Saturday Poem

As we take the thing apart,
we forget what it was.
…………… —Roshi Bob


Water drops
are no longer cloud
Fruits and leaves
are not tree
Petals are not rose
Tears are not calm sea

Everything that comes off
teaches us to fall

Gotas de agua
ya no son nube
Frutos y hojas
no son árbol
Pétalos no son rosa
Lágrimas no son mar sereno

Todo lo que se desprende
nos enseña a caer

by Gloria Posada
from Naturalezas
publisher: Ediciones Sin Nombre, México D.F., 2006
translation: 2011, Laura Chalar

The Drones Come Home

John Horgan in National Geographic:

ScreenHunter_119 Feb. 22 16.52A dozen years ago only two communities cared much about drones. One was hobbyists who flew radio-controlled planes and choppers for fun. The other was the military, which carried out surveillance missions with unmanned aircraft like the General Atomics Predator.

Then came 9/11, followed by the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and drones rapidly became an essential tool of the U.S. armed forces. The Pentagon armed the Predator and a larger unmanned surveillance plane, the Reaper, with missiles, so that their operators—sitting in offices in places like Nevada or New York—could destroy as well as spy on targets thousands of miles away. Aerospace firms churned out a host of smaller drones with increasingly clever computer chips and keen sensors—cameras but also instruments that measure airborne chemicals, pathogens, radioactive materials.

The U.S. has deployed more than 11,000 military drones, up from fewer than 200 in 2002. They carry out a wide variety of missions while saving money and American lives. Within a generation they could replace most manned military aircraft, says John Pike, a defense expert at the think tank Pike suspects that the F-35 Lightning II, now under development by Lockheed Martin, might be “the last fighter with an ejector seat, and might get converted into a drone itself.”

More here.

on killing animals


Does the notion that animals do not have an interest in their lives, that they have an interest only in not suffering, make any sense? I don’t think so. To say that a sentient being—any sentient being—is not harmed by death is most peculiar. Sentience is not a characteristic that has evolved to serve as an end in itself. Rather, it is a trait that allows beings to identify situations that are harmful and that threaten survival. Sentience is a means to the end of continued existence. Sentient beings, by virtue of their being sentient, have an interest in remaining alive; that is, they prefer, want or desire to remain alive. Therefore, to say that a sentient being is not harmed by death denies that the being has the very interest that sentience serves to perpetuate. It would be analogous to saying that a being with eyes does not have an interest in continuing to see or is not harmed by being made blind. The Jains of India expressed it well long ago: “All beings are fond of life, like pleasure, hate pain, shun destruction, like life, long to live. To all life is dear.”

more from Gary Francione at The Point here.

Their madness is contagious


In his story “The Hall of Fantasy,” Nathaniel Hawthorne hints that every form of human activity verges on the unworldliness of fantasy, negating the present in favor of the future or imagined past. Yet it is the political use of the imagination that attracts Hawthorne’s most skeptical treatment. Political reformers and revolutionaries, Hawthorne argues, are uniquely unworldly, even anti-worldly, as they claim to care deeply for the same world that they work to destroy. Hawthorne’s story is a peculiarly American meditation on the relationship between art and politics and the purpose and power of human creativity. In “The Hall of Fantasy,” the world’s dreamers gather to dispute the merits of their envisioned futures. The story, first published in 1843, arises from a failure to write a story: the narrator, a dreamer himself, has drifted off while working on an “idle tale” and finds himself in a glistening hall. There reside “the statues or busts of men who in every age have been rulers and demigods in the realms of imagination.” Among the stony luminaries are Homer, Aesop, Dante, Milton, Cervantes, and Shakespeare. The hall itself is paved with white marble, capped by a “lofty dome,” supported by ornate pillars, decorated with a mixture of styles from around the world, and lit by stained glass.

more from Jeremy Kessler at The New Atlantis here.

Waging War On Sex Workers


Zoe Schlanger interviews journalist and former sex worker Melissa Gira Grant “on what feminists get wrong about prostitution,” in Guernica:

Grant joined me at her neighborhood coffee shop on a February afternoon, and as we sat down, she pointed to a cafe table behind us. “I outlined my book over there,” Grant said, and pointed to another. “And that’s where we discussed the proposal.” This summer, Grant’s first book,Playing the Whore, will be published by Verso Books in collaboration with Jacobin magazine, where she is a contributing editor.

She recently published a piece at Jacobin titled “Happy Hookers,” a critique of how those who have not worked in the sex industry tend to think about those who have, and how those feelings, whether grounded in the reality of the industry or not, shape policy that affects workers–almost always in a way that harms.

In a recent piece in Reason magazine, Grant asks, “How have we arrived at this point, that in the name of ‘protecting’ women, or even ensuring their ‘rights,’ feminists are eager to take away their jobs and health care?” She points her finger at what Elizabeth Bern­stein calls “carceral feminism,” wherein success is measured in arrest numbers, and conservative donors are mollified by the portrayal of all sex workers as victims. “The result is—or should be—an international scandal,” Grant writes.

Grant and I talked over tea about sex worker organizing, transmisogyny, and what it means to be real on the Internet.

Zoe Schlanger for Guernica…

Melissa Gira Grant: …I’ve moved away from writing about and describing actual experiences of sex work, whether mine or anybody else’s, because the culture is obsessed with the behavior of sex workers. They want to figure out why they do what they do and who they are. Women’s sites like xo Jane, Crushable, and even Jezebel have been publishing a lot of first-person writing by sex workers. I’ve noticed an uptick in the last year. A lot of it is really great and breaks stereotypes, and that’s in addition to the blogs that sex workers themselves have.

What I’m trying to do is to shift the focus onto the producers of the anti-sex work discourse: the cops, the feminists, the anti-prostitution people. They don’t like being talked about. So my response was, “Look, this wasn’t a piece about how you or I feel about sex work. It’s about the actions of groups of people, and so if you can show me something different about the impact of these actions, I’d like to see it.” Those are the people whose behavior needs to change.

To Fight India, We Fought Ourselves

Mohsin Hamid in The New York Times:

OpedON Monday, my mother’s and sister’s eye doctor was assassinated. He was a Shiite. He was shot six times while driving to drop his son off at school. His son, age 12, was executed with a single shot to the head. Tuesday, I attended a protest in front of the Governor’s House in Lahore demanding that more be done to protect Pakistan’s Shiites from sectarian extremists. These extremists are responsible for increasingly frequent attacks, including bombings this year that killed more than 200 people, most of them Hazara Shiites, in the city of Quetta. As I stood in the anguished crowd in Lahore, similar protests were being held throughout Pakistan. Roads were shut. Demonstrators blocked access to airports. My father was trapped in one for the evening, yet he said most of his fellow travelers bore the delay without anger. They sympathized with the protesters’ objectives. Minority persecution is a common notion around the world, bringing to mind the treatment of African-Americans in the United States, for example, or Arab immigrants in Europe. In Pakistan, though, the situation is more unusual: those persecuted as minorities collectively constitute a vast majority. A filmmaker I know who has relatives in the Ahmadi sect told me that her family’s graves in Lahore had been defaced, because Ahmadis are regarded as apostates. A Baluch friend said it was difficult to take Punjabi visitors with him to Baluchistan, because there is so much local anger there at violence toward the Baluch. An acquaintance of mine, a Pakistani Hindu, once got angry when I answered the question “how are things?” with the word “fine” — because things so obviously aren’t. And Pakistani Christians have borne the brunt of arrests under the country’s blasphemy law; a governor of my province was assassinated for trying to repeal it.

What then is the status of the country’s majority? In Pakistan, there is no such thing. Punjab is the most populous province, but its roughly 100 million people are divided by language, religious sect, outlook and gender. Sunni Muslims represent Pakistan’s most populous faith, but it’s dangerous to be the wrong kind of Sunni. Sunnis are regularly killed for being open to the new ways of the West, or for adhering to the old traditions of the Indian subcontinent, for being liberal, for being mystical, for being in politics, the army or the police, or for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

More here.

the war poets


“The man who really endured the War at its worst was everlastingly differentiated from everyone except his fellow soldiers”, Sassoon wrote in Memoirs of an Infantry Officer. Robert Graves was prepared to say Goodbye to All That in his contentious 1929 memoir of the war, but Sassoon and Blunden never would. “My experiences in the First World War have haunted me all my life”, Blunden confessed the year before he died, “and for many days I have, it seemed, lived in that world rather than this.” These letters are inevitably suffused with the war, not merely in recollections but also as a ready source for jokey metaphors. “The battalion is going over the top at 3 but there’s plenty of time for me to share in this big push”, Blunden characteristically writes of a forthcoming cricket match, and as late as the 1960s he refers to a government tax rise as a “gas attack”. The war also continued to define them as writers. The literary fate of those poets who survived the war was in some ways little different from those who died in it: despite long careers and many later volumes of verse, both Sassoon and Blunden are chiefly remembered as War Poets.

more from Peter Parker at the TLS here.

