Friday, September 20, 2013

Yahia Labadidi...3 poems from "Barely There"..."a glorious metamorphosis"

Poet Yahia Labadidi offers us remnants from silks and linens used to create longer forms. Poems in Barely There (Wolf and Stock, 2013) may be, as advertised, short, but many are evocative, some haunting in the way fine poems can be. Silk is silk, full dress or suit, or patch.

For instance, courtesy of legend and the history of western painting, St. Sebastian is usually imagined as visibly pierced. but here, it's the not visible that marks him. I'm always afraid to talk muses (superstitious me), so moving to the third poem below . . .  the acknowledgement that a nation's metamorphosis is ongoing. Currently that change, invention, reinvention is obvious and painful to observe in Egypt, but look at Egypt's mighty, varied history, look at America's steps and missteps; look.  The poet's history as Egyptian and American, hovers.

On a personal note, Yahia has a good sense of humor. That's high praise, right there. Three from his latest collection:

St. Sebastian

Sometimes, he found it difficult 
to dislodge the arrows 
preferring to keep them there 
reverberating in silence
along with his invisible wounds. 

Defiant Muse

With myth and parable, the defiant muse 
reminds us of the art of being present 
and then, how to vanish without a trace. 


You are the deep fissure in my sleep, 
that hard reality underneath
a stack of soft-cushioning illusions. 

Self-exiled, even after all these years, 
I remain your ever-adoring captive

I register as inner tremors
—across oceans and continents -
the flap of your giant wing, struggling
to be free, and know I shall not rest until 

your glorious metamorphosis is complete. 

Barely There, Short Poems (Wolf and Stock, 2013) by Yahia Labadidi.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Longing for Prophets. Shirley Kaufman poem. Story of my life.

I figure since today is a holy day for distant ancestors running from the Cossacks back there in Georgia near Azerbaijan-- not that anyone on my father's side was religious or observant of much of anything but the world's inconsistencies (which need observation and witness, so I'm not complaining)-- I'll post a poem about longing for holiness, answers, a freaking needed explanation for the suffering.  On my mother's side, in Sweden, they're looking at the dark skies and cursing fate, then laughing. Someone's wondering what's funny.

Longing for Prophets

Not for their ice-pick eyes,
their weeping willow hair,
and their clenched fists beating at heaven.
Not for their warnings, predictions
of doom. But what they promised.
I don't care if their beards
are mildewed, and the ladders
are broken. Let them go on
picking the wormy fruit. Let the one
with the yoke around his neck
climb out of the cistern.
Let them come down from the heights
in their radiant despair
like the Sankei Juko dancers descending
on ropes, down from the hills
to the earth of their first existence.
Let them follow the track
we've cut on the sides of the mountains
into the desert, and stumble again
through the great rift, littered
with bones and the walls of cities.
Let them sift through the ashes
with their burned hands.  Let them
tell us what will come after.

Shirley Kaufman, from Field (journal) and Rivers of Salt (collection)
Drunken Boat interview with Shirley Kaufman
**& as you know the photo's a still from Bunuel's Simon of the Desert

Thursday, September 12, 2013

On Rage or Righteous Anger / On Letting Go of a Friend

I'm home waiting for a phone call I agreed to take several weeks ago. I didn't sleep in, but I didn't have to race to work to squint at a slew of documents needing copyediting. I like what I do as much as I can like what I do, ie, I'm not complaining. I'm saying.

Having time to wander the Web (after I spent two hours hashing out drafts of poems), I came across an article that annoyed and a photograph that infuriated. The article was on poetry and the photo was of Nicki Minaj; it was on The Atlantic website and intended to depict her as anyone but Rudyard Kipling. Whom to she was being contrasted.

Nicki was eating fried chicken. The photo was out of context. In fact (I am told), she was eating fried chicken on stage at a concert. As performance. Got it. But that wasn't clarified.

Out of my whalish spout on my whalish back I spewed Twitters and a Facebook post. The author of the article responded to me--we conversed as much as is possible in the context of Twitter. The Atlantic didn't respond. I suspect they are a) bemused and b) happy for the attention and c) waiting to see if anyone else cares. I doubt if anyone else will care. It's Nicki Minaj. A rapper. A woman. A Black woman.

A few months ago, a friend made fun of me for being so (relatively) volatile and then said rather cruel things via assessment of me. Though after four years of "friendship" she was finally able to tell me, in a begrudging, shaking voice, that my poetry was of a "High Level," we're no longer friends. Too many put downs. Trust me on that.

This posting is itself a release of steam and water and dross. I'm changing every day but what to change. Is a question. I have no answer but asking helps.

Image is from Frigid Hare, a Looney Tunes cartoon. For more info, click on info.