Meanderings & mawqifs of poetry, poetics, translations y mas. Travelogue too.

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The discussants should consider the work of a young Russian poet, Galina Rymbu

February 8th, 2016 · Poetry, Politics, Translation

galinaVia Eugene Ostashevsky, Music & Literature:

There is a lot of talk now, in the United States at least, about political poetry and even revolutionary poetry, and what these are, and how to write them. The discussants should consider the work of a young Russian poet, Galina Rymbu.

I first came across a poem of hers shortly after she posted it on LiveJournal, a social network popular in Russia, on February 27, 2014. It was the day that Russian troops started operating in Crimea, and several days after the victory of the Maidan Revolution in Kyiv and the tawdry close of the Sochi Olympics. Russian media fanned the flames of patriotic hysteria and the Kremlin was clearly going to exploit Maidan to crack down on domestic dissent.

It felt strange that a work of this artistic sophistication and power could be composed and posted on the Web simultaneously with the events it responded to. Its viewpoint was that of the minuscule and very young Russian Left—roughly the same political alignment as those of the poet-activist Kirill Medvedev and of Pussy Riot, to cite figures known to some Western readers. But the poetry was different. It was Big Poetry, very much grounded in tradition but also propelling it forward, into the terra incognita of the now. It’s been a while since I read a poem that felt so real.

That poem has since appeared in English translation by Jonathan Platt. It can be read here, the middle one, starting with “the dream is over, Lesbia, now it’s time for sorrow…” [There seems to be something wrong with that website, however, I couldn’t scroll down. P.J.]. I want to talk about the Russian original a little, and then say a few things about the present publication of Rymbu’s work in Platt’s translation in Music & Literature. / [Continue reading here].

I want to add one of the poems from the Music & Literature website, to give of sense of the strength & energy of her poetry:

I want to send you an excellent gift,
when the heat pierces the dry trees,
it’s a western—the gravel, the brown dust quivers,
rising over this scorched place, when
troop carriers pass by the abandoned industrial zones,
strewn with red caviar.

Maybe I’ll send you a letter, make contact, get mixed up in it once and for all.
Here it is, the fire’s started—the doors of the clouds open wide, and out
roll the guillotined heads of the Bonnot Gang.

History, sing your wrath.
Are you that little girl in the sticky panties, who
stands in front of the mirror, putting on
powder and blush.

Are you that little girl
the one with her black and pink, icy gob wide open,
who climbed into bed with everyone
playfully singing a patriotic song,
rubbing anti-fungal creams on her feet,
you piss and spit into a special pot
by the bed.

Turn around. Think about my gift,
think about weapons in general,
think—how strange,
only a couple of days ago—
there was no mention of blood.
But the party is still going on somewhere
Night, the hum of voices, meat roasting, a little beer…

History, sing your wrath!
Let everyone in Moscow now look at the black sky
with its huge moon.
Why is the rage in our hearts so watered down?

Where “Russian, be afraid” rules the ball, where no one sings of freedom anymore,
where 60% of the population is dying from the “small public deeds”
of a few compunctious bureaucrat intellectuals,
where my little friends, little boys, who were born in 1990—
Are dead!
The provincial cemetery is swollen with wrath.

Remember them. My gift will come in handy.
Tomorrow, or now—
it will serve you very well

Translated by Jonathan Brooks Platt

Galina Rymbu was born in 1990 in the city of Omsk (Siberia, Russia) and currently lives in St. Petersburg. She has published poems in the Russian Journals The New Literary Observer, Air, Sho, and in the Translit series. Her essays on cinema, literature, and sexuality have appeared on the internet portals Séance, Colta, and Milk and Honey. She is the author of the recently published collection Moving Space of the Revolution.

Eugene Ostashevsky is a poet and translator of Russian avant-garde and contemporary poetry. His edition of Alexander Vvedensky’s An Invitation for Me to Think won the 2014 National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association.

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Dada to Daesh: 100 Years Ago Today…

February 2nd, 2016 · Art, Climate Change, Environment, European History, Global Capitalism, Global Warming, Islamic Fundamentalists, Poetics, Poetry

Ball_portrait… on February 2nd 1916 in Zurich, Switzerland, the following announcement, written by Hugo Ball appeared in the local press:

“The Cabaret Voltaire. Under this name a group of young artists and writers has formed with the object of becoming a center for artistic entertainment. In principle, the Cabaret will be run by artists, permanent guests, who, following their daily reunions, will give musical or literary performances. Young Zurich artists, of all tendencies, are invited to join us with suggestions and proposals.” [Hugo Ball,La fuite hors du temps ([1946], 1993) 111].

This was the beginning of Dada, one of the most exemplary, forceful & investigative movements in poetry (& extending to, dis- & in-corporating, de-turning all the other arts, thus in a profound way introducing multimedia & performance art & the most interesting methods of investigating the relations between art and world). It was a time of war — the “Great War” or the war to end all wars — though of course it did not end wars, and dada’s inspiration or better, its counter-push was based on the horror of a war in which there was no good, right, “patriotic” side (as there nearly never are in wars).

We too are living again in a time of war, in an age even more deliriously scary because of its global insanity. There are a dozen or more lethal conflicts raging simultaneously all over the world right now, conflicts even more gruesome than those of WWI in which conscripted armies slaughtered each other by the million for the supposed benefit of a few kings & arms dealers under the totally hypocritical guise of “patriotism.” Today the wars, even the local ones such as the conflict wrecking Syria, are total & the “innocent bystanders,” the civilians, women and children are slaughtered as fiercely as the soldiers, while whole ethnic groups are threatened & subjected to genocide. In this country, supposedly at “peace,” the police has declared open season on young African-americans, while permitting any sane or insane person to buy war-weapons with which to start mass-slaughters in schools, movie-houses or any other public place of their choosing. As always the profits accrue to the weapons manufacturers with late global capitalism’s greed for untrammeled profits having pushed its cynicism so far as to obliterate any difference between wars of aggression &/or defense against external opponents and internal, civil wars.

All of this & more is sold to the people camouflaged under the medievalist mantle of righteous religious ideology — vide last night’s Republican winner of the Iowa Caucus, Ted Cruz, saying that the truth did not lie with either or any political party but with the judeo-christian god, a non-existing fiction resurrected again and again to fool the people and cover up lies, rip-offs and destruction. The difference between the various theologically-based totalitarianisms that are the official “enemy” of these United States — be it the Iranian Islamo-fascism, or the Saudi Wahhabite-islamo-fascism, or Daesh/IS itself — and the ideology of early 21C America is vanishing. And it would seem that all the alarms sounded by sane people the world over are drowned out by the din of hysterical rhetoric and the noise of explosions.

All of which noise covers — & I think that this cover-up is very consciously created by international capitalism, i.e. the global corporations that own not only the wealth of the world but also our “representatives” i.e. the politicians — what is the human species’ most destructive war: that against earth, the only place it has to live, a war ironically, tragically, insanely by now nearly won, i.e. the ecological disaster that is the outcome of this war against earth is upon us.

Given this situation I was wondering this morning as I think back on those 1916 days of the birth of Dada as a reaction against the insanity of WWI, I was wondering where are the poets today, what are they doing in the face of this absolute disaster, where are the young who should be creating a 21C Dada to try to bring some sanity into our world? Not that I have any illusions as to the power of art to save the world. But unless there is an art commensurate with the horrors surrounding us, how to live in this world, how not to despair? There needs to be a space where another, a saner world can be imagined, can be sketched out, can be proposed. As Jerome Rothenberg & I wrote in our commentary on Dada in Vol. 1 of Poems for the Millennium, the strategy of Dada — & I believe this strategy is worth considering & putting back into action today — is what the poet Ed Sanders later called “a total assault on the culture” or in the words of Richard Huelsenbeck, one of the original dadas, “the liberation of the creative forces from the tutelage of the advocates of power.”

And Jerome Rothenberg himself put it as follows in his manifesto-program, and which should be the aim of poetry and of all art, today more so than ever:

1) I will change your mind;

2) any means (= methods) to that end;

3) to oppose the “devourers” = bureaucrats, systemmakers, priests, etc. (W. Blake);

4) “& if thou wdst understand that wch is me, know this: all that I have sd I have uttered playfully – & I was by no means ashamed of it.” (J. C. to his disciples,The Acts of St. John)

To quote a poem with prophetic insight into the exact condition, ecologically & beyond, we find ourselves in today by Paul Celan, a poem that tells us that no matter how dire the situation — & it is dire — there still remains something to be done:


above the grayblack wastes.

A tree-

high thought

grasps the light-tone: there are

still songs to sing beyond



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The video of the Sundance Award Ceremony…

January 31st, 2016 · Film

…at 1:13:04 Miles Joris-Peyrafitte & the “As You Are” crew take the stage!

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Sundance U.S. Dramatic Competition: Special Jury Award to director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte for “As You Are”!!!

January 30th, 2016 · Film


US Dramatic Special Jury Award awarded to 'As You Are.'

US Dramatic Special Jury Award awarded to ‘As You Are.’


(17) Owen Campbell, “As You Are”
Best known for a memorable recurring role on FX’s “The Americans,” Campbell scores a leading man breakout in first-time director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte’s haunting teen angst drama. He nails the loneliness of a young man not quite sure of his place in the world and anchors the ’90s-set bizarre love triangle. – G.B.

(18) Charlie Heaton, “As You Are”
A Brit actor soon to be seen in Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” Heaton practically channels a “Running on Empty”-era River Phoenix as the charismatic screw-up wrestling with his budding sexuality. Along with fellow breakout Campbell and “Hunger Games” veteran Amandla Stenberg, “As You Are” delivers three of the strongest teenage performances in recent memory. – G.B.

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Uri Avnery: The Pied Piper of Zion

January 29th, 2016 · Israel

Study for 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin': The Children c.1871 George John Pinwell 1842-1875 Presented by Alfred A. de Pass 1910

Study for ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’: The Children c.1871 George John Pinwell 1842-1875 Presented by Alfred A. de Pass 1910

January 30, 2016

HAMELIN, A small town in Germany (not so far from where I was born), was infested with rats. In their despair, the burghers called upon a rat-catcher and promised him a thousand guilders for liberating them from this plague.

The rat-catcher took his pipe and played such a sweet melody that all the rats came out of their holes and joined him. He marched them to the Weser river, where they all drowned.

Once freed from this plague, the burghers saw no reason to pay. So the piper took out his pipe again and produced an even sweeter melody. The enchanted children of the town gathered around him and he marched them straight down to the river, where they all drowned. 

Binyamin Netanyahu is our pied piper. Enchanted by his melodies, the people of Israel are marching behind him towards the river.

Those burghers who are aware of what is happening are looking on. They don’t know what to do.  How to save the children?

THE ISRAELI Peace Camp is in despair. No savior is in sight. Many just sit in front of their TV set and wring their hands.

Among the rest a debate is going on. Will redemption come from within Israel or from outside?

The latest contributor to this debate is Amos Schocken, the owner of the “Haaretz” newspaper. He has written one of his rare articles, arguing that only outside forces can save us now.

Let me first say that I admire Schocken. “Haaretz” (“The Land”) is one of the last bastions of Israeli democracy. Cursed and detested by the entire rightist majority, it leads the intellectual battle for democracy and peace, All this while the written media are in dire financial straits, in Israel and around the world. From my own experience as a magazine owner and editor – who lost this battle – I know just how heroic and heartbreaking this job is.

In his article Schocken says that the battle to save Israel from within is hopeless, and that we must therefore support the pressures coming from outside: the growing worldwide movement for boycotting Israel politically, economically and academically.

Another prominent Israeli who supports this view is Alon Liel, a former ambassador to South Africa and current university lecturer. Based on his own experience, Liel asserts that it was the worldwide boycott that brought the apartheid regime to its knees.

Far be it from me to contest the testimony of such a towering expert. I never went to South Africa to see for myself. But I have talked to many participants, black and white, and my impression is a bit different.

IT IS very tempting to compare present-day Israel with apartheid South Africa. Indeed, the comparison is almost unavoidable. But what does it tell us?

The accepted view in the West is that it was the international boycott of the atrocious Apartheid regime that broke its spine. This is a comforting view. The conscience of the world woke up and crushed the villains.

But this is a view from the outside. The view from the inside seems to be quite different. The inside view appreciates the help of the international community, but it attributes the victory to the fight of the black population itself, its readiness to suffer, its heroism, its tenacity. Using many different methods, including terrorism and strikes, it finally made Apartheid impossible.

The international pressure helped by making the whites increasingly aware of their isolation. Some measures, such as the international boycott on South African sports teams, were especially painful. But without the fight of the black population itself, international pressure would have been ineffective.

The highest respect is due to the white South Africans who actively supported the black struggle, including terrorism, at great personal risk. Many of them were Jews. Some escaped to Israel. One was my friend and neighbor, Arthur Goldreich. Strange as it seemed to some, the Israeli government supported the apartheid regime. 

Even a superficial comparison between the two cases shows that the Israeli apartheid regime enjoys major assets which did not exist in South Africa.

The South African white rulers were universally detested because they quite openly supported the Nazis in World War II. The Jews were the victims of the Nazis. The Holocaust is a huge asset of Israeli propaganda. So is the labeling of all critics of Israel as anti-Semites – a very effective weapon these days.

(My latest contribution: “Who is an anti-Semite? Someone who tells the truth about the occupation.”)

The uncritical support of the powerful Jewish communities throughout the world for the Israeli government is something the South African whites could not even have dreamed of.

And, of course, there is no Nelson Mandela in sight. Not after Arafat’s isolation and murder, at least.

Paradoxically, there is a little bit of racism in the view that it was the whites in the Western world that delivered the blacks in South Africa, and not the black South Africans themselves.

There is another big difference between the two situations. Hardened by centuries of persecution in the Christian world, Jewish Israelis can react to outside pressure differently than expected. Outside pressure can turn out to be counterproductive. It may re-confirm the old Jewish belief that Jews are persecuted not for what they do, but for who they are. That is one of Netanyahu’s main selling points.

Years ago, an army entertainment group sang and danced to the joyful tune of a song that started with the words: “The whole world is against us /But we don’t give a damn…”

This also concerns the BDS campaign. 18 years ago, my friends and I were the first to declare a boycott on the products of the settlements. We wanted to drive a wedge between Israelis and settlers. Therefore we did not declare a boycott of Israel proper, which would drive ordinary Israelis into the arms of the settlers. Only direct support of the settlements should be rejected.

That is still my opinion. But everyone abroad should make up his/her own mind. Always remembering that the main objective is to influence public opinion in Israel proper.

THE “INSIDE – OUTSIDE” debate may sound purely theoretical, but it is not. It has very practical implications.

The Israeli peace camp is in a state of despair. The size and power of the right wing is growing. Almost daily, obnoxious new laws are proposed and enacted, some of them with an unmistakable fascist flavor. The Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has surrounded himself with a bunch of male and female rowdies mainly from his Likud party, compared to whom he is a liberal. The main opposition party, the “Zionist Camp” (alias Labor), could be called Likud B. 

Apart from some dozens of fringe groups who brave this wave and do admirable work, each in its chosen niche, the peace camp is paralyzed by its own despair.  Its slogan could well be “Nothing can be done anymore. No point doing anything”. 

(Jewish-Arab cooperation in the common fight inside Israel – now sadly lacking – is also essential.)

In this climate, the idea that only outside pressure can save Israel from itself is comforting. Somebody out there will do the job for us. So let’s enjoy the pleasures of democracy while it lasts.

I know that nothing is further from the thoughts of Schocken, Liel and all the others, who fight the daily fight. But I am afraid that this may be the consequence of their views.

SO who is right: those who believe that only the fight inside Israel can save us, or those who put their trust entirely in outside pressure?

My answer is: neither.

Or, rather, both.

Those who fight inside need all the outside help they can get. All the moral people in all the countries of the world should see it as their duty to help those groups and persons inside Israel who continue to fight for democracy, justice and equality.

If Israel is dear to them, they should come to the aid of these brave groups, morally, politically and materially.

But for outside pressure to be effective, they must be able to connect with the fight inside, publicize it and gain support for it. They can give new hope to those who are despairing. Nothing is more vital.

The government realizes this. Therefore it is enacting all kinds of laws to cut Israeli peace groups off from foreign help. 

So let the good fight go on – inside, outside, everywhere.

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To quote the backdrop of Wolfgang Rihm’s staging of “Die Hamletmaschine”

January 28th, 2016 · Uncategorized





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Egyptian Poet Fatima Naoot Gets Three-year Jail Sentence for ‘Insulting Islam’

January 26th, 2016 · Uncategorized


via Arab Literature (in English)mlynxqualey:

Poet Fatima Naoot was sentenced today to three years in prison and a 20,000LE fine, found guilty of “contempt of religion”:

Photo from Poetry International.

According to Ahram OnlineNaoot goes to prison immediately and must appeal from there.

Naoot was charged not for her poetry, but for a Facebook post from October 2014. That’s when she described the Eid Al-Adha’s tradition of slaughtering sheep as the “greatest massacre committed by human beings.”

During questioning, Naoot, a former candidate for parliament, denied that her aim was to insult Islam. Naoot argued instead, Ahram Online reported, “that humans justified their lust for killing and enjoying the smell of cooking game by attempting to bestow a divine meaning to their actions.”

Naoot was convicted under Article 98, which states: “Whomever exploits religion in order to promote extremist ideologies by word of mouth, in writing or in any other manner, with a view to stirring up sedition, disparaging, or contempt of any divine religion or its adherents, or prejudicing national unity, shall be punished with imprisonment between six months and five years, or the payment of a fine of at least EGP 500.”

“I’m not sad about the sentencing as I don’t care about going to jail. I’m sad that the efforts of reformists have been wasted,” Naoot said, according to Middle East Online. 

The conviction comes just two weeks before a retrial for novelist Ahmed Naji and editor Tarek al-Taher, charged with offending public morals.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information issued a statement today asserting that “the recent surge in the prosecution of opinion makers comes in conjunction with a fierce security campaign launched by security bodies against freedom of opinion and expression, with the aim of narrowing the overall climate of freedom of opinion and expression. Such a matter, in turn, makes Egypt one of the most Arab countries that show hostility to freedom of expression as well as press freedom, especially that about 59 journalists have remained in prison so far.”

Naoot has published several poetry collections, translated anthologies from English into Arabic, and a book of criticism.

Poetry by Fatima Naoot:

From Poetry International, translated by Kees Nijland:

From the Scottish Poetry Library, translated by Valerie Gillies:

From PNR, translated by Robert Minhinnick:

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Celan the Aphorist

January 22nd, 2016 · Prose, Translation

MikrolithenOver the last two year it has been a great pleasure to work on & off at translating Paul Celan’s unpublished miscellaneous prose works that were gathered some years ago by Barbara Wiedemann and Bertrand Badiou in the volume Mikrolithen sinds, Steinchen (Microliths these are, little Stones [Pebbles]). Having put the work on the proverbial backburner for some six months, I am now in the process of pulling it out again & going over the texts to shape a final ms. to be published toward the end of the year by modem-verlag. Except for two essays and one prose piece (Conversation in the Mountain), Celan did not publish anything beyond his poems and translations. But he did leave a rich trove of aphorisms, paradoxes, sketches, and short narrative & topical fragments (often returning, sometimes openly, sometimes in more veiled terms, to questions of Jewishness, of politics, of the mistreatment that befell him via the Goll affair). All these are fascinating as they are not only a pleasure to read qua writing, but also because they help throw light on a complex, profoundly private & and often secretive man. Be that as it may, for me maybe the most useful of this work is a range of reflections, just as short & pithy, on poetry & poetics.

The brevity, terseness and condensed power of these sayings/writings, combined with their often playful punning language, and their difficult to assess status (are they finished, abandoned? Which version of those for which we have 3 or 4 tries, should one use? Would Celan have thrown them out? Or completed some of those that are obviously open-ended?) make for marked difficulties in translation. I am thinking right now that it may be most helpful (should a translation be “helpful”? And if so for whom?) to leave as much of the meta-translation aspect (notes, multiple word choices, etc.) in as needed.  Here are just a few from the early aphoristic gathering which he usually referred to as (or under the title of) GegenlichterCounterlights:

22 Hermeticism

Certain “citizens” and the poem: They buy the surprise bag; one knows vaguely what’s in it, it won’t be much, but then it doesn’t cost much either, and if one already visits the fair and has enjoyed the lady without lower- but with upper body, one’s amusement also demands that. And when what’s in it turns out — but here too the buyer’s superior humor can prove itself — to be even cheaper than cheap, there still remains the fun that all of that was “too” /[“zu” “closed”]

35.2 There is (in small and smallest coinage) a koine of the lyric; and then there is the one singular language of poetry.

36 Comfortably at home in stylistically correct smart aleck’ry, one will write obituaries for the great deceased and, while in selected company availing oneself of the memorial sites, one will not forget to take an elegant sideswipe at one’s young neighbor on the occasion of the wreath laying; evenings one will pray briefly but substantially to the God one came to via several (up-to-date and high-profile) conversions,  and the next morning one will, while commenting the latest news with Bible-, Goethe- and self-citations, drink one’s black coffee, with a mouthful of toast and commiseration.

45.3  The League of the Homeland-evicted. The League of the World-evicted remains to be called into existence.

46.2 The poem, where it truly carries over (and in no way transposes): not metaphor, but metabasis — εