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[personal profile] raze
In 1920's Harlem, a revolution had begun. Hoping to escape the institutionalized racism of the Jim Crow South, African Americans were migrating North and West seeking opportunity in parts of America where greater freedom permitted an unprecedented level of personal and financial growth. For the first time, a growing middle class of black Americans dared to be proud of who and what they were, holding their heads high in the face of race riots, lynchings, and segregation. In New York City, Harlem became a hub for a new movement among African Americans in response to the virulent racism and oppression of their past and present: celebration of black culture and identity by exploring its beauty through music, art, and literature.

More Than Entertainment
At the dawn of the Harlem Renaissance, African American creatives began taking agency over their culture by rejecting racist caricatures like minstrel shows and developing entertainment by blacks, for blacks. Read on below the cut )

Jazz Poetry & Langston Hughes
Jazz poetry, a type of writing and delivery intended to mimic the rhythm, style, and improvisation of jazz music, became popular during the Harlem Renaissance. Read on below the cut )

Reader Participation
After reading this post, here are a few possible topics of discussion:
Read on below the cut )
raze: a grinning dog (smile)
[personal profile] raze
In many cultures, the animals we share our homes and lives with have transcended their original roles of utility and become part of our families. Dogs and cats have moved from field and farm to our couches, beds, and hearts. In some cultures, property status is being replaced by guardianship, and even where pets are not recognized by the law as part of the family, their merit as something more than chattel is seen in everything from doggy daycares and kitty Christmas presents to the overwhelming public response to high-profile cruelty cases like that of "Puppy Doe" in Boston.

Consequently, the loss of companion animals has become increasingly significant. Psychologists research and recognize pet loss as significant and on par with the bereavement experienced when human companions perish. Many veterinary colleges require student learning on grief counseling for future dealings with heartbroken pet owners. Pet cemeteries, crematory services, and memorial fabrication are growing industries. In short: we love our pets, and we seek to memorialize them.

The Rainbow Bridge )

Memorial and Healing )

Remembering and Sharing )

Additional Reading )
raze: smiling owl and text 'every day is better with BIRDS!' (birds)
[personal profile] raze
For today's contribution to Diction's Dicty Delights, here is a goofy idiom-based romp that is "for the birds" insofar as serious poetry goes. I hope you'll enjoy it anyway :)

Bird is the Word
So little a word
it seems absurd
that four letters contain
so much inferred.

Read on below the cut. )

Optional fun in the comments: What are some of your favorite idioms?

Optional fun in the comments: Share a short poem or verse based on your favorite idiom.
raze: a grinning dog (smile)
[personal profile] raze
Poetry is, to many, a medium of love. What springs to mind are Shakespearean sonnets and awkward limericks in Valentine's day cards and how to impress your 7th-grade crush. Read on... )

Friendship as Intimacy
Romantic love may be passionate and exciting and able to sweep you off your feet... but friendship will always be there to buy you ice cream and say, you were too good for him/her, anyway - and it won't say, I told you so even though it probably did. Read on... )

Featured Poem: An Origin Story
Project V.O.I.C.E. founders Phil Kaye & Sarah Kay are two friends who found each other through a mutual gift for poetry, storytelling, and the spoken word. Listen & Read, plus things to pay attention to )

Optional Challenge
Is there a special friend in your life who you feel you need to say something to or about after reading/listening? Take this opportunity to write a poem of any format for or about them and share it in the comments. I'll share a silly little Haiku below, and will post a longer poem in the comments to get the ball rolling.

A friendship poem by yours truly )

Additional Reading
The Vinegar Club by Andrea Gibson
Love and Friendship by Emily Brontë
Helen Steiner Rice also wrote a number of poems about friendship, which you can find together in a collection here.
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[personal profile] raze
Historical Context
Music, as a strong vehicle of cultural transmission and social experience, has long held a place in activism. As members of the labor movement raised their fists and picket signs in protest, they often raised their voices in song. Music had the effect of rallying workers and creating a sense of camaraderie in the face of tremendous adversity; in a day and age where workers were expendable, standing against the bosses was a bold and terrifying step to take.

Music and Labor
Song is not new to laborers. Long before music was adapted to promote change, song was used to raise spirits and promote cooperation among workers, especially those engaged in the most arduous of tasks. A popular format was the "call and response" song, often used to set the pace for group labor activities while keeping spirits high. Read more: examples, lyrics, and links below the cut )

Music and the Labor Movement
With song already integral to laborer culture, it is unsurprising that music was used to rally support for organization and unionization during the labor movement. The International Workers of the World (IWW), also known as "Wobblies," found music a useful tool to attract members, and adapted popular melodies with lyrics themed around pro-union messages. Read more: lyrics, music links below the cut )

Music and "Downtown Women" - A Chorus of Factory Girls.
Julia Stein's powerful poem "Downtown Women" speaks of the experience of a female factory worker in the time of the labor movement. Read more: historical context, lyrics, and song links below the cut. )

Additional Reading:
In addition to my various Wikipedia spelunking for dates and details, I credit the Union Songs website hugely for the research that went into this post. If you want to see a fantastic collection of labor movement song and poetry, and read more in-depth about the history of music as a vehicle of protest for the labor movement, check out this site. It has lyrics, recordings, and awesome historical context.

Also, for a nice little modern song about song and female laborers, you may enjoy listening to Factory Girls by Flogging Molly. The line "chorus of factory girls" in this post is a tip of the hat to the lyrics of this song.
raze: A man and a rooster. (Default)
[personal profile] raze
Today I'll be sharing with you a few poems from queer poet and social activist Andrea Gibson. Gibson was the first winner of the Women’s World Poetry Slam and has five albums and two books of her poems, which touch on subjects of class, race, sexuality, gender, love, and spirituality. Many of her poems could be classified as queer activist poetry as they tackle social injustice towards QUILTBAG individuals.

I've already shared with you the Prop8-inspired poem I Do during activist poetry week. Today I'm sharing three poems by Gibson. The first, Letter to the Playground Bully is an upbeat piece intended to be appropriate for younger children while still tackling the issue of bullying, which has created an epidemic of suicide among gay youth. The second, Swingset, is about the experience of being gender queer in a world that craves those black and white lines of gender identity. The last, Ashes, was written in response to the disturbing phenomenon of gays, both in and out of the military, being burned to death for being homosexual.

As a forewarning: Gibson writes with a sledgehammer rather than a fine quill pen, so these poems do contain some profanity, slurs, and references to anti-queer violence. So, TW for anyone who might have difficulty with hearing as much.

Letter To The Playground Bully



Feel free to share your reactions and comments below!
raze: A man and a rooster. (Default)
[personal profile] raze
In the early-morning hours of June 28th 1969, New York police officers barricaded patrons inside the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar, and began the then-common process of identifying and arresting individuals who were in drag. The outcome was unprecedented: patrons fought back, refusing to cooperate and submit to unjust arrests. The scene spilled into the streets, where resistance from bar-goers and bystanders alike snowballed into rioting that forced the police into retreat.

For many, the Stonewall riots heralded the unofficial start of the national Gay Pride movement. Shortly after the events dubbed "The Liberation of Christopher Street," there was a proliferation of pro-gay mobilization in Greenwich Village. One year after the riots, in 1970, the first Gay Pride march was started on Christopher Street, traversing 51 blocks. This historic event symbolized a change in gay activism: it was an end to quiet, apologist strategies and the start of openly celebrating homosexuality.

Today, the Pride movement carries on in the same spirit of creating visibility for the QUILTBAG community while promoting acceptance (both self and societal) and equal rights. This week, at Poetree, we'll be celebrating sexual and gender diversity by highlighting the works of QUILTBAG poets and poetry.

The poem I will be sharing with you today is by activist-poet Buddy Wakefield. Wakefield won the World Poetry Slam Championship for two consecutive years, has several published poetry collections and records, and makes his living touring the United States presenting his art. Known for his lively delivery and bold, hard-hitting use of language, Wakefield is a big name in the world of Slam Poetry and an inspiration to other queer poets.

While homosexuality is not the predominant theme of his works, I thought it appropriate to share the activist poem A Waste. I am not certain of my permission to re-post its full text, and it does contain profanity, so below is a short snip of it; the rest can be found at this link - I highly recommend the full text.

A Waste - selected verses


The way she said it still blurs me up like a massacre.
In an attempt to make me feel handsome, Sweet Angel said, "If I was a girl your age and I found out you were gay, I'd just think, ya know, what a waste."

Okay, hey, Perky Cheeks,
if that was supposed to be a compliment
please don't ever send me a care package.


"A waste is a nine-year-old boy
Playing catch with the roof of his garage
Who already knows that
His existence makes for the perfect insult –

Readers: feel free to share and discuss your reactions below!
raze: A man and a rooster. (motherfucking WRITING)
[personal profile] raze
The difficulty of writing this entry is as such: how does one choose a poem to feature about war when there have been so many wars spanning so many centuries and touching so many lives - and still do the topic justice? Do I reach out to you, my audience, with something familiar, something you knew through your grandfather's WWII medals or your father's Vietnam nightmares or your sister's Iraq amputations? World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq - these likely resonate with you most. Or do I bring you a novel experience, let you read the voices of those left adrift in a post-colonial world, fighting over arbitrary borders and crushed cultures and the aftershocks of imperialism?

What I arrived at was this: the universal experience of all wars is suffering, regardless of the scale, the cause, the culture. It does not matter if a war is "necessary," it does not matter if it is "won;" it does not even matter if your perspective is that of the aggressor or the defender, the victor or the loser: all involved parties inevitably suffer, as do their countries. In this regard, most anti-war poetry is universal: it protests suffering, be it bodily, cultural, spiritual, etc.

Today's featured poem was selected because it is well known, widely circulated, and highly regarded in literary circles. However, I would like for you to pay special attention to today's "noteworthy related reading," as there are some extremely meaningful poems there about conflicts with which you may be less familiar, or that might offer a perspective you hadn't considered. Given my lengthy preamble, I'm going to let the poems speak for themselves.

Dulce Et Decorum Est
By Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Noteworthy Related Reading
Gaza (1 of 5) by Suheir Hammad, 2008 (video/slam poem). Delivered as spoken-word or "slam" poetry about conflict in Palestine, Suheir delivers a moving performance of the first of five poems about the war in Gaza.

The Camp by Mark T Jones, 2000 (poem). In the author's words: One day I walked in to a vast camp filled with 3,500 amputees, some as young as two. The horrifying scene that confronted me brought to mind certain works by the artists mentioned in this poem. It is noteworthy that twelve years after this poem was written, conflict still persists in Sierra-Leone to this day, largely funded by the trade conflict minerals used in making electronics and jewelry for developed nations.

Pursuit of Happiness by Andrea Gibson (poem/slam poem). In text as well as in spoken word, this poem regards current US conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The War Poetry Website gets credit for helping me find some of the poems featured here today, and includes a massive database of war poetry, from WWI to contemporary conflicts, featuring all ages, races, religions, and perspectives. I highly encourage you to check it out.
raze: A man and a rooster. (motherfucking WRITING)
[personal profile] raze
As I will be away all day today, I'm posting this one early - hope you don't feel too inundated, folks!

The Gay Rights community is well known for using a broad scope of creative media - including art, poetry, music, plays, etc. - to convey the struggles of the homosexual community. Considered by many to be the civil rights struggle of our day and age, the issue of gay rights has been at the forefront of US policy making in recent years, marked by victories and defeats in the areas of gay marriage, adoption, workers' rights, health care, and more.

Several noteworthy gay poets are currently making big waves in the modern "poetry Renaissance," and today's poem comes from slam poet Andrea Gibson, winner of the Women's World Poetry Slam and self-described queer activist. She has toured universities and venues across the United States delivering hard-hitting poems on a wide range of human rights issues, her poems making it as far as Utah's conservative state legislature (you can imagine the scandal when the poet's identity was revealed in this context!).

"I Do" was written in response to California's Prop 8 and will be presented today in the form of a video, as Gibson's poetry is arguably best appreciated performed. Text is below; I did not post the transcript because I do not know if it falls within the guidelines of the community's posting.

Transcript or, look into her published works, The Madness Vase and Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns available at andreagibson.com

Noteworthy Related Reading
Does Your House Have Lions? by Sonia Sanchez, 1998 (book/poem). Written as an epic poem, this touching book details the life of Sanchez's homosexual brother, who died of AIDs, and serves as an eye-opening experience about what it is to be gay and black in America.

Mere Baba by Iftikhar Nasim (poem). Written by Urdu's first openly gay poet, this short but powerful poem (presented here in multiple languages for your viewing pleasure) brings to light the emotional anguish of asking questions about one's sexuality. Nasim is considered a highly significant figure to the Indian and Pakistani gay rights community, an activist voice in a culture where open homosexuality is often met with brutal violence.

If you have any gay rights poetry you'd like to share, or comments on the reads (and listens) shared today, please post in the comments!
raze: A man and a rooster. (motherfucking WRITING)
[personal profile] raze
The Animal Rights and Animal Welfare communities have long used poetry as a vehicle of activism and expression. Long before the mainstreaming of the movement, it emerged piecemeal in literary circles - at times to great effect.

For example, in 1925, a man by the name of Edward Breck began the National Anti-Steel Trap League. The League circulated literature that reached millions across the United States, often using poetry to deliver a message that though common today was revolutionary at its inception: that steel leghold traps are cruel and ought to be abolished. A direct outcome of the League's efforts were laws against steel traps in three states.

One poem published and widely circulated by the League was as follows:

To A Fur
by F. F. Van de Water

The trap jaws clamped and held him fast;
None marked his fright, none heard his cries.
His struggles ceased; he lay at last
With wide, uncomprehending eyes,
And watched the sky grow dark above
And watched the sunset turn to grey,
And quaked with anguish while he strove
To gnaw the prisoned leg away.
Then day came rosy from the east
But still those steel jaws kept their hold,
And no one watched the prisoned beast
But fear and hunger, thirst and cold.
Oppressed by pain, his dread grew numb,
Fright no more stirred his flagging breath.
He longed, in vain, to see him come,
The cruel hunter, bringing death.
Then through the gloom that night came One
Who set the timid spirit free;
"I know thine anguish, little son –
so once men trapped and tortured me."

Noteworthy Related Reading:

The Mouse's Petition by Anna Barbauld, 1773 (poem) Topic: Vivisection. This poem was actually left by the cage of a laboratory mouse by a lab assistant and is considered to be one of the earliest examples of anti-vivisection poetry.

Sheep of Fools by Sue Coe, Judith Brody & Monte Beauchamp, 2005 (book including verse & illustration) Topic: Wool Industry. If you click "look inside," you can see the opening verse of the book, which consists of Sue Coe's vivid artwork accompanied by verse and "hoofnotes" detailing historical facts on the wool trade.

Voice of The Voiceless by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1806 (poem, five versions available) Topic: Animal Welfare (general) with some focus on hunting. This poem is still widely circulated in its shortened version in the animal welfare community today.

If you would like to share an animal rights poem, or your thoughts on the featured poem, please do so in the comments!
raze: A man and a rooster. (motherfucking WRITING)
[personal profile] raze
Greetings! You can call me Ren, and I will be your [community profile] poetree host this week.

Boring me-stuff and - more importantly - our week's topic. )

In the meanwhile, feel free to introduce yourself and tell me a little about causes that are important to YOUR life.


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February 2017



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