“Publishing and printing alone account for 160,000 jobs in our city, and combined with writers in fashion and entertainment, we make up a significant portion of the creative industry in LA. Supporting arts and the creative community means supporting literary organizations and writers.” said Michelle Franke,
Today, PEN America–alongside 826LA, Lambda Literary, and Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, and close to 50 Los Angeles area organizations–appealed to the Los Angeles City Council to provide support for literary organizations in any upcoming funding decisions related to the COVID-19 recovery. In a letter sent to Council members today, PEN America and its allies insisted literary organizations be specifically represented in any efforts to revitalize the larger arts community in the city.
“The City Council has already done so much to support the arts and nonprofits at this critical time, and we, along with our allies, are hoping to ensure literary organizations are included in those efforts,” said Michelle Franke, executive director of PEN America’s Los Angeles office. “Publishing and printing alone account for 160,000 jobs in our city, and combined with writers in fashion and entertainment, we make up a significant portion of the creative industry in LA. Supporting arts and the creative community means supporting literary organizations and writers. We hope the Council agrees.”
In addition to including literary organizations in future stimulus funding, the letter also calls for relief for commercial rents for nonprofit literary organizations and funding to support a Los Angeles COVID-19 narrative project that would commission and pay writers to document the effects of the pandemic of the lives of people in Los Angeles.
“The literary arts are not optional; they are essential to our city and our communities,” the letter reads. “Writers are our conscience, our watchdogs, leading in the important work of bearing witness to history and helping us make sense of our lives and our world. We must ensure that their work continues.”
PEN America has more than 7,500 writers, journalists, and other literary professionals and their allies as members across the country. Many are facing significant hardships as writing jobs, as well as side gigs, have all but evaporated under the strain of the coronavirus and the concurrent economic downturn. A survey from Americans for the Arts showed that some 95 percent of artists and creative professionals have lost income due to the pandemic. Literary and media arts organizations have reported median losses over $200,000 per organization.
WRITERS’ EMERGENCY FUND GRANTS
PEN America’s Writers’ Emergency Fund provides grants of $500 to $1,000 to writers in the United States facing acute financial need as a result of the pandemic. Since the fund re-launched in response to the crisis in late March, PEN America has received some 850 applications and so far processed grants to 400 writers, including 107 in the state of California.
This post is courtesy of PEN America.
PEN Americastands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.” Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Depending on where in the world you live, it’s already Wednesday. Here in Northern California it’s still Tuesday, though a late hour for this weekly post, an indication of the weight of the day’s deadlines and editorial responsibilities. Here now are poems that face the reality of living with dying, as we all ultimately do. These poems were inspired or shared in response to the last poem and prompt, Almost Time, May 6. Enjoy the lyric wisdom of mm brazfield, Anjum Wasim Dar, Irma Do, Sonja Benskin Mesher, Tamam Tracy Moncur, Nancy Ndeke, Clarissa Simmens, Adrian Slonaker, and Mike Stone.
Do join us tomorrow for the next Wednesday Writing Prompt. All are welcome: beginning, emerging, and pro poets.
my trip with Azrael
you know the time is nigh
you won’t need anything
would you agree
yes i’m prepared
while we travel can i tell you
how i loved the cool walks
the strong espressos and
the smell of fresh baked croissants over at Figaros
and when i was young
i loved the life that was
fast hard strong and brutal
was that when you felt invincible
i suppose i didnt really feel anything
can i tell you about all of the beautiful people
dressed in all the colors and walk
step by step
and the children
they the true celestial thousand points of light multiply in God’s eyes forever
did you incur any regrets after all you’re just a human Azrael reminded
time lost revelling in my hatred and my pain first of self then of my nature of my sins and my enemies my inability for many years to feel with all of me
and seeing that i was about to cry Azrael lifted me with warmth and ease as my last breath sweet with smells of incense drew from me a soul unique and we clasp hands into the light of eternity
“POETRY PEACE and REFORM Go Together -Let Us All Strive for PEACE on EARTH for ALL -Let Us Make a Better World -WRITE To Make PEACE PREVAIL.” Anjum Wasim Dar
I will stare into your eyes
As the poison drips into my arms
And laugh when I tuck plane tickets
To Europe in my suitcase
I will make faces at you
As I lay on the operating table
And laugh when my shirts are looser
And I see how much weight I’ve lost
I will flip you the finger
As I’m holding my kids
Celebrating graduations and birthdays
And even just regular days
I will slap you as you try to steal
The warmth of my blankets
And the heat of my lover
Wrapped in promises of forever and never
Yet when the time comes
And I know the difference between beignet and brioche
And I’m down to my high school weight
And the kids have gone back to their full lives
And my lover has fallen asleep on the couch
I will look you in the eyes
And smile sweetly
As I beckon you to me
And lay my head on your shoulder
As you carry me across the threshold
Standing at the threshold suspended between life and death doing my best to capture the fleeting images flashing before my face in this race which for me is about to be over…gone forevermore…never to be again.
