“At the End of War” / DeWitt Clinton poems, interview

“Prayer is said Standing
A Barechu, a call to Worship
We have not bothered, we are weak
We are too weak to even Speak
Every day is our Yom Kippur”
Reading the Tao at Auschwitz, VII, DeWitt Clinton, At the End of War (Kelsay Books, 2018)



DeWitt Clinton’s At the End of War moves with a graceful precision weaving Old Testament  stories with contemporary life, visits to the opera or cafe. Here and there are notes of humor as in On Leaving Socrates with His Jailer and hints of middle-America folksy, as in On the Way to Church Camp, Mother Meets the Devil. He speaks in many voices, blending the perspectives of Judaism and the Tao, slowly moving into the unspeakable tragedy of World War II and the Jewish Holocaust. This is the main event, if you will, of the collection, the obscenity of it layered with sacred ritual and text, an unflinching attempt to come to terms, to find identity, to rise above, to move past. The collection derives its name from the closing poem, which is after Wislawa Szymorska’s The End and the Beginning. 

Wislawa Szymorska begins her poem with:
“After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.”

DeWitt Clinton closes his collection with:
“Brooms. everybody, find all the brooms.
Can anyone send a letter? We need to let
someone know this has happened.

“Tomorrow we can start burning our families.
Surely someone will see the smoke.
Surely someone will come.”

We are in tears as we close the book. We are at once bathed in despair and hope. How many brooms will we need to clean up after all the wars and genocides? Do we finally grasp the futility of war? Will there ever be an end to the genocides of which twenty-four are happening as we “speak”? / J.D.

The excerpts from At the End of War are published here with permission. This book is recommended. / The quotation from The End and the Beginning is from Miracle Fair by Wislawa Szymborsk, translated by Joanna Trzeciack (W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2001), also recommended.


ON LEAVING SOCRATES ALONE WITH HIS JAILER

(for my students of The Symposium, The Apology,

 Crito and Phaedo)

What started out as a sex wine party turned into a major

Mind concussion for my students, but still, we waded

Through the prose, hopeful they’d find out why

He insisted on so many questions, so many questions,

So many disillusioned Athenians. Yet toward the end,  

We could only face the charges, something about impiety

And influencing the youth, both trumped up, of course,

Mostly as a ruse to run him out of town, if he would go.  

But we knew he would not go.  We voted to acquit,

Even invoking Johnny Cochran’s “if it doesn’t fit,”

But sadly they were only seven at the time, more up

On Paris’s short sojourn than old football stars facing

Bogus trials.  Late in the day, we even considered assisting

Our friend out into the dark, but as you must know,

He trusted in the Laws even if the Laws never assumed

It would go this far.  We talked about “Prison Break,”

But few even had time to watch that, so busy chewing

The dense prose of friend/reporter Plato late on the scene.  

Most of us were quite done in by all the “soul talk”

Of those last pages, and then, we had to leave, some students

Actually having lost their speech, some needing crutches,

Some on life support, leaving our friend wandering

Through the underground calling out for Homer or Orpheus

Or anyone who wouldn’t mind sitting down for a very long

Conversation about nearly everything, since time is now

Beyond even Infinity.  That’s when I left, too, our poor

Cave-like classroom a faux jail cell, wondering if any of us

Could have comforted our gadfly, our inquirer, who is

Just now lifting his cup, resigned, cheery even. Au revoir,

Old friend, let’s hope your students do well on their final.

– excerpt from At the End of War  

INTERVIEW

JAMIE: I think it takes enormous courage to visit Holocaust sites – even to visit the museum in Los Angeles – and then to relive the experience through your writing. Would you speak of that?

DeWITT: One of the more provocative statements about art and The Holocaust is Theodor Adorno’s comment, “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”  This remark can be taken several ways, including any poetry about anything after Auschwitz, or as I take it, poetry written about Auschwitz after Auschwitz is barbaric.  And why is that?  Perhaps because for all who died, and the few who survived at Auschwitz, and at all the other work and death camps, there was nothing “artistic” about it.  

Ralph Fiennes, playing the character of Michael Berg, in the film, “The Reader,” asks a child survivor of Auschwitz, “Did you learn anything?”  The now aging daughter, played by Lena Olin, replies, “People ask all the time what I learned in the camps. But the camps weren’t therapy. What do you think these places were? Universities? We didn’t go there to learn.” She continues by saying, “Nothing comes out of the camps. Nothing.”  

The death camps were neither schools, nor artistic experiences, but it is through art that we can at least remember some of what happened, even if it did not happen to the artist.  I’ve been writing about historical events for a number of decades now, and while the art is anachronistic, I think it is also an extension of that history as well.  I recall writing about the Spanish conquistador wars against the native Maya, Aztec and Incan tribes, (The Conquistador Dog Texts, and The Coyot. Inca Texts, New Rivers Press, o.o.p.) and the poetry is certainly not “accurate,” as a historian might write, but it is an artistic rendering of the horrible inflictions the native tribes experienced.  The same may be true for writing about the Holocaust. 

