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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Legendary Author Maya Angelou Dies


Legendary Author Maya Angelou Dies

http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/28/us/maya-angelou-obit/

A Brave and Startling Truth 

by Maya Angelou

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it. 


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Akala; Fusing Shakespeare and Hip-Hop

Akala-Fusing Shakespeare and Hip-Hop

I use the following video featuring Akala as an introduction for my young students to Shakespeare. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSbtkLA3GrY

Here is a link of some of my former third graders practicing Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=446769492068170&l=7628304241131744624

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Herat Province and the Problem of Self-Immolation; A Poem

Photograph by Paula Bronstein
Painting Billie’s Blues by Janeen Stone Morehouse




By Octavia McBride-Ahebee

 I took her
lamenting
protected
within the boundaries of my burka
buried beneath the world
I took Billie with me
a haggard chorus of one
a voice tied to silk and twisted hemp
that cut my ears with a melodic charm
her stretched out words
the ones that never stood to be sounded
were an incantation
pouring my despair across a crop
drugged and lying in wait for me
she squeezed herself through an iPod
a euphonious amulet
energized by currents of expectations
a gift given by a visiting girl from the West of Philly
to encourage my heart
a girl who came to Herat
with beaded hair 
braided in the shape of a halo
carrying the world in a Walmart duffel bag

we are both Khadeeja
the supposed complement of someone else
she taught her sisters an ambitious grammar
tied to a human history
told through Holiday’s songs
amid the redolence of the musk-scented roses
and orange blossoms
in the hall of fields flushed with swaying poppies
poppies naked in their fearless redness
red like the hardened candy apples I lick through my cloth cage
a cage with no delicious opening
for my tongue to peek out
and taste the world.

I will burn myself today
when the sun is its most vain
amid the opulence of candy-colored poppies
between the embrace of voluptuous pining trees
with Billie plugged in my ears. 
I will pour from a returnable Coca-Cola bottle
dinner’s petrol
over my whole existence
and wish 
that someone
with hands that are enlightened
will rub the sweetness of honey into my wounds.



This  poem, An Engagement for Burning, originally appeared in Damazine; A Journal of the Muslim World,  and  is my small attempt to shed light on the growing problem of Afghani women, particularly in the province of Herat, burning themselves- self-immolation- as an extreme protest against the dire challenges of their lives.

Here’s a link to a series of news articles about this problem.

http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2009/03/17/an-afghan-woman-commits-...




Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pulitzer Prize Winning Writer Junot Diaz Laments About The Lack of Diversity in MFA Programs

Photo of Junot Diaz from   lifeofman.esquire.com
Junot Díaz--Excerpts from the Dismantle Anthology Introduction in the NEW YORKER-
MFA VS. POC

"When I was in my mid-twenties I decided to apply for an MFA in creative writing. Part of it was I wanted to get serious with my writing—whatever that meant. Part of it was that my body was getting worn out from delivering pool tables. Part of it was a worrying sense I had that I was going to need a lot more sophistication if I was ever going to be any good at writing. And part of it was I didn’t know I had other options..."

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2014/04/mfa-vs-poc.html

Photo: Creative Commons/ Colgate University



Junot Diaz is a Dominican-American writer. He is a MIT professor & Boston Review editor. Central to his work is the immigrant experience, with books including This is How You Lose Her, Drown, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao & Monstro. He is a Pulitzer Prize Winner & a MacArthur Fellow, and a founding member of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Writing Workshop.