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Fiction by Norwegian Women

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

AP Photo/Phil Coale

Old Pictures and Black Walls
By Octavia McBride-Ahebee   *1985

Old pictures whisper through cracked
and faded ink,
through haze and lack of photographers’ skill
of the lazy eye you carried,
cold and clear and lonely
-like a child’s abandoned marble upon
a face a blade had no need to tread.

It is the cherry blossom season,
the sun is standing high and hot,
the heat and fragrance rub against the other
trying to fool me into feeling
that the simple swinging scent
of a cherry blossom in flight
wrapped in the warmth of a benign ray
can forgive all that is ugly with its sweet self.

To think that we are same in age
you in death and me in life
with flat stomachs as hard as the head of a hammer,
with corned-covered feet as long and as well traveled
as Broad Street,
with fears as big and heavy as an African elephant
inspires simple yet frenzied fantasies
like me cupping in the palm of my hand
just for the hell of it
your high Cherokee cheekbone
or pressing my parted lips against it
and saying good day Daddy.

But I stand firm and full of fury
like the sun
before this great black wailing wall,
then I see the name that numbs me
I walk my knuckle in the
carved crevice of your name
thinking who but a generous mother
of yesteryear
would give such a gift as your name.

I took my thoughts and inhaled them
along with the scent of cherry blossoms and the heat.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Old Lie: Dulce et Decorum Est. Pro patria mori.

Guerra de la Paz’s sculptures get personal because they are made out of the discarded camouflage clothing of the millions of faceless soldiers engaged in battle every day.  To see more of their work, hit the link below.
*I so appreciated what Shailja Patel shared this morninging:

... "The US military loses more soldiers to suicide than to combat. The unemployment rate of young veterans is twice that of their peers who don't enlist. One in three women in the US military is sexually assaulted. Domestic violence in military families is triple the civilian rate. Over 25,000 military families qualify for food stamps. The Pentagon spends over $4 billion a year on recruitment."

This morning I also helped my dad, a war-veteran, unfold his flag and display it on our porch. And I think , especially today, of the boys I loved who have been utterly destroyed by war as have those who attempt to help heal their wounds. I think, too, of the last lines of a Wilfred Owen poem which states:
"The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est. Pro patria mori."

Friday, May 25, 2012

APIARY Magazine- Issue 4- Give A Listen

*Drawing by robert tres trujillo-
Here are some writers reading from their work which will appear in the upcoming issue of APIARY.  I'm included.

APIARY is an all-Philly literary magazine showcasing the brilliance and variety of local writing. For the rest of these and many more stories, pick up a copy of Issue 4, arriving on June 1 at Underground Arts,
1200 Callowhill St

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Vision in Sound; Tosca in Rehearsal: Shirley Verrett and Luciano Pavarotti

Drawing by Callie Floor
Small press publishers are getting quite inventive in how they explore and execute new formats for sharing the work of artists.  Case in point is Kindling, a literary journal which publishes its issues on a series of 20  4X6 cards contained in an envelope which carries the table of contents on its cover. I have a 250-word short story in the current issue of Kindling, #5, about an African-American boy who cares for his opera-singing, mentally unstable mother with the help of a retired tuxedo maker from Milano.
 Check out this pocket lit and subscribe to Kindling-

When I was a young girl, my dad was a huge fan of the opera singers Grace Bumbry and Shirley Verrett. Here is Ms. Verrett rehearsing with Luciano Pavarotti for a performance of Tosca. This is a gem !

Monday, May 7, 2012

Poet Joshua Clover and 11 Students May Face Prison Time and $1 Million in Damages for Shutdown of US Bank

* Source-Poetry Foundations' Harriet

Poet Joshua Clover

If you haven’t heard: The administration of UC Davis is holding poet and professor Joshua Clover and 11 students accountable for their alleged role in protests that led to the shutdown of a campus US Bank. “District Attorney Jeff Reisig is charging campus protesters with 20 counts each of obstructing movement in a public place, and one count of conspiracy. If convicted, the protesters could face up to 11 years each in prison, and $1 million in damages.” According to the Davis Dozen press release:

The charges were brought at the request of the UC Davis administration, which had recently received a termination letter from US Bank holding the university responsible for all costs, claiming they were “constructively evicted” because the university had not responded by arresting the “illegal gathering.” Protesters point out that the charges against them serve to position the university favorably in a potential litigation with US Bank.

From Alternet:

[I]t seems that the University administration has successfully evaded scrutiny of the role it played in a series of events that began in January at UC Davis when 12 protesters, some of whom had been pepper-sprayed in November, staged another peaceful sit-in at the campus branch of US Bank. The sit-in was an important political action in defense of public funding of the University and against the replacement of that funding by private contracts with corporations. The protestors won an enormous victory when US Bank closed it University branch on February 28, possibly breaking its agreement with UC Davis…
The protestors’ success in this fight against the privatization agenda of the University should be cause for celebration; however, on March 29, nearly a month after the bank pulled out of UC Davis, the 11 students and 1 professor involved in the sit-in received orders to appear at Yolo County Superior Court…
Unfortunately, this time around there is no graphic youtube video that could potentially go viral and capture the psychological and financial stress the protesters are under as they face the possibility of having to leave school and, even worse, say goodbye to friends, family, partners and children as they go off to serve time in the California penal system. There is no video to elicit gasps of horror at the threat of a lifetime of financial ruin that the protesters face. There is no video to show the unremitting repression of their democratic right to freedom of assembly and political protest.

The pepper spraying of UC Davis students shocked the nation, but the persecution that the Davis Dozen protesters face is far worse. It is life-altering for them.

 We cannot allow the story of the Davis Dozen to fall through the cracks, even though it might not strike a chord as immediately visceral as the now infamous video of Lieutenant Pike attacking students with a chemical agent. Let us reflect on the tragic irony that the state funding that should be allocated to aiding the intellectual growth and development of the 11 students involved in the sit-in might be funneled towards their incarceration. The modest salary that is paid to a professor, committed enough to advocate for public education might be replaced by state money to keep this highly gifted professional locked up.
And indeed, if we look at where the state money paid by the people of California for services to foster the common good, we can plainly see that this scenario is a sinister microcosm. In 2011, the UC and CSU systems account for $5.6 billion of state funding, while the prisons are receiving $9.6 billion dollars from the state. The state spends about $50,000 per inmate each year. We cannot look the other way and allow the boot of the penal system to fall on these protesters, while corrupt University administrators secure the way to enrich the 1% on California’s dime with impunity and at the expense of public education. We must immediately demand that all charges be dropped against the Davis Dozen.

Their arraignment originally set for April 27th has been postponed until May 10th, according to the California Aggie. You can also find out more on the Davis Dozen website. Read the FAQs about the case here. And more as we know!

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Posted in Poetry News on Monday, May 7th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Nina Always Looming Large

me and Nina by Monica Hand
Poet Monica Hand

Jazz reigns supremely in my family home.   I had many momentous occasions to see, with my father and brothers, live performances of our best jazz artists.  One such occasion was when my dad and I saw Nina Simone at the now defunct Chestnut Street Cabaret, in Philadelphia.  A fantastically long line of her fans wrapped around 38th Street onto Filbert and while they waited for doors to open, they shared their Nina Simone stories.  These were tales not only of Nina’s concerts and her wonderfully singular editorials which ranged from indictments on the music business to charges that racism and sexism were still running amok in our country, but they were tales of a more intimate dimension.  Most of those side-walk shared vignettes were about where people were in their personal development when Nina so wonderfully, so unabashedly, so melodically blasted the world with her take on things.  It was as if Nina’s songs served to document their lives and they were there for that concert not only to hear her, but to continue on their journey with her serving as a pivotal backdrop in illuminating the truth of their lives.

This brings us to poet Monica Hand and her new poetry collection, me and Nina, which perfectly exemplifies all of the above.   Poet Tyehimba Jess said of this collection and of Hand:  “Monica A. Hand sings us a crushed velvet requiem of Nina Simone. She plumbs Nina’s mysterious bluesline while recounting the scars of her own overcoming. Hand joins the chorus of shouters like Patricia Smith and Wanda Coleman in this searchlight of a book, bearing her voice like a torch for all we’ve gained and lost in the heat of good song.”

Not only do I encourage you to purchase this book, but I invite you-TODAY- to support Hand in her immediate project, which is raising funds to get her to England, so she can participate in the Keats Festival in June.  With the advent of fundraising platforms like Kickstarter and Indigogo, we can become patrons of the arts for a minimal contribution; but it’s a contribution combined with others that has a resounding impact.  

 Here is the link to a video of Hand reciting one of my favorites poems from me and Nina as well information about her fundraising efforts and how you can contribute:

 You can order the me and Nina from here as well:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

An Economy of Grace; Kehinde Wiley Paints African-American Women

Kehinde Wiley, Dacia Carter, 2012
Photo: Courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery, New York

You all know I am a wild fan of the work of Kehinde Wiley, who until now had pretty much exclusively painted these larger-than-life portraits of Black men from around the world.  Now he is painting African-American women and doing so from his studio in Beijing. My brother is so worldly!  Here’s a link to learn more about this project and where you can see these amazing paintings.