Monday, July 31, 2006


The Sources of Peace - Rukeyser

"If we believe in the unity and multiplicity of the world, if we believe in the unity and multiplicity of man, then we believe too in the unity and multiplicity of the imagination. And we will speak across the barriers, many to many...We are against war and the sources of war. We are for poetry and the sources of poetry. They are everyday, these sources, as the sources of peace are everyday, infinite and commonplace as a look, as each new sun... All the poems of our lives are not yet made. We hear them crying to us, the wounds, the young and the unborn – we will define that peace, we will live to fight its birth, to build these meanings, to sing these songs."

- Muriel Rukeyser

And a Rukeyser poem about speaking across barriers:

St. Roach

For that I never knew you, I only learned to dread you,
for that I never touched you, they told me you are filth,
they showed me by every action to despise your kind;
for that I saw my people making war on you,
I could not tell you apart, one from another,
for that in childhood I lived in places clear of you,
for that all the people I knew met you by
crushing you, stamping you to death, they poured boiling
water on you, they flushed you down,
for that I could not tell one from another
only that you were dark, fast on your feet, and slender.
Not like me.
For that I did not know your poems
And that I do not know any of your sayings
And that I cannot speak or read your language
And that I do not sing your songs
And that I do not teach our children
to eat your food
or know your poems
or sing your songs
But that we say you are filthing our food
But that we know you not at all.

Yesterday I looked at one of you for the first time.
You were lighter that the others in color, that was
neither good nor bad.
I was really looking for the first time.
You seemed troubled and witty.

Today I touched one of you for the first time.
You were startled, you ran, you fled away
Fast as a dancer, light, strange, and lovely to the touch.
I reach, I touch, I begin to know you.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


FEMA Reverses Media Access Policy - Wakes Up to U.S. Constitution

I got an update from FAIR - thanks to those who wrote!

Will allow press access to Katrina survivors in trailer parks

After sustained pressure from FAIR activists (7/21/06, 7/25/06) and continued scrutiny from the Baton Rouge Advocate, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that it had reversed its policy that severely limited media access to Hurricane Katrina survivors living in FEMA trailer parks.

"We're responding to your criticism," FEMA representative James Stark told the Advocate (7/26/06). "You pointed out some very good points that we shouldn't be trying to muzzle the press…. In no way will FEMA security nor FEMA public affairs stand in the way of media entering the trailer parks with valid credentials and interviewing whomever they like."

Four days earlier, Stark had denied the existence of any FEMA policy restricting media access to the parks (Advocate, 7/22/06). The Advocate had previously reported (7/15/06) that FEMA security guards had prevented a reporter from speaking with trailer park residents, and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! (4/24/06) likewise had an interview with a park resident halted by a security guard and told that a FEMA public relations officer needed to be present for interviews.

FAIR thanks FEMA for its reversal of policy. Thanks as well to all the activists who wrote in response to our alert.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Give to Lebanon Relief Efforts

Mercy Corps is a really reputable outfit - my brother works for them in New Orleans. You can donate online: The site describes their work delivering infant kits and other relief in South Lebanon. You can target your gift to this work in Lebanon. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that donations have been coming in very slowly, so I urge you to give what you can.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


FEMA: Housing or Free Speech Rights - Your Choice!

I received this alert from FAIR recently. Apparently, with FEMA, you can have a roof over your head (just barely) or you can have the rights guaranteed to you by the U. S. Constitution, but you can't have both. Take a minute to contact FEMA and set them straight. Thanks!

FEMA a Disaster for Freedom of the Press

Katrina victims “not allowed” to talk to media, reporter told

The Federal Emergency Management Agency prohibits journalists from having unsupervised interviews with Hurricane Katrina victims who have been relocated to FEMA trailer parks, according to a report in the Baton Rouge Advocate (7/15/06).

“If a resident invites the media to the trailer, they have to be escorted by a FEMA representative who sits in on the interview,” FEMA spokesperson Rachel Rodi is quoted in the article. “That’s just a policy.”

The Advocate report, by reporter Sandy Dennis, describes two separate attempts to talk to people displaced by Katrina that were halted by the intervention of a FEMA security guard. In the first incident, in a Morgan City, Louisiana camp, an interview was interrupted by a guard who claimed that residents of the camp are “not allowed” to talk to the media. Dekotha Devall, whose New Orleans home was destroyed by the storm, was in her FEMA-provided trailer telling the Advocate reporter of the hardships of life in the camp when a security guard knocked on the door.

“You are not allowed to be here,” the guard is quoted as telling the reporter. “Get out right now.” The guard reportedly called police to force the journalist to leave the camp, and even prevented the reporter from giving the interview subject a business card. “You will not give her a business card,” the guard said. “She’s not allowed to have that.”

Later, at another FEMA camp in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, the reporter attempted to talk to camp resident Pansy Ardeneaux through a chain link fence when the same guard halted the interview. “You are not allowed to talk to these people,” the guard told Ardeneaux. “Return to your trailer now.” The reporter said she and an accompanying photographer were “ordered...not to talk to anyone or take pictures.”

Earlier, an interview with displaced Katrina victims by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! (4/24/06) was halted by FEMA security guards. Tape-recording the accounts of residents of the FEMA-run Renaissance Village camp outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Goodman was approached by FEMA-hired security guards from Corporate Security Solutions who told her to “turn it off.” When Goodman explained that the resident had asked to be interviewed, she was told, “He can't. That’s not his privilege.”

At first, the resident talking to Goodman was told by the guard, “You can go get interviewed as long as it’s off post.” But when the resident offered to continue the interview outside the camp, the guard said, “Yes, you can be interviewed... if they had a FEMA representative with them, but since they don’t and do not have an appointment....” Interviews are allowed to proceed, the guard noted, when “they have the FEMA public relations officer with them.”

In concluding the segment on her visit to the camp, Goodman reported, “As we drove off of Renaissance Village, we were chased by the guards in golf carts, who said they would be taking down our license plate and that we couldn't return.”Restrictions on the right of citizens to speak freely to the press without government supervision are a clear violation of the 1st Amendment. “They cannot deny media access,” Gregg Leslie, the legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the Advocate, saying that FEMA’s restrictions were “clearly unconstitutional … and definitely not legal.” Referring to the requirement that interview subjects have a FEMA escort, Leslie said, “That’s a standard for a prison, not a relief park and a temporary shelter.” Timothy Matte, the mayor of Morgan City, expressed surprise that FEMA was enforcing limits on the free speech of disaster victims. “You would think the people would have the same freedom there as everyone else has,” he said.

ACTION: FEMA’s website urges citizens to report “allegations of civil liberties or civil rights abuses” to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, who is Richard L. Skinner.

Inspector General Richard L. Skinner
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

See Baton Rouge Advocate: “Hundreds of FEMA Trailers Stand Empty” (7/15/06) by Sandy Dennis

See Democracy Now!: “FEMA's Dirty Little Secret: A Rare Look Inside the Renaissance Village Trailer Park, Home to Over 2,000 Hurricane Katrina Evacuees” (4/24/06) by Amy Goodman

Friday, July 21, 2006


UFPJ Plea to Bolton for a Cease Fire

Today, United for Peace & Justice is delivering the following letter to John Bolton, US Ambassador to the United Nations. D.C. Poets Against the War is a member.

Dear Ambassador Bolton,

On behalf of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), the largest antiwar coalition in the United States, we want to express our concern over the escalating crisis between Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine and urge you to support a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.

We are gravely concerned about the loss of life on all sides. We condemn all attacks on civilians, and call for the release of political prisoners and POWs held on all sides in this conflict.

Hezbollah's crossing of the Israeli border to capture two soldiers may have violated the 1949 Armistice between Israel and Lebanon. But it is important to note that Hezbollah attacked soldiers, not civilians. In addition, as the New York Times recognized on July 19, Hezbollah did not fire rockets into Israeli cities until after the Israeli army began bombing civilian areas of Lebanon.

The Israeli government could have chosen to engage in serious negotiations for a prisoner exchange, as they have so many times before. As recently as 2004, in a German-orchestrated swap, Hezbollah exchanged a kidnapped Israeli civilian and the remains of several Israeli soldiers killed in combat in Lebanon, for over 400 Palestinian, Lebanese, and other Arab prisoners.

Instead, the Israeli government chose to escalate what would have remained one of many common border skirmishes into a war. They have been deliberately shelling civilian areas and civilian infrastructure in both Lebanon and Gaza. Israel's attacks were and are clearly disproportionate in their use of force. They constitute acts of collective punishment against the Lebanese and Palestinian populations -- extremely serious violations of international law.

While the world is crying out for global intervention to stop the bloodshed, we are outraged by the response of the Bush administration. Instead of using its influence on Israel to stop the devastating attacks on the Lebanese and Palestinian populations, Washington has supported and enabled such attacks through supplying war planes, missiles, jet fuel, financing, and political support. This, in violation of both international and domestic law -- specifically, the U.S. Arms Export Control Act. And instead of rallying the international community to stop further bloodshed, it has blocked UN efforts to call for an immediate ceasefire.

We urgently call on the Bush administration to work with international partners to broker an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and commence negotiations to peacefully resolve all aspects of the crisis, with the goal being a comprehensive just and lasting peace in the region based on the implementation of international law.

We look forward to hearing your response.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Action Alert for Peace Between Israel & Lebanon

Melissa Tuckey, Mike Maggio, and I -- poets and activists in DC Poets Against the War -- participated in the rally called by the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in front of the White House last night. The rally called for a cease fire and called on Israel to stop its collective punishment of the Lebanese people. So many people there, including the poet Zein El-Amine, have family in Beirut and Southern Lebanon. The fear and deep concern, as well as the anger, were palpable. Our hearts go out to all the civilians in the whole area who are victims now of this fighting. Peace and negotiations. Cease fire. Now.

Melissa wrote a great notice urging us to contact members of the U.S. Congress to ask for a balanced approach, rather than the pro-Israel one they are allegedly considering. Please read her plea below:

Dear Friends,

I attended a rally last night in front of the White House in support of a ceasefire in Lebanon and learned that Congress is composing a statement in reaction to this crisis and expected to act very soon. It is expected they will pass legislation condemning Hammas and Hebollah and supporting Israel's incursion's into Gaza and Lebanon. This is an extremely dangerous situation. The World Health Organization estimates as many as 900,000 civilians in Lebanon will be made homeless by this week's attacks.

While I personally don't feel the actions of Hammas or Hezbollah in kidnapping soldiers is defensible, I also dont believe that this response by the world's third most powerful military (Israel) against the civilian populations in Gaza and Lebanon is acceptable. The situation is indeed complicated, and there are legitimate complaints on both sides, however, if we want peace in the region, we must recognize the human rights of all people and this surely includes the people of Gaza and Lebanon.

Please take a moment TODAY to contact your representatives and senators to urge they compose a balanced statement-- requiring accountability on all sides. Israel recieves 2 billion dollars a year in U.S. aid, and is our most favored trading partner. The US does indeed have influence.

I sent my letter via (very easy) and I'm also following up with a phone call to the Congressional switchboard-- 888-355-3588. It takes five minutes to respond, or you can spend the next ten years complaining....

love always,


P.S feel free to forward this message.

My Letter:

Dear Legislators,

I am writing to urge you to take a balanced approach on the issue of peace in the middle east. While, no one can condone the actions of Hammas and Hezbollah in taking Israeli soldiers as hostage, neither can Isreal's actions be condoned-- collective punishment of civilian populations is serious violation of human rights and international law. Not only that but such actions only serve to fuel the terrorist movement and add to instability in the region. To take one side, condenming Hezbollah and Hammas, without calling for a ceasefire on the Israel's part will only inflame tensions and embolden extremists on both sides.

I believe that we have a special responsibility with regards to Israel, as its number one funder giving it billions each year as well as special trade status. Such favors should not come without responsibility.

The World Health Organization estimates as many as 900,000 Lebanese will be displaced from their homes in response to current bombings. The use of the illegal chemical weapon white phosperous has been reported in both Gaza and Lebanon. These sorts of actions are fueling anti-american, anti-Israeli sentiment and creating a very dangerous geopolitical situation.
We still have not figured out how to peacefully resolve the situation in Afghanistan or Iraq. Taking on Lebanon, Syria, and Iran, while turnimg a blind eye to human rights violations in Gaza, will only lead us deeper into the quagmire.

Please, I ask that you take measured and thoughtful action to encourage a ceasefire and call for a diplomatic solution.


Melissa Tuckey

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Protest Ongoing Israeli Violence in Gaza and Lebanon

I just sent this notice to the DC Poets Against the War list serv. Time to take a strong stand.


DC Poets Against the War is participating in this rally Tuesday against Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and Gaza. We invite you to join us. The event is organized by The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

DC PAW also strongly condemns Hezbollah and Hamas attacks on Israel. But as this morning’s Post stated, “In a war that has witnessed an escalation each day, the asymmetrical nature of the conflict was laid bare Saturday. For each attack by Hezbollah since it captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, Israel has inflicted a far greater price.” In fact, a story by Robin Wright on Page A15 this morning, makes it clear that the United States government fully supports Israel’s outrageous attacks, calling them part of a broader strategy “to strangle the axis of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran.” (

This is unacceptable. There is no military solution to the conflicts in the Middle East. Only negotiation and work for political and economic justice can end the killing and make life safe and secure for all the people of the region. Destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure and killing its people will only increase the animosity of residents toward Israel and the United States. DC Poets Against the War joins peace-loving organizations and individuals everywhere in calling on Israel to stop the violence and destruction.

Read the ADC statement here:

Join the Rally for Peace to Protest Ongoing Violence

The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC – will be holding a rally for peace to protest Israeli military action in Lebanon and Gaza on Tuesday, July18, from 5-7pm in front of the White House.

We invite you to join ADC and other organizations as we call for an immediate ceasefire and for peace in the region. This rally is open to all peace loving persons and organizations. Contact ADC to add your organization to the list of participants.

WHAT: Peaceful Rally to Protest Ongoing Israeli Violence in Gaza and Lebanon
WHEN: July 18, 2006 from 5-7pm
WHERE: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW --in front of the White House
Take Metro to McPherson Square
HOW: To add your organization to the list of participating organizations, contact

Friday, July 14, 2006


Israel, Lebanon, Naomi Shihab Nye

Last night my husband Tom and I talked about the Middle East plunging into Hell. Tom was in despair - he sees this latest madness as further proof that we will not see peace in our lifetimes, that 9/11 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq are resulting in apocalypse in the region.

Meanwhile, the U.S. vetoed a UN resolution calling on Israel to stop its attacks on Gaza. The resolution also called on Palestinians to release the captured Israeli soldier and stop its rocket attacks on Israel. But still the U.S. vetoed it.

Meanwhile, at least 47 people died yesterday, "mostly Lebanese civilians," the Post reported.

As usual, I have no good reply to Tom. I have studied history - I believe in the power of social movements. But Tom is right: we have no draft in the U.S. today to ignite the opposition to war, as it did during the Vietnam War. American teenagers and young adults -- those we would hope would be at the center of opposition to the war -- are so easily distracted by all the shiny things designed by American capitalism to distract them.

As usual, my reply is poetry. Last week, in the country, I finished Naomi Shihab Nye's You & Yours. The poems say so many things I want to say about living in such a time. First, about language in wartime:

Dictionary in the Dark

A retired general said
“the beautiful thing about it”
discussing war.
We were making “progress”
in our war effort.
“The appropriate time to launch the bombers”
pierced the A section with artillery and arrows as
“awe” huddled in a corner
clutching its small chest.
Someone else repeated, “in harm’s way,”
strangely popular lately,
and “weapons of mass destruction”
felt gravely confused about their identity.
“Friendly” gasped. Fierce and terminal.
It had never agreed to sit beside fire, never.

And then, the empathic power of poetry; a reminder that the women of Lebanon, the children of Gaza, the men of Haifa are equally mine, equally my sisters and my uncles and my cousins. As are the 14 men and women and young people murdered on the streets of my city this month. How can it be otherwise?

During a War

Best wishes to you & yours,
he closes the letter.

For a moment I can’t
fold it up again—
where does “yours” end?
Dark eyes pleading
what could we have done
Your family,
your community,
circle of earth, we did not want,
we tried to stop,
we were not heard
by dark eyes who are dying
now. How easily they
would have welcomed us in
for coffee, serving it
in a simple room
with a radiant rug.
Your friends & mine.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Happy Birthday, Pablo Neruda

Pablo is 102 today. Yesterday, 47 more dead in Iraq. Train bombings in India. 14 dead on the streets of D.C. since July 1. Here, without further comment, Neruda:

I'm Explaining a Few Things

You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?
and the poppy-petalled metaphysics?
and the rain repeatedly spattering
its words and drilling them full
of apertures and birds?
I'll tell you all the news.

I lived in a suburb,
a suburb of Madrid, with bells,
and clocks, and trees.

From there you could look out
over Castille's dry face:
a leather ocean.
My house was called
the house of flowers, because in every cranny
geraniums burst: it was
a good-looking house
with its dogs and children.
Remember, Raul?
Eh, Rafel? Federico, do you remember
from under the ground
my balconies on which
the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?
Brother, my brother!
loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,
pile-ups of palpitating bread,
the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue
like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep baying
of feet and hands swelled in the streets,
metres, litres, the sharp
measure of life,
stacked-up fish,
the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which
the weather vane falters,
the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,
wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea.

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings --
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise,
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate!

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives!

see my dead house,
look at broken Spain:
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull's eye of your hearts.

And you'll ask: why doesn't his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
In the streets!

Monday, July 10, 2006


Retreat Reading #1

Hummingbirds, the rushing of the James River, woodpeckers, an occasional passing car, the baking heat (though my room was air conditioned, happily), the fabulous host, Trudy Hale. Altogether a spectacular week of recharging at The Porches in Norwood, VA. Highly recommended. And I was the first guest! There may be availability for this summer, since Trudy is just getting started -- all you procrastinators, check it out! I'll post photos when I get them.

So, I wrote, read, hiked, swam, hung out with Trudy and her daughter Tempe and other friends, wrote and read some more. I'll report on my reading over the course of this week, as my mind is still working through so much of it.

Let me begin with the way the imagery and cultural references accumulate in the poems in Pax Atomica by Campbell McGrath. I am so envious reading his work -- he seems to have access to a greater quantity of rich and suggestive language than any other poet I know. My favorite poem in the collection, Hits of the 70s, is one of the longest -- I can't find it on the web. But here's a good one that gives a sense of what I mean:

The Human Heart

We construct it from tin and ambergris and clay,
ochre, graph paper, a funnel
of ghosts, whirlpool
in a downspout full of midsummer rain.
It is, for all its freedom and obstinance,
an artifact of human agency
in its maverick intricacy,
its chaos reflected in earthly circumstance,
its appetites mirrored by a hungry world
like the lights of the casino
in the coyote’s eye. Old
as the odor of almonds in the hills around Solano,
filigreed and chancelled with flavor of blood oranges,
fashioned from moonlight,
yarn, nacre, cordite,
shaped and assembled valve by valve,
flange by flange,
and finished with the carnal fire of
interstellar dust.
We build the human heart
and lock it in its chest
and hope that what we have made can
save us.

Read two other poems from the collection here (I like especially Girl With Blue Plastic Radio). McGrath's excess may not be to everyone's liking, but I adore it. A critique of America's appetite, the poetry also embraces the embarassing glut of popular culture and thingness that makes up the American experience.

Stay tuned for: Naomi Shihab Nye, Richard Blanco, Muriel Rukeyser, a little bit of Susan Howe, Czeslaw Milosz's Nobel lecture, and novels by Andrea Levy and Octavia Butler.

Also, check out Marc Fisher's Washington Post column about the DC Places issue of Beltway. Very exciting!

Saturday, July 01, 2006


The Growing Resistance and the Need to Recharge

I'm off for a week's writing retreat in Norwood, VA, today. No blog while I'm recharging (oh, don't hold me to that, but probably not). I'll be staying at a place called The Porches, which looks divine. I'll report back to all you DC-area writers in need of retreating. A super-weird twist to the week was finding out that the house was built by my great-great-grandfather William Cabell in 1854. Bizarre. Maybe some history muses will visit with me...

For fabulous reading while I'm away, spend lots of time with the DC Places issue of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, which was just published yesterday. Not only does the issue include poems about DC by illustrious poets like Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell alongside a diverse array of living local and national poets, but it also features a great map by Emery Pajer. Click on any pushpin on the map of DC to read the poem that mentions or is set in that location. How cool is that?? Special huge thank yous to Kim Roberts and Andrea Carter Brown for their incredible contribution to the literary life of this city.

And news from the resistance front:

US Army Officer Lt. Ehren Watada refuses to go to Iraq:

An update on the situation of Lt. Ehren Watada:

From the article: “In January, Watada asked to resign his commission because, he stated: ‘I am wholeheartedly opposed to the continued war in Iraq, the deception used to wage this war, and the lawlessness that has pervaded every aspect of our civilian leadership.’ Peace groups around the nation plan a day of protests and vigils in support of Watada on Tuesday.”

I also heard news that poet and living inspiration Sonia Sanchez was arrested at a protest (from Ethelbert Miller):

Philadelphia police arrested the poet Sonia Sanchez this afternoon (28 June) along with at least ten other grandmothers in an anti-war protest at a U.S. Army recruiting center. The women (most of whom are from Philadelphia) were taken to the Phildelphia's 16th precinct, at Lancaster and 39th Street. The women were replicating actions of 18 gradmothers--ages 91 down to the 60s--who earlier this year were arrested in New York City when they attemped to join the army at the Times Square U.S. recruiting office. In a trial, the eighteen grandmothers were acquitted of all charges. The New Yorkers, members of the Granny Peace Brigade, are wending their way down to Washington DC., by bus, holding vigils, protesting, and meeting like-minded groups along the way.

Rock on, grandmas!!

Have a fun and nonconformist 4th. Till next week.

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