I’ve read historical renderings of the Holocaust, and read poetry and plays and memoirs about the Holocaust as well, and the latter are far more interesting to me as an artist. While studying the Tao de Ching with my undergraduate students, I began to consider a new path that I might take in trying to remember my experience of visiting Auschwitz I and II camps several years ago.  The result is an unusual fusion, and quite anachronistic, but I hope readers will ponder the insights of Lao Tzu as they read “Taoist like” poems of what the prisoners might have thought about as they were starving to death, or what they might have wondered as tens of thousands were marched to the gas chambers and crematoriums.  

I have read a number of artistic renderings of Holocaust experiences, and I hope anyone who reads “Reading the Tao at Auschwitz” will be open to considering a new lens to consider the horrors experienced by all who died, or survived.  I can also appreciate how survivors, or children, or grandchildren of survivors, might be appalled by such artistic renderings of mine.  It’s a long and difficult to absorb poem, but I hope it is also a valuable contribution to Holocaust literature.  

JAMIE: As a writer, what drew you to poetry instead of other literary options?

DeWITT: I’ve always imagined writing screen plays, novels, stage plays, short stories, novellas, and an array of other genres of imaginative writing, but I’ve been drawn to poetry ever since a college professor asked me to rewrite a prose piece to poetry.  Then I enrolled in a poetry writing workshop with the same professor my last semester, and though I can’t or don’t want to remember what I wrote in that class, the experience was quite wonderful, especially the instructor’s wife’s cookies.  I’ve been drawn to poetry workshops, classes, conferences, and retreats for quite some time now, and do I know why I’m still drawn to poetry?  No I don’t, even though I am still poking around for images and lines.  It’s just a huge joy to be able to still compose poetry, no matter what evolves from a writing session.  

JAMIE: As a beginning writer, what poetry most inspired you and why? 

DeWITT: I took a copy of Coney Island of the Mind with me to Vietnam in late 1969 and read it over and over, but not when we were being shelled or fired upon.  I may have taken other poetry collections, perhaps The Wasteland, but I’m not sure about what I read.  But I did enroll (by correspondence) in an extension class from the University of Kansas at Lawrence. The course was a fairly traditional reading class of modern poetry, and though I enjoyed it, I soon asked the professor if I could send him some scraps of poetry I’d been writing on a 105 howitzer firebase in Vietnam which would later become “The Spirit of the Bayonet Fighter,” published in Harper & Row’s Winning Hearts and Minds.

By the end of my tour, I was hoping to enroll in grad school at Wichita State University which offered a M.A. in English & Creative Writing, and later an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing at Bowling Green State University (Ohio).   By then, and then was a long time ago, I was interested in what would later become a career of teaching English and creative writing, and hopefully, writing more poetry, and finding a few kind hearted editors.  The teaching career is over, but I still look forward to writing new poems, and I’m still sending out a few now and then.

JAMIE: What’s next on the agenda for you?

It occurred to me only a few days ago that I may have a third collection of poems (a second collection is in production with Michael Dickel, Gary Lundy, and Is a Rose Press, an adaptation of Kenneth Rexroth’s 100 Poems from the Chinese) as I’ve been writing much more since I retired from teaching a few years ago.  I’m not quite sure it’s ready for submission as a book, but I’d like to keep working on it.  One press has a deadline in late August, and I’m hoping to aim for that as a possible submission.  Poetry isn’t everything in my life, as I also appreciate the benefits of Iyengar Yoga, and training for races and triathlons.  The next big one is in Berlin, one of the 6 world major marathons.  I certainly did not qualify to be in the race because of my lightning speed, but instead I earned a “lottery” ticket, which was a random selection of thousands of hopeful participants.  Sightseeing a few days after, including a short trip to the Wannsee chateau where during a luncheon in early 1942, high ranking Nazi Party and military officers designed what was known as “The Final Solution.”  


“From this place
Ashes rising from this place
Ashes circling as far as one could see
Ashes circling over All
Over Everyone over Everything
Circling a constant circling
A rink forever circling
a constant ringing s’hma Israel”
Reading the Tao at Auschwitz, XVIII, excerpt from At the End of War  


Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Ecḥad
Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One


Photo by Meredith W. Watts, “For Good” Photography​

DeWITT CLINTON  is the author of three books of poetry:  The Conquistador Dog Texts and The Coyot. Inca Texts (New Rivers Press), At the End of the War (Kelsay Books, 2018), and a fourth collection is coming out in late 2019 or 2020:  On a Lake by a Moon: Fishing with the Chinese Masters, (Is A Rose Press).  His poems and essays have appeared in The Journal of Progressive Judaism (with co-author Rabbi David Lipper), Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, Cultural Studies< => Critical Methodologies, Storytelling Sociology: Narrative as Social Inquiry, and Divine Inspiration: The Life of Jesus in World Poetry (Oxford U Press).

A few recent publications include The Last Call: The Anthology of Beer, Wine & Spirits Poetry, Santa Fe Literary Review, Verse-Virtual, New Verse News, Ekphrastic Review, Diaphanous Press, Meta/Phor(e)Play, The Arabesques Review, and The New Reader Review.  He is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater, and lives with his wife, Jacqueline, in Shorewood, a small village one street north of Milwaukee.  

DeWitt’s Amazon Page U.S. is HERE.
DeWitt’s Amazon Page U.K. is HERE.


ABOUT

Recent in digital publications: 
* Four poems in “I Am Not a Silent Poet”
* Remembering Mom in HerStry
* Three poems in Levure littéraire
Upcoming in digital publications:
“Over His Morning Coffee,” Front Porch Review

A homebound writer, poet, and former columnist and associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, I Am Not a Silent Poet, The Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, an info hub for poets and writers and am the founding/managing editor of The BeZine.


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton



 

An Interview with Julia Nusbaum; Empowering women through storytelling.

logo © Julia Nusbaum, creator and curator of HerStry, empowering women through storytelling

“Writing women back into history: For too long women have been left out of the history books. Their stories muddled or left untold. It’s time to change that. HerStry invites all women, from every walk of life, to tell their stories. We all have something worth saying.” Julia Nusbaum 

******

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.” Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus


A number of years ago, Julia Nusbaum founded a brave and safe space for women to share their stories. It’s called HerStry. I’ve been watching it evolve. Julia’s values and intentions are born of experience in social services and of a keen awareness of the healing power of words and stories. Thanks to her, the stories shared by women from all walks of life correct the historic record, let others know they’re not alone in their experiences and perceptions, and provide inspiration for joy and healing, for overcoming trauma and depression.

Christmas, late ’80s, San Francisco, California

About a week or so ago, I dusted off Remembering Mom, a 2012 piece I wrote at the request of an editor at Connotation Press. It was well received, but at the time I had mixed feelings about delivering it for publication. If my mother was alive, she wouldn’t be happy with me. At this point, I had no reservations about asking Julia to consider it for publication on her site. The emerging tone of public discussion on privacy issues, race and gender issues, and women’s rights over their own bodies demands that we are open about our experiences and observations, both as a reminder and as a warning. We’re being thrown back into the second wave of feminism. I am old enough to remember when we first began sharing our stories, blue-penciling history, and fighting anti-woman, anti-race animus with Gloria Steinem and Alice Walker at the helm.

Remembering Mom is on HerStry. You can read it there. The subtext of my mother’s story is a culture that saw women as third class citizens and perennial children, consigned them to poverty with pay rates 40% lower than men working the same jobs, provided no privacy protection for medical records, and sanctioned an employment norm that allowed people to be fired or not hired due to illnesses like cancer.


AN INTERVIEW WITH 

Julia Nusbaum
*

©  Julia Nusbaum

JAMIE: What are the influences that brought you to founding a safe space for women to tell their stories and why is it important for women to share them?

JULIA: I can’t talk about the beginning of HerStry without talking about my time as a graduate student at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. It shaped so much of what HerStry was and is.
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For the last year of my masters program I chose to spend a year working in a nonprofit rather than writing a thesis because my ultimate goal was to work in nonprofit rather than go on in academia.
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I ended up working for Thistle Farms, a Nashville-based social enterprise that works with women who have survived trafficking, addiction, and life in the street. As cliché as it is, that year changed my life.
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For one, Thistle Farms is an extraordinary place that operates under the assumption that love heals. Everything in that place is done with purpose and intention and love, including sharing stories and holding sacred space for every woman’s story and unique experience.
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While I was there I started a writing group. I was young and naive and thought we’d just do some fun short-story writing and be done, but it turned into a space where women wrote their true, raw, tender stories. And I wrote with them. I wrote about my life experiences. I discovered things about myself, and I realized that women don’t really get spaces to just talk about ourselves and share our experiences. I wanted to create some kind of brave space like that where we could open up. I started HerStry.
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I convinced a bunch of my friends to write for the first couple of weeks so I had content. Then I just started advertising. I created a Facebook page and Instagram and just built it through word of mouth. It was hard, but I wanted to do it so badly. So many women thanked me after they wrote for HerStry that I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew it could be something.
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That was long winded, but HerStry was created with so much love and born out of a place that wants to shake up the norms. I want women to talk about themselves, to take up space online and in the world, to own their stories and be proud of who they are and where they have come from and where they are going.
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JAMIE: I believe HerStry is about three years old now. Have there been any unexpected lessons along the way?
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JULIA: I’ve learned that I can’t please everyone. I’ll always do something someone doesn’t like. Whether it’s adding submission fees, not accepting a story (I’d love to accept every story we get but it would be so much), or being an unashamed feminist and voicing my views and opinions on things.
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JAMIE: In addition to hosting women’s storytelling, you have recently expanded your offerings to include workshops, journaling guidelines and other services.  So what’s the plan? How can you help women who have a story to tell but don’t yet have the skills to tell it?
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JULIA: So from the beginning I wanted HerStry to exist on and off the screen. But it takes money and work to make that happen, so it’s just been in the last few months that we started offering workshops. They have been a great success. We have two more on tap for late summer and early fall. I’m also planning our first writers’ group, which will be a five week online critique group. If the first one goes well, we will offer it at different levels. I think everyone deserves a chance to tell their story and if we can help them get there that’s what I want.
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I’m also in the process of planning our first writers retreat, hopefully coming summer 2020. Stay tuned. It’s going to be in the Midwest and full of Midwest summer goodness plus lots of healing and self care time … and writing time, of course!
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JAMIE: What is forthcoming from you as a writer?
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JULIA: I’m actually working on a novel. Well, my second novel. The first will never see the light of day and that’s okay. Everyone needs one novel that was trash. That’s how you learn.
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I went out to the Northern California Writers Retreat this spring and worked on it with a bunch of amazing writers. If you ever have the chance to do that retreat I highly suggest it. It changed my writing life.
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JAMIE: The readers and writers connected to The Poet by Day and The BeZine are multitalented.  Our writing community includes poets who also write fiction, creative nonfiction and drama. Some are performance artists, visual artists, actors and musicians. We even have a number of cartoonists. However, here our primary – not exclusive – focus is poetry. We can’t help but ask if HerStry will eventually expand to include women’s poetry?
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JULIA: We actually used to have a poetry section. If you look in our archives you can read the old ones. When we started getting a lot of submissions and started gaining popularity, we decided to only focus on personal essays.
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Our Facebook Group, Babes Who Write, as well as any of our critique groups are open to writers of all genres, but the literary website and our forthcoming anthology, Beginnings, are dedicated specifically to nonfiction prose.
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JAMIE: What is HerStry’s submissions process?
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JULIA: Click the Submit a story button on our website. It will give you all the details about how to submit. You can also find us on Submittable!
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Bravo, Julia!



