Ilya Kaminsky – ‘Deaf Republic’ – the Ukraine War

At a U3A Poetry meeting discussion ensued concerning the power of poetry compared to the power of factual reporting. We were considering Ilya Kaminsky’s … book ‘Deaf Republic’. Here are some enormously powerful lines from one of the poems in his book ...
 
That Map of Bone and Opened Valves 
 
I watched the Sergeant aim, the deaf boy take iron and fire in his mouth― 
his face on the asphalt, 
that map of bone and opened valves. 
It's the air. Something in the air wants us too much. 
The earth is still. 
The tower guards eat cucumber sandwiches. 
This first day 
soldiers examine the ears of bartenders, accountants, soldiers― 
the wicked things silence does to soldiers. 
They tear Gora's wife from her bed like a door off a bus. 
Observe this moment 
―how it convulses― 
The body of the boy lies on the asphalt like a paperclip. 
The body of the boy lies on the asphalt 
like the body of a boy. 
I touch the walls, feel the pulse of the house, and I 
stare up wordless and do not know why I am alive. 
We tiptoe this city, 
Sonya and I, 
between theaters and gardens and wrought-iron gates― 
Be courageous, we say, but no one 
is courageous, as a sound we do not hear 
lifts the birds off the water. 

Ilya Kaminsky (1977 -

Considering these three lines ...
The body of the boy lies on the asphalt like a paperclip. 
The body of the boy lies on the asphalt 
like the body of a boy.
We liked the removal of the paper-clip symbolism in the next line – the boy was like the body of a boy gives emphasis on the human being viewed, going from the poetic to the factual within the poem.

The poem is purely fictional or a poetic statement of the sort of thing that does happen considering inhumanity, and of course the Ukraine is in the public eye. But these words were written well before the invasion by Russia.

Here is a powerful 'factual statement' from The New Yorker media …

“Back at the police station, Fedorov endured long interrogation sessions. His captors pushed him to resign and transfer his authority to Danilchenko. Fedorov took the opportunity to ask what they were doing in his city. They had three explanations, he remembers: to defend the Russian language, to protect Ukrainians from Nazis, and to stop authorities from mistreating veterans of the Second World War. “It was all funny and absurd,” Fedorov said. He told the soldiers guarding him that ninety-five per cent of Melitopol’s residents speak Russian; that he has lived in the city all his life and has never seen a Nazi; and that, by his count, thirty-four veterans live in Melitopol, and he knows just about all of them personally, has their numbers saved in his phone, and tries to visit them often. But his captors seemed to take their imagined picture of an anti-Russian, fascist--ruled Ukraine seriously. ‘They repeated it like a mantra, over and over, as if they were zombies,’ Fedorov told me.
“An air of menace, even violence, was never far away. At night, Fedorov could hear the screams of people being tortured. The Russian soldiers said that they were Ukrainian saboteurs who had been captured in the city after curfew. At one point, Fedorov listened as a man in an adjoining cell shouted in agony; it sounded as if someone was breaking his fingers. ‘This was happening one metre away,’ Fedorov said. ‘What would stop them from coming to my cell and doing the same thing?’”

Power in words is always dependent on the reader or hearer, their emotional state at the time. But here are my thoughts …

The reporting does highlight reality in a factual statement compared to the artificiality of poetry. Both are powerful and thought provoking. Reality demands a response of some form – can we let this happen! Whereas poetry goes beyond actuality to give emphasis to that demand for change using language as a powerful word voice in effecting change. And in this case making us aware of what is happening far away from our individual lives because of the association with the terrible actuality of the Ukraine war.

Ilya Kaminsky a YouTube reading from his Deaf Republic book

Ilya Kaminsky on Wikipedia

Some ‘Reunion’ Words

Travelling back, going forward
(at the village reunion)

Of course you can’t go back, the mind
plays tricks distorting, colouring at will,
and you imagine what it will be like -
to meet up again. But nothing prepares you 
for the actuality of that first encounter.

There will be some you haven’t seen
for fifty years along with some that you
will never see again. You accept that initial
shock of change before recognition and
the acknowledgment of ‘yes it is him, or her’.

Then it is the past living again, the past
that attaches irrevocably, continuously,
the past you can’t escape from. Someone
says ‘do you remember’ and you likewise
retort ‘do you remember!’ each triggering.

And they are here now, with you again. Their 
memories coalesced with your understanding.
The way it was. And smiles broaden in the 
wake of rekindled friendship when the
world was opening wide before you.

They say ‘you haven’t changed’. They are
oblivious to the you that is now. But perhaps
they are right, that there is something permanent
beneath the skin. A certain character which you 
unwittingly showed in those formative years.
 
But it was something quite unexpected that
totally caught you off balance. A forgotten
girlfriend recognised you instantly welcoming
you with an immediate hug. She still slim in body
and in that brief moment a perfect fit.

