PEN AMERICA STANDS UP FOR ARRESTED CUBAN ARTISTS’ FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, ASKS ARTISTS AROUND THE WORLD TO JOIN THE PROTEST

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1949)—Article 19 states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”



The repeated arrest of eleven Cuban artists, all of whom are active members of a campaign against Decree 349, a new law aimed at restricting independent art and culture, is an intolerable affront to free expression, says PEN America.

Artists Tania Bruguera, Iris Ruiz, Michel Matos and his wife Sandor Pérez Pita, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, Amaury Pacheco Omni Poeta, Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, Veronica Perez Vega, Miguel Yasser Castellano, Javier Moreno, and Adonis Milan were arrested on December 3, and their whereabouts are currently unknown. Performance artist Tania Bruguera was briefly released yesterday. However, while on her way to the Cuban Culture Minister to ask for the freedom of artists and to discuss Decree 349, the police arrested her again with artist Javier Moreno. Bruguera shared a photo of herself wearing a ‘No Al Decreto 349’ (No to Decree 349) T-shirt on social media, saying she will go on a hunger and thirst strike with her fellow artists if she is detained again. Decree 349/2018, one of the first pieces of legislation signed by Miguel Diaz-Canel since he succeeded Raul Castro as president in April of this year, institutionalizes censorship of independent art and culture and establishes violations for artistic services that are not regulated and recognized by official cultural institutions in Cuba.

“This decree is an attack against artistic freedom and the arrest of these eleven artists, in addition of the many artists already behind bars like rappers Maykel and Pupito, is more than an individual attack on free expression,” said Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection at PEN America. “This repression is not new, but represents a continuation of the Cuban Ministry of Culture’s policy to intimidate and censor critical and independent artistic voices.”

PEN America has also witnessed an alarming increase in arbitrary travel bans, detentions, and harassment of activists and artists by Cuban police officers leading up to December 7, when the decree will come into effect. Brief detentions are the standard response to opposition protests in Cuba, which considers dissidents to be mercenaries supported by the United States to subvert their own government.

Read more about Decree 349 and join the campaign here.

PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC here.

*****

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. The organization champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org


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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

RESIST, REIMAGINE and REFORM: 100,000 Poets for Change honor the Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and address gun control; PEN World explores pathways through turmoil

“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”  Jiddu Krishnamurti



USING OUR WORDS: Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion, cofounders of 100,000 Poets for Change, are wonderful at finding ways for us gather online and off and to use our words to raise awareness of justice issues, encourage one another, make connections with like-minded, become a force for positive change, and show those in turmoil that we are present.

Michael announced today ..

“So far Coconut Creek, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Tallahassee have scheduled 100 Thousand Poets for Change associated readings as tribute to the students murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. These readings will be held in March and address the topic of gun control. We are waiting for confirmation for Pensacola, St. Petersburg and Gainesville and welcome additional organizers in Florida and around the country who wish to participate in this initiative.”

Look for events near you or publish your event info on 100,000 Poets for Change Communication Hub.  You are also welcome to post events on The BeZine 100,000 Poets for Change, 2018 Discussion Page and A World with Peace, A Place to Lament and Resist Gun Violence.



PEN America presents the 2018 PEN World Voices Festival: Resist and Reimagine, this year’s incarnation of the renowned international literary festival, which will bring together the world’s foremost authors and other luminaries at a time when many are turning to literature and the arts not for escapism, but as a guide to navigate contemporary crises.

Salman Rushdie founded the festival in the isolationist aftermath of September 11, 2001, to fortify links with the rest of the world; now again the need to connect and draw inspiration from beyond America’s borders is pressing.

PEN America Festival Director Chip Rolley explains, “For the first time in its history, we are deliberately training the Festival’s wide lens on America itself, probing the fissures and inconsistencies in our own culture, alongside those of writers visiting from overseas. We will examine different kinds of resistance—the internal and the external, the political and the personal—and tap into the imagination that is at the core of the best fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, joining together in a week that reaffirms our faith in the power of the word to transform our society, our politics, and our daily lives.”

The Festival will unfold across sixty-plus events in dozens of venues in four of the five New York City boroughs, April 16-22. It kicks off on April 16 with Resist and Reimagine: Opening Night in Three Acts. Colson Whitehead will speak about applying one’s imagination to elucidate historical truths, as the novelist did for his “carefully built and stunningly daring” (The New York Times), Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad.

Novelist Leila Slimani—a Muslim immigrant from Morocco to France whose novel The Perfect Nanny won France’s prestigious Prix Goncourt—will speak with New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnikabout how worlds can be reimagined by bending the lenses of ethnicity and geography.

Australian performance poet and author Maxine Beneba Clarke will read from “A Letter from Manus Island: A Refugee Resistance Manifesto,” by Behrouz Boochani, the Iranian Kurdish poet and journalist who has been held for over four years in Australia’s detention center on Manus Island while awaiting asylum. Boochani writes here about how “the refugees were able to reimagine themselves in the face of the detention regime.”

In a separate opening night event, Dave Eggers will talk with Mokhtar Alkhanshali, the Yemeni-American historian, community organizer, and coffee innovator whose aim to revitalize Yemen’s coffee industry through worker empowerment is the subject of Eggers’ latest book, The Monk of Mokha.

The resistance embodied in the disclosures of the #MeToo movement has inspired a number of events in this year’s festival, which extend the examination of gender and power begun in the 2017 festival. On April 20, critically acclaimed, best-selling author Roxane Gay will speak with #AMtoDM co-host and BuzzFeed Books founding editor Isaac Fitzgerald on the intersecting subjects her writing famously tackles. Zeroing in on the ongoing fight for female autonomy, Handmaid in America (April 21) will bring together a group of women writers, including Siri Hustvedt and Leni Zumas, who will discuss literature and its responses to encroachments on women’s reproductive rights. On April 17, Us Too, a powerful program of poetry, readings and conversation about violence against women will include Tishani Doshi, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Dunya Mikhail, and Mona Eltahawy. These open conversations on the traumas the female body endures strive to liberate women during this movement of reckoning.

With The M Word: Hasan Minhaj and Wajahat Ali (April 22), comedian and Daily Show senior correspondent Minhaj and writer/lawyer Ali will speak about the varieties of Muslim American experiences, the pressures of being public ambassadors for a vastly multifaceted group that America just as vastly generalizes, and how comedy and creativity have changed under Trump. The M Word: No Country for Young Muslim Women (April 18) will see Sudanese-Australian author/mechanical engineer Yassmin Abdel-Magied and MuslimGirl founder Amani Al Khatahtbeh—both of whom left their home countries, Australia and America, respectively, due to harassment and vilification—discussing the complexities of being Muslim and female in Western countries. Abdel-Magied will also speak with Sick author Porochista Khakpour, and Anita Sarkeesian, the feminist media critic who endured a barrage of #GamerGate harassment and death threats in Take Back the Net: Fighting Online Hate (April 21). Looking into the real-world impact of virtual bullying, those who have refused to be silenced will discuss productive means for resisting and reimagining the Internet as a free and fearless space.

Addressing authorship and cultural alienation, Cry, the Beloved Country (April 19) will unite Ryszard Krynicki, Serhiy Zhadan, Marcos Aguinis, Domenico Starnone, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Hwang Sok-yong, Basma Abdel Aziz, and Negar Djavadi to articulate the particular rage of oppressed populations in their home countries. Meditations on Exile (April 20) will feature Chinese novelist Xiaolu Guo, Iraqi-Assyrian poet Dunya Mikhail, and Iranian screenwriter/novelist Hossein M. Abkenar. They will discuss their experiences of having fled their home countries to avoid censorship and the potentially severe repercussions of their self-expression, and how these experiences have shaped the way they write about place. The Trick of Translation (April 21), will speak to a more formal means of border transcendence—the attempt to capture the spirit of a work in another language. Jhumpa Lahiri will talk with Domenico Starnone about Starnone’s novels Trick and Ties, translated from Italian to English by Lahiri.

The chronicled lessons from the past can act as living guides, particularly as threats to key rights swell. Taking a moment to look back to America’s most fearless activists and writers, Jelani Cobb, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Gregory Pardlo mark the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Where Do We Go from Here? (April 20), which asks, with hope at its core, the titular question of Dr. King’s last book. Looking further back in history, biographer Ron Chernow talks to MSNBC host and author Chris Hayes about Ulysses S. Grant, one of our most underappreciated presidents, who worked for justice and the political enfranchisement for African Americans. Exploring what should be inalienable rights, Mother Jones reporter Ari Bermanand historian Carol Anderson will delve into racialized voter suppression in Killing Democracy (April 19). One of the festival’s central aims is to defend and provide a platform for open discourse; Masha Gessen, Patrisse Cullors, and PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel will shed light on first amendment tensions in America today in Resistance Report Card: Grading the Groundswell(April 21).

In Legacy of an LGBTQ Countercultural Icon (April 21), translators Bonnie Huieand Ari Larissa Heinrich and poet Eileen Myles will examine the work of the late Qiu Miaojin, whose cinematically experimental novels dauntlessly depict lesbian life in Taiwan long before any form of queerness was socially accepted. While she was writing up through the 90s, to this day, globally queer communities remain vulnerable.

As so much of what literature explores politically and personally is inherently connected to place, several events will probe location’s distinct impact on personhood. The city of New York has functioned as an iconic and figurative setting across myriad art forms: in New York Stories (April 21), Salman Rushdie,Sergio De La Pava, and others will talk about encapsulating the city in fiction. With a more panoramic gaze, in America, Real and Imagined (April 22), authors from different corners of the country will discuss their shared interest in the American landscape’s profound ability to shape identity. Francisco Cantú—a former-border-patrol-agent-turned-author—will join acclaimed Sunshine Stateauthor Sarah Gerard and poet/author Joy Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke Nation whose memoir Crazy Brave won the 2013 PEN Center USA prize for creative nonfiction. Cantú, who wrote the “sharply political and deeply personal” (New York Magazine) The Line Becomes a River, will also look into a particularly fraught section of the American landscape, the Mexican-United States border in Borders of Our Imagination, where he will speak with novelist and essayist Valeria Luiselli and playwright and DREAMer Amalia Rojas (April 20).

Young people are just as likely as adults to be curious about the often puzzling, sometimes troubling, world around them, and there is a growing body of books and other publications that cater to this curiosity. For the first time in its history, the festival will feature a day of storytelling, interactive events, comics and freestyle poetry workshops for children, tweens, and young adults as part of its new Next Generation Now series curated by Meg Lemke of MUTHA Magazine. Little Activists: A Workshop and Mini-March (April 21) will encourage children to express their own ideas of democracy, equality, and freedom, and learn how to translate their thoughts into political engagement. Leila Sales, who will lead he workshop, created The Little Book of Little Activists after being inspired by children in the Women’s March. R.J. Palacio, author of the best-settling novel Wonder (recently adapted as a live-action film with Jacob Tremble in the leading role) will speak on the importance of acceptance, and the pivotal lessons that literature can teach us from a young age. Tony Medina, Ilyasah Shabazz, and Toni Blackman are also among the featured Next Generation Now authors.

PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel says, “While the present political moment in the United State feels unprecedented and unparalleled, when we turn toward the rest of the world the tide of revanchism we are enduring is neither new nor confined to our own borders. International writers and thinkers offer a well of lessons and insights on how to thwart and protest, to sustain and nurture resistance, to shore up threatened values, and to look beyond the present impasse. PEN America has always worked as a bridge across cultures and geographies, forging relationships and solidarity that are a counterweight against hatreds and polarization. In the digital age, with so much of our discourse reduced to tweets and sound bites, face-to-face conversation across cultures about how to realize a different collective future is essential. If frayed relationships between the world’s governments are ever to be repaired, it will be because we nurtured relationships, empathy, and understanding among peoples—that’s what the PEN World Voices Festival does.”

Peter Barbey, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Village Voice, which co-sponsors the 2018 PEN World Voices Festival, says, “This year’s theme, Resist and Reimagine, couldn’t be more timely or topical.  It resonates here at The Village Voice since those very same principles have been reflected in our mission since our inception in 1955, at the beginning of an American cultural revolution. As Official Media Sponsor of the Pen World Voices Festival, we call on all New Yorkers to join the conversation.”


ABOUT

A Moral Failure; poems by Michael Dickel and Jamie Dedes written in the aftermath of shootings; protests and resources

 



“Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Expediency asks the question – is it politic? Vanity asks the question – is it popular? But conscience asks the question – is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.” Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. from his speech, A Proper Sense of Priorities, February 6, 1968, Washington, D.C.

When we speak or write about gun control, the fingers point to second amendment rights, to the suggestion that a complex problem may resolve with the application of one strategy, or to the NRA position and lobby. Democracy is messy, but safety and citizen rights are the concerns rational people hold in common.

No matter the side on which we stand, we are guilty of a moral failure. Gun control is not going to be the entire answer. It’s a beginning and as the U.K., Australia, Japan and Germany have proven it’s a huge and rewarding beginning. I think that most who advocate gun control understand that the issues of violence in America are complex. Not the least of other initiatives would be mental health interventions, mitigating poverty and youth unemployment, creating more educational opportunities and subsidizing arts programs, revisioning our materialistic values, fostering the reimagination of masculinity, and honoring our stated religious convictions. Many of us understand gun ownership as the gateway drug to violence and murder, a contradiction to those convictions. The U.S. is predominantly a country of the Abrahamic traditions and the law we share: “Thou shalt not kill.”

– Jamie Dedes


A Priest’s Lament

i

Starting from the outside,

the labyrinth’s path moves closer,

further, closer, as it takes a poet

deviously toward the center.

 

Mosaic patterns, partly broken

by frost, perpetually bloom there.

Gray, mossed-stones line the path—

they frame the wanderer’s flower.

 

ii

We wandered that desert

for forty years. All we had

for communication were

specially designed tents

 

built from detailed plans—

each folding floorboard

and floating nail exact—

a cellular plan from God.

 

iii

That lonely God longed for

our calls, the return of a gift

we could not understand.

We just turned on each other

 

instead. We hoarded words

into locked arks as though

we owned them or understood

what they meant. We didn’t.

 

iv

We meant to know more. Ever since,

with poor reception, a limited data plan,

we still pretend we can call God

whenever we want. We pray

 

for every child shot in school

as though words could unlock

such cruelty. We pray that we

will not long be held responsible.

 

v

I long for the days before

those instructions were given,

before we built the tabernacle,

before we transformed the tent

 

to stone on top of a mountain,

before we thought we knew

what God wanted us to do,

before we decided we were priests.

 


Poem of separation (kodesh)

(vi)

A wandering God longs for us

from outside a forty-year labyrinth,

folding time, returning space, locked

into receiving words that cannot be given.

 

We thought we knew.

 

(vii)

On the seventh day, God rested.

We have not seen or heard

Creation since. Our language

overwhelms the world.

 

We thought we knew.

© 2018, poem, Michael Dickel (Meta/ Phor(e) /Play), All rights reserved (Written during the 100,000 Poets for Change 2018 Lake Jackson Poetry Residency Program)

February 23, 2018 — 7:00 pm

Poetry Reading with Michael Dickel
A Sublimatus / HamiltonSeen Production
The River Trading Company Bookstore
Facebook Page | Facebook Event
559 Barton St. East
Hamilton, ON L8L 2Z2  Canada

A note from Michael:

Stoneman High School students who survived the shooting are resisting. If you haven’t yet, see the widely shared video of one articulate student “calling” BS the excuses and people refusing to ban assault weapons through her tears. Facebook Page: March for Our Lives


Collateral Damage

bullets
……….perforated

and were laid to rest in her
sterile room on steel tables
lined-up like school children
awaiting lessons

Math

counting wounds, counting dead

Biology

which the death-dealing injury

innocent life forms wept

….trees
……..birds
…………earth
…………….sky

children

in the stillness between breaths
she boxed and stored her tears
making way for scalpel and saw

best

yes, best

to keep her heart locked-down

until . . . until

a whiskey

a bed

oblivion

©  2018, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved



POETS AND OTHERS STAND AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE

At this writing, according to the Gun Violence Archive in 2018 there have been 6,975 incidents, 1,922 deaths, 3,330 injuries, 71 children killed or injured, 377 teens killed or injured, 32 mass shootings, 41 officers shot or killed, 312 subject or suspect killed, 235 home invasions, 192 defensive use of guns, and 229 unintentional shootings in the United States.

MAR21

A World With Peace: A Place to Lament and Resist Gun Violence

100,000 Poets for Change Co-founder, Michael Rothenberg and The BeZine team member, Michael Dickel, have initiated a day for poets to gather wherever they are in the world to resist violence, especially gun violence, and raise awareness of the need for appropriate gun legislation in the United States and elsewhere. Beguine Again founder and another member of The BeZine core team, Terri Stewart, Guns Don’t Save People, Poets Do founder Evelyn Agusto and I support the effort and encourage you to organize events. To publicise your events post your event on the 100,000 Poets for Change Facebook Communication Page and on The BeZine 100TPC Facebook Discussion Page. I’ll do my best to catch all and post them to The Poet by Day Facebook Page and The Bardo Group Beguines (publisher of The BeZine) Facebook Page. Post to  Evelyn’s Facebook Page as well.  March 21 is also World Poetry Day.


NATIONAL SCHOOL WALKOUT

Women’s March Youth EMPOWER is calling for students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies to take part in a #NationalSchoolWalkout for 17 minutes at 10am across every time zone on March 14, 2018 to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods. We need action. Students and allies are organizing the national school walkout to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship.

Students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms or on their way home from school.

Parents have the right to send their kids to school in the mornings and see them home alive at the end of the day.

We are not safe at school. We are not safe in our cities and towns. Congress must take meaningful action to keep us safe and pass federal gun reform legislation that address the public health crisis of gun violence. We want Congress to pay attention and take note: many of us will vote this November and many others will join in 2020.

Join us in saying #ENOUGH!

Add your event to the map or find one near you here: https://www.actionnetwork.org/event_campaigns/enough-national-school-walkout


THE RESISTANCE POETRY WALL

A reminder about this. I just noticed no one’s posted since October 2017.  Go for it. Have your say.

100tpc20122

The RESISTANCE POETRY WALL “We want your poems! Share this information.”

A MESSAGE FROM 100TPC cofounders Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion.

“The RESISTANCE POETRY WALL has been opened in response to the call by many for an open place to post poetry about the recent USA elections. Poets from around the world are invited to post. Feel free to share this link. Post your poems in the comment box at the bottom of the page. Your poem will appear on the WALL in approximately 1 hour.”

En Español:
“Se ha abierto el MURO DE POESÍA EN RESISTENCIA como respuesta al reclamo de muchos por un espacio abierto donde publicar poesía relacionada con las recientes elecciones en los Estados Unidos. Se invita a poetas de todo el mundo a publicar aquí. Por favor compartan esta liga. Entren a la página y peguen sus poemas en la caja de comentario (‘comment’), al calce. Su poema apareceré en el MURO en aproximadamente 1 hora.”

“The poetry and art posted on the WALL are not limited to the USA elections. There are many issues that concern us all and we welcome your contribution.”


I AM NOT A SILENT POET

UK POET, REUBEN WOOLLEY hosts a zine, I Am Not a Silent Poet, and a Facebook Discussion Page. You may post to the later and submit to the zine.  There are already some anti-gun violence/pro-legislation pieces shared. Check them out.

“I am not a silent poet welcomes quality poems of protest. We have been seeing such increasing evidence of abuse recently that we felt it was time to do something. I am not a silent poet looks for poems about abuse in any of its forms: colour, gender, disability, the dismantlement of the care services, the privatisation of health services, the rape culture, FGM, our girls in Nigeria are just some of the examples that come to mind at the moment. It is not a site for rants.

“Please send all contributions for consideration to: reubenwoolley52@gmail.com. I would prefer attachments (especially for poems with unusual formatting and graphic material. You can add a brief biographical note and/or link to your website or blog.” Reuben Woolley



ABOUT THE POET BY DAY

HEADS-UP SAN MATEO CALIFORNIA, Justice Action Mondays

Rev. Benjamin Meyers and the congregation of the Unitarian Universalists in San Mateo (UUSM) invite you to join in Justice Action Mondays.  This coming Monday, March 20, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. we’ll gather to tell our reps to reject Trumpcare, which the CBO says would:

  • take away health care from twenty-four million people over the next ten years,
  • defund Planned Parenthood,
  • destroy Medicaid, and
  • raise insurance premiums.

The Republicans are hoping to pass it in the next eighteen days. We’ll write postcards with a personal message or thank you notes to those you appreciate.

Cards, stamps, snacks, and like-minded people are provided. Drop by for a fun hour of activism.

Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo, 300 E. Santa Inez Avenue, San Mateo, CA  94401 Phone: 650-342-5946

© photograph, UUSM