Sunday, August 29, 2021

Thought for the Day

We are called to weep with those who weep and mourn
with those who mourn. Our tears are our prayers when we
can't speak, a baptism of sorts, a salty healing, a sign of our
vulnerability, and a liturgical response to violence. [. . .]
~ Barbara Holmes

Quoted from Barbara Holmes, "Communal Lament" (Daily Meditation on Crisis Contemplation), The Center for Action and Contemplation, July 28, 2021
Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes, Theologian, Scholar of African American Spirituality and Mysticism, Activist, Writer and Author; Faculty Member, The Center for Action and Contemplation

Barbara A. Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Global Village (CAC Publishing, 2021), pages 95-96

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Thought for the Day

[. . .]In the face of horrors visited upon our world daily,
in the struggle to protect our loved ones, choosing to let in
joy is a revolutionary act. Joy returns us to everything good
and beautiful and worth fighting for. It gives us energy for
the long labor. [. . .] Joy is the gift of love: it makes the labor
an end in itself. I believe laboring in joy is the meaning of life.
~ Valarie Kauer
Quoted in Barbara Holmes, "Crisis Contemplation and Joy," The Center for Action and Contemplation, July 29, 2021, from Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (One World, 2020), page 307.

Valarie Kaur, Sikh Human Rights Activist, Writer and Author, Lawyer, Award-Winning Filmmaker, Educator, Innovator

Thursday, August 19, 2021

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life


Joy, Hanji paper, 2021
10" x 8"

© Yun Gee Bradley


Yes, it's mid-August and thus time for another refreshing Dog Days Artist Watch at the international online arts magazine Escape Into Life. Today's column, featuring work by the masterly paper artist Yun Gee Bradley, is guaranteed to bring you in from the heat outdoors and leave you in front of your computer in awe of the artist's talent.

Yun Gee, who has lived in America since 1995, loves to make things, and she does so with joy, Hanji paper (made from mulberry bark), glue, and tweezers or her fingers. Using a technique she developed on her own, Yun Gee shapes into being beautiful images of animals, from wildlife to dogs and cats, portraits of children and adults, and abstractions. She wields her tools the way painters use their brushes. The results are astonishing.

For today's Artist Watch column, Yun Gee has provided 10 images of dogs, small and large and in-between, all full of expression and each astonishingly realistic; an Artist Statement; and a brief biography. Links to her Website and social media also are available.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Thought for the Day

Live in the layers,
not on the litter. 
~ Stanley Kunitz

Quoted from Stanley Kunitz, "The Layers" in The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz (W.W. Norton, 1978; 2002)

Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006), 10th U.S. Poet Laureate

Theresa Riley, "A Poet a Day: Stanley Kunitz" at Bill Moyers (Introductory Text and Video)

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Thought for the Day

What if we joined our sorrows, I'm saying. I'm saying:
What if that is joy?
~ Ross Gay
Quoted from "Word for the Day" at A Network for Grateful Living, July 14, 2021 

Ross Gay, Award-Winning Poet

Thursday, August 5, 2021

9/11 Remembered: 'Crossing the Rift' (Review)

Cover Art
[. . .] only words can begin, however precariously, to mend. [. . .]
~ Joseph Bathanti, "Preface"
[. . .] I hope their words make it safe to remember. [. . .]
~ David Potorti, "Introduction"
September 11, 2001:
Twenty years after the most deadly terrorist attack on United States soil, what comes to mind?
For many of the 116 poets whose work was selected for the forthcoming commemorative anthology Crossing the Rift: North Carolina Poets on 9/11 & Its Aftermath (Press 53, September 11, 2021), what comes to mind is "the morning / rainfreshed" (Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin, "Tony Writes to Say He's Alive"), "[t]hat September morning's iris of sky" (Debra Allbery, "The Wakeful Bird Sings Darkling"), cloudless and blued into brilliance before exploding into unforgettable images of fire and toxic smoke, of bodies falling and returned to dust. For others in this anniversary collection, memory remains "one of those days when you remember / exactly where you were," when "we lost the last of our innocence" (Kaye Nelson Ratliff, "Infamous Days") and were forever after to carry "the long litany of the lost" (Glenis Redmond, "Witness the Whole World") into a "new age of wars, two wars abroad that never end, and one at home to rip the fabric of our nation apart" (Robert Morgan, "A Sickness in the Air"). 
The clarity of what is remembered, and of what was and continues to be done in consequence, acts as both thorn and spur. Raised as  they are, individually and collectively, the poets' voices guide us through the wreckage of our common history and challenge us to seek something better.

Edited by Joseph Bathanti, a former North Carolina Poet Laureate, and David Potorti, a former Literature and Theatre Director of the North Carolina Arts Council and co-founder of the nonprofit "September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows," the poems trace an arc in contemporary history that as yet has failed to come full circle: Since those unimagined moments when two planes struck the World Trade Center towers in New York City; another, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia; and a fourth, hard ground in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, we all have had to "wonder aloud // what our world would be like now" (Sebastian Matthews, "The Day Everything Changed") had "people's instincts for compassion [. . .] [not] quickly channeled elsewhere, into hatred of the other, an excuse for new military escapades, and a hardening of attitudes, suspicions and beliefs about their fellow citizens" (David Potorti, "Introduction").
Make no mistake, however: Throughout this period of deeply personal loss at home and abroad, many of us have determined to "cross the rift" — to share grief, to bear witness, to "remember who we were, and aspire to be." Nowhere is this more evident than in this anthology in which so many diverse perspectives, some etched in sorrow (Potorti's oldest brother James died in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11), others re-marked in anger, ultimately cohere and illuminate and reconcile us to our own and "the other's" humanity.

Thematically, the poems, which are organized alphabetically by each poet's last name, range widely, as we might expect, given the diversity of the poets themselves: multi-award-winning writers, established and mid-career authors, emergent MFAs, veterans and retired physicians, U.S.-born citizens and immigrants, professors and activists, men and women — all demonstrating the gift for words worth heeding. Words that move us with their lyricism, and unstill us in their pain, balance against matter-of-fact narratives that reach back to a barely cold past to show us the present, as in Anthony S. Abbott's "The Innocent Sky," which simultaneously relates 18-year-old Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the Twin Towers (it is Petit who is shown on the collection's cover) and that beautiful summer morning's "monstrous force" that left us replaying memories of "gasping breaths" and "sirens scream[ing]" and "a cloud of noxious dust" covering the "masses huddle[d] on the streets, their mouths agape." 
Barbara Presnell, in "Planting the Garden," beautifully uses metaphor to make a point about the tragic futility of war, and Jay Wentworth, in "Across the Abyss," shows us that love has no ethnic bounds. Whether you pray to God or praise Allah, 
[. . .] the stunning fullness
of a branch bent with pale blossoms
is never enough to bring back a song.
No breeze can gentle the knowledge
that somewhere in old Babylon
a father pleads for Allah, for any god
to grant him Abraham's deliverance. [. . . ]
~ Diana Pinckney ("Fallen Gardens")
Betty Adcock's "Asides" reckons with "the new weather, alien snow bearing / the incomprehensible signatures of fire" amid "a dimming of lights" around the world. Stephen Knauth's "Lament" speaks not only of the "[l]eft behind, the strict utility of things" but also of "the old mother / seated in her garden chair, / no one left to show the world to." Peter Makuck confirms that "Valery was right: we're locked outside ourselves. / Which is why poems exist.[. . . ]" (Letter to Bill Heyen"). Dorianne Laux's "Blossom" likens the wound on her burned hand "beautiful as a full-blown peony," "a flower / dying on its descent to the earth." Pat Riviere-Seel asks, not rhetorically, what it means to call oneself "American" in "a country / formed from ash and toxic dust, part zombie / apocalypse tale, part Broadway fantasy" ("When My Student Tells Me She's Afraid to Go to School"). Maureen Sherbondy, assaying 9/11's aftermath, makes clear, "If a hijacker will give away his life, his limbs / there is no negotiating, no safe landing possible" ("That Day").
Still, as Thom Young's "Trope" hints, it is possible to have "a pretty morning after the smoke."

Twenty years on, the profound issues the poems address — among them, Islamophobia, unchecked racism, nationalism, homophobia, out-sized military budgets, wars, loss of human rights, human exploitation, environmental degradation, the politics of "little Hitlers" (Phillip Shabazz, "For the Moonflower") who inflame and divide, "[t]hese half a million dead Americans." // This second mass / found in my body shortly before the pandemic. // The crushed towers. The crowned virus. / The smashing of the Capital doors. [. . .]" (Katie Kehoe, "I Was to be Tested for Cancer that Morning") — cannot be denied. We have not conquered them. But neither can we ignore another fully resonating message that the poems also mine, that

[. . .] light blooms
from darkened places:
a crevice in a flower, a new
cupped leaf. So
slow and sure, so
long past daybreak,
so welcome. So,
even ashes
even bones ground down
to dust must moisten, must
grow soft and still.
Must be penetrated by rain,
then by warmth, then
by rain again.

Must some morning
rise up, green.
~ Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin ("Tony Writes to Say He's Alive")
To read the more than 200 pages of this anthology — each poet deserves to have a line or two quoted — is to acknowledge the difficult liminal space in which we have existed for two decades, while also recalling to ourselves the presence yet of hope, the reaching out of un-fisted hands, the opening of hearts, which David Potorti describes as "mak[ing] common cause with each other, with our environment, and with the larger world."
Note: An in-person reading from Crossing the Rift is scheduled for Sunday, September 12, 2021, at 3:00 p.m., at Bookmarks Bookstore, 634 West 4th St., #110, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27101. Opening remarks will be made by the co-editors, Joseph Bathanti and David Potorti. For additional information, contact: Kevin Morgan Watson, Publisher and Editor in Chief, Press 53, at 336-770-5353 or Copies of the newly released collection will be available for purchase ($19.95 softcover; $29.95 hardcover).

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Thought for the Day

All men are like grass, and all their glory is
like the flowers of the field. The grass withers
and the flowers fall [. . . .]
~ Isaiah

Isaiah 40:6