Then time to disperse, to pick up the threads
of ongoing life, to let that unsettling emotional
swing subside. You were part of them and
they will remain part of you. And the past 
continues irrevocably to define who you are.

Richard Scutter July 2019

Election Day in Australia – The Political Environment

Tomorrow is Federal Election Day in Australia for both the House of Representatives and the Senate though many have already voted.

on the beach
the plastic choke of humanity
washes the skin

Voting for the environment is a world consideration, not just Australia. For the many who have never come to these shores the beach is typically synonymous when thinking of Australia. On the Beach is a well-known book by Nevil Shute in which Australia is the last place to suffer radiation after nuclear fallout has destroyed the rest of the world. It was made into a film in 1959 starring Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck.

Whatever Party wins, the environment must be of prime consideration. Australia like many parts of the world is experiencing extremes in weather involving drought, fires, and floods. And I would really like to see something done about the amount of plastic polluting the oceans and being washed up on our beaches. It is truly time to do something!

Australia is
adorned with adorable awesome amazing
Beaches
VOTE YES
and pick up a bit of litter!

… and here is a link to a new edition of Nevil Shute’s ‘On the Beach‘ – https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6582666/modern-messages-in-on-the-beach/

Places of Poetry – A UK Poetry Society Anthology

I have recently found out about a UK Poetry Society project called ‘Places of Poetry’. The compilation of poems being based on places in the UK. People all over the UK submitted some 7,500 entries for possible inclusion. The project resulted in a book called ‘Places of Poetry’, Mapping the Nation in Verse, edited by Andrew McRae and Paul Farley and published in 2020.

Details on the setup for this project were explained on this Website –  

https://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/university/title_749467_en.html … which mentions Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate who submitted his poem ‘Snow’ in relation to Marsden in Yorkshire. It starts: ‘The sky has delivered its blank missive. The moor in coma.’

And Project details are also on the UK Poetry Society Website – https://poetrysociety.org.uk/projects/the-places-of-poetry/

Simon Armitage was born in Marsden and if you want to see a YouTube video of Simon placing a marker on the Map at quarry near Marsden where the Snow poem features … (68) Simon Armitage pinning the Snow Poem 1 – YouTube

The book is available as an eBook – Places of Poetry eBook by Paul Farley, Andrew McRae | Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster AU (simonandschuster.com.au)

The Day Lady Died – Frank O’Hara – Comments

The Day Lady Died
It is 12:20 in New York a Friday  
three days after Bastille Day, yes 
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine 
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner 
and I don’t know the people who will feed me 
I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun  
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy 
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets 
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank 
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard) 
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or 
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres 
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness 
and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE  
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and 
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue 
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and 
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton 
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it 
and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of 
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT 
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing 
Frank O’Hara (1926 - 1966)

The actual day in 1959 is particularly important and this is defined in terms of Bastille Day (14 July), three days after making it 17 July. And it is very hot in the New York summer indicated by the sweating in the last stanza. But what is it that is so important about this day and who was ‘Lady’ (she was known as ‘Lady Day’).

This is a poem about place, the place being New York and if you don’t know New York it is difficult with all the references. Frank O’Hara is walking the streets and picks up a paper. It was Billie Holliday on the cover of the New York Post he bought. 

The sudden realisation that Lady, that great Jazz Queen, has died and he and like those who know her are momentarily stunned on hearing of her death.

If you appreciate Jazz and know New York this poem will have more depth of meaning as you walk the same path. For example, you would know that …

The Five Spot Café was a jazz club located at 5 Cooper Square (1956–1962) in the Bowery neighborhood of New York City, between the East and West Village. In 1962, it moved to 2 St. Marks Place until closing in 1967. Its friendly, non-commercial, and low-key atmosphere with affordable drinks and food and cutting edge bebop and progressive jazz attracted a host of avant-garde artists and writers. It was a venue of historic significance as well, a mecca for musicians, both local and out-of-state, who packed the small venue to listen to many of the most creative composers and performers of the era.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

And Frank O’Hara certainly knew New York. He was part of the New York Poetry scene and he frequented Five Spot where he appreciated the voice of Billie Holliday firsthand.

And even if you know nothing of the City, I am sure you can appreciate the bohemian flavour of a poet on his regular walk not exactly knowing how Mike and Patsy will feed him in the evening. It looks as though he buys something to take, alcohol for Mike and something to read for Patsy. Verlaine was a French poet associated with the Symbolist movement and the Decadent movement. He details exactly what he did that day from the 12:20pm time he started walking to the name of the teller at the Bank. And he is obviously familiar with the theatre.

And it is a poem about the sudden notification of a death in the midst of on-going life that stuns a person ‘breathless’. There is a spiritual connection in the last stanza as Billie Holliday’s voice enters his mind, Mal Waldron was a jazz musician.

I can remember when Diana died, I was at an early morning church service that Sunday in the village of Hartley Wintney when the minister spoke about that tragic overnight car crash. Later that day we flew out from Heathrow with no delays despite possible pandemonium at the airport.

