Through the decade our 100TPC poet-activist numbers have grown. We’ve expanded to include allies. These creatives from around the world share the values of peace, sustainability, and social justice. They speak out against corruption, cruelty, tyranny, and suppression through poetry, story, music, mime, art and photography, sometimes at personal risk.
If you’ve been involved before, please note the date and participate again. If you haven’t participated in 100TPC, we invite you to become a part of this worthy worldwide initiative.
By “we” I mean:
Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion, founders and organizers of Global 100TPC;
The Bardo Group, publishers of The BeZine and hosts of The BeZine Virtual 100TPC.
FROM PRIOR YEARS:
SAMPLES OF POSTERS FROM
~ Be inspired . . . Be creative . . . Be peace . . . Be ~
The second year I invited poetry against war was 2011. I put up a post on Into the Bardo (the name of the site before it became The BeZine) and invited folks to share their poems in the comments section. That was the last year for Sam Hamill’s Poets Against the War and the first year for Michael and Terri’s 100,000 Poets for Change.
Since 2012, we (The Bardo Group) have hosted an annual virtual event on the fourth Saturday of September in concert with Global 100TPC. My thought for going virtual was that there were many others who, like me, are home bound but want to have their say, want to stand for peace, sustainability and social justice. Soon Michael Dickel (Meta/ Phor(e) /Play) joined our team and a new tradition was born. Michael became our Master of Ceremonies.
This year – whether your are homebound or not – we invite you to join with us via The BeZine Virtual 100TPC on September 26. Complete instructions for sharing your work will be included in the post that day. Between us, Michael Dickel and I keep the event running for twenty-four hours or so. Mark your calendars.
Watch for more info here and at The BeZine on these initiatives and . . .
Call for Submissions to the September 15, 2020 issue of The BeZine, which is a prelude to 100TPC;
The Poet by Day 100TPC Wednesday Writing Prompt, September 16, hosted by Michael Dickel; and
In the spirit of love (respect) and community and
on behalf of The Bardo Group,
Jamie Dedes, Founding Editor and
now Co-Manager Editor with Michael Dickel
100 THOUSAND POETS FOR CHANGE: Ten years of evolution (2011-2020)
VOL 1: The Memoir
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
From Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion
In the tenth year anniversary of the movement, we are excited to invite all past and present 100TPC organizers and/or participants, to submit a three page essay to be considered for inclusion in the book 100 THOUSAND POETS FOR CHANGE [100TPC]: Ten years of evolution (2011-2020), which will be published on a date to be announced.
This book will tell the story of 100TPC from the perspective of the poets who have been a part of creating and sustaining it. Through our personal essays, the reader will learn not only about the individual stories of the hundreds of poets-organizers from all corners, reflecting on the social and cultural effects of such poetic actions, but it will also offer an enriched summary and an organized way to learn about this grassroots movement and its impact on the history of poetry. It can also be thought of as a guidebook and manual, for future generations interested in the strategy of activists engaged in manifesting positive change–peace, justice and sustainability.
You can submit a maximum of two essays, only one (1) per theme. Be sure to send each essay in a separate email (see details below).
1. FOUNDATIONAL EXPERIENCES. First experiences as organizer/ poet/ artist/ audience with 100,000 Poets for Change. 2. LOCAL EXPERIENCES. Experiences seen as a whole, after these ten years. Reflect on your achievements, or whatever you have witnessed, good and bad. You can choose to write about success or disappointments, benefits and limitations, even if you were not an organizer/participant consistently for the past ten years. 3. IMPRESSIONS: Reflections and stories on the philosophy, ideas and spirit propelling the movement. How has this movement informed your poetics? 4. SALERNO. If you participated in the 2015 Salerno conference, you can choose to write about it, as a whole experience, and/or highlighting a specific story or aspects of the conference. 5. READ A POEM TO A CHILD. If you have been part of the Read a Poem to a Child initiative, you can also choose to write about that.
Submission deadline: December 1, 2020
Format guidelines: Word document, Times New Roman, Font 12, Double Spaced.
Maximum 750 words.
Language: If you are not an English speaking writer, please send your text in its original language along with the best possible English translation (three pages max, each). At this point, the project will only include the English version, but we’re studying alternatives to the issue of language, and world accessibility.
Bio & Photos: Please send a fifty word Bio as a Word doc. attachment. Also, and this is optional, you can attach three-to-five good quality images (jpg) related to your essay, and/or the events you organized in your community. Include photo caption and credits. Do not send bio photos. We want exceptional images that offer a glimpse either of the themes or aspects we’ve mentioned above, the collective drive, or the audience reaction.
Please send your submissions and/or any questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org In the email’s Subject Matter, please write your essay’s theme.
