“Even I, childless one, intend to write
New Yorker fiction in the Cheever style
but all my stories tell where I came from.”
It’s always a special pleasure to explore the work of those who dance on the hyphen, who don’t quite fit here or there and have to make something new out of their life circumstance. Unique qualities of clarity and color seem to come from the richness inspired by bilingual skills and from that uncomfortable hyphenated place with its singular view. It leads as it must for any observant person to the rigorous exploration of the human condition and of cultural and gender-based stereotypes.
” … definitely, still, there is a glass ceiling in terms of female novelists. If we have a female character, she might be engaging in something monumental but she’s also changing the diapers and doing the cooking, still doing things which get it called a woman’s novel. You know, a man’s novel is universal; a woman’s novel is for women.”
From the hyphen the Dominican-American Julia Alvarez birthed her first gift to us, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents(Algonquin Books, 1991), a semi-autobiographical young adult work followed three years later with In the Time of the Butterflies (Algonquin Books, 1994). The first book gave us the immigrant experience. The second established Julia as a writer who wanted to go a step beyond to bring to light and bare witness to the events – tragic, liberating and inspiring – of las hermanas Mirabal (the sisters Mirabal), known as Las Miraposas, the Butterflies. They were four sisters at the heart of the fight against the rule of the Dominican despot, Rafael Leonidas Truillo. He had three of the four sisters murdered along with some 50,000 other Dominicans and Haitians.
It’s not surprising that Julia Alvarez chose to write about Las Mariposas. She was born in New York in 1950 when her parents first attempted to establish themselves in the U.S., but she lived her early years in the Dominican Republic. She lived there until she was ten years old when her family was forced to leave the country after Julia’s father participated in a failed attempt to overthrow Truillo.
I think that one of the reasons I began as a poet, and poetry was my first love, in English, was because … I especially like cadenced, rhymed poetry, and poetry in English was a way of still speaking Spanish. Because it made language more musical, more cadenced…rhyme, of course, because every other word in Spanish rhymes with an “a” or an “o” ending, so there was a way in which, to me, English poetry was a way to speak Spanish in English.
Over the past twenty-five years, Julia Alvarez prolific pen has poured out fiction for adults and young adults, collections of essays and, of course, poetry. The Woman I Kept to Myself(Algonquin, 2004) is a collection in which she explores her life from the perspective of middle age …
We learn through what we love to love the world —
which might be all that we are here to do.
There are seventy-five poems, each composed of three ten-line stanzas, a consistency that has inspired some mixed reviews. I find this style rather sophisticated and it lends cohesiveness to the work, which is certainly a celebration of the quotidian. Sometimes the conclusions are what is to be expected … nothing exciting, just life as usual; something accepted, not fought against. There’s a certain virtue in that.
We make our art
out of ourselves and what we make makes us.
Here’s the good news: There are thousands of peace-loving, peace-living artists who gather in solidarity in some 120 countries around the world each year on the fourth Saturday of September and who connect and continue to work and stay connected even after the main event is over. The main event is 100,000 Poets for Change (100TPC), which is in its sixth year.
If we were rioting in 120 countries, for sure you’d see us on CNN, but we bare witness to the desire for and possibility of peace and apparently that doesn’t qualify as news: won’t get the adrenalin going, won’t sell laundry soap, won’t create division among us so that the wealthy and powerful can use us for their own ends. The world in all its strife is left to learn about 100TPC through social media. So be it …
THE BACK STORY:
I wasn’t there at the beginning, but I imagine that 100 Thousand Poets for Change founders, Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion (both of Big Bridge Press), were having dinner one night – maybe with some other poets and some artists and musicians – contemplating the state of the world, the disconnection among communities and nations and trying to think of some way to connect positively, to come together in the service of shared ideals such as harmony, stewardship and compassion. And so it happened that in 2011, Michael put out a call on Facebook for 100,000 Poets for Change and a movement was born. If memory serves there were 700 events held simultaneously around the world that first September.
Michael and Terri recently stated that peace and sustainability …
. . . are major concerns worldwide and the guiding principles for this global event. All participants hope, through their actions and events, to seize and redirect the political and social dialogue of the day and turn the narrative of civilization towards peace and sustainability. We are living in a world where it isn’t just one issue that needs to be addressed. A common ground is built through this global compilation of local stories, which is how we create a true narrative for discourse to inform the future . . .
“What kind of change are we talking about? The first order of change is for poets, writers, musicians, artists, anybody, to actually get together to create and perform, educate and demonstrate, simultaneously, with other communities around the world. This will change how we see our local community and the global community. We have all become incredibly alienated in recent years. We hardly know our neighbors down the street let alone our creative allies who live and share our concerns in other countries. We need to feel this kind of global solidarity.”
What started as a poets’ event now includes artists, photographers, musicians, drummers, mimes, dancers, arts lovers and other peacemakers.
Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion created a website where anyone who wanted to organize an event could register. It is to this site that you may go to register an event or to find an event in your area. If you want to organize an event and it sounds rather onerous to you, keep in mind that while an event might be big and attended by many in a park or town square, it might also be a small gathering of like-minded artists at your home or a local cafe. I organized The BeZine 100TPC virtual event because I am largely home bound and assume there are others out there like me who would like to participate in 100TPC but would find it difficult to spend the day out. This virtual event also gives people anywhere a place to participant in 100TPC if there is no event scheduled in their vicinity. So just use your imagination and be creative about this. You might dedicate a book club meeting to it or an afternoon at church. This year, Terri Stewart (Beguine Again and The BeZine) has organized a peacemaking circle to be held at her church in Seattle. Bravo!
Organizers generally make flyers for their events. These are often small works of art. Depending on religious or national holidays, in some countries the events are held on days other than the fourth Saturday of September. In other countries – Morocco is one – events are held monthly. The main consistency is spirit and shared vision.
If you are reading this post in an email, you will likely have to link though to view this slide show.
THE BeZINE 100,000 POETS FOR CHANGE, virtual event
The BeZine 100,000 Poets for Change will start on September 15th with our September issue. Priscilla Galasso (scillagrace) is the lead for that issue. The theme is Environment and Environmental Justice, which is our chosen theme for 100TPC 2016. If you’d like to submit work on topic for that issue, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please review submission guidelines first.
Our 100TPC event is hosted from our blog. The post will go up at 12 a.m. PST on September 24 and you can begin including work immediately using either the comments section or Mister Linkey. Direction will be included in the content of the post. American-Israeli Michael Dickel (Fragments of Michael Dickel) is the Master of Ceremonies again this year. He does a fabulous job of it and will keep the action and commentary running via the comments section. You are encouraged to share your own work and to read the work of others. I’ll be on hand to give Michael breaks and to keep the dialog going until midnight PST – California. Ultimately all work shared is archived on site and at Standford University. Please keep in mind, that this is not just for poetry. You can share appropriately themed fiction, music video, creative nonfiction – whatever can be shared in a comment. Long pieces can be shared by putting in the url link to your work on your blog or website.
To help get you going, we’ll do 100TPC writing prompts here at The Poet by Day on Wednesdays, August 23 and August 31, so that you can begin working on something for September 24. Comments will be open for sharing and – in fact – as of today, comments are open again on this site.
100,000 PEACEMAKERS FOR CHANGE, Seattle, WA
This event is organized by The Bardo Group Beguines‘ Rev. Terri Stewart (Beguine Again and The BeZine) at Riverton Park United Methodist Church, 3118 S 140th Street, Tukwilia, Washington 98168 on Saturday, September 24th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. with a social gathering after from 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. Terri will lead a peacemaking circle that will focus on earth justice. She says, “We want to make a public witness of peace and peace for the earth. Hope to see you there!” The Facebook Page for this event is HERE.
That same afternoon there will also be a food drive in process at Riverton for the Tukewila Pantry Emergency Food Bank and donations of food or money are welcome. Here is the wish list if you are able to help:
Remember, wherever you are in the world, go to 100TPC to find an event in your area or to register to hold one and no matter where you are, you can also participate in The BeZine’s 100TPC virtual event.