This is perhaps the most well-known poem by Frank O’Hara.

Frank O’Hara – Frank O’Hara – Wikipedia

Billie Holliday – Billie Holiday – Wikipedia

A Poem from the Iona Community by Peter Millar

Each month Peter Millar, a long-time member of the Iona Community shares a reflection.  At Easter it took the form of a poem which Peter asked readers to share with others.

Reference There is no copyright on this poem. No quotes from others. It
would be great if you could share it in these days of Lent and of Easter. Thank you and let us hold God’s amazing world in our hearts.
Peter.

Easter 2022 
                            
Every new day across our planet
there is a constant certainty moving in our midst - it is this:
violence, disconnection and radical change 
are our sure companions and disturbers.
Sometimes the whole edifice spins too fast as we
ponder the human future and the divisions that ensnare us. 

Yet within these shadows are fragile possibilities of light
always inviting us to engage with other visions and
truths -  ones that spring from our depths:
emerging from places of insight, where life-giving
currents still flow freely in fractured times.
Ancient wisdoms that renew and restore. 
 
I call it Resurrection,
while others who don’t go there, know its meaning.
Whatever our path, is it not the willingness to see
our world through the eyes of Love; to know we are all wounded
healers: to walk in another’s shoes: to touch the Good Earth and its radiant
Mystery, and to believe that farewells should be free of regrets, that matters
most in every age? 

 Peter Millar, Edinburgh, Easter 2022

I know Easter has come and gone but I am sharing this poem because it aligns with my view of the latent nature of love (or Jesus) in all humanity. In this case defined by Peter in his Easter poem as ‘Resurrection’ –

… while others who don’t go there, know its meaning.
whatever our path, is it not the willingness to see
our world through the eyes of Love; …

And so inclusively expressed independent of traditional religious spirituality.

The resurrection is a gift. An amazing gift of love connecting all humanity in that common denominator giving purpose to the world. At the same time providing individual support and care empowering the on-going beautification of life.

And even if our world is violent and chaotic – life-giving currents still flow freely in fractured times.

I am sure we can all recall the many times when the basic goodness within humanity has been particularly relevant in supporting us at challenging times in our lives. And isn’t the Good earth wonderful in its radiant mystery?

The Iona CommunityWelcome to the Iona Community – A Christian ecumenical community

Nevertheless – An Easter Poem

Nevertheless
nevertheless, it is true 
nevertheless, whether you believe,
believe elsewhere
or just don’t believe
for nevertheless He is latent, 
the he that exists or doesn’t exist,
nevertheless, supporting you
recognised or not
nevertheless it is nice to know too, 
that he cares!
and nevertheless his light
shines through this Easter
nevertheless, yes, nevertheless 
you care to open the window
Richard Scutter Easter 2022

A follow up on my previous Easter Post where Michael Thwaites used that one word ‘Nevertheless’ in his poem ‘The Word’.

Easter greetings to all.

May you be brightened by the light that is the power of love.

‘The word’ Nevertheless – Michael Thwaites

The Word

The greatest word in the greatest book
is that conjunction, ‘Nevertheless’,
(‘Plen’ in the Greek: you could translate ‘However ’)

when the man of Galilee, very near his end
foreseen, self-chosen, with set face and foot,
came to the garden in agony of soul,
his sweat like drops of blood falling to the ground,
his friends sleeping (the heat was far beyond them),
the Son of Man, split by a human cry,
cried to his Father, ‘Father, some other way?
Something, not this! Father, I want, I fear:
Nevertheless, your will, not mine, be done.’

Michael Thwaites (1915 – 2005)

Conjunction – a word used to connect clauses or sentences

Plen – adverbially, at the beginning of a sentence, serving either to restrict, or to unfold and expand what has preceded: moreover, besides, so that, according to the requirements of the context, it may also be rendered but, nevertheless; (howbeit; cf. Buttmann, § 146, 2): Matthew 11:22, 24Matthew 18:7Matthew 26:39, 64Luke 6:24, 35Luke 10:11, 14, 20Luke 11:41Luke 12:31Luke 13:33Luke 17:1 L Tr text WH; ; 1 Corinthians 11:11Ephesians 5:33Philippians 1:18 (R G (see Ellicott)); ; Revelation 2:25; πλήν ὅτι, except that, save that (examples from classical Greek are given by Passow, under the word, II. 1 e.; (Liddell and Scott, under the word, B. II. 4)): Acts 20:23 ((Winer’s Grammar, 508 (473); Philippians 1:18 L T Tr WH (R. V. only that)).

Here is a clever Easter poem based on one word from the bible.

Easter is perhaps the time when we consider the incredible unprecedented self-sacrifice in the life of Jesus. What a situation if that nevertheless did not happen? And is the will of God active in humanity today?

Michael Thwaites on Wikipedia