© Julia Nusbaum

Julia Nusbaum is the creator of HerStry. She currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she works in nonprofit. When she’s not working she loves reading, sitting in sunny spots, and eating all the food and drinking all the tea.



ABOUT

Recent in digital publications: 
* Four poems in “I Am Not a Silent Poet”
* Remembering Mom in HerStry
* Three poems in Levure littéraire
Upcoming in digital publications:
“Over His Morning Coffee,” Front Porch Review

A homebound writer, poet, and former columnist and associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, I Am Not a Silent Poet, The Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, an info hub for poets and writers and am the founding/managing editor of The BeZine.


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton



 

TWO POEMS BY AND AN INTERVIEW WITH ANJUM WASIM DAR, PAKISTANI WRITER, ARTIST AND EDUCATOR

the poet by day, makes me a poet by night
how sweet is the sensation, how smooth the flight
in  holy silence, words flow on, with delight
as the hours pass by, dawn breaks into light 
Anjum Wasim Dar


Over my life
I have drifted,
along, with the flow-

I came to know
I have to go, be slow
To move step by step
shed tears drop by drop,

Over my heart I found,
nothing was my own
It all had to be gifted,
to known and unknown,

Over my heart I saw,
as inside I bled
outside all was black ,

as the invisible was red,
love’s return, hard to find,
to complete a good age

we ourselves must be
loving caring and kind.

Spirit of Two Spheres

O My Spirit
someone has seen you
In sound and silence,
felt you in celestial
sphere,
O spirit where dost thy wander<
Free when I fall asleep…
Tell me who is the silent one
Who thinks of me<
With hand on the cheek
a smile in thoughts, deep
O spirit tell me, how is she?
and tell her please she is very<
Dear n near to me, I know  not<
When or how many times our
paths crossed on the page…
My pen said write and I wrote
My poem missed the boat once
twice, made me sad, not for the poem
but for not reaching her in time…
Quietly I moved across the screen
searching for her, in vain, she seems to
be away, perhaps resting after the day
I wonder how much work she has to do<
Or needs to go out too, but then my heart
missed many beats as I saw in silent sound<
That ‘I am mostly home bound’
Spirit you do not know my heart
painfully bled inside, I felt love n concern
deeply strangely beside.
O spirit pray pray pray….


JAMIE: How did you come to poetry?

ANJUM:  I believe I came to this world with poetry inherited in my blood. Becoming aware of life I found myself in a Renaissance atmosphere, an environment replete with books magazines newspapers radio programs and home screen movies.

My early school lessons had poems rhymes and songs that I thoroughly enjoyed. I fell in love with the Silver Bells Poetry books and would read and recite the poems again and again. While at home spoken-word a parlor games were popular: ‘Bait Baazi is played by composing verses of Urdu poems. It is very common among Urdu speakers in Pakistan and India. It is similar to Antakshari, the Sistanian Baas-o-Beyt, the Malayalam Aksharaslokam and, more generally, the British Crambo. It was the most popular game with uncles and aunts all living together after arriving safely in Pakistan, the newly created state by Partition in the Indo-Pak Subcontinent.

My Grandfather   Mohammed Hasan ( B.Sc  B.T. Kashmir), was a Professor at King George Royal Military College, Jhelum City, Pakistan after migration from Kashmir in the 1950s. He wrote poems in Urdu, mostly on request. He never published his writings. I learned the Arabic poetry meter system from him. He told me Urdu used the Arabic poetry meter system because it was quite simple to understand. Grandfather had learned English, Persian, and Urdu. He knew Shakespeare’s numerous lines by heart and had translated Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of Baskervilles into Urdu.

I wrote my first poem in Urdu at the age of 12 while sitting silently during blackouts of the two wars that were fought with India (in 1965 and 1971). During this time, I also listened to patriotic songs on the radio, which had a deep impact on my writing. I realized how nations were inspired to compose words and record acts of heroism and then I understood the works of our Great National Poet, Allama Mohammed Iqbal, who expressed  the  qualities of a true Muslim and the  characteristics of the Muslims  as a separate nation  through his poetry. Iqbal awakened the Muslims as a nation, highlighted their rights and duties…I was 16 at the time.

Studying for the  master’s  degree in English Literature  I captured the true essence of poetry and the hidden poet in me emerged. I was by then a mother of three college going kids – the year 2000 and I  was recognized internationally as the Poet of Merit by Poetry.com USA and the ISP International Society of Poets


JAMIE: Why is poetry so important to the global community?

ANJUM: The global community has expanded profoundly in recent years, grown in number but shrunk in distance, It has established links from one end of the planet to the other – the Age of Digital Connectivity, which ensures the constant availability of all kinds of information.

Poetry has been the earliest form of language ever since people learnt to make meaningful sounds. I believe human beings understood each other better with fewer syllables and there and then poetry took the first form. Still the understanding of concepts, ideas and precepts came in short forms like ‘formulas.’

Poetry can reach the masses in its various ‘short forms ‘ and convey guidance, pleasure, motivation, love and a warning’ faster than any other means. In its indirect mode it would not offend, abuse or disrespect anyone, though the key here is the knowledge and ability to read and understand.

I believe poetry has the power to change the fate of nations. It reveals the truth of life and leaves strong meaningful lessons for those who turn towards it. Some may deliberately use poetry for their own goals and objectives, which may again beneficial.

The global community needs conscious help in many form. Poetry has the potential to play a major role in educating broadly. Listening to poetry involves patience, so a better usage of time, for example through verses and lyrics of songs, we can think differently and stay away from violence, feel hopeful. Here  we have seen a change in the style of political activity when every public gathering and following speeches were interspersed with songs called ‘Promoting Party Songs’ and it kept the public involved, joyful and inspired.  The current trends are Poetry and Peace in the World, such as Poets Against War and 100,000 Poets for Change are moving together in many countries around the globe.

Poetry readings bring people closer. The individual cultural aspects and traditions are shared, this leads to more knowledge and better understanding among different communities and thus to peaceful living life style in an improved environment.


JAMIE: What poet do you find most inspiring and comforting and why?

ANJUM: In the early years the poems were Mother Goose Rhymes, then poems of nature where William Wordsworth and Robert Frost stand out, but with only one poem each, Daffodils and Stopping by the Woods. I am sure many are familiar, as these poems are part of the school/college syllabus.

At this stage a poem that touched my soul and spirit was Ozymandias of Egypt by Percy Bysshe Shelley. I had just started college when war with India was declared and ‘Death’ came to the forefront. Father and an elder brother were actively involved at the borders. I came to know Urdu poets and writers like Masroor Anwer, Soofi Tabassum, Jameeluddin Aali and Himayat Ali Shaer. The concept of bravery, sacrifice and patriotism was highlighted in the poems for the soldiers and kept the nation motivated and in high spirits…and I felt the support in the absence of father at home.
 
Among the writers of English Literature, though I enjoyed reading Shakespeare and found him close to nature and humanity, John Milton and T.S.Eliot  inspired me the most. John Milton’s style of expression, themes  and choice of words brought a change in my writing style. I began to see life differently, on a higher level of reality and grandeur. Milton’s grand style improved my proficiency in English (a foreign language for me), in sentence structure and the use of adjectives,  similes and imagery. It moved me to write better and writing poetry became a part of me…I would keep reading lines from Milton’s epic Paradise Lost. The phrases “to be weak is miserable’’  and “all is not lost’ though coming from Satan in the poem gave much hope to thoughtful believers…Side by side Keat’s Odes brought color, movement and the density of vocabulary to embroider the little that I could write. My literature teacher guided  me to adopt the style of such great writers. I must mention Mathew Arnold and Sir Philip Sydney whose essays also enlightened my mind towards understanding literature.  Poetry remained on top of the list. T.S.Eliot’s Wastland and the essays Tradition and Talent and What is a Classic opened more avenues for understanding human nature and ‘to justify the ways of God to men’ as Milton wrote. T.S.Eliot inspired me to write about the great event, the ‘Partition ‘of India, which changed the lives of millions of people of the Indo-Pak Subcontinent.
 

Ghalib

When you ask me about a comforting poet then without any doubt or hesitation I would say that it is none other than Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797-1869). I have his complete works in my personal library including audio cassette recordings of his essays and letters etc read by Mr Zia Mohyiuddin. Every time my thoughts emotions feelings need comfort I turn towards his poems and ghazals. Ghalib understood human feelings. When one reads his verses one finds soothing answers. “… life is like that.” He has the saintly prophetic style of expression..he speaks the truth…in this world of hate, envy, and revenge I find him a great support…’acceptance is the key to happiness’ and he assures that  awareness of one’s skill is the most satisfying thing in the world..’ ‘ and writes for himself..that he could have been a ‘wali’ a friend of the Almighty if he had not been an alcoholic.

 
ھیں اور بھی دنیا میں  سخن ور بہت ا چھے
  
کہتے ھیں  کہ غالب  کا  ھے  انداظے بیاں  اور    
 

Iqbal

The other influence on my writing came from Dr Allama Iqbal (1877-1938) whose poetry was regularly read aloud at home. From the primary level to college and later at family gatherings, Allam Iqbal’s poems were remembered and recited. Dr Iqbal inspired me towards religion, developing the strength of my faith belief and trust in Allah. Other than his poems for children, the Prayer DUA…

لب  پہ آتی ھے دعا  بن کہ  تمنا  میری  
زندگی شمع  کی صورت  ھو خدایا  میری
“I say a prayer, which is my wish that my life be like a lamp.”
 
He provides  a complete guideline for the purpose of life and how to live it. Quranic study with meaning and understanding came much later in my life. Many verses are inspiring but two which I always recite and quote ..
کبھی  اے ھقیقت منتظر   نظر آ    لباس  مجاز  میں 
کہ ھزاروں  سجدے تڑپ رھے  ھیں میری  جبین نیاز  میں 
 
“O Great Truth appear in the worldly light, am dying to prostrate myself, thousands of times.”
 
کھول  آنکھ    زمیں  دیکھ فلک  دیکھ  فظا  دیکھ 
مشرق  سے ابھرتے  ھوےؑ  سورج    کو زرا   دیکھ
 
“Open your eyes see the Earth, the sky, the scene, see the sun rising in the East, have a vision,be enlightened. “
 
For Dr Iqbal one needs intensive and consistent study. His philosophy of ‘Self’ rising above personal desires, gaining knowledge and being positive and steadfast in faith lead to a fine development of character.

JAMIE: Pakistan has declared Urdu the national language and you have been working to translate your work into Urdu.  What has that adventure been like for you?  What are the challenges?

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ANJUM:Yes, Urdu is our national language. It is also compulsory for all to study in school. For me Urdu was not difficult. A 10-lesson reader and a small book of grammar was all we had in the course. Two options were offered, either one could take the Advanced Course or the Easy one. I took the advanced and found it rather easy. 
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When I started teaching,  I found that students and teachers both had a low proficiency level in the subject. A Certification of Teaching of Urdu was not required, only a master’s degree was enough for a job. Many precious years have gone by without any regular or professional training courses in the subject for teachers of Urdu. My love of poetry kept me glued to Urdu. I had read Mir Taqqi Mir, Mir Dard, Daagh, Bahadur Shah Zafar Ghalib Allama Iqbal  a couple of poems by Nazeer Akbarabadi. As a family all loved the Urdu(Indian ) songs and Urdu movies ..Pakistani Urdu songs came later. This way I got to listen, speak, and read a little ( an Urdu newspaper with my Grandmother) and keep my Urdu language alive. My parents  spoke Punjabi. In fact my Grandfather, uncles, aunts and other relatives all, spoke Punjabi…we kids spoke Urdu and later quite fluently. .it was English.
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I found translating  English poetry to Urdu quite challenging. I had translated paragraphs but not poems, the last translation task that I had to do was a letter (from Urdu to English ) while working as Creative Writer (English –with Channel 7 Adv. Company Islamabad).
..
Poetry in Urdu reflects the thoughts  ideas and emotions more effectively than English as the Poetess of India who uses the pen name  “Haya” writes : 
.
کیا بھلا چاند  ستاروں  کی زباں  سمجھیں گے
برگ پھولوں کا  پرندوں کا بیاں  سمجھیں گے 
کتنے بد بخت  ھیں واۡقف  نہیں  جو اردو  سے
وو حیا  علم و محبت   کو  کہاں   سمجھیں  گے
.
“who can understand the language of the moon and stars
 of flowers leaves and  of the  birds and what they say
 how unfortunate are those who don’t know Urdu
 they will never understand, language of love and knowledge.”
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I must appreciate and thank you for setting me off on a wonderful amazing exciting adventure into the mythical mysterious world of Language. I feel  like King Odysseus on a great Viking ship, my companions are few but powerful, the Internet, the laptop computer, and the camera….I miss the Urdu Thesaurus, I believe it is available in book form and will try to get a copy. In the meantime the Internet helps… 
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The challenges I face when translating are not tenses nor Urdu grammar but Urdu vocabulary. I need to increase the repertoire. The Urdu script /Urdu Fonts (how to write a word correctly) the problem…generally one finds an English word written with the Urdu alphabet, in the Urdu script, when the word is read,  it sounds as in English….  Office…آفس English… انگلش Game گیم       Show    شو         
.
I had to learn and perfect my Urdu typing ability.
.
With regard to transferring the correct  poetic idea to a different language there are constraints that I have noticed: There are no Urdu language programs for outside classroom audiences, like a poetry recital stage show or a forum or gathering of writers and poets called MushairaCommon language exchange outside the classroom have developed into a mixture of Urdu and English. Many English words have come to stay in Urdu vocabulary lists as …’family, bed, chair. office, cushion, curtain , butter, finish, film, game, milk, racquet, ball, house, number, shop, wife, darling. “Hello” is the most common word used to attract the attention, in place of “hey listen” or “are you listening?’?”
.
The best part of the adventure is that I am using Urdu, writing in Urdu, looking up the Urdu Dictionary, sharing the language adventure with my family and friends and dearly loving all the activities of my dear national language. It is a beautiful language, quite misunderstood, misused too sometimes but it is pure, soft, sweet and full of respect and love. I wish I had started this adventure earlier
.
My regret is that Urdu is not getting the attention it should. The Academy of Letters is working somewhere. Urdu magazines for children are few and one fails to find good authentic speakers of Urdu language. Only a deliberate effort can create that environment and that too would be rare. 
© 2019, words and personal photographs, Anjum Wasim Dar;  “Ozymandias” clipping by Glirastes in The Examiner, London, Sunday, January 11, 1818, No. 524, page 24 / public domain; the only surviving photograph of Mirza Ghalib (circa 1860-1869) / public domain; Iqbal as a Barrister-at-Law / public domain.

ANJUM WASIM DAR (Poetic Oceans) was born in Srinagar (Indian occupied Kashmir) in 1949.
 ,
Her family opted for and migrated to Pakistan after the Partition of India and she was educated in St Anne’s Presentation Convent Rawalpindi where she passed the Matriculation Examination in 1964. Anjum ji was a Graduate with Distinction in English in 1968 from the Punjab University, which ended the four years of College with many academic prizes and the All Round Best Student Cup, but she found she had to make extra efforts for the Masters Degree in English Literature/American Studies from the Punjab University of Pakistan since she was at the time also a back-to-college mom with three school-age children.
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Her work required further studies, hence a Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) from Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad and a CPE, a proficiency certificate, from Cambridge University UK (LSE – Local Syndicate Examination – British Council) were added to  her professional qualifications.
 .
Anjum ji says she has always enjoyed writing poems, articles, and anecdotes and her written work found space in local magazines and newspapers. A real breakthrough came with the Internet when a poem submitted online was selected for the Bronze Medal Award and I was nominated as Poet of Merit 2000 USA. She accepted the Challenge of NANOWRIMO 2014 and Freedom is Not a Gift, A Dialogue of Memoirs, a novel form was the result. She was a winner, completing her 50,000 word draft in one month.
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Although a Teacher and a Teacher Trainer by Profession, she is a colored-pencil artist and also enjoys knitting and is currently trying to learn Tunisian Crochet
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Memoir writing is her favorite form of creative expression. 
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“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


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Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”


The BeZine: Waging the Peace, An Interfaith Exploration featuring Fr. Daniel Sormani, Rev. Benjamin Meyers, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi among others

“What if our religion was each other. If our practice was our life. If prayer, our words. What if the temple was the Earth. If forests were our church. If holy water–the rivers, lakes, and ocean. What if meditation was our relationships. If the teacher was life. If wisdom was self-knowledge. If love was the center of our being.” Ganga White, teacher and exponent of Yoga and founder of White Lotus, a Yoga center and retreat house in Santa Barbara, CA

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton

AN INTERVIEW WITH POET LINDA E. CHOWN & A SAMPLER OF HER POETRY, PART II

“Poetry refreshes who we are and opens our eyes. It is a second sight on all that we’ve known and done. It penetrates into the invisible world we don’t speak of often and thus can bring us together . . . Poetry is the biggest surprise. It can be our double, echo, enhance our solitudes and tell us how the world is in its mysterious questioning ways. Poetry is a beautiful agent of radicalism in all ways.” Linda E. Chown



In Part I – published yesterday – we served up two of Linda’s poems along with her interview. Today, we share six more of Linda’s poems.  A rare and rich treat for all of us. Thank you, Linda Chown.


POETRY SAMPLER

Uncle Sasha

Dear Sasha. Great Sasha.

You were something very special.

In Moscow’s somber streets, flagellated

and smothered by summer’s heat

and simmering peat bog fires,

you in that outrageously dignified hat

and cane, sickness pushing your bones,

overcame these pains and your daughter’s

shame of you to cut a swathe of finesse.

 

Haunted man who knew prison.

Proud man whose family split and fissured,

warred in the expected Russian Jewish way.

Sick man just three days out of bed.

I’d watch you as patriarch at your end

of all the tables heavy with food and talk.

You barely had the energy to smile sometimes

but you did and lectured about smoking

through all-conveying looks

of emotion when you caught our eyes.

My grandmother grew red from the efforts

of translation.

I babbled in smiles while the women

stroked and rubbed the top of my head.

I felt a volcano in you.

A bursting open in the long gray hair.

 

There.

Two worlds

barely touching in the air:

American blue jeans. Chekhov in English

My Darling Clementine Slavicized on a dusty Victrola.

You’d look at me, the youngest,

wanting and getting something

but all my claims, living in Spain,

the bases, were wanting.

 

My mother’s birthday dinner night

on the 25th floor of Moscow’s swankest hotel

I read the speech you wrote

in English the whole afternoon long

and you stood up speaking in Russian,

saying things that made all the relatives cry,

the agility of Fred Astaire in your body’s texture,

the weight of a visionary in your eye

and I felt an unexperienced pride in family,

the inherited forms.

 

Dead of pneumonia and gone

you fused so much and played so lonesome

light, so honor driven.

Man who knew pogroms and the family’s

leaving you and war and jail and revolution.

Uncle who said my name like I used to

as a little girl, Yinda,Yinda.

I didn’t get enough of you.

© 2018, Linda E. Chown

 

Time of terror

Then, when they killed

the Rosenbergs

for espionage

it was

a time of terror

for my family

eyes peering everywhere

no iPhone, no tv,

rumors turned to fact

in a mystery.

We turned to poetry

which would howl

and music with a whole

lotta shakin goin’ on

which spoke us true

stranded as we were

then in the quicksands

of conformity.

© 2018, Linda E. Chown

 

My Father Had a Dream

He had a dream

 

My father taught me to dream,

to take bigger steps,

his eyes flashed with happy need.

 

At the Lincoln Memorial

whose steps he went up like the tall giant he was with

his bad knees and flappy cane tap tap tap.

 

Us-all at the top like a vision

marble white we saw greatness,

something you can’t measure or fathom,

My father did more than smile:

he beamed, he purred peace and salvation,

like his life’s work had been done

by taking us there.

 

My father such a simple good man

whose light reached beyond

our messy, contentious, lives.

© 2018, Linda E. Chown

 

The Three Kings: Later

It is not that we don’t have

gifts and luxurious robes:

the child robbed the cradle

and his daddy’s not home.

The mare is in the kitchen

and the pope’s just on loan.

The food’s all dried out now

and the whistle doesn’t blow.

The roads have all been polished

and the stars don’t hardly show.

The roots are somewhat buried,

the times a passing slow,

we’re moving into darkness

where the candles rarely glow.

Where the gifts we bring

are seldom seen,

where there is no place to go.

© 2018, Linda E. Chown

     When all fell away from me

Paul Celan

 No Ballroom Dancing

in the stark stare of wide-snow and beggars hiding under the Blue Bridge

in the stark slant of a pilgrim’s walk to the plenty of the poor
silk slack people with their lips plunged in
to the silence of their dark thoughts
of the endless ending cursing and coming in this pen, sneering

when that old woman there with a Red Hat

can not go in without her teeth
she clinks and the pauper people point and peer stare

like pauper people are wont to do


where her Red Hat falls into a pea soup of fear
just a happenstance

 

no ballroom dancing here

© 2018, Linda Chown

 

A day they say to remember

It’s Memorial Day again,

a day they say to remember

those missing in action

remember missing those

long blue sky sailor stripes

remember your father in action

when you were little remember the Marne

and he was in action burning the brush

fire mixed black soot on white

fog drifts remember when you were

little with that big frown

and your mother sat there waiting

pulling down on her red skirt

© 2018, Linda Chown

PART I includes Linda’s interview and two poems HERE.


LInda E. Chown

LINDA E. CHOWN grew up in Berkeley, Ca. in the days of action. Civil Rights arrests at Sheraton Palace and Auto Row.  BA UC Berkeley Intellectual History; MA Creative Writing SFSU; PHd Comparative Literature University of Washington. Four books of poetry. Many poems published on line at Numero Cinq, Empty Mirror, The Bezine, Dura, Poet Head and others. Many articles on Oliver Sachs, Doris Lessing, Virginia Woolf, and many others. Twenty years in Spain with friends who lived through the worst of Franco. She was in Spain (Granada, Conil and Cádiz) during Franco’s rule, there the day of his death when people took to the streets in celebration. Interviewed nine major Spanish Women Novelists, including Ana María Matute and Carmen Laforet and Carmen Martín Gaite.


 

ABOUT

Testimonials

Disclosure

Facebook

Twitter

Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”



 The BeZine: Waging the Peace, An Interfaith Exploration featuring Fr. Daniel Sormani, Rev. Benjamin Meyers, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi among others

“What if our religion was each other. If our practice was our life. If prayer, our words. What if the temple was the Earth. If forests were our church. If holy water–the rivers, lakes, and ocean. What if meditation was our relationships. If the teacher was life. If wisdom was self-knowledge. If love was the center of our being.” Ganga White, teacher and exponent of Yoga and founder of White Lotus, a Yoga center and retreat house in Santa Barbara, CA

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton