash
long before the bill is gone.
America on credit, from the white house
to the white houses with their lying
little picket fences in assembly line
neighborhoods, SUV parked
beside a carcinogenic lawn
while the world chokes to death
on fossil fuels.

‘Cuz in America, we say fuck Mother Nature,
the only world we have to survive upon,
hoping for science fiction miracles.
We’ve lost the delineation
between fantasy and fact.
It’s all sponsored by Koch Industries
and the controlling one percent.

And while we’re at it fuck the future
of our children and exploit your mother, too.
Money is more enticing. Buying
more important than surviving.
And if that’s not enough,
chug down a brew, pick up a gram
of your favorite rescue compliments
of the Mexican mob we spend billions
of dollars on but can’t seem to dislodge.
It keeps us numb, the ninety-nine
percent left struggling along.

It’s only a needle. People do it
every day, because we’re
Americans, home of the privileged few,
the remainder broken and decayed.
But nobody cares, so long as they
don’t take the X-boxes, cell phones;
all our favorite drugs, away.

© 2011. All rights reserved. Reprint with permission of the author only.

via Carving Out a Voice

Questions From a Worker Who Reads

July 19, 2011 6 comments

While studying for my historical theory class during my lunch hour today, I came across this treasure from Bertold Brecht (1898-1956). Brecht was a Marxist poet, playwright, and theatre director, who often used poetry and the theatre to express his political ideology. This poem, written in 1935, is a wonderful example of not only Marxist history, but of People’s history as well. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Without further adieu, I share with you:

Questions From a Worker Who Reads.

Who built Thebes of the 7 gates ?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock ?

And Babylon, many times demolished,
Who raised it up so many times ?

In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live ?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?

Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.
Who erected them ?

Over whom did the Caesars triumph ?
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants ?

Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves.

The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone ?

Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him ?

Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep ?

Frederick the 2nd won the 7 Years War.
Who else won it ?

Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors ?

Every 10 years a great man.
Who paid the bill ?

So many reports.

So many questions.

Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul Says No Woman Is His Literary ‘Equal’ : The Two-Way : NPR

June 2, 2011 3 comments

Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul Says No Woman Is His Literary ‘Equal’ : The Two-Way : NPR.

If Naipaul defines literary as “misogynistic conceited dumbass,” then yes, no woman is his “equal.”

A Review Of Obama’s Speech In Haiku

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment
Barack Obama: An American Portrait

Image by tsevis via Flickr

I know Haiku is not supposed to be metaphorical, but I’m breaking the rules. Here’s my summary of Obama’s address yesterday:

Tiger talks tough
Baboons spew rhetoric
Herd wanders dazed

Where is The Angela Davis of Today’s Generation? She Never Left!

March 3, 2011 8 comments

In the spirit of Women’s History Month, I thought author and activist Angela Davis would make a great subject to write about. Angela has been active in many areas of human rights and social change beginning in the early 60’s civil rights movement. For almost 50 years she has been a leading voice in feminism, LGBT rights, prison reform, and racial injustice. In addition, she was under constant watch of the FBI, and was wrongfully imprisoned for two years before she was tried and acquitted for alleged activity involving the kidnapping and murder of a California judge. Without further adieu, I give you the story of Angela Davis!

Angela Davis was born on Jan 26, 1944 in Birmingham Alabama. The daughter of a car mechanic and school teacher, she was raised in a section of Birmingham nicknamed Dynamite Hill  because of the numerous bombings in the area by the Ku Klux Klan.

In her junior year of high school she left with her mother Sally to go to New York City. Her mother had decided to enroll in grad school at New York University, and while Angela was attending high school in New York, she was introduced to communism and socialism through the communist youth group Advance. Through her membership in Advance, she met many teenagers whose parents were leaders of the Communist Party USA, including her life long friend Bettina Aptheker.

After graduating high school, she enrolled in Brandeis University in Massachusetts where she studied French. While at Brandeis, she met a major influence in her political and academic life Herbert Marcuse. It was Marcuse, a philosophy professor in Frankfurt Germany who taught Angela “that it was possible to be an academic, an activist, a scholar, and a revolutionary.” Angela’s political ideologies and activism though still in the early stages was already earning her notoriety; after traveling to Finland to attend a communist sponsored festival, she returned home in 1963, to find the FBI waiting to interview her about her attendance at the festival in Helsinki.

During her second year at Brandeis, the university allowed her to travel to Paris, where she studied French at the Sorbonne. It was during this time of a church bombing by the KKK in her home town of Birmingham. This bombing deeply affected her, due to the fact that she lost many friends in the explosion. Although she remained in school at the time, the tragedy would become a major influence in joining black activist groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panthers in 1967.

After graduating from Brandeis in 1965, she moved to Frankfurt Germany to teach and study philosophy. After two years, she moved to San Diego, following her mentor Herbert Marcuse. During this time she decided to join the American Communist Party, in addition to the SNCC and Black Panthers. By 1969, Angela was already known as a feminist, political activist, and communist. Because of her affiliations, then Governor Ronald Reagan pressured UCLA where she worked as an assistant professor to fire her. She was later reinstated after taking legal action.

1970 was a landmark year for Angela Davis; she had become active in political reform and was particularly interested in the case of George Jackson, a man falsely imprisoned for the armed robbery of a gas station in California. Jackson as well as his friend W.L. Nolan started their own chapter of the Black Panthers in Soledad Prison, and in early 1970, Nolan was shot and killed by a prison guard. Soon after, the guard was found murdered and Jackson was indicted. In August of that year Jon Jackson, George’s younger brother broke into a California courtroom taking Judge Harold Haley hostage, demanding that George be set free. While trying to leave both Haley and the younger Jackson were gunned down. This would seriously affect Angela, because she was implicated in the kidnapping.

Allegedly the guns were traced back to Angela and letters from her were found in George Jackson’s prison cell after he was murdered later in august. Soon after, a warrant was issued for her arrest, and she became the third woman to be placed on the FBI’s ten most wanted list. Angela fled California, but was arrested two months later in New York. She would remain in prison for two years before she was finally given a trial and rightfully acquitted.

After her acquittal and release from prison, Angela picked up where she left off; she lived for a short time in Cuba with fellow activists Huey Newton and Stokely Carmichael. She returned in 1975, and began lecturing on women’s studies, ethnic studies and prison reform, as well as staying active in the civil rights and feminist movements. In 1980 and 1984, she ran for Vice President on the Communist Party ticket. After 1990, she left the American Communist Party and helped form the Democratic Socialist Party to which she is still currently a member.

Currently, Angela is a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at Syracuse University. She still travels the country speaking out on women’s issues, LGBT issues, racial issues, political activism and prison reform. She has written many books on activism including If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance (1971), Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1974), Women, Race and Class (1981),  Women, Culture, and Politics (1989) ,and Abolition Democracy: Prisons, Democracy, and Empire (2005).

Angela Davis is one of the few remaining icons for the political activist movements of the 1960’s and 70’s. Nearly 50 years after she became involved in the American Communist movement and civil rights movement, she still remains politically active. Her presence is of vital importance in both the literary and political world. She is a reminder of how important it is to understand what is going on in our society, and to have the courage to speak out against social injustice. Until recently, I feared that political activism on a wide scale was dead. There were no more Ginsburgs, or Hoffmans, or Martin Luther King Jrs, or Betty Friedans who could polarize a generation and get them involved. After getting involved myself in peacefully protesting, and seeing first hand the grass roots movements crying out to make their voices heard, I can still cling to the hope that there may be more Angela Davis’s in the world. Perhaps she is one of your daughters; maybe she is our niece, who accompanied us to march for Planned Parenthood last Saturday. Where ever she is encourage her, educate her, allow her to think for her self. She may just make you proud while leading the next generation of activists. I for one, am clinging to that belief for all I’m worth.