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This is the work of Turkish Artist Uğur Gallenkuş. If you are viewing this post from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to the site to view this video.


Celebrating Poetry Around the World

“[Poetry] is the liquid voice that can wear through stone.”  Adrienne Rich, What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics



Apartment repairs, world affairs, and a plethora of other things distracted me from a day (yesterday) that is important to all of us, World Poetry Day . . . but then again for us every day is world poetry day.

“Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings. Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.

“In celebrating World Poetry Day, March 21, UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind.

“A decision to proclaim 21 March as World Poetry Day was adopted during UNESCO’s 30th session held in Paris in 1999.

“One of the main objectives of the Day is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.

“The observance of World Poetry Day is also meant to encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, to promote the teaching of poetry, to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and to support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media, so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art, but one which enables society as a whole to regain and assert its identity.” UNESCO

If you are reading this post from an email subscription, you’ll likely need to link to the site to view “100 Poets. One Poem – Kommune World Poetry Day Special 2019.”  Really, quite a wonderful video. 


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“Love takes off the masks ….”, James Baldwin

James Baldwin (1924-1987), American poet, novelist, playwright, social critic

“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word “love” here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”  James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time



The giver (for Berdis)

If the hope of giving

is to love the living,

the giver risks madness

in the act of giving.

 

Some such lesson I seemed to see

in the faces that surrounded me.

 

Needy and blind, unhopeful, unlifted,

what gift would give them the gift to be gifted?

The giver is no less adrift

than those who are clamouring for the gift.

 

If they cannot claim it, if it is not there,

if their empty fingers beat the empty air

and the giver goes down on his knees in prayer

knows that all of his giving has been for naught

and that nothing was ever what he thought

and turns in his guilty bed to stare

at the starving multitudes standing there

and rises from bed to curse at heaven,

he must yet understand that to whom much is given

much will be taken, and justly so:

I cannot tell how much I owe.

© James Baldwin estate, excerpt from Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems (Beacon Press, 2014) [recommended]

JAMES BALDWIN (1924-1987) was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic, and one of America’s foremost writers. His essays, such as Notes of a Native Son (1955), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-twentieth-century America. A Harlem, New York, native, he primarily made his home in the south of France.

Baldwin’s novels include Giovanni’s Room (1956), about a white American expatriate who must come to terms with his homosexuality, and Another Country (1962), about racial and gay sexual tensions among New York intellectuals. His inclusion of gay themes resulted in much savage criticism from the black community. Going to Meet the Man (1965) and Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968) provided powerful descriptions of American racism. As an openly gay man, he became increasingly outspoken in condemning discrimination against lesbian and gay people. Bio via James Baldwin’s Amazon page HERE.

Photo of James Baldwin taken in Hyde Park is courtesy of Allan warren under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you are viewing this post from an email subscription, you will likely have to link through to the site to watch this video. I happened on it today, which inspired this evening post. Twenty-eight well-spent minutes.

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The Fires Have Waved, The Silence Set Out: W.S. Merwin died on Friday …

For the Anniversary of My Death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

© W.S. Merwin estate



WILLIAM STANLEY MERWIN (September 30, 1927 – March 15, 2019) was an esteemed American poet with some fifty books of poems, prose and translation. Merwin was an activist involved in the anti-war movement in the ’60s. He was a student of Buddhist philosophy and a proponent of deep ecology.

W.S. Merwin was born in New York City, grew up in Union City, New Jersey and Scranton, Pennsylvania and died in Maui, Hawaii, where he’d lived for many years and was active in the environmental restoration of rainforests.  He was noted for a love of nature and the condemnation of war and industrialization.  He had a difficult childhood and youth and words were his escape. He won prestigious awards, including two Pulitzers and stands tall in the pantheon of literary greats. We are grateful to have a few of his collections on our shelf.

Photo credit: The street in Union City, New Jersey, which was renamed for him in 2006 courtesy of Luigi Novi under CC BY 3.0.

If you are reading this post from an email subscription, you will likely have to link through to the site to view this video.

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