Early childhood memories in Berkeley, CA. Harmon Street to be exact…my grandmother pouring out buttermilk from a jug just for us to go with our lunch…ugh…yuck. Delicious pies cooling in the window overlook the yard as chickens peck at the dirt unaware of their fate.
A middle schooler headed to Camp Timbertall totally enthralled by the Redwood trees…trunks a mahogany red stretching high into the sky…up…up… up…green leaves ballooning atop the elongated trunk declaring summer fun has arrived in all its anticipation and expectations.
Piano lessons from age six…scales…arpeggios mixed with the classical…playing in the Jr. Bach festival…brother the boogie woogie king of the neighborhood…always some good piano music swinging with singing having fun ‘til the day was almost done.
High school graduation…civil rights demonstrations…relocation to the east coast…falling in love with New York City…Harlem nights, jazz, poetry…meeting the man who was to become my husband…trombonist…composer deep-rooted in the avant-garde revolutionary music.
Marriage vows…jumping the broom in a small room in front of a self-avowed minister declaring “until death do us part”…days and nights filled with wine, filled with art…then suddenly burnt out…new start…change of heart…God becomes my all in all.
Newark, NJ… our new home…my husband’s home town…going back to school…six children…the absolute rule for three decades wading through the deep waters of raising children…music education/ elementary ed certification…teaching is now my life.
Diary of an Inner City Teacher, my story about the glory, the good, the challenges in the honorable profession of teaching…reaching out to, and understanding students regardless of learning styles…regardless of emotions, just learning to go that extra mile for each and every child.
Fifteen hour flight to Johannesburg South Africa…a trip home to my ancestral land…Africa the motherland…family and cultural ties severed by slavery but reconnected through the church to the drumbeat of my soul to a whole nother aspect of my being.
Images have been captured…will I be raptured? My breathing now labored…my vision blurry….although very cloudy I feel a hand enclose mine…a voice in the distance says “it’s your time”…the melodic sound of voices draw me into the realm of absolute silence.
AT THIS MOMENT,
Reaching out to my transport yonder, seconds reel to hug thoughts, one more time,
The flood of joy of creations gift in a child, O what a miracle!
Seeing the innocence and trust as only Heaven must know,
That first cry announcing birth, what mystery!
Reaching out to my transport yonder, seconds play an old tune,
Mother’s gentle hand massaging away a dreary fever, while,
Father held heaven to a session of hope for the child,
The bliss of safety anchored in the pillars of parentage,
Knowing for sure nothing would be spared for my sake.
Reaching out for my transport yonder, seconds rushing to close my eyes,
Deep heaves over that sorry never given, and silence when speech would suffice,
Pride of anger and bastard hoarding of hurts so useless,
Time fleeting and I so sad,
That when chance availed itself,
I now leave without embracing the fulnes in the beauty of peace,
One that comes from full acknowledgement,
Of the frailty of not letting go when time allowed.
Reaching out for my transport yonder,
Time closes the divide and erects a wall
I look at the agony of love and know nothing matters than love,
And though tears are beyond recall of my journey,
These hurriedly scribbled words should alert you of your time.
Nothing matters in matters of life but goodwill, love and care for those in need,
For as I soar away from what held me captive,
I bid you do good for it’s sake,
To beat the vanity that I now know to be,
As my last breath expires and material drops to dust.
Except the feeling
The feeling of time
Taking a turn for the worse
Can’t think about loved ones
Will miss them most
Will I also cry for?
Surrounded by Elements
Of beauty and truth
The poor person’s diamonds
Cool as rain
Hot as unwanted pain
Mixed Gas, creator of Air
Softly blowing my hair
And the Plasma of life’s Fire
From this love affair with Life
Thought I’d see you all
Forever etched in the gray matter
But that, too, will be Dead
There, I said it: Dead
It hurts to know
Thought I’d touch you forever
Taste you eternally
See your beauty
While hearing your music
That music of the universe
In my 3-beat heart
I so thought it would never stop
How can I go on
Without the Elemental Beauty
Last week was speckled with
Kardashians and stock markets and
crude internet memes, yet now
the nuclear annihilation
my father once foresaw has
from an unexpected pocket of the planet,
labeling nearly all life with a
pressing expiry date.
