Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Burned Again?

From our friends at the Institute for Policy Studies, a new book, with an afterword by poet C.K. Williams:

When an infant touches a hot stove, it learns a lifelong lesson: don't touch a hot stove. The infant might grow into a thoroughly irresponsible person, might acquire a nasty heroin habit or provoke a barroom brawl with Mike Tyson. But never again will he or she touch a hot stove.

When it invaded Iraq in 2003, the United States touched a hot stove. Politicians seem to have less capacity to learn than babies. Many of those involved in this ill-fated operation had some connection, however remote, to the Vietnam War, the last seriously hot stove that the United States touched. And yet, the U.S. leaders that fought in Vietnam as well as the ones who ran in the opposite direction all stood around the burning hot stove that was Iraq and bear-hugged it."

If what is shaping up to be the worst foreign policy disaster in U.S. history has an upside it is: that this war should definitively, permanently settle a handful of critical questions about American conduct in the world," FPIF research fellow Miriam Pemberton writes in the introduction of a new book, Lessons from Iraq. "

This book is an effort to fix some points. Nail a few things down. Declare some policies and practices off limits to American policymakers."

Here are some of those lessons. Don't politicize intelligence. Don't torture. Don't privatize security operations. Don't leap into preventive wars. Don't militarize the world. It's a long list.

Get a copy of Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding the Next War, edited by Pemberton and FPIF contributor William Hartung, and read about the other lessons from Chalmers Johnson, Frances FitzGerald, Michael Klare, Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, Hans Blix, Norman Solomon, Phyllis Bennis, C. K. Williams, and many others. And put these Lessons from Iraq book events in Rockville, MD and Washington, DC in your June calendar.

The book is not a primer on how to do war better. It doesn't give pointers on how best to touch a hot stove. Rather, it suggests ways of inscribing in the national DNA of the United States the painful lessons of the Iraq War - so that we don't all get burned again.


Happy Birthday Bobby D

Thanks to the good folks on the New-Poetry list serv, I've been revelling in Bob Dylan lyrics all weekend.

Seems it was his birthday. And that all the lyrics of every song he ever wrote are on his website at: http://bobdylan.com/moderntimes/lyrics/main.html

Invited to post favorite songs, how to choose? I added Boots of Spanish Leather and You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. But it's tough - what about Buckets of Rain or Girl of the North Country? Or dozens of others... the man is crazy - and so am I for my Bobby D fannitude.

Thursday, May 22, 2008



Witness Against Torture Activists to "Represent" Detainees in Trial, May 27

WASHINGTON, DC – Detainees at the U.S. Military Prison in Guantánamo will finally get their day in court on May 27 – Superior Court, in Washington DC.

That is when 35 Americans from cities and towns across the country will go on trial for a protest at the U.S. Supreme Court on January 11, 2008. They face charges of either "unlawful free speech" or "causing a harangue" or both. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail, as well as fines and court fees.

In a new twist on traditional protest, the 35 activists will enter their names as those of actual Guantánamo inmates. On January 11th, they were arrested without their own identification and were taken into custody under the name of a Guantánamo prisoner. This act symbolically grants the Guantánamo prisoners their day in court-- which the Pentagon has denied them for years.

Father Bill Pickard, a Catholic priest from Scranton, PA, is one of the defendants. But he will be tried "as" Faruq Ali Ahmed, a Guantánamo detainee. "I went to the Supreme Court to make a simple plea that the inhumane treatment and actual torture of inmates at Guantánamo Bay stop," says Fr. Pickard. "I went to bring the name and the humanity of Faruq Ali Ahmed — who claims he traveled to Afghanistan in 2001 simply to teach the Koran to children and that he has no affiliation with the Taliban or Al Qaeda — before the law. He cannot do it himself, so I am called by my faith, my respect for the rule of law and my conscience to do it for him." Among the defendants is a hog farmer from Grinnell, Iowa, a social worker from Saratoga Springs, New York, and a legal secretary from Baltimore.

Representing themselves, the defendants plan on justifying their acts as upholding U.S. law and international human rights and will call witnesses to document the abuses at Guantánamo.

Witness Against Torture will hold two events related to the trial on May 27:

At 7:45 am, dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods, those facing trial will carry their Guantánamo inmates' names from the U.S. Supreme Court (Maryland Avenue and First Street) to the D.C. Superior Court (Carl Moultrie Court House, 500 Indiana, Ave NW), where their cases will be heard.

At 8:30 am, Witness Against Torture will hold a press conference outside the Superior Court. Defendants and witnesses will address the media. They will also hold a ceremony of justice, expressing their demand that the rights and humanity of the detainees be respected by placing placards bearing the detainees' names alongside copies of the U.S. Constitution, the Geneva Convention, and the sacred texts of various religious traditions.

The trial will begin at 9:30 am. Press is invited to attend all the proceedings.

The January 11 protest was organized by Witness Against Torture (http://www.witnesstorture.org/), which was formed in 2005 when 25 Americans walked from Cuba to the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo. Please visit the website for more information, media contacts and to make a contribution to support our work. ###

This is the statement read inside the Supreme Court on January 11, 2008-- the date that marked six years of torture and abuse at the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay.

Why are we here today at the Supreme Court? January 11, 2008

We come to the Supreme Court today because it is the sixth anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo prison as a place where men, given the devious label "enemy combatant" have been held in indefinite detention, inhuman conditions, isolation and torture. We are here to bring their plight and the plight of all prisoners from this current war, to the "highest court in the land." We are here to make their suffering visible, to make their voices heard, to make their humanity felt.

Lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights and other organizations are working hard to bring the cases of the prisoners into the courts. But the lawyers can only do so much, because these prisoners--who have been illegally detained, and tortured, abused and kept from their families for years--are not even able to communicate openly with their lawyers. And so, after years of despair, many prisoners have lost what confidence they might have had in the legal process. More, highly competent lawyers who have patiently devoted their time and skills at great personal cost, are understandably frustrated because they are unable to conduct what a reasonable person would consider a reasonable defense.

The men at Guantánamo may seem very far from us; they not only have different names and cultures, but they have been relentlessly demonized and dehumanized by government officials who knew all along that almost all of them are innocent of any crime. We come here to bring their stories and assert their humanity, because for six years, men such as Sami al Haji from Sudan and Sabir Lahmar from Algeria have been denied the basic right to come here to present their own defense. We are here to tell these stories.

So we come to the Supreme Court on this January 11th to let the nine justices--who hold so much power over these men-- know that we care about the prisoners, that we are watching, that we expect and demand justice. Some of the recent Supreme Court rulings on the Guantánamo prisoners appear to be reasonable, but so far they have proven ineffective in securing even the most basic rights which accused persons should have--rights guaranteed by the fundamental laws and practices of U.S. society and by civilized nations all over the world. Again and again, an intimidated Congress--even the Democratic Congress elected with a mandate to reverse the Administration's abuses--has lacked the will to restore basic rights which everyone deserves.

We are here today to appeal to the Supreme Court Justices to stand up now to assert decisively an end to torture; to assert decisively the abolition of secret prisons supposedly outside the realm of law; and above all, to assert decisively the right of habeas corpus, the most crucial protection of any democratic society. Although the justices don't always have the empire's poor and marginalized as their first concern, we appeal to them as people of conscience and humanity to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly.

To learn more about the trial, the defendants and the movement to shut down Guantánamo, visit http://www.witnesstorture.org/

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Alix Olson teaching in Fresno this summer

Spoken Word Performance: Writing and Performing Prose and Poetry
CSU Summer Arts (Fresno, CA) – June 29 to July 12, 2008
APPLY NOW! (scholarships and college credit available)
Application date has been extended!

In this incredible Summer Arts program you will:
- Speak up and stand out!
- Make a bigger impact on an audience using the voice, the word, and the body.
- Work on your writing and performance skills with the close assistance of stellar guest artists.
- Hear your own work, see it recorded, and critique it in a community of peers and mentors who share your passion for connecting the personal and the political, the individual and the community.

Guest artists and instructors include Alix Olson, Kimberly Dark, Taylor Mali, Jack McCarthy, Violet Juno and Sonya Renee.

Apply now at the Summer Arts website! http://www.csusummerarts.org/

Email coordinator Professor Kimberly Dark for more info. kimberly@kimberlydark.com


Helen Takes the Stage by Kathi Wolfe reviewed by Mary F. Morris

Here is Helen [Keller] as individual. Wolfe paints masterly with words, brilliant canvasses of poetry, witty and graceful, tight and sensuous.

HELEN TAKES THE STAGE: THE HELEN KELLER POEMS by Kathi Wolfe reviewed byMary F. Morris



Indian Guest Workers from Gulf Coast stage Hunger Strike in DC

From the marvelous Anu Yadav:

Hello everyone,

Last night I did a short performance, a monologue of a civil rights leader, Unita Blackwell, recalling her days in the movement. At the end of the piece, her voice breaks into song, "Will you die for your freedom? Certainly, Lord, certainly, certainly, certainly, Lord." It left the audience completely quiet, after which they broke into loud strong applause.

The piece was in honor of the Indian guest workers currently on hunger strike here in DC as I write this. Over one hundred workers walked off their jobs in March, in protest of the essentially forced labor camps they were subjected to upon reaching the US under the very controversial H-2B guest worker program. They marched from New Orleans and arrived here, demanding, among other things, a case investigation by Congress.


You can help by simply stopping by to say hello if you live in DC.

They love visitors, it boosts their morale. That's what I did on Monday. It left me humbled and inspired. You can also help by spreading the word to folks you know in the media, students, church groups, anyone and everyone.

Below are details about their case, their current schedule and what you can do to help out if you so choose.

Thanks for reading and be well,


Rally: Weds, May 21st
Capitol Reflecting Pool
(3rd St between Maryland and Pennsylvania Ave, NW) A second wave of workers will join the hunger strike, and allies will join in a solidarity fast.

Community-wide Meeting with the Alliance of Guestworkers for Dignity Thursday, May 22nd 7-9pm All Soul's Unitarian Church 1500 Harvard St, NW
Interfaith Worker Justice Prayer Circle

Friday, May 23rd:
Capitol Reflecting Pool, 3rd St between Maryland and Pennsylvania Ave, NW
There will be another major action on Wed, May 28th.

List of items:
Blankets (10)
Pillows (15)
Hats (for the cold, 10)
Umbrellas (10)
Sleeping bags
Woolen cloth
Groceries (bags of rice, spices, water etc.) Rice cooker Bed/mattress

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, May 15, 2008 at 1:34 PM
Subject: Support Indian Workers from Gulf Coast in May

Community Alert:

Support Indian Guest Workers from Gulf Coast in May - Show Your Support by Donating, Volunteering, or Participating in Solidarity Actions

At 10am on May 14th, Indian guest workers, who are victims of trafficking and workplace exploitation on the US Gulf Coast, began a series of actions in Washington DC, including a hunger strike across from the White House. Over 500 Indian guest workers paid up to $20,000 each to US and Indian recruiters who promised them green cards and visas for their families. Once they arrived in the US, workers found that these promises were false. Their employer, Signal International, held the workers in forced labor camps and subjected them to humiliating treatment, racial slurs, and threats of deportation. In March 2008, over 100 workers broke the trafficking chain by walking off their jobs, reporting Signal to the Department of Justice, and filing a class action lawsuit.

The workers' demands include the right to stay in the US to participate in the investigation of their case; Congressional hearings on the abuses of the guest worker visa program in the US Gulf Coast; and action from the Indian government to protect Indian guest workers and their families in the future.

There are a number of ways that people around the country can show support for the workers, including:

1. DONATING- the workers need financial support to continue their journey to justice. Please consider donating - even the cost of your meals for one week - to:
National Immigration Law Center (3435 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 2850, Los Angeles, CA 90010). Please include NOWCRJ/IWC on the subject line http://www.neworleansworkerjustice.org/contribute.htm

2. ASK CONGRESS TO TAKE ACTION - Click here to send a message to your senators and representative demanding Congress to hold hearings on the trafficking of workers on the US Gulf Coast and the actions of their employers; and to urge government agencies to investigate the workers'claims quickly and thoroughly.

3. For those living in the Washington DC Area:
OBSERVE or MONITOR during the hunger strike (no legal experience necessary, training will be provided on-site). If you are interested, please email saalt@saalt.org with your name, cell phone number, and days and hours you are available (either 9am-1pm or 1pm-5pm shifts).
Visit the workers and offer your support and encouragement (see below for a schedule of where the workers will be) IDENTIFY FAITH-BASED or COMMUNITY LEADERS who can visit with the workers to provide moral support.

Donate Malayalam, Tamil, or Hindi books, magazines or newspapers Drop off in-kind donations (cases of water, folding chairs, bedding, kitchen items or rain gear such as ponchos, umbrellas and tarp) Please contact SAALT at 301-270-1855 or saalt@saalt.org if you would like to drop off donations to the SAALT office (6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 506, Takoma Park, MD 20912).
The workers will be at the following locations from 9am - 5pm throughout the month of May:
May 15th - May 16th: Lafayette Park -the White House May 17th - May 19th: Gandhi Statue - Indian Embassy Chancery Office May 20th - May 25th: Capitol Reflecting Pool May 26th - onwards: Please contact SAALT for updated information

4. For those around the country:
You can show your support for the workers through local solidarity events in May and June in order to raise awareness about the issues the workers have faced and the guest worker program in the United States. You can host these discussions on your campus, place of worship, or cultural/professional organization. SAALT can provide articles and materials for discussion. Email saalt@saalt.org or call301.270.1855 for more information.

To learn more about the workers' campaign, visit the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice blog. You can also read a recent article on the workers and the implications of trafficking written by Svati Shah featured in SAMAR Magazine.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is an ally of the Alliance of Guest Workers for Dignity, a project of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice.
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) 6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 506 Takoma Park MD 20912

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


New DC area reading series: Plan B Press presents...

"Plan B Press presents...." , a new series featuring some known DC area poets as well as others from the Mid-Atlantic region, will begin June 10, 2008 at St. Elmo's Coffee Pub, 2300 Mt. Vernon Ave. in Alexandria, VA. 7-9PM. Tentatively scheduled for June are two poets from the NYC area and YOU!!!!

July 8 will feature Mary Ann Larkin (with Patric Pepper) and C L Bledsoe (editor of ghoti magazine), from Baltimore.

Please visit our blog, http://planbpress.blogspot.com/, for continuous updates and happenings.


Friday, May 09, 2008


Mother's Day, Poetry, and War on Lehrer News Hour Tonight


May 9, 2008

(In DC area, the show airs 7-8 pm on Ch 26, with poetry programming usually in the second half. Many thanks to Yvette Neisser Moreno for this news.)

As part of our ongoing NewsHour Poetry Series, tonight we look at (poet) Frances Richey.

The Iraq War has divided many Americans including Frances and Ben Richey. Ben, a graduate of West Point, is a 33-year-old Green Beret who has served two tours of duty in Iraq. His mother, Frances, opposed the war, creating a rift in what was a close relationship between a single mother and her only child. But in response, Frances wrote poems about and for her son, collected in a new book, The Warrior. The poetry has helped bring mother and son closer together again.

Frances and Ben Richey sat down with Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Brown earlier this week.

For online coverage of the Poetry Series, visit the Online NewsHour at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/indepth_coverage/entertainment/poetry/.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Segments highlighted on the NewsHour Poetry Series Alert are scheduled to air but subject to change. Due to late breaking news and time constraints, poetry segments aren't scheduled until the day they air. The NewsHour sends its alerts as early as possible, but the lineup often isn't finalized until late in the day. If you have missed any of our poetry segments, please visit the Online NewsHour for streaming video, audio, and transcripts of our entire Poetry Series.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Jenny Uglow, Winner of 2007 National Award for Arts Writing, to Give Reading May 19

Monday, May 19 at 7:00 pm

Public reading by Jenny Uglow, author of Nature's Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick, winner of the National Award for Arts Writing, one of the largest monetary prizes in the US for a single book, given in recognition of excellence in writing about the arts for a broad audience, sponsored annually by the Arts Club of Washington.

Free Admission
The Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I Street NW, Washington, DC. (202) 331-7282, ext. 15. Foggy Bottom or Farragut North Metro stop.
For more information: 202-331-7282 x 15, award@artsclubofwashington.org

Made possible in part by a grant from the Humanities Council of Washington.

Nature's Engraver recounts the life and achievements of the man who produced, in early 19th century Britain, the first Field Guide to birds for ordinary people, illustrated with woodcuts of remarkable accuracy and beauty. These woodcuts, in turn, influenced book illustration for all time. Living and working at a time of rapid social change and industrialization, Bewick was a fascinating man: working class, liberal (even radical in some of his politics), and amazingly talented. His evocations of birds helped to widen appreciation for the natural world, and the preservation of land, among people of all classes.

The judges wrote, “Nature’s Engraver is engaging, subtle and instructive. Uglow’s plain, richly elegant sentences present a career that, fascinating in itself, becomes a way of thinking about all art: the tools, the materials, the personality and the surroundings, all interacting with the artist’s craving to make a new reality. Uglow’s insightful treatments of material like the life of apprentices, the nature of early children’s books, the fashion for 'peasant poets' make this vivid biography a work of cultural history as well.”

Jenny Uglow is an editor at Chatto & Windus and lives in Canterbury, England. Her book The Lunar Men: The Friends who Made the Future 1730–1810 won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography in 2002 and the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for history from International PEN in 2003. Her biographies Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories and Hogarth: A Life and a World were both finalists for the Whitbread Prize for biography. She comes to the Arts Club having just been presented with the Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England on May 16.


How to help in Burma

AVAAZ.org, the progressive international online organization, is collecting money that will go directly to the Burmese people. Here's their information, and a link to the site where you can give.

The cyclone that ripped through Burma left tens of thousands dead and a million homeless--a natural disaster made much worse by the failure of the military junta to warn or evacuate its people.

Now, the government has slowed the urgent process of providing humanitarian relief--so Avaaz is raising funds for the International Burmese Monks Organization and related groups, which will transmit funds directly to monasteries in affected areas.

In many of the worst-hit areas, the monasteries are the only source of shelter and food for Burma's poorest people. They have been on the front lines of the aid effort since the storm struck. Other forms of aid could be delayed, diverted or manipulated by the Burmese government--but the monks are the most trusted and reliable institution in the country.

Donate here: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/burma_cyclone/77.php

Monday, May 05, 2008


Postcard from...Sarajevo

During the nearly four-year siege of Sarajevo, the inhabitants of the Bosnian capital received thousands of cans of food from the international community. The shipments helped keep the city alive. So it is perhaps not surprising that Bosnian artist Nebojsa Seric Soba would construct a Monument to the International Community in the form of a huge, round tin of canned beef.

But this homage to Andy Warhol’s Pop Art cans of soup, which was erected last year along the river that cuts through Sarajevo, is no simple monument. It doesn’t perform the monument’s conventional function of celebrating the person or object on the pedestal. The cans of food sent to Bosnia were often long past their expiration date. The contents tasted terrible. “It was like pet food, except the dogs and the cats would not even eat it,” says Bosnian curator Dunja Blazevic. Food poisoning was not uncommon.

Read the rest of John Feffer's terrific Postcard from Sarajevo on Foreign Policy in Focus here: http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5197

Friday, May 02, 2008


Reading tonight in Brooklyn

My first New York reading for the book, Whiskey in the Garden of Eden, May 2. With two other fabulous poets. Hope to see you there!


Poetry at PS29 Literary Series May 2: Edwin Frank, Susan Kaplan, Sarah Browning

Poets Edwin Frank, Susan Kaplan, and Sarah Browning will read from their work on May 2 at 7:00 P.M., the last evening of the 2008 PS 29 Literary Salon reading series in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, one of New York’s hottest literary neighborhoods. The events showcase fiction, non-fiction, and poetry by new and established authors from Brooklyn and beyond. The $5 admission includes babysitting and refreshments. Discussion and booksales by local book seller, Bookcourt, follow.

Edwin Frank is the author of two chapbooks, Stack and The Further Adventures of Pinocchio, and his work has been published in Agni, Bomb, Epiphany, The New York Review of Books, and Threepenny Review. He is the editor of the New York Review Books Classic series.

Susan Kaplan is an award-winning poet and an attorney. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Pegasus, Boulevard, Another Chicago Magazine, and The New Orleans Review, among others. She has won awards from the American Academy of Poets and the Poetry Society of America.

Sarah Browning is the director of Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation and Witness. She’s the author of Whiskey in the Garden of Eden, and coeditor of D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology. A recipient of an artist fellowship from the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities and a Creative Communities Initiative grant, Browning hosts the Sunday Kind of Love poetry series in Washington, D.C.

PS 29 is at 425 Henry Street, Brooklyn, NY. (Between Baltic and Kane Streets); F train to Bergen Street. Exit at Smith, walk three blocks West to Henry. Left to Baltic.
Editors contact Julia Lichtblau, 917-547-4721 jlichtblau@aol.com

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