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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. 
.
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.
.
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.”
.
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


ABOUT

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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

 

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH POET LINDA E. CHOWN & A SAMPLER OF HER POETRY, PART 1

“The word “palimpsest” helps to describe the trajectory of my poetry. I grew up as a pianist, practicing five hours a day—Haydn, Mozart, Bach. I played in recitals, long pieces of music I then memorized by heart. Music gave me a sense of both sequence and depth, the combined sense of which has never gone away.” Linda E. Chown


INTERVIEW

JAMIE: I know you’ve been writing poetry for most of your life. How has your writing evolved?

LINDA:  Initially, I wrote poetry feeling and being rather locked in, in the confines of McCarthyism and terrible asthma. These poems were outcries, full of a sense of being an outsider and a non-success. This first stage of my poetry was full of words, big words sometimes, as I was reading a lot of Faulkner at a young age. And I think my poems were without much nominal direction.

A second stage took place as I went to SFSU and got a degree in Creative Writing. Then, I worked intimately with and heard truly great poets who encouraged me to write spare poems, to take off the loud pedals of my poetry piano. I wrote at this time very lean poetry, often of minute changes in the physical world, of bird calls, of colors blending. Sometimes, I also wrote at this time much longer narrative poems presenting moments of meeting, losing or finding. Then, there was a long time I lived and taught in Spain and the poetry stopped for some years, also when I went to get my Ph.D.

Now, in this third phase, I’m writing of the unforgettable, the personally traumatic, of artists in poems I call “intrications,” I find myself able and ready to write of traumas. I think my poetry has become freer and truer. Not now attempting to use strong fine words, but to allow language to match and measure the person I’ve become and am becoming. Also, now I write without immediate readers. That fact alone gives me a kind of freedom I didn’t have before when people “made suggestions.” My poems today draw upon the first period of Faulkneresque big word poems and the spare lean writing of my creative writing days. It’s as though I can now write of anything in a form which has more hybrid, mingling poetic terseness and prose expansiveness within a guiding imagery.

JAMIE:  What were your original inspirations and who or what inspires you now?

First, I was affected by the Holocaust and its pictures of the opening of the Camps. Since I was mostly in bed at that time, I was dramatically changed by seeing this ghastly suffering objectified. Seeing the thinning bodies and expressionless faces. And the stripes in the stillness. Then Albert Camus’s The Stranger brought the world in my focus: I’ll never forget how Meursault wrote at the end, before being hung, about “resigning himself to the benign indifference of the universe.” I did not yet totally understand the kind of social repression Meurseult lived under, its deadening proprieties. I have always resisted imposed proprieties. I was enormously impressed by Camus as a writer and as a fighter, by his argument with Sartre over what was important.

Later at SFSU, I found Jack Gilbert’s writing to be enormously profound and compact. The great Samuel Johnson influenced me to mind myself, to take myself in hand. Linda Gregg’s poetry is beautifully simple and calls to me from everywhere. Her poems are like dense, language-smitten miracles.

Having worked at SFSU’s Poetry Center, I met Robert Creeley and was extremely impressed by his writing and the utopian spirit of Black Mountain College. Now the passionate simplicity of Dylan Thomas, as in “Fern Hill,” slides me into a happiness. I love Gerald Manley Hopkins and John Donne for their enormous reach and power of generalization, all the while growing in images. Poets who can draw together the terrible horror of an actual event and the beauty of a reflective mind captivate me.

Wisława Szymborska’s sense of mystery intrigues me and draws me to her. She said,” Poets, if they are genuine, must … keep repeating ‘I don’t know.’” Now I like a poetry which does not pretend to know but which charges ahead into mystery, into politics, love, parenting, learning with great curiosity and the power of imagery fresh. I don’t like poems of words, of mechanical play.

JAMIE: Why is poetry important?

LINDA: 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. I heard many of the best poets reading in San Francisco and London. I was lucky enough to hear Voznesensky. Once, he said “metaphor is the motor of form.” Tomas Tranströmer, a genius of internal life and artistic form, wrote: “We look almost happy out in the sun, while we bleed to death from wounds we don’t know about.’ 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.


POETRY SAMPLER

Part Payment

To Don

who came to see me reading poetry at the I-Thou Coffee House

and whom I visited later in a VA hospital

 

Compact, with wiry bones, you had the face

of a near criminal except for the sweet doe’s

eyes that would sparkle and lust.

You loved motorcycles and speed and solitude.

A man of incompleted skills, you were my

first lover in a dank drunken room

where I performed with such aplomb

you never knew it was a cherry

we so casually took together.

In the dark, I asked just what it meant

to have a “heart-on” and you laughed,

slapping my behind. Short-lived lovers,

when I had my fill, we drifted off

into others, without our moment of pain

or regret.

 

You grew enthusiasm as old ladies tend

their orchids: printing, Cuba, phoney ID’s

used to acquire tons of new TV sets to sell,

carrying big-time dope across the border

for small-time profits from other men.

These fruits were short-lived, too.

like brushing skin in the dark.

Somehow that does’s sense of honor in your eyes

kept you blinded to the way life juggles

fixed points and unambitious men.

Dead end street blues got you before the police

took both you and the haul

at some barren Texas border town.

 

Too clean to squeal on the commercial

zeals of your well-fed friends up north

one thing led to another as before—

handcuffs to a narrow cell in Leaven-

worth and bells and bars and guards

spare sunlight came about as often as Christmas

and the flowers of your hope withered

in unceasing and unfilled

promises of future parole.

 

You thoroughly marginal man,

to think our skins fit once

and I don’t know how you signed your name

or how you approached your mornings.

How was it, then, to get deathly sick in the glands

alone, to be blasted with mustard gas

and to watch your own physique shrink,

lessen, until your joints weakened

and took you forever to bed, leaving

a gaunt man’s face on a child’s thin bones,

to walk into death at 32 in a military bed

where your listless legs dangled

without reaching the slippers on the floor

and your neck looked chicken-scrawny,

bony and grotesque?

 

Perhaps, hombre, it was your crowning

success, your way to elude all the many

buyers of your exceptional loneliness,

that terrible disintegration proving

you did, in fact, exist, but

you died, doe-eyed, as you lived, adrift

in the shadows, never really being

missed.

© 2018, Linda Chown, All rights reserved


A Man Who Laughed in the Dark at Jackie Gleason

Daddy, this one’s for you,
whimsical father marooned
in a sea of women.
You appear by heart-light
in the sheer pores of feeling.
You appear lean and indelible
stretched out at life like that from within.
Your blue eyes raging truth at the sky.

How we snickered like fools at you.
At your cane’s tap-tap clattering.
At your soundless chokings on food

in mid-afternoon deluxe restaurants.

Your eyes gasping about for help.

When Schatzki’s ring kidnapped your throat.

How you got fixed sometimes
in a Victorian long-suffering,
fixed to pretend, to smile tolerant
in an eviscerating niceness.
Long you. Long suffering.

Badged in a dark-grey suit
pitched against the sky here
on a bare bridge in Grand Rapids.
Inside feeling burbled strong,
strong enough to burn the blue clamor
of your eyes into concrete pillars.

To shatter the still airs
and countermand finally

a long ingrown stillness:

To rage that truth of yours at the sky—
shedding passionate heart-light out

about us everywhere.

© 2018, Linda E Chown, All rights reserved

PART II CONTINUES TOMORROW WITH MORE OF LINDA’S POEMS. STAY TUNED …


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.


 

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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

Wednesday Writing Prompts to Return on March 21; Meanwhile, Introducing Deborah Alma, Emergency Poet; “Ramingo’s Porch” and Poetry Radio

The Spirit of the House, Still Life with Cat by German Expressionist Painter, August Macke (1887-1914)


The Spirit of the House

from the painting by August Macke 1910

A smug cat, a cosy cat, a passing cat,
a blue striped jug, with the light catching

the glaze, its dazzle closes the eyes
of the cat -it is a jug of cream.

A scented geranium, red and jaunty
in a terracotta pot.

Three small oranges and a blue dish
to hold the finger rubs of friends around its rim

always, always when they come, they reach out
to stroke the leaves, to rub the dish,

to add to the stroked smug of the cat,
to peel an orange.

There they are my friends, their backs
to the wall as they bend and bow

to half heard music, from the times we danced
to the times we laughed.

A smug cat, a cosy cat, a passing cat.

© 2018, Deborah Alma (The Emergency Poet), All rights reserved


THE HEALING ADVENTURES OF POEMEDIC

An Interview

Originally published in the December 2016 issue of The BeZine

by

Mendes Biondo and Deborah Alma

If I have a headache, I generally take a pill. But are we really sure that only medicines are able to heal our illnesses? Deborah Alma, poet and poemedic, said no. Poetry can give us a great hand to face our problems, in particular those that are hidden in our deepness. We had a brief chat about Deborah’s wonderful work and this is what came out.

Mendes: The theme of this issue of The BeZine is the healing power of art. Before asking you about The Emergency Poet, I would like to know your personal experience with art self-healing.

Deborah: That’s an interesting question and quite a difficult one to answer briefly. I think my own experience is like most people’s: extremely varied, very common and often very unconscious.

The moments that stand out for me I suppose were in the compulsion I felt to write myself through and out of an abusive and damaging relationship, watching my own grandmother’s solace in reading poetry after the death of her husband and as she was dying. I remember also being overwhelmed by an exhibition in London of the works of Frieda Kahlo and how bravely she painted her pain. I have worked for a few years with people with dementia and at the end of their lives using poetry.

For me, there is no doubt that art is where we can best connect with each other in ways that are intimate, empathetic and authentic.

MENDES: Now it’s the time of the Poemedic as you like to call yourself. A white coat, a stethoscope and a poetry book are the main objects you need when you ask your patients to open themselves up and then you suggest to them the right poem. What happens when patient and poem match each other?

Deborah: Ah this has been the most amazing thing for me! I had no idea when I started prescribing poetry just how much this process can work. People love to have a poem hand-picked for them after some careful listening. They see the gift and make it their own. It seems to bring a lot of joy and sometimes relief and comfort.

Mendes: Why people are frightened about reading poems and how can people involved in culture help readers to start loving poetry?

Deborah: I think that something happens, at least in the UK in secondary school where often pupils are asked to examine texts as though they were a forensic scientist, pulling out the meaning and the poet’s intention, leaving the student with a sense that somehow poems are difficult, like a puzzle to be decoded rather than being asked to respond emotionally and intuitively. They also seem to stop writing creatively themselves and being a writer yourself is the easiest way into loving poetry.

I think that there is a certain amount of snobbery in the poetry world, that asserts that poetry is not for everyone, that likes to encourage this perception of difficulty. Certainly some poetry is ‘difficult’ and the reader is rewarded and flattered by understanding it, its clever tricks, its craft, its vocabulary; but instead of saying it is just for us few, I believe we can help others in. This comes from reading widely, from a developing confidence in approaching a poem and through being invited in. This is what I aim to do with Emergency Poet, invite them in.

Mendes: You worked also with people with dementia. How can it help, in this case, reading poetry?

Deborah: I have worked using poetry with people with dementia and also with people in care homes and in hospice care for the last five years. As a poet I do know something about what it is to be intimate and honest and authentic. The thread joining poetry and these areas of work for me is this intimacy and honesty. Poetry I believe, more than any other art, with the exception perhaps of music (and they have much in common), speaks as though directly from one human being to another. It is about connection and empathy.

Most of the people that I’ve worked with who have some degree of dementia, are from the generation that learnt poetry by heart at school. As a poet working with a small group of people in a care home or day care centre I have often had the experience described so beautifully in Gillian Clarke’s poem Miracle on St David’s Day that describes the poet reading Wordsworth’s much-loved poem Daffodils in a care setting somewhere, where the words of the poem long ago learnt by heart ignite something deep inside the mind of a long mute man:

“He is suddenly standing, silently,
huge and mild, but I feel afraid. Like slow
movement of spring water or the first bird
of the year in the breaking darkness,
the labourer’s voice recites The Daffodils.”

It is a gift and a privilege to be the one who brings this to a group of people. I worked with a group of people with sight-loss last year and as I started to read Masefield’s ‘I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky…’ and to have at least twenty voices take it up with me, one woman reciting it word perfect all the way to the end was a joy to all present and it brings a tear to my eye even now as I write this and remember it.

Mendes: Best and the worst experience you have had with the Emergency Poet?

I think the best experiences I have had with Emergency Poet, and I have had so many, was when taking the ambulance to Bristol Southmead Hospital for a few days and parking near the other ambulances and prescribing poetry to patients, stressed staff and visitors . There was something very uplifting for people , (one woman still attached to her drip and in slippers) answering questions that were gentle, uplifting and being given the gift of a poem. It worked really well there. I’m starting to work in hospices prescribing poetry, which is wonderful and intense and extremely rewarding.

Bad experiences are usually to do with bad weather, wind, rain and cold. The hardest thing for me is to prescribe poetry to people who have never really read at all, not even as children.

Mendes: We always need a box of aspirin in our pockets. Who is, for you, the poetical aspirin? Can you suggest any “everyday” poems?

Deborah: I have a few poems that I use very often; the poem I am prescribing a lot these days ( it has been a difficult year), is the beautiful poem Try to Praise the Mutilated World by Adam Zagajewski

Mendes: The ambulance is riding down the street. What and when is the next stop?

Deborah: It’s quiet over the winter because of the weather, but the next stop is to set up an inside surgery and run a workshop on compassion at a conference in London for Psychology and Psychological Therapies which will be fascinating for me. I will have fun having psycotherapists on my couch.

To know more about Deborah Alma and her work, you can visit her website The Emergency Poet, The world’s first and only mobile poetic first aid service.

© 2016, text, Mendes Biondo and Deborah Alma; All rights reserved – Published here with permission The photographic origins of the Maché painting are unclear.  It may be in the public domain. At any rate, it does not belong to me./J.D.



POETRY ON RADIO

Ramingo’s Porch

To be aired on February 27th.

The second issue of The Ramingo’s Porch is out. This publication is cofounded and coedited by Mendes Biondo. Poems from both the first and second issues are to be read on February 27 on Ellen Sander’s Poetry Woodshed Radio (Belfast Community Radio) by the poets or other readers on their behalf. (Mine is read by actor Richard Lingua. He is based in Northern California where he works in multiple fields including theatre, the arts, and technology.)  Mendes’ partners are Catfish McDaris and Marc Pietrzykowski. Submission guidelines for Ramingo’s Porch are HERE. This is a print magazine available through Amazon. The URL for Poetry Woodshed Radio is in the illustration.


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