kaberett: A drawing of a black woman holding her right hand, minus a ring finger, in front of her face. "Oh, that. I cut it  off." (molly - cut it off)
[personal profile] kaberett
It will probably come as no surprise to you that, being me, the thing I want to talk about is literally the body politic, and the body as political: the ways in which we have meanings ascribed to our existence.

Half-Caste, by John Agard. )

Words have cadence, assonance, resonance. Devices used in rhetoric are used in poetry, and vice versa; we construct our realities out of words; and labels, even when they're incorrect, are stars to steer by. Cicero wasn't a poet, but he talked like one; oral histories take, often, the form of epic poems or of songs; musical and linguistic memory interact in strange ways. Poetry has power.

Half-Caste is a poem I was introduced to during GCSE English Literature. Like a lot of them, it's stuck with me

Last week, I finished reading Derek Walcott's Omeros - and oh, but in addition to its lyricism and beauty, its portrait of life, it is bitingly political: from the slave trade, via nineteenth-century wars over the island and a retired British Major in the twentieth, to the ways in which tourism can act as colonialism; through its exploration of Walcott's complicated relationship and personal resonance with Homer; set against the resonances of history, and the claims that the Odyssey is a universal story.

There is Bao Phi's Yellow-Brown Babies For The Revolution. There are slogans to chant: nothing about us without us; we're here, we're queer, get over it. There is every punk song ever (and there's a reason we call them rock anthems).

Poetry has power.

This is in part because we let it. I am increasingly convinced that in poetry - and not quite, in any other medium, at least not to the same extent - it is permitted to be angry, to express hard emotions explicitly. Poems get described as evocative and, yes, powerful - rather than histrionic or overwrought.

So many of us are used to having meanings ascribed to us in ways that align neatly with censorship/dismissal: too loud, too angry, too emotional, too irrational; we take up too much space, we're inconvenient; or we're erased wholesale, because others' perceptions of us is given primacy over our own realities, and over listening to us.

Poetry isn't a simple way to take power back - because after all it's art, and that is oh-so-readily reframed as frivolous; because in so many ways it's very much part of the Academy - but nonetheless it's a way we can tell our own stories.
this is the last song on earth,
this is the last song on earth
there is nothing else,
there is nothing else
so fill your lungs
and sing

-- Bao Phi

Listen & read
anonymous_sibyl: Close up of a pen tip surrounded by the words "write it down, make it real." (Write it Down Make It Real)
[personal profile] anonymous_sibyl

In the long history of this conflict each group has clung to its own narrative and attempted to make their voice heard throughout the world. Israel cries out “Holocaust” while Palestine cries out “al-nekba,” and neither entity will discard the remembrances of these horrors long enough to craft new narratives. But those are the entities—be they nation-states or occupied territories—and the individuals involved can and often have chosen another way.

In the case of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the quest for peace waged by its poets, identity-based resistance is, perhaps, the most common type of resistance. By writing poetry that can be read by everyone and that is changed by what each reader brings to it, the poets are waging a resistance concerning identity as laid out in the dominant—and divisive—narratives of the region.

Resistance is also commonly thought of as aimed at achieving change (Hollander & Einwohner, 2004). In a conflict so concerned with the validity of names—and naming as constructing memories and facts—something that uses (and changes) language the way poetry does is an ideal form of resistance. If the new narratives as put forth by certain poems become accepted, then they challenge the dominant narratives and through that challenge the balance of power in this conflict.

All the poets considered in this paper resist with their language. Many of them decry the label of political poet and merely remark that they are, in a sense, writing what they know. In a region of near-perpetual conflict these poets put words to paper with a goal of sharing their experiences and seeking common ground, and that is their resistance.

Poets Discussed
Agi Mishol
Her poem Woman Martyr

Eliaz Cohen
Snow and other poems

Aharon Shabtai
His poem Rosh HaShana

Samih al-Qasim
His poem Travel Tickets

Ghassan Zaqtan
His poem A Picture of the House at Beit Jala

Taha Muhammad Ali
His poem Revenge

Link to Full Paper Re-crafting Competing Narratives: Finding The Role of the Poet in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
raze: crowd with signs chanting rabble rabble rabble (rabble)
[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 )
jjhunter: closeup of library dragon balancing book on its head (library dragon 2)
[personal profile] jjhunter
Where might we find elements of poetry in politics? For starters, no political speech seems complete without at least one metaphor, however well (or not so well) conceived.

Like some strange survival of the wittiest, some metaphors are so apt — or at least brain-snaggingly adaptive — that they seed entire families of related metaphors. 20th century US politics proffers, for example, a New Deal, a Square Deal, and a Fair Deal, followed by a War On Poverty, twin Wars on Cancer and Drugs respectively, and a War On Terror. When people call national efforts to recriminalize abortion in the USA part of a War On Women, they're drawing on decades of war-as-shorthand-for-national-mobilization metaphors, and also drawing attention to the violence 'War' never entirely escapes, metaphorical or otherwise.

What families of political metaphors or phrasings have you noticed? Do you have any thoughts about the ones mentioned so far, or metaphors you wish would catch on instead?
poetree_admin: Paper sculpture of bulbuous tree made from strips of book pages (Default)
[personal profile] poetree_admin
The way we see the world is shaped in part by the way we see the world: it's easier to notice and remember what you have ready words (and ready stories) for. As language less welded to convention, language that innovates and rewords, language that unsettles at times as much as connects — poetry speaks to the heart of politics: who constitutes 'we'; what's worthy of notice; how should people and institutions relate to each other.

This week we communal we offer each other a feast of poets and poetry in dialogue with bodies politic.

Tuesday: [personal profile] jjhunter: Taxonomists 'R Us: Phylogeny of Political Metaphor

Wednesday: [personal profile] leek: Carolyn Forche

Thursday: [personal profile] raze: Politics, Poetry, and Pride: Langston Hughes & the Harlem Renaissance

Friday: [personal profile] anonymous_sibyl: Re-crafting Competing Narratives: Finding The Role of the Poet in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Saturday: [personal profile] kaberett: Powerful words: the personal is political

Last edited 2/22/14 by jjhunter
poetree_admin: Paper sculpture of bulbuous tree made from strips of book pages (Default)
[personal profile] poetree_admin
Poetry, chants, and song have long been a way for people to interact with their own governments and laws, a way for people to communicate support or contempt of law, to critique government, and to advocate for change. Poetry can be used as a persuasive tool to affect both cultural and legal change, and can be used a a way of critiquing government and legal systems. For our next community themed week, let's explore the various ways poetry interacts with politics.

Ideally we will have one post each day from Monday, Feb. 17th through Saturday, Feb. 22nd, related to our topic. You need feel not limited to the modern era or any particular culture or system of governance; a post about the political connotations of Sappho's conception of beauty would be as appropriate as one reflecting on, say, Pete Seeger's extraordinary testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Affairs, August 18, 1955. Original poetry, remix poetry, poetry complements, translations, meta, roundups of recommended media and more are likewise welcome.

If you would like to participate... )

Some recommended resources )

Available days behind the cut )
raze: A man and a rooster. (Default)
[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. (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.


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February 2017



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