Back during Dorito-and-Aqua Net-stained
marathon phone sessions
in the safe, dark coolness of the sofa in the basement,
my high school crony Ron revealed that, if
a mushroom cloud ever bloomed nearby, he’d
survey the display with his dad on the porch.
Deprived of that option, I merely
remember my parents,
probably praying and mouthing Isaiah 41:10
in a tearful huddle with my brother’s brood,
and spark a last DuMaurier Ultra Light
(a shared tobacco habit
being one of our few common features)
despite having quit because it’s more soothing
than the scarier smoke I’ll be
choking through soon.
If my hammering heart doesn’t halt from horror and
anger, my vital organs will be envenomed by
other people’s politics and pride, and I’ll never again
hear Dusty Springfield’s vulnerable voice
wailing about “Your Hurtin’ Kind of Love” over swirling strings
while I spin in time to the vinyl in exhilarating circles
between the cuckoo clock and the iced chai latte with oat milk
that’ll spoil, unsipped.
Summer sunlight shimmers, and I’m missing rain, spitting
against my shaved head and naked arms or
on my window as I nestle into freshly-washed pillowcases,
not unlike the rushing veil of water on that morning
in Moncton when my buddy with the scratchy beard and pirate eyes and I
I drop-kick my laptop off the balcony because
there’s no point in completing that
tedious editing job to pay rent rendered needless
since death is at least free for the corpse, and,
over the chaos and crying and swearing and shooting,
an unseen beak trills in a soprano, competing with
those sirens savaging my eardrums.
I press Natasha against my chest,
not far from armpits
permeated with perspiration;
I need to protect her, even if
the gesture is a sham for show, and
her heat is what I wish to feel before
meeting my peace-loving Mennonite ancestors
who’ll say, “we told you so.”
Today Death touched my friend’s lips
With her icy finger and silenced them,
Enfolding him in her long dark robes
And carrying him against her cold breast.
Across the wide sea, I stand alone now
Unable to cobble together a few words
To measure the greatness of my friend.
He called himself a wordsmith
But I called him a poet.
He knew the names of every flower,
Every bird and every cloud.
He could paint a picture in your mind
So detailed you’d swear you’d been there,
And if you called yourself a poet too,
You’d have died to write like him.
What a eulogy of himself he could have given
If Death had not taken away his breath first,
Now silence must be his eulogy
With nobody left to interpret it.
I’ve seen death come for some
But not for others.
I’ve seen it drag souls from those they loved
And seen souls pull death’s slippery robes
Begging to be taken with it
Wherever it may go.
I’ve seen death sit patiently by a bedside,
Waiting for some soul to ask to be released,
And seen it rescue others
From the fear or pain of dying,
A thousand times worse than death, once come.
What else can be said of death?
That it’s unknown until it comes
And once it comes,
There’s no time left for wisdom’s gain.
Death, after a full life, is not so fearsome.
It’s like a kind of meditation,
A relaxation from the tensions of living and dying,
A clarity that sees illusions, but also through them,
A detachment from pain and desire
In which the subject and object disappear together
And all that is left is invisible and silent.
Death is not a thing that stalks you,
That finds you where you hide,
It’s not a thing you can hold in your hand,
Thumbs up or thumbs down,
But the end of a life that never was forever,
That proffers bitter-sweet meaning
To those who accept it
On its threshold.
My poor soul, bless its,
Well, you know what I mean,
Would soar like an eagle over dappled valleys
Dragging my body along with it if it could
But it has grown accustomed to the weight
And cumbersomeness of my body
Like a hermit grows accustomed to his cabin
Of rough-hewn logs and thatched twig roof
Lost in a wilderness of loveliness and terror.
The cabin protects it in a small way
From the vicissitudes of a heart’s seasons
And the uncertainties of our knowing,
But eventually the weeds send their tendrils
Through the chinks between the logs
At first admitting welcome daylight
But then unwelcome cold and finally
Strangling the logs with their slow sure strength
Until the hermit is forced to leave the cabin
Looking for another not too overgrown or exposed.
The old cabin will miss its hermit
Until the last log falls to ground
And the roof lies unthatched among the weeds, but
What cares the hermit for the cabin
Or the soul for its earthly body?
Call of the Whippoorwill is Mike Stone’s fourth book of poetry. It and other books of poetry and of science fiction by Mike are available from Amazon all over the world. Mike’s U.S. Amazon Page is HERE.
“In all her doings my mother influenced me to have endurance, dedication, resistance, faith and resilience.” Mbizo Chirasha
Our village rondavels sat on the peripheral fringes of Dayataya, that elephantine mountain of home. It cracked with a fervent babyish glee every promising dawn. Birds sang soprano and black baboons yelped baritone. The chattering monkeys and jiving rock rabbits chanted tenor. Musical Mother, your footsteps to the mountain to pick firewood for our morning meal was a goddess jive, complimenting nature’s rhythm. This is points to the meaning of mothers. They are angels, messengers of life, You, my Mother, are the goddess of all times.
Dayataya wore a light-yellow tinge on its head at dawn. Toward sunset it cracked a harmless oxblood tinted smile. You wore an earthly doek [bandana] with your resilience matching that yellow, the color of freedom.
Dayataya was our mountain of home. Its cousin, Zvegona, remained holy and steadfast, standing still in hard seasons of drought and winter. Like the steely goddess in you, it never surrenders to ravaging winds and tumultuous storms. Zvegona strutted in grey gowns on winter mornings. At night, it switched to black to compete with Dayatayas blankets of shadows that lulled us to sleep and guide us against nightmares and omens.
Your motherly love was big and it filled the caves, thickets and crevices of Dayataya. Zvamapere hills and Gwenyuchi kissed the sunrise exchanging breath in a sprightly romantic parody. At that time Corona Virus and his ancestors Influenza and Whooping cough were not yet born, the earth was virgin and fresh as a country damsel. The Zvamapere hills danced in blue bridal veils. Gwenyuchi shuffled in his grey silver suit passing the holy mist to his beloved bride Zvamapere. You giggled with joy at nature’s lively escapades.
Dear Mama, you trudged through hills and mountains and along fields hunting for life and food to feed your brood. When hunger folded its legs on our doorsteps and our stomachs roared with emptiness, you wept passionately. You persisted and won the battles against hunger. We, your brood, jostled in ignorance of your motherly dedication. We were overjoyed by the gift of food after the restless sleep of empty bellies.
You are the goddess of all times. When poverty erected its manhood into our homestead, you fumbled metaphors to gods and you chanted resistance. Then poverty, the coward scampered to other villages, those lacking your determination.Your hoe cracked palms defended our bellies from the devastation of hunger and poverty. .
The earth roasted time into years and years baked themselves into war. Chimurenga war arrived with its sleepiness nights, beatings, violence, blood, songs and massacres. You fought side by side with combatants with zeal and spirit for a new country. A war collaborator par-excellence, you slaughtered and stewed road runner chickens for comrades and scampered for blankets and jeans to clothe war cadres, you endured the pain of gun butts’ beatings inflicted by colonialist dans. The rattling of rains and the rat tat of bullets during Pungwes Nights. You were a blessed soul heaving the breath of the revolution. I dangled on your backside chanting verses imitating war time songs . . .
Vana Mai bikai Sadza, Vana Venyu Tauya
Vana Mai bikai Sadza Vana Venyu , Yuwi vana bikai Yuwi vana bikai Sadza
Vana Venyu tauya
You sang with war collaborators and comrades despite the incessant clutter of guns and hair harrowing grenades explosions. I am child of war, of rain, of the hard road and victory songs.
The storms of war raged. You protected my young body through thickets of demons and jungles of lions as I smelt the rhythm of Chimurenga and the wave of gun smoke. Behind your revolution hardened back, I carved poetry from your sweet lullabies and grieving hymns, I became a griot before I teethed. The gift I carried and still carry in my DNA, a gift from gods. Shaped by your love, I am a griot of the land. I speak to Kings, Queens,, Mediums and Revolutionaries. I preach justice to unjust. I sing truth to political imbeciles. I voice human rights to immoral ideological zealots. Dear Mama, I remain resolute. I am a griot, prince to carry forward your ideals and example. You remain my goddess of all times.
Sometime back you told of the day when I was born, that the sun went back early into the womb of earth, the moon was torn into two halves, wind raged, a storm ensued, thunder roared, lightning bolts cracked in synchrony with gun claps. The rat tat of pelting raindrops witnessed your labor pains on God’s night. I was born. The angry earth was reversed to harmony, the Chimurenga war paused, freedom songs vibrated the grenade pregnant earth. You and other peasants of the land danced fervently for the black cockerel and his revolutionary cabal. My tender soul smiled at the paradox. You, father and the villagers drank the socialist revolutionary propaganda like whisky. You munched the Nkurumaist-Castroist-Mugabeist Ideological biscuits like any other war-time peasants. Nevertheless, black cockerels drank the revolutionary eggs and you returned to scratch for dear life on the rock fringes of Dayataya. Still, you remained the goddess of all times.
I grew up as Ndoda [Xhosa term for man], a weakling because gun claps broke my ears and my lungs. I suffered from asthma, chest pains, and chronic ear infections. You carried me to hospitals in light and night for years and decades, you wept in between the my tortured seizures until your tears dried. You consulted with every hospital, healer, and prophet on my behalf. Time passed and the gods and ancestors freed me from the bondage of Satan. I grew perfectly then like a sweet potato enjoying the warmth caress of red earth. Years stewed into decades and roasted into more decades. I became a steadfast griot, toiling in the land of the Almighty Lord. I am your prince. You remain the goddess of all times.
In the wake of a pregnant anopheles [a type of mosquito] humming its blood-sucking hymn, and after bedbugs launched a terrorist bombing against my skin, I got dizzy and convulsed. I swatted the mosquitos with my big thumb and the bedbugs scattered in no time. I slept again and a revealing dream spoke to me in the rush of a presidential motorcade to long waiting hope-drained villagers.
I dreamt of you Mother, wearing a sparkling silver wedding dress, walking side by side by the great king of all times, my departed father. The Mahosa totem appeared. I carried a lit white candle and you had a bunch of white roses. A wedding song boomed feverishly from a big stereo. I can’t remember the singer, but I remember the beautiful poetic song,
He unyana wam
Helele uyashada namhlanje
Vul’indlela wela ma ngiyabuza
Unyana wami uthathile
Unyana wam eh ujongile this time
You looked gorgeous like Zvegona pastures during rainy season. Your smile was wide like a full summer moon. Father winked to you with heartily contentment and then swallowed their desire. I smiled to the dream and you smiled back then disappeared in a white wedding limousine. I pondered. I failed to calculate the meaning and the reason. Then on the Saturday that followed that Friday night dream, a windy morning, and my brother wept in the phone, telling me of your departure. Your death was unexpected and I failed to be there to say goodbye for the world is now ravenous.
The revolution is roasting its own grandsons and daughters. The devil is manancing. His threat long , coy and rogue. He gave birth to a cruel goblin of a son called Corona Virus. Now every door of every home is locked. Every gate of every country is locked. The goddess have take a breather, those pacesetters and trendsetters. I know I was not there to cast the last lump of shovel dust to say goodbye spirit Queen. I did what I can as a prince, your griot son, including prayers. God knows I sang a spirited supplications to the angels of God to welcome and place your motherly in the and resilient soul in the warm embrace of the Almighty God.
I failed to weep not because I am a coward. Today as I write this eulogy and my heart caves, bleeding grief. I remain chanting resilience as every morning I see you floating in the mist of dawn and later wrapped in the cloaked night I watch you sending guardian angels to guide us against evil, to protect us from poverty, hunger and demons. Dear Mama, I remain resolute knowing death is not a good guest nor a best host. I know we meet one day in the heavenly mansions of God.
Fambai Zvakanaka Shoko
Makumbo mana muswe weshanu
Hekani Soko yangu yiyi
Vakaera mutupo umwe nashe
Vana Va Pfumojena Vakabva Guruuswa
Soko Mbire ya Svosve Vanobva Hwedza
Veku Matonjeni vanaisi vemvura
Zvaitwa matarira vari mumabwe
Mhanimani tonodya, svosve tichobovera
Maita zvenyu rudzi rukuru
Vakawana ushe neuchenjeri
Vakufamba hujeukidza kwandabva
Pagerwe rinongova jemedzanwa
Vari mawere maramba kurimba
Vamazvikongonyadza kufamba hukanya
Zvibwezvitedza, zvinotedzera vari kure
Asi vari padyo vachitamba nazvo
Zvaitwa mukanya rudzi rusina chiramwa
Maita vari Makoromokwa, Mugarandaguta
Aiwa zvaonekwa Vhudzijena
You remain the goddess of all times. I chant resilience!
MBIZO CHIRASHA (Mbizo, The Black Poet) is one of the newest members of the Zine team and a recipient of PEN Deutschland Exiled Writer Grant (2017). He is a Literary Arts Projects Curator, Writer in Residence, Blogs Publisher, Arts for Human Rights/Peace Activism Catalyst, Social Media Publicist and Internationally Anthologized Writer, 2017 African Partner of the International Human Rights Arts Festival Exiled in Africa Program in New York, 2017 Grantee of the EU- Horn of Africa Defend Human Rights Defenders Protection Fund, Resident Curator of 100 Thousand Poets for Peace-Zimbabwe, Originator of Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Movement. He has published a collection of poetry, Good Morning President, and co-created another one Whispering Woes of Gangesand Zembezi with Indian poet Sweta Vikram.
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