“Kleitos, a likeable young man, about twenty-three years old with a first-class education, a rare knowledge of Greek is seriously ill. He caught the fever that reaped a harvest this year in Alexandria.” Kleitos’ Illness, Constantine P. Cavafy
Of special note:
Please don’t miss Iron Wind, Zimbabwean poet in exile Mbizo Chirasha’s response to the current prompt. An explanation for its solitary publication is included in the post.
Wisconsin poet, DeWitt Clinton, wrote, “I’ve visited many hospital rooms over the years, and occasionally, I was a patient. I’m always drawn to Sylvia Plath’s poem about her stay in a hospital following a surgical procedure.” I didn’t have enough time to get Harper Collins’ permission to publish Tulips today. You can read it in its entirety HERE.
Irene Emmanuel and Diana Lundell, if you have sites or Amazon pages to which you’d like me to link, email the links to me at email@example.com
Today I am pleased to present the responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, At the Beginning of the Pandemic, March 11, in which Michael Dickel asked poets to ponder: “How to bring illness (personal or pandemic) of the ailing body, pain, and language to point to culture, philosophy, and consciousness in poetry that also points ‘…to what is still to be learned about our fragility, our mortality, and how to live a meaningful life’? Especially at this cultural-historical moment of an emerging pandemic?” The result is a journey through a spectrum of experiences and perspectives.
The poets who contributed to this collection are: Paul Brookes, Jamie Dedes, Irene Emanual, Joe Hesch, Diana Lundell, Sonja Benskin Mesher, Nancy Ndeke, Bozhidar Pangelov (bogpan), Corina Ravenscraft, RedCat, and Clarissa Simmens. Joe Hesch, Diana Lundell, and RedCat are new to Wednesday Writing Prompt and warmly welcome.
Please do come out to play tomorrow for the next Wednesday Writing Prompt, All are welcome: beginning, emerging, and pro.
Stay safe and healthy,
As I write this, my daughter is watching a YouTube live stream lesson. The Ministry of Education streams a lesson to all first graders from 9–9:30 each school morning. My son is working on tasks and following links posted on this class web page. At 11 am the fourth graders, his class, will have their half-hour live-streamed lesson. I have a moment to write while they work, before I leave for an “essential” appointment, which will likely be my last meeting this week. Later, I will go to the grocery store to pick up three or four things we are running low on. I’ll probably notice a couple of other things to get, just in case. The people I see and I will try to maintain a distance of two meters. Yesterday I went for a walk, just to get out of the house. The sun was warm, so I sat on a bench with my iPad and answered some emails. Those of us out kept our distance, but more than usual we made eye-contact, greeted each other, wished each other good health.
Welcome to COVID-19 time. I think that it is important to make eye contact, to acknowledge each other, especially as we make wide arcs around each other. I think it is important too keep our connections, even across distance. And this is something poetry does. Here, we offer the week’s responses to my prompt on writing poems about illness (personal to global) and pandemic, creating a literature that points to culture and meaning in the time of COVID-19.
We have amazing and strong responses. They range from cancer to COVID-19 pandemic panic syndrome, from personal to observational. The language is strong. The poems succeed in doing what Ann Jurecic, (Illness as Narrative: Composition, Literacy, and Culture, p. 131) “…all point to what is still to be learned about our fragility, our mortality, and how to live a meaningful life.…”
In this COVID-19 time, please do your best to stay healthy. Support your community as you can, especially in helping to prevent spread, but also by catching a distant eye, nodding, smiling, saying “Shalom, manishma?” (Peace, how are you?) And wish them, “Libryut” “to (your) health.” Social distance need not be without connections.
Bronchi and alveoli seeking respiratory droplets
Float on the air, a nightmare of guided munitions
Always a reckoning when such assassins are loosed,
And now the vineyard of joy is dead and gated, the
Elders are on lockdown, prisoners of Corvid-19,
Of a government that moves too slowly and this
Virus that moves with speed, children sent home
From school, the workers forced from their jobs, a
Run on TP, tissues and hand sanitizers, breezes
Caressing the face, now just a memory like love
And blisses, handshakes and bracing bear hugs
Like social networking of the off-line variety
Chatter-clips in muffled murmurs
Overt opinions in strained silence
Tactful teacups in stilled saucers
Reverberating reels of sudden shock
Mystified minor in innocent ignorance
Death danced in devilish delight
Years later, I learned about
A TOUCH OF CANCER
Unasked, unwanted, it appeared;
a black dot on the middle of my right cheek.
A spider bite? A probable assumption.
It developed a white head,
I squished it, it spurted and grew a scab.
Then it became an unsightly scabby growth
of potent ugliness, taking over my cheek.
A skin specialist was consulted.
He was fascinated, he concluded that this “spider bite”
needed an investigation.
He cut and sent a sliver to be biopsied.
“Squamous Cell Carcinoma” of the cancerous type.
Immediate removal, non-negotiable.
Twenty-one stitches later, the growth lay vanquished.
As “Frankenstein’s” distant cousin, I faced the World.
Vitamin E oil has finally smoothed the scar
into a faded memory of a major scare.
I am eternally grateful to faith and Dr. J.
I have a small cold
and a library book to return.
Should I wipe it clean with disinfectant
and return it through the book drop?
Or let it become overdue?
I have a hair appointment
for next week Thursday.
If I feel better by then,
should I keep it?
I have a massage appointment
for the following week
which I really need
because I’m stressed
but they tell me not to come
for two weeks from the onset
of an illness. Do I count from
Monday when I began feeling
run-down or Friday
when I finally I knew why?
One means keep it,
the other cancel.
I don’t know if I have a fever.
My thermometer’s broken
and there are none in the stores,
but I’m in the target age group who die.
I have health insurance. Should I get tested?
The news says not to just show up
at your doctor’s office,
if you think you have the virus.
But will they then show at mine
making a spectacle, lights a-flaring,
outing me to the neighbors?
Or will it be like China
removing me by force?
My job tells us to stay home if sick
but they don’t provision for those
who don’t have enough sick leave
so I don’t call the doctor and go to work,
pretending to be perfectly well.
Like the wind, your exact birth is shadowy, even murky,
But the flow, and rush, like an old bull, is marked by scores of bruises,
Laughter is now whispered jest,
Camaraderie is thinning like a slippery path,
Ten fingers pointing at one location,
Might we be missing the point?
Like the wind on a sneeze,
Breath carries death so they say,
Goose pimples on a population that now hibernates indoors,
Scrubbing hands behind masks to keep the stray bullets off the air waves,
Palpable is FEAR rippling down the spines of the assumed healthy,
Boarders shrinking before the eyes of a cruise ship afloat a memorable trip,
Statistics roll out with diversity,
Some minimizing, some maximizing,
Along while back, we learnt a sweet investment called individualism,
Fenced diffences against the onslaught of our privacy,
Would the wind honor this paid service or even approve it?
Death is a chief garantor of flesh after a time,
It’s the fate of birth,
But fear is the monster that serves deathness to the living,
As we suffer shortage of basics in the war against a warring virus,
Some have hoarded food supplies for a decade,
Some are stocking distance for their own in remote homes,
Some are breathing through masks In bunkers below the ground,
History has a thing about life,
Mans best intentions are tested by calamity,
And the world has one right now,
The morbid fear of catching a dreaded virus,
That has already taken some down and has no respect for boundaries,
How we die depends on how we live,
If fear governs our senses enough to barricade ourselfs away from those in need,
We shall for sure die,
But before the physical,
Our Soul will have died Twice over from fear,
And thrice over from the meanness of withholding help to the needy, in an effort to preserve ourselves,
So ” I name you fear”, O you colonial hunter of human health,
And banish you to the deserts of dusty horizons,
Where your barren unconcern must remain buried,
To give man a chance at rebirth in the genuine concern of one facing this ultimate test of living,
I ” name you fear” O you coward who escaped your masters rogue shed to shade the color of life a night without the dance of the stars,
I ” name you fear” and tag you loser for records show others came before you and perhaps did worse,
So we know we shall survive you for life is a survivor from the realms of amniotic fluids to the trenches of war,
For life is held by a divine hand that constantly looks onto it wellness,
So though unwelcome you came and may stay a bad season,
Tomorrow is not yours except in records.
And those too, shall remain in archival shelves,
Once more to remind tomorrow that the human soul is a giant ,
And indomitable to any spirit that is not from it’s maker.
We shall suffer pain.
We shall lose some.
But we shall overcome the fear that you sow indifference that kills the living.
because we all
get influenced by all
and all is you
and the air is heavy on the shoulders
let’s sit down all
(the night is a round table)
accept each other and
give ourselves to all
then the song remains
(because is chanted)
They call it COVID, magic number 19,
One letter off, from birds who pick the bones clean.
Who are the carrion crows of this battle?
Who rake in profits from each, extended death-rattle?
The child king fired all the medic Gunslingers.
Now that he needs help, he only points fingers.
Has “Captain Trips” finally come at long last?
Does the Man in Black wear a plague doctor’s beaked mask?
“KA is a wheel…its one purpose, is to turn.”
Maybe Gaia just got tired of watching the world burn?
Each life snuffed out: a brick in the Dark Tower,
Each one, marking Mankind’s plummet from power?
All the child king’s puppets, and all his “Yes-Men”
Can’t put the world back together again.
If only we had some sort of Pandemic Team!
Or money for tests, instead of golf on the green.
Hindsight in 2020? Remains to be seen.
They call it COVID, magic number 19,
Perhaps it’s KA…and “All things serve the Beam.”
(Stephen King fans are probably likely to enjoy this piece a bit more than other readers. The number 19 is important to him, and figures deeply in many of his works, but none more so than in his Magnum Opus, “The Dark Tower” series.)
Can a novel virus teach
What climate emergency so far have not?
The interconnectedness of a global world
No country beyond its reach
Collective action the only sensible plot
Work together without accusing insults hurled
Can a novel virus show
What’s closest to our hearts
What we value most of all
Do we dare accept, have courage to know
Faithfully confess what we display in all our art
Happiness only ever lay in following loving soul calls
Can a novel virus reveal
How compassionate living will be
Only way out the materialistic maze
Can we make a New Green Deal
Accept responsibility humbly
Changing our planet wrecking, extreme storm inducing ways?
Moving toward the Megallion Swamp
My mystical swamp with a
Host of ghost characters
Summer sweats pheromones for
Mosquito troops hunting sweet blood
Females, say the science sites
Pregnant females feed on humans
I swat and stomp in ankle combat boots
Water moccasins visible
In the evaporating water
But me, I have a mission
Peopled swamp calling me
Some dressed in white
Hoodoo circle chanting
Others in white Baptismal light
Some in Grays or Blues
Maybe reenactment troops
Some in cheap suits like old
Blues bands shredding their guitars
Ghostly voices drifting over a
Tract of swamp advertised for sale
Of More-Or-Less 4.5 acres
Me, my mission moving toward summer
In the Sunshine State
Candidates spewing hate
Smiles and frowns hid behind
Medical masks while hoarding
Cases of hand sanitizers
The swamp shadows I see
Doctors with beaks
Bubonic Plague masks
“Bring out your dead!”
Time an illusion as
Because surely we’ve
Stepped off the Tardis of Time
Without Dr. Who to rescue me and you
Into a swamp of history
Repeating itself and all the
Impotent in the swarm of germs
What mission can a high-risk
So-called “elderly” woman claim?
What can I do except
Crash through the watery milieu of
Carrying a bag of herbs
Extracted in Winn Dixie vodka
Waiting for the full moon to offer
The untried elixir to swamp denizens
Gathered beyond my back yard
Of a once-sane haven
Beneath Orion’s protection.
And I hear voices
Voices in the swamp
I see miasmic misery
Smell the smoke of
And must see if it is
A vision of expectations
Or the real thing
Healing Reiki bear
Comes bearing herbal gifts
From the Forest of pure rain
Mighty words that
Might as well
Yet even that has worked for some
In the past
“…the ailing body points to culture, pain points to philosophy, language points to consciousness, and all point to what is still to be learned about our fragility, our mortality, and how to live a meaningful life.” Ann Jurecic, Illness as Narrative (Composition, Literacy, and Culture), p. 131
Large B-cell lymphoma with T cell-rich…
Damn, how do I slip that mouthful in.
To my life. My thought. This poem?
The tumor breached my spine, pressed
its attack onto nerves. A tactic to cut
communication channels. Painful alarum.
Yet here we arrive. The first day of Spring—
Shushan Purim. We walk in Jerusalem’s
Botanical Garden. The first chemical attack
on the tumor, the lymphoma, my body—
this day—dispensation given to fight back
against this pogrom in my very bones.
The red anemones, pink cyclamen,
something purple I cannot name,
shine with indifference to the wars
within my body and surrounding us.
Here we met a friend, just declared
cancer-free. Here we quietly held hands.
Here I felt something I cannot name.
“The boy, who as a man would later go on to lead the nation in WWII, was obviously affected by the pandemic known then as the Russian Flu in 1890.” B. H. Fraser, Poetry and the Flu, City Poems
COVID-19, the novel coronavirus (another mouthful) occupying our media and minds, spreads toward pandemic. Our responses, as societies and cultures across the globe, likely reveal much about us, as humans. If “the ailing body points to culture,” as Jurecic writes, what do thousands—or millions—of ailing bodies point toward?
Winston Churchill, as a teenager, wrote about the late 19th Century Russian Flu:
The Influenza, 1890
Oh how shall I its deeds recount Or measure the untold amount Of ills that it has done?
From China’s bright celestial land
E’en to Arabia’s thirsty sand
It journeyed with the sun.…
And now Europa groans aloud,
And ‘neath the heavy thunder-cloud
Hushed is both song and dance;
The germs of illness wend their way
To westward each succeeding day…
—Winston Churchill (age 15) Excerpts: Stanzas 1 and 7 of 12, emphasis added. Full poem
The poem ends with with very imperialistic overtones extolling Britain, especially in the last stanza:
God shield our Empire from the might
Of war or famine, plague or blight
And all the power of Hell,
And keep it ever in the hands
Of those who fought ‘gainst other lands,
Who fought and conquered well.
This could indeed voice the culture of late 19th C. Great Britain, couldn’t it?
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919 killed more than three times as many people as the World War that preceded it (US National Archives). Yet not much was written about it. Here are extracts from two poems reprinted in a medical journal special issue on influenza, one from 1918, in the midst of the pandemic, and one from a century later:
Influenza, labeled Spanish,
came and beat me to my knees;
even doctors couldn’t banish
from my form that punk disease;
for it’s not among the quitters;
vainly doctors pour their bitters
into ailing human critters;
they just sneeze and swear and sneeze.
Said my doctor, “I have tackled
every sort of ill there is
(I have cured up people shackled
by the gout and rheumatiz);
with the itch and mumps I’ve battled,
in my triumphs have been tattled,
but this ‘flu’ stuff has me rattled,
so I pause to say G. Whiz.”
I am burning, I am freezing,
in my little truckle bed;
I am cussing, I am sneezing,
with a poultice on my head;
and the doctors and the nurses
say the patient growing worse is,
and they hint’ around of hearses,
and of folks who should be dead.…
—Walt May (1918)
The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic
…It affected the lungs and caused their skin to turn blue
Comfort was given it was all they could do
In effect it caused people to suffocate
And it continued to spread at an alarming rate.
People kept away from large crowds and were told to wear masks
And they struggled to perform their daily tasks
Remote areas in the world were affected too
By this airborne killer virus, the great Spanish flu.
Efforts were made to slow down this disease
But slowly and surely was bringing the world to its knees
Shops opening times were staggered all over the lands
And people were encouraged not to shake hands.…
They closed many schools, services were hit too
With workers struck down by this merciless flu…
—Tom Cunningham (2018)
Both poems from: “Tres Poemas Sobre la Pandemia de Gripe de 1918.” Virología: Publicación Oficial de la Sociedad Española de Virología, 21:1 pp.68–72 (PDF of the journal, with full versions of these poems and another) Note: Walt May, a humorist / poet, wrote for newspapers, with his poems formatted as prose in newspaper columns. I have taken the liberty to adjust the line breaks from the source article.
Do these examples point to differences in culture over that century? What would our own poems point to, written now, at the beginning of a potential pandemic?
Jurecic points out that “despite the [1918–1919] flu’s ferocity, for much of the twentieth century this pandemic nearly vanished from popular consciousness.…the pandemic is virtually absent from American and British literature of its era” (p.1). After citing a few literary examples that do exist from the 1918 influenza pandemic in narrative prose literature (so not the 1918 poem above), Jurecic asks this: “How to bring the pandemic and the narrative form together? It is as if the project were unimaginable in the early twentieth century” (p. 1). Is it imaginable in ours?
“In stark contrast”, she points out, much has been written about HIV / AIDS (once we acknowledged it): “Journalists, playwrights, novelists, poets, memoirists, and diarists joined artists from other media in an effort to document the [AIDS] pandemic, create memorial art, and make meaning of suffering and loss on scales ranging from individual to global” (Jurecic 1–2). She gives many reasons for this, but this is a writing prompt, so…
WEDNESDAY WRITING PROMPT
* Editor’s Note: Twelve hours after this post went up, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus crisis a pandemic. Link HERE. for details.
This prompt emerges from musing about Jurecic’s questions and the quote at the top of the page: How to bring illness (personal or pandemic) of the ailing body, pain, and language to point to culture, philosophy, and consciousness in poetry that also points “…to what is still to be learned about our fragility, our mortality, and how to live a meaningful life”? Especially at this cultural-historical moment of an emerging pandemic?
Start your writing, from the midst of this emerging COVID-19 pandemic.
Write what is unnameable.
Good health to you.
Lecturer, David Yellin
Contributing Editor of The BeZine
Share your poem/s and …
please submit your poem/s by pasting them into the comments section and not by sharing a link
please submit poems only, no photos, illustrations, essays, stories, or other prose
Poems submitted through email or Facebook will not be published.
Deadline: Monday, March by 16 pm Pacific Time. If you are unsure when that would be in your time zone, check The Time Zone Converter.
Anyone may take part Wednesday Writing Prompt, no matter the status of your career: novice, emerging or pro. It’s about exercising the poetic muscle, showcasing your work, and getting to know other poets who might be new to you.
You are welcome – encouraged – to share your poems in a language other than English but please accompany it with a translation into English.
“By the flash-light of her fevered vision, Plath leads us into an apocalyptic wasteland. Then, like a hypnotist, she brings us back from it…She [becomes] the master of her feverish animal, all-powerful and entirely autonomous, self-made, and self-regenerating…”
LitFest Harare Voices stitched together the November sacredness with the December Christmas fever.
Africa is gifted with a blessing of spoken word artists, literalists, wordsmiths and poetry arts activists. Recently in Zimbabwe dub poet and UNESCO Affiliate Chirikure Chirikure and fellow poets hosted a lineup of accomplished writers and poets through the the highly recognized literary arts fete Litfest Harare in partnership with Glasgow University, Daves Guzha’s Theatre in Park, United States of America Cultural Affairs in Harare and others. LitFest Harare Voices stitched together November sacredness with December Christmas fever.
The Sotambe Live Literature Hub curated by fellow poet Mbizo Chirasha saw poetic words bathing copper belt of Kitwe to welcome the beautiful month of October. The Sotambe Live Literature Hub was a collaboration of Sotambe Film, Documentary Arts Festival with the International Human Rights Arts Festival founded by Writer and Artist Thomas Block. The Festival brought together poets from the SADC region that included Pusetso Lame of Botswana, trailblazing Vanessa Chisakula of Lusaka Zambia, and the dare – daring Philani Amadeus Nyoni of Zimbabwe. Africa’s poetry year was capped by the Maruping festival (GBV issues themed festival) in Botswana in partnership with European Union Delegation in Botswana bringing poets from around the world.
In that same literary arts activism wavelength, the Brave Voices Poetry Journal and the Zimbabwe We Want Poetry campaign founded and curated by Mbizo Chirasha an internationally acclaimed literary arts projects curator and poet introduces the Freedom Voices Poetry Writing Prize, an International poetry writing contest that saw more than fifty poets and activists participating from all over the globe. The contest was judged by globally revered poets and acclaimed writers that included Professor Michael Dickel, Poet and Editor James Coburn, and Reputable Journalist and writer Omwa Ombara and Professional Writing Mentor Tracy Yvonne Breazile.
The Winners of the 2019 Freedom Voices Prize are:
Adesina Ajala, a Nigeria poet with his poem FOR KEN SARO-WIWA ( First Prize),
Chrispah Munyoro, a Zimbabwean Poet with her poem ECHO CHAMBERS (Second Prize), and
Christopher Kudyahakudadirwe, a South African based Zimbabwean poet with his poem THE BUDDS ARE FRUITING ( third prize) .
There are seven special mentions. The winners are to be published in five digital poetry spaces including the new look Brave Voices Poetry Journal and the seven special mentions will be featured in two platforms including the BRAVE VOICES POETRY JOURNAL.
The 2019 Freedom Voices Poetry Writing Prize was paying Tribute to Unique Heroes/ Heroines. It is an Ode for Cadres of Resistance (human rights, anti-imperialistic, antiapartheid, freedom of expression, fight for political justice, right to economic justice and right to social inclusion) including:
Ken Saro-Wiwa for movement for the survival of Ogoni people ( Nigeria,) Dedan Kimathi (Kenyan liberation struggle),
Steve Biko (fighting inequalities in South African apartheid,)
Lookout Masuku (fighting for political justice in Zimbabwe),
Charles Dambudzo Marechera (PenSlinger of Truth in Zimbabwe),
Ambuya Nehanda (medium spirit of Chimurenga (war of liberation) in Zimbabwe),
Ruth First (South African fighter for civil rights),
Winnie Madikizela Mandela (Fighter for political and economic rights in South Africa,
Itai Dzamara (fighter for human rights and freedom of expression in Zimbabwe), and
Freedom Nyamubaya (gunslinger during war of liberation, poet against dictatorship regime in Zimbabwe).
ADESINA AJALA (Nigerian Poet) on winning the First Prize
SOZA’S BOY AND THE LEMONA’S TALE
For Ken Saro-Wiwa
October 10, 1941,
A sweet cry creaked into the crevices of Bori,
Cascaded with the swings of time
into songs in a time of war.
Like the anopheles mosquito, war was the drill poking Basi & company—
an ethnic minority, crisp lands & fecund rivers.
Shrapnel of crude oil scared faces of waters.
Oil marched the wicks of farmlands, wrecked every lushness in its paths.
A forest of flowers wilted, shed petals,
Became silhouette on a darkling plain.
The singing anthill homed bland silence.
This loud silence would be treason merely set in some four farcical plays.
Berserk bites of genocide in [Ogoniland] Nigeria.
& the Sozaboy chanted the Lemona’s tale—
the agony in the Ogoni girl became bared on the transistor radio.
& the warlords wrangled Wiwa’s weighted words,
Clasped him like prisoners of Jebs,
& clenched his body between the teeth of gallows.
Tell the hand that cuts the mahogany, his stump has sprout fresh leaves.
This poem, a leaf, sways.
Adesina Ajala is sprouting Nigerian medical doctor and writer, Adesina Ajala, desires to grow roots in the loam of the pen and the stethoscope. He does not know how he would fare, but he believes in journeying, in chances, possibilities and the divine. His works have found home in Writers Space Africa, EBOquills, Libretto, Featiler Rays, Brave Voices Poetry Journal and elsewhere. He was the co-winner of the first place of 2018 TSWF Writers Prize. He is on Instagram as and tweets @adesina_ajala.
CHRISPAH MUNYORO (Zimbabwean Poet) ON WINNING THE SECOND PRIZE
When eobiont is my father
Living in darkness
Languishing sodom and gommorah
Christened by vampires
Baptised in Hades
My toys,wails and anguish
Bathing with my sweat
Lullaby of sjamboks,button sticks and tear gases
I am a graduate of doom
Hunger and thirst my delicacies
Daughters and sons of darkness
That chieftain ,who rule by subterfuge
Who had fried his heart eons ago
In glee at the cries of the babies
Salivating in total erasure of humans
Ejaculating venomous fire
How then can i think paradise is there
When i am a citizen of hell
Pot trained to be a hardcore bandit
Shrivelling,flowers squashed mercilessly
Future suspended and eroded
Pissing on the precious blemis
Expecting fruits from cactus
Chrispah Munyoro says, “I am a woman who never backs on what she wants to achieve. Ambiguous and hard work is the keys to success. Patience is a virtue I live by I don’t want cut out turn success. The saltiness of sweat unlocks hidden destinies. I am a down to earth woman who looks up to God with zeal.”
CHRISTOPHER KUDYAHAKUDADIRWE (Zimbabwe poet based in South Africa) on Winning the Third prize
THE BUDS ARE FRUITING
Who will tell Dambudzo Marechera
That the seeds that he sowed in us
Have sprouted and are doing well?
That’s right, we want him to know that
The flowers he left slowly budding
Have unfurled their bright petals
To grace the garden of literary bliss
Allowing bees to drink nectar sweet verse?
Who will tell our gallant literary hero:
One of the few who made living prophecies,
About the fermenting corruption
By trying nipping sprouting nepotism
And the cancerous looting in the bud
That would seize our house of stone?
Who will tell Dambudzo Marechera
What has become of the house of hunger
Which he was mind-blasting about
While non-believers stood on the fence
Pointing accusing fingers at him?
But, let me say: never mind your departure.
We, the little buds, will continue
That work that you left unfinished.
Christopher ‘Voice’ Kudyahakudadirwe is a Zimbabwean freelance writer, poet and teacher living and working in South Africa. His first poems appeared in a magazine called Tsotso which was published by the Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe in the early 90s. Over the years his poems have been published in the following anthologies among others: Harvest: The University of the Western Cape Masters in Creative Writing Poetry Anthology 2016, Best “New” African Poets 2015 Anthology, Zimbolicious Poetry Anthology Volume 1. And his short stories in, Ghost-Eater and Other Stories, New Contrast, Moving On and Other Stories. He is currently running a poetry blog called http://www.kudyahakudadirwe.wordpress.com where he publishes his own poems.
The Magic was also in the Judging
“The competition was pretty stiff. I hated to let some poems go. I hope the rest get literary mentions. Thank you for the opportunity to judge.”
Omwa Ombara ( First Phase Judge ).Omwa Ombara is The Editor in Chief at Tulipange Africa Media, a diaspora based Magazine in United States of America and Contributing Editor of Women Global Affairs at WOMAWORDS LITERARY PRESS.
TRACY YVONNE BREAZILE
“Reading the poems, I was delighted to find polished and confident voices. The poets offered a promise of creative potential surpassing my expectations. The quantity and quality of the writing served to motivate and challenge the mind with a common respect for the voices that linger in our shadows, reminding us of the importance that poetry can bring to problems that demand solutions. The only problem that I found was removing some from the list. This task was far more difficult that I had imagined. In the end, the poems that most closely matched the guidelines were the only match for decision making.
They were all beautifully crafted in both form and function. Although ultimately, there will be a list of winners, I found all of the poems that I read to be prized pieces of poetry that deserve a standing ovation. I found letters meant for reading and listening. Literature and Orature. I do declare, this was a tough task. Thank you, Brave Voices Poetry Journal 67, for paying tribute to unique heroes and heroines and celebrating their uniqueness.
Although ultimately, there will be a list of winners, I found all of the poems that I read to be prized pieces of poetry that deserve a standing ovation. I found letters meant for reading and listening. Literature and Orature.”
Tracy Yvonne Breazile (Second Judging Phase). is a writer living in the United States of America. She was granted the opportunity to serve as Writer/Mentor in Residence with the 2018 Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Mentorship Program, originated by Mbizo Chrirasha. Breazile studied Language and Literature with a concentration in Professional Writing at Columbus State University, Columbus, Georgia, USA
“I was happy to read each poem. Each writer should be encouraged, as well as the ones not chosen. It was a pleasure reading the force and magnetic insight of each word. These are living words with a life of their own. Powerful and penetrating, forged in the flame of heart and traversing fear. Their ancestors would be proud.”
James Coburn is an Oklahoma poet in the United States of America. Coburn has always valued the subtext of life and seeks to reveal its undercurrents. He believes indifference is the enemy of man as it is the benefactor of ignorance, racism and xenophobia” James Coburn (Third Stage Freedom Voices Poetry Writing Contest). is an Oklahoma poet in the United States of America. Coburn has always valued the subtext of life and seeks to reveal its undercurrents. He believes indifference is the enemy of man as it is the benefactor of ignorance, racism and xenophobia.
“Poetry contest judges almost always must comment on the subjectivity of what we do. While the Freedom Prize has criteria to decide the quality of the poems, which I used, how well we / I as a single reader see the fit of any given poem to those criteria has to do with myself as reader as much as to the poem itself.
In this case, there were four criteria:
The poem fit the stated theme of the contest,
the poem was indeed poetry and not slogans and clichés,
the quality of the words and language used, and
the originality and creativity of the poem.
The first round of judging selected a “short-list” of ten poems, from which I was asked to select and rank the three best poems. All of this done anonymously, of course.
Another reader reading the ten poems on the short-list of poems might have found other poems of more merit for one reason or another. Reasonable readers may disagree with each other. I had the honor of being asked to select, and I have chosen three that I think stood out. However, this was not an easy task.
The passion of the voices in these ten poems would come across to any reader. The music of the poems, with rhythm and rhyme flowing, consonance and assonance, sounds crafted into what we call poetry. The poet of each of these poems deserves praise both for political activism expressed as poetry and for caring for others, their people, and the world.
The Third Place poem I chose is The Buds Are Fruiting. In this highly original poem, we learn “That the seeds…” Dambudzo Marechera“…sowed in us/ have sprouted and are doing well…” and “The flowers he left slowly budding/ Have unfurled their bright petals…” Unfortunately, “fermenting corruption,” “nepotism,” and “cancerous looting” have also budded, and need to be nipped. Merechera is blamed and indicted by finger pointers. Yet, the poem ends with hope: “We, the little buds, will continue/ That work that you left unfinished.”
The Second Place poem, Echo Chamber introduced me to a new word, eobiont (a hypothetical primordial pre-life chemical) in its opening line. The poem moves from the “father” (of life?) to “Living in darkness” and moves through Sodom and Gomorrah, vampires that Christen the speaker of the poem in Hades…the speaker’s “toys, wails and anguish/ Bathing with my sweat…” This dark poem paints a vivid picture in images painted with a few words, and in these images we see and feel the suffering of Africa and its children from “That chieftain, who rules by subterfuge/ Who had fried his heart eons ago/ In glee at the cries of the babies…” This poem strongly condemns and indicts the cruelty of those in power who savor the suffering of others. Rather than taking responsibility and stopping the suffering, they savor it, and this has cost them their hearts (and souls).
(For Ken Saro-Wiwa), my selection as the First Place poem in the Freedom Prize contest, combines the strengths of these other two poems. It speaks to an historical figure, using strong images and poetic skill to create a poem that reaches the heart, lays bare injustices, but also ends with a type of hope. After a significant date in the first line, “October 10, 1941,” we read “A sweet cry creaked into the crevices of Bori…” The repeated hard “c”— cry, creaked, crevices— pulls us along with some dread, given their contretemps to the “sweet.” The next line begins with “cascaded,” repeating that same hard “c” into “the swings of time/ into songs in a time of war.” In the next stanza we read that “Shrapnel of crude oil scarred faces of waters.” The oil goes on to “march” through farmland, destroying the environment as it goes, until “ This loud silence would be treason merely set in four farcical plays.” We are given “genocide,” “warlords,” and “gallows,” along the way “the agony in the Ogoni girl became bared on the transistor radio.” And after Saro has been hung, where is the hope? “Tell the hand that cuts the mahogany, his stump has sprout fresh leaves./ This poem, a leaf, sways.” The hope comes from the poem, from poets. At least, we hope that this will be true.)
—Michael Dickel, Jerusalem, November 2019
Michael Dickel (Finalists Judge). Michael (Dickel) Dekel has authored six published books and chapbooks (pamphlets) of poetry and short fiction, and published over 200 individually published poems, short stories, and non-fiction pieces, in addition to book-reviews and academic articles—under his birth name, Michael Dickel.
RESILIENCE IS THE KEY
“We advocate for freedom of expression and upholding of human rights through our voices of resistance –POETRY and Literary Arts Activism Interventions like the Freedom Voices Poetry Writing Prize.” MBIZO CHIRASHA is the Originator of the Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Campaign , Curator of the Brave Voices Poetry Journal and the Founder of the Freedom Voices Poetry Writing Prize .
Editor’s Note: This post is complied courtesy of Mbizo Chirasha, the three prize-winning poets, the four competition judges along with LitFest Harare, Brave Voices Poetry Journal, Freedom Voices Poetry Prize, and the Sotambe Festival. The poems, photographs and header illustration are under copyright to the poets, those photographed, and LitFest as noted. The judges own their narratives and photographs.
The blogosphere being what it is – a soundbite world – I know readers will be tempted to skim. I would submit the material here is worthy of close attention, the poems and the judges commentary offer much for us to ponder as caring and conscious human beings and as poets.
Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZineand its associated activities and The Poet by Dayjamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights and encourages activist poetry. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for permissions, commissions, or assignments.