Ain’t I A Woman?

From Women's History:

This is Frances Gage's account of a speech given by Sojourner Truth at the Women's Rights Convention, 1851, in Akron, Ohio. She published the account in The History of Woman Suffrage, volume 1, co-authored with Susan B. Anthony, published in 1881. Recent scholarship has disputed whether this account, written about 30 years after the speech was given, is an accurate representation of Truth's speaking style. The dialect, in particular, was most likely an addition by Gage.

1881 Account by Frances Gage:

“Wall, chilern, whar dar is so much racket dar must be somethin' out o' kilter. I tink dat 'twixt de niggers of de Souf and de womin at de Nork, all talkin' 'bout rights, de white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all dis here talkin''bout?

“Dat man ober dar say dat womin needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted ober ditches, and to hab de best place everywhar. Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles, or gibs me any best place!” And raising herself to her full height, and her voice to a pitch like rolling thunders, she asked “And a'n't I a woman? Look at me! Look at me! Look at my arm! (and she bared her right arm to the shoulder, showing her tremendous muscular power). I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And a'n't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear de lash a well! And a'n't I a woman? I have borne thirteen chilern, and seen 'em mos' all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And a'n't I a woman?

“Den dey talks 'bout dis ting in de head; what dis dey call it?” (“Intellect,” whispered some one near.) “Dat's it, honey. What's dat got to do wid womin's rights or nigger's rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yourn holds a quart, wouldn't ye be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?” And she pointed her significant finger, and sent a keen glance at the minister who had made the argument. The cheering was long and loud.

“Den dat little man in black dar, he say women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wan't a woman! Whar did your Christ come from?” Rolling thunder couldn't have stilled that crowd, as did those deep, wonderful tones, as she stood there with outstretched arms and eyes of fire. Raising her voice still louder, she repeated, “Whar did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothin' to do wid Him.” Oh, what a rebuke that was to that little man.

Turning again to another objector, she took up the defense of Mother Eve. I can not follow her through it all. It was pointed, and witty, and solemn; eliciting at almost every sentence deafening applause; and she ended by asserting: “If de fust woman God ever made was strong enough to turn de world upside down all alone, dese women togedder (and she glanced her eye over the platform) ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now dey is asking to do it, de men better let 'em.” Long-continued cheering greeted this. “Bleeged to ye for hearin' on me, and now old Sojourner han't got nothin' more to say.”

More here. (Note: At least one daily post throughout February will be devoted to African American History Month)

Dating Games


Whitney Erin Boesel in New Inquiry:

It’s sometime past two in the morning, and I’m trying to make interchangeable sets of torsos, heads, and limbs that fit together to make impossible bodies. I’ve answered a Call for Papers for a conference on gamification and, since one of the suggested topic areas is “personal relationships,” I’m designing a vaguely rummy-like card game about online dating. (The conference encourages experimental formats.)

My game is called “OkMatch!” which not only puns two popular online-dating sites—OkCupid! and—but also captures many people’s ambivalence toward the prospects they find on such sites: “okay” matches (if they’re lucky). In the game, players try to assemble a complete “partner” by accumulating 11 body-part cards, each assigned a profile attribute (height, education level, zodiac sign, etc.) with point values. It’s easier to draw, say, a +1 right thigh than a +5 one, so players must decide whether to hold out or “settle” for the lower value card they already have. The game ends when one player completes a partner (and so earns a 15-point bonus), but whoever has the most points “wins.”

The highest-scoring possible partner—one with +5 attribute types in all attribute categories—is a visual catastrophe. This person is the exquisite corpse gone wrong, a biologically impossible remix of different ages, races, genders, sizes, and abilities. This is my less than subtle way of suggesting that the ideal partner we fantasize about is usually an absurd abstraction. Even a person with all the specifications we think we want would not be perfect for us, because there’s still so much left to go wrong (even when all those things are “right”). There’s also the minor technicality that even when we think we know what we want, we probably don’t. How often are we excited to get exactly the person we want, only to discover within a few months that they’re not so great after all? If we “know what we want,” and yet whom we want rarely turns out to be that, perhaps the fault lies not in our partners, dear Brutus, but in our self-awareness.

People love to get up in arms about online dating, as if it were so terribly different from conventional dating—and yet a first date is still a first date, whether we first encountered that stranger online, through friends, or in line at the supermarket. What’s unique about online dating is not the actual dating, but how one came to be on a date with that particular stranger in the first place.

The scientific revolution has stalled, here’s how to kickstart it

From The Register:

Carver_mead_300wMicroelectronics pioneer, Caltech professor emeritus, and all-around smart guy Carver Mead believes that the scientific revolution that began with the discovery of special relativity and quantum mechanics has stalled, and that it's up to us to kickstart it. “A bunch of big egos got in the way,” he told his audience of 3,000-plus chipheads at the International Soild-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco on Monday. Much more work needs to be done to restart that revolution, Mead said, with the goal of explaining in an intuitive way how all matter in the universe relates to and affects all other matter, and how to explore those interrelationships in a way that isn't “buried in enormous piles of obscure mathematics.” If you're not familiar with Mead, you should be. Now 78, he received the National Medal of Technology in 2003, cited for his “pioneering contributions to the microelectronics field, that include spearheading the development of tools and techniques for modern integrated-circuit design, laying the foundation for fabless semiconductor companies, catalyzing the electronic-design automation field, training generations of engineers that have made the United States the world leader in microelectronics technology, and founding more than 20 companies including Actel Corporation, Silicon Compilers, Synaptics, and Sonic Innovations.” Those credentials have earned Mead the right to be listened to — although he'd be the first to argue that mere credentials and achievements don't guarantee intelligent thought. In fact, they can cause intellectual ossification. To illistrate that point, Mead told the story of how Charles Townes, the inventor of the laser and maser, took his ideas to the leading quantum-mechanics nabobs at the time, Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. “They both laughed at him, and basically said, 'Sonny, you just don't seem to understand how quantum mechanics works',” Mead told his ISSCC audience. “Well, history has shown that it wasn't Charlie who didn't know how quantum mechanics works, it was the pontifical experts in the field who didn't know how it worked.”

Mead said that we're all taught that there was a revolution in scientific thought that started with relativity and quantum mechanics. “Actually, that's not the case,” he said. “A revolution is when something goes clear around. And what happened starting in the first 25 years of the 20th century was that there was the beginning of a revolution, and it got stuck about a quarter of the way around.”

More here.

Friday Poem

What's Genocide?

their high school principal
told me I couldn’t teach
poetry with profanity
so I asked my students,
“Raise your hand if you’ve heard of the Holocaust.”
in unison, their arms rose up like poisonous gas
then straightened out like an SS infantry
“Okay. Please put your hands down.
Now raise your hand if you’ve heard of the Rwandan genocide.”
blank stares mixed with curious ignorance
a quivering hand out of the crowd
half-way raised, like a lone survivor
struggling to stand up in Kigali
“Luz, are you sure about that?”
“That’s what I thought.”

“Carlos—what’s genocide?”

they won’t let you hear the truth at school
if that person says “fuck”
can’t even talk about “fuck”
even though a third of your senior class
is pregnant.

I can’t teach an 18-year-old girl in a public school
how to use a condom that will save her life
and that of the orphan she will be forced
to give to the foster care system—
“Carlos, how many 13-year-olds do you know that are HIV-positive?”

“Honestly, none. But I do visit a shelter every Monday and talk with
six 12-year-old girls with diagnosed AIDS.”
while 4th graders three blocks away give little boys blowjobs during recess
I met an 11-year-old gang member in the Bronx who carries
a semi-automatic weapon to study hall so he can make it home
and you want me to censor my language

“Carlos, what’s genocide?”

your books leave out Emmett Till and Medgar Evers
call themselves “World History” and don’t mention
King Leopold or diamond mines
call themselves “Politics in the Modern World”
and don’t mention Apartheid

“Carlos, what’s genocide?”

you wonder why children hide in adult bodies
lie under light-color-eyed contact lenses
learn to fetishize the size of their asses
and simultaneously hate their lips
my students thought Che Guevara was a rapper
from East Harlem
still think my Mumia t-shirt is of Bob Marley
how can literacy not include Phyllis Wheatley?
schools were built in the shadows of ghosts
filtered through incest and grinding teeth
molded under veils of extravagant ritual

“Carlos, what’s genocide?”

“Roselyn, how old was she? Cuántos años tuvo tu madre cuando se murió?”

“My mother had 32 years when she died. Ella era bellísima.”

…what’s genocide?

they’ve moved from sterilizing “Boriqua” women
injecting indigenous sisters with Hepatitis B,
now they just kill mothers with silent poison
stain their loyalty and love into veins and suffocate them

…what’s genocide?

Ridwan’s father hung himself
in the box because he thought his son
was ashamed of him

…what’s genocide?

Maureen’s mother gave her
skin lightening cream
the day before she started the 6th grade

…what’s genocide?

she carves straight lines into her
beautiful brown thighs so she can remember
what it feels like to heal

…what’s genocide?
…what’s genocide?

“Carlos, what’s genocide?”

“Luz, this…
this right here…

is genocide.”

by Carlos Andrés Gómez


Capitalism and Inequality

Jerry Z. Muller in Foreign Affairs:

Muller_Capitalism_411Recent political debate in the United States and other advanced capitalist democracies has been dominated by two issues: the rise of economic inequality and the scale of government intervention to address it. As the 2012 U.S. presidential election and the battles over the “fiscal cliff” have demonstrated, the central focus of the left today is on increasing government taxing and spending, primarily to reverse the growing stratification of society, whereas the central focus of the right is on decreasing taxing and spending, primarily to ensure economic dynamism. Each side minimizes the concerns of the other, and each seems to believe that its desired policies are sufficient to ensure prosperity and social stability. Both are wrong.

Inequality is indeed increasing almost everywhere in the postindustrial capitalist world. But despite what many on the left think, this is not the result of politics, nor is politics likely to reverse it, for the problem is more deeply rooted and intractable than generally recognized. Inequality is an inevitable product of capitalist activity, and expanding equality of opportunity only increases it — because some individuals and communities are simply better able than others to exploit the opportunities for development and advancement that capitalism affords. Despite what many on the right think, however, this is a problem for everybody, not just those who are doing poorly or those who are ideologically committed to egalitarianism — because if left unaddressed, rising inequality and economic insecurity can erode social order and generate a populist backlash against the capitalist system at large.

More here.

players club


On a June day in 1598, at about three o’clock in the afternoon, nearly three thousand patrons file into The Curtain, a London playhouse on the outskirts of the city, along the Shoreditch road. They wait for the actors of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men to take the stage for a hotly anticipated new play by William Shakespeare, the sequel to his enormously popular Henry IV. An instant hit in 1596 and one of the playwright’s most performed in the four hundred years following its premiere, the first part of Henry IV stages the history of England before the Wars of the Roses. King Henry IV struggles to hold on to his throne, in part because of political rebellion, but also because of concerns about his rogue son and heir, Prince Hal. While the play’s historical insights no doubt appealed to Shakespeare’s audience, the real reason for the play’s success lies with Sir John Falstaff, a “villainous, abominable misleader of youth” and Shakespeare’s best-loved comic creation. Falstaff, a portly, drunken knight, is corrupter of the young Prince Hal and hero of the play’s tavern underworld. Known for his drunken antics, Falstaff eventually attracted as much scholarly attention as the solemn and tragic Hamlet.

more from Rebecca Lemon at Lapham’s Quarterly here.



It isn’t easy to even think about Edna St. Vincent Millay’s body of work without also thinking about her—well—actual body. This is entirely her doing. Born in Maine in 1892, she was blessed with not only uncommon genius but the romantic Gibson Girl looks prized by her era—winsome face, comely curves, heavy masses of auburn hair—and she wasn’t afraid to use them. In the spring of 1912, just 20, she put the finishing touches on her epic poem “Renascence” and submitted it to the prestigious Lyric Year poetry contest. When the editor, a man, responded with a letter praising her verse, she replied with a photograph of herself. He asked if he could keep it. Let’s just say Millay placed fourth in the Lyric Year poetry contest but won the war. Published alongside the victors in a commemorative anthology, her poem incited a public sensation that biographer Daniel Mark Epstein ranks on par with that of “The Waste Land” and “Howl”: readers fought the verdict in letters and newspaper columns; the winner recused himself from the awards banquet.

more from Kate Bolick at Poetry here.

Failure, A Writer’s Life


Duras writes: “Published literature represents only one percent of what is written in the world. It seems worthwhile to talk about the rest, an abyss, a black night out of which comes that ‘bizarre thing’, literature, and into which almost all of it disappears again without a trace.” I can imagine the whoop of joy Milutis must have hollered when he read the term Duras uses for this Gehenna of ­Letters: “virtual literature”. Failure, A Writer’s Life is a pere­grination through the unpub­lishable, the unreadable, the abandoned, the abortive, the illegible and the indecipherable. He takes in both the esoteric (Charles Fort, HP Lovecraft, the brilliant Christian Bök, who has “written” a poem into the genetic code of a virus) and the canonical (Ernest Hemingway, William Carlos Williams, John Ashbery), as well as digressing to cover photography, film, spam, archives and the nature of the digital text more generally. ­Duras may have imagined her “virtual literature” as a sealed, silent place of the utterly lost; we, nowadays, have her abyss in perpetual, blaring, online Technicolor.

more from Stuart Kelly at The Scotsman here.

Raymond Tallis: Time’s arrow

Raymond Tallis at the website of the Institute of Art and Ideas:

ScreenHunter_118 Feb. 21 12.56While most philosophers of time would be content to abandon the notion that time “flows”, “passes” or “moves”, the idea that time has a “direction” is more adhesive. Insofar as it is a consequence of the conception of time as a fourth dimension on a par with the three of space, it should, like flow , etc be incompatible with it. After all, the spatial dimensions do not have a direction. Collectively the spatial dimensions are the possibility of direction, just as they are the possibility of movement. Clearly, the direction of time – or the possibility of its having a direction – could not be provided by space. It would not make sense to say that time was pointing from left to right or up and down.

But there is something else, which is absolutely central; namely that the unfolding of time appears to be one way. This is in contrast to any direction in space – or any line marking a direction or trajectory in space. The line from A to B is also from B to A; any path going from a lower point to a higher point is also a path going from a higher point to a lower point. The apparent absence of this reversibility is all that there is to the direction of time. The link between earlier time t1 and later time t2 can be traversed in one direction- earlier-to-later – but not in the other direction – later-to-earlier. The path from t1 to t2 is inescapable while the path from t2 to t1 is blocked.

The hunt has therefore been on for something that will give time a direction in this very restricted sense of moving “forward” but not “backward”. This something will account for the difference between time and its spatial companions, a difference that will account for the fact that we can wander at will in space but not in time.

More here.

We Real Cool

A poem by the great Gwendolyn Brooks:

The Pool Players.
BrooksSeven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Q. How about the seven pool players in the poem “We Real Cool”?

A. They have no pretensions to any glamor. They are supposedly dropouts, or at least they're in the poolroom when they should possibly be in school, since they're probably young enough, or at least those I saw were when I looked in a poolroom, and they. . . . First of all, let me tell you how that's supposed to be said, because there's a reason why I set it out as I did. These are people who are essentially saying, “Kilroy is here. We are.” But they're a little uncertain of the strength of their identity.

The “We”—you're supposed to stop after the “We” and think about their validity, and of course there's no way for you to tell whether it should be said softly or not, I suppose, but I say it rather softly because I want to represent their basic uncertainty, which they don't bother to question every day, of course.

Q. Are you saying that the form of this poem, then, was determined by the colloquial rhythm you were trying to catch?

A. No, determined by my feeling about these boys, these young men.

Q. These short lines, then, are your own invention at this point? You don't have any literary model in mind; you're not thinking of Eliot or Pound or anybody in particular . . . ?

A. My gosh, no! I don't even admire Pound, but I do like, for instance, Eliot's “Prufrock” and The Waste Land, “Portrait of a Lady,” and some others of those earlier poems. But nothing of the sort ever entered my mind. When I start writing a poem, I don't think about models or about what anybody else in the world has done.

from “An Interview with Gwendolyn Brooks”.

More here. (Note: At least one daily post throughout February will be devoted to African American History Month)

Thursday Poem


It is truly good
to have colors disappear at the end of each day
for me who has a heart so joyfully excited
waiting for them to be born afresh tomorrow morning

My dear one, who has not shown yourself to me
though you are believed to be in this space
That I cannot see you now is also good
for me anxiously waiting for the new morning light –
like I wait for the fir tree, all alone,
to gradually start to glow
casting its shadow like a wingless bird
in the chilly air that allows a faint view of just the curvature of the earth

by Kiyoko Nagase
from Bara Shishuh