Poets and Poetry in the Shadowland of Technology and Social Networking

bright flower at nightI believe in the power of poetry; and I believe we can extend that power when we make strategic use of it in that very mixed blessing, the shadow land of technology and social networking.  That is why I spend much of my valued time in these arenas and much effort supporting other writers and activists who are doing profoundly important work. I’m no longer able to storm the gates, but I can still pound the heck out of a keyboard.

After eight years, however, I find I’m losing my tolerance for those who use poetry and social networking – ostensibly to raise the community consciousness with regard to want and inequity – only to proceed to thoughtlessly undermine the care, hard work and long hours invested by others who actually do put the “active” in activism.

It is also one thing to use the tools of social networking to connect with family and friends, to form friendships based on affinity, and to earn our bread or to support those causes in which we believe. It’s quite another thing to do it as a narcissistic indulgence, especially when that indulgence is at the expense of people who need us to be – not self-concerned and histrionic – but measured voices that walk our talk in the daily play of living, working, spending, teaching (in the greater sense all good poets are teachers) and – yes! – social networking.

Poetry can be assertive and should be. If justice poetry, however, isn’t balanced and well-considered, if it isn’t complemented with right action and right living, it is the work of a poet who enjoys the sound of his or her own voice. It is in danger of devolving into an exercise of smug in the service of ego and sanctimony in the service of voyeurism.

If our compassion is all talk and no legs, it isn’t compassion at all. In the same vein, justice poetry needs teeth and its teeth come from actions consistent with values expressed. English poet and scientist, Jemma Borg, writes this in The Poet and the Planet, a feature article in the November 2015 issue of ARTEMISpoetry:

” . . . ‘art prepares us for thought’ and ‘thought prepares us for action’ (as the political activist and poet, Rukeyser wrote). There must be poetry, there must be activism; it is a continuum. So, poets can give society a guilty conscience, they can be legislators. But we also need people camped outside Shell to protest against drilling in the Arctic …”

© 2017, words and photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved


The recommended read for this week for children, Pizza, Pigs and Poetry: How to Write a Poem by  Jack Prelutsky,  named the nation’s first Children’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation.

Pizza, Pigs and Poetry, How to Write a Poem is ideal for children grades 3-6.  He engages by sharing funny stories, light poems and creative technique, not forms. This seems entirely perfect for encouraging – not discouraging – this age group. Fun and funny Pizza, Pigs and Poetry would make great summer reading – and writing – and is perfect for a birthday gift or a gift for some other occasion.


By shopping at Amazon through The Word Play Shop and using the book links embedded in posts, you help to support the maintenance of this site. Thank you! (Some book links will just lead to info about the book or poet/author and not to Amazon.)

The WordPlay Shop offers books and other tools especially selected for poets and writers.

THE WORDPLAY SHOP: books, tools and supplies for poets, writers and readers

LITERATURE AND FICTION oo Editor’s Picks oo Award Winners oo NY Times Best Sellers

A DEFENSE OF ACTIVIST POETRY by Michael Dickel who penned “War Surrounds US”

American-Isreali Poet, Michael Dickel

American-Israeli Poet, Michael Dickel

51pv4fg0wpl-_sx329_bo1204203200_By now, those who pay attention to poetry and in particular the poetries of witness and activist poetries, know well that it follows from a long tradition. Yet others, especially cultural and political conservatives, argue “protest” poetry or “political” poetry both do not constitute “Literature,” and that such poetry cannot help but be time-bound little more than contemporaneous commentary. I have been told that some of my poetry is “journalistic,” and that I am caught in a “fashionable” trend from the mid-1950s that has no literary roots beyond, possibly, the Beats. Such arguments simply are nonsense.

unknownCarolyn Forché’s volumes Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English 1500–2001 and Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness demonstrate, with excellent examples, a long history of social and political engagement in English poetry. In fact, one might claim just the opposite of the (usually disguised political) claims that the tradition began in the middle of the 20th C. could be made, that solipsistic confessional poetry that is more autobiography than engaged in the world emerges from that time, in counter-balance to a history of poetry engaged in the outside world.

For this post, I provide two examples of poets from the first half of the 20th Century who engaged in the world.

*****

The first, two poems come from the well-known poet William Butler Yeats: Easter, 1916, written in response to a political protest forcefully broken up by the British, who executed 16 of the protesters. The poem, written in September 1916 and published in 1928, ends with a powerful commentary on the protest, the execution-martyrdom that resulted, and, prophetically, the continuation of the Irish struggle: “A terrible beauty is born.”

Easter, 1916

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our wingèd horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse—
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

– William Butler Yeats

Yeats’ poem, Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen, comments powerfully and bitterly on violence, war, oppression, and the loss of our own humanity in modern times. The poem, in six parts, has a history of difficult critical reception—critics had a hard time reconciling it with others of Yeats’ works. However, since the later part of the 20th Century, his poem has had a more thoughtful reading by the critics, possibly giving weight to saying he was “ahead of his time.”

Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen

I.
Many ingenious lovely things are gone
That seemed sheer miracle to the multitude,
protected from the circle of the moon
That pitches common things about. There stood
Amid the ornamental bronze and stone
An ancient image made of olive wood —
And gone are Phidias’ famous ivories
And all the golden grasshoppers and bees.

We too had many pretty toys when young:
A law indifferent to blame or praise,
To bribe or threat; habits that made old wrong
Melt down, as it were wax in the sun’s rays;
Public opinion ripening for so long
We thought it would outlive all future days.
O what fine thought we had because we thought
That the worst rogues and rascals had died out.

All teeth were drawn, all ancient tricks unlearned,
And a great army but a showy thing;
What matter that no cannon had been turned
Into a ploughshare? Parliament and king
Thought that unless a little powder burned
The trumpeters might burst with trumpeting
And yet it lack all glory; and perchance
The guardsmen’s drowsy chargers would not prance.

Now days are dragon-ridden, the nightmare
Rides upon sleep: a drunken soldiery
Can leave the mother, murdered at her door,
To crawl in her own blood, and go scot-free;
The night can sweat with terror as before
We pieced our thoughts into philosophy,
And planned to bring the world under a rule,
Who are but weasels fighting in a hole.

He who can read the signs nor sink unmanned
Into the half-deceit of some intoxicant
From shallow wits; who knows no work can stand,
Whether health, wealth or peace of mind were spent
On master-work of intellect or hand,
No honour leave its mighty monument,
Has but one comfort left: all triumph would
But break upon his ghostly solitude.

But is there any comfort to be found?
Man is in love and loves what vanishes,
What more is there to say? That country round
None dared admit, if Such a thought were his,
Incendiary or bigot could be found
To burn that stump on the Acropolis,
Or break in bits the famous ivories
Or traffic in the grasshoppers or bees.

II.
When Loie Fuller’s Chinese dancers enwound
A shining web, a floating ribbon of cloth,
It seemed that a dragon of air
Had fallen among dancers, had whirled them round
Or hurried them off on its own furious path;
So the platonic Year
Whirls out new right and wrong,
Whirls in the old instead;
All men are dancers and their tread
Goes to the barbarous clangour of a gong.

III
Some moralist or mythological poet
Compares the solitary soul to a swan;
I am satisfied with that,
Satisfied if a troubled mirror show it,
Before that brief gleam of its life be gone,
An image of its state;
The wings half spread for flight,
The breast thrust out in pride
Whether to play, or to ride
Those winds that clamour of approaching night.

A man in his own secret meditation
Is lost amid the labyrinth that he has made
In art or politics;
Some Platonist affirms that in the station
Where we should cast off body and trade
The ancient habit sticks,
And that if our works could
But vanish with our breath
That were a lucky death,
For triumph can but mar our solitude.

The swan has leaped into the desolate heaven:
That image can bring wildness, bring a rage
To end all things, to end
What my laborious life imagined, even
The half-imagined, the half-written page;
O but we dreamed to mend
Whatever mischief seemed
To afflict mankind, but now
That winds of winter blow
Learn that we were crack-pated when we dreamed.

IV.
We, who seven years ago
Talked of honour and of truth,
Shriek with pleasure if we show
The weasel’s twist, the weasel’s tooth.

V.
Come let us mock at the great
That had such burdens on the mind
And toiled so hard and late
To leave some monument behind,
Nor thought of the levelling wind.

Come let us mock at the wise;
With all those calendars whereon
They fixed old aching eyes,
They never saw how seasons run,
And now but gape at the sun.

Come let us mock at the good
That fancied goodness might be gay,
And sick of solitude
Might proclaim a holiday:
Wind shrieked — and where are they?

Mock mockers after that
That would not lift a hand maybe
To help good, wise or great
To bar that foul storm out, for we
Traffic in mockery.

VI.
Violence upon the roads: violence of horses;
Some few have handsome riders, are garlanded
On delicate sensitive ear or tossing mane,
But wearied running round and round in their courses
All break and vanish, and evil gathers head:
Herodias’ daughters have returned again,
A sudden blast of dusty wind and after
Thunder of feet, tumult of images,
Their purpose in the labyrinth of the wind;
And should some crazy hand dare touch a daughter
All turn with amorous cries, or angry cries,
According to the wind, for all are blind.
But now wind drops, dust settles; thereupon
There lurches past, his great eyes without thought
Under the shadow of stupid straw-pale locks,
That insolent fiend Robert Artisson
To whom the love-lorn Lady Kyteler brought
Bronzed peacock feathers, red combs of her cocks.

– William Butler Yeats

If you are viewing this from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to this site to view the video here of Yeats reading Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen.

*****

unknown-1For the second example, I move to a lesser-known writer. John Cornford, the great-grandson of Charles Darwin, died during the Spanish Civil War under “uncertain circumstances at Lopera, near Córdoba in 1936.” We have no idea how much he might have contributed to poetry, had he survived. However, his poems written during the Spanish Civil War did survive, and were published posthumously. Born in 1915 in Cambridge, England, he was a committed communist. “Though his life was tragically brief, he documented his experiences of the conflict through poetry, letters to family and his lover, and political and critical prose which spoke out against the fascist regime and its ideologies.”

Sandra Mendez, a niece of John Cornford who also holds the copyright to his work, created a song from his poem “To Margot Heinemann.” The YouTube below is her performing that song.

If you are viewing this from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to this site to view the video here of Yeats reading Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen.

These are just two of many examples that could be drawn from the long history of English letters. Engaged poetry, poetry of witness, activist poetry, political poetry—all comprise an important aspect, perhaps the most important aspect, of what we call “Poetry.”

– Michael Dickel

Select Resources and Links
Burt, Stephen. The Weasel’s Tooth: On W. B. Yeats. The Nation.
Dickel, Michael. Curator / Editor. Poet Activists: Poets Speak Out. The Woven Tale Press.
Rumens, Carol. Poem of the Week: Poem by John Cornford. The Guardian.

THE POET AS WITNESS, an interview by Jamie Dedes with Michael Dickel

© 2016, essay, Michael Dickel, All rights reserved

IF WE WERE RIOTING IN 120 COUNTRIES, YOU’D SEE US ON THE 6 p.m. NEWS: but, we’re not, so here’s everything you need to know about 100,000 Poets for Change

100TPC2014Logo

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.

The first night of the 100TPC World Conference in Salerno, Italy in 2015. Over 80 poets from 22 countries and 6 continents came together to share and to plan for the future of 100TPC

The first night of the 100TPC World Conference in Salerno, Italy in 2015. Over 80 poets from 22 countries and 6 continents came together to share and to plan for the future of 100TPC

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.

100TMC

100TAC

13707609_1255278171171003_8229172766786945972_n-1

Michael Rothenberg

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To keep up with 100TPC, check out the website for information and updates and connect with 100TPC on Facebook.

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 bardogroup@gmail.com. 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:

Canned Meats/Fish
Canned Vegetables
Canned Fruits
Canned Meals (i.e. stews, soups, spaghetti, chili, ravioli, etc.) Macaroni & Cheese
Dry or Canned Milk
Peanut Butter
Dry Goods (i.e. pastas, rice, beans, cold and hot cereals, baking mix, etc.)

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.

RELATED:

The BeZine 100TPC Commemorative Collection, 2014
The BeZine 100TPC Commemorative Collection, 2015
Michael Dickel’s report back from the Salerno Conference
The BeZine 100TPC Facebook discussion page

the best season of your life

fantacy

Flowers in the spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
This is the best season of your life.”
Wumen Huikai (1183–1260) was a Zen Master famous as the compiler of and commentator on the koan collection, The Gateless Gate

This afternoon I have a memorial service for a treasured friend, Leslie, who is a member of my Support Group for People with Life Threatening Illness. She was dear and will be missed and my heart is heavy, much too heavy. Hence I am unable to bring you an American She-Poet, the usual Thursday post  … but look for one next Thursday.

Tomorrow (prescheduled): More on the interfaith eco-poetry slam that was held on June 30th in Israel.

A little bit of big wisdom, especially or activists, courtesy fo Michael Watson.

A little bit of big wisdom, especially for activists, courtesy of Michael Watson (Dreaming the World).

Carpe Diem.
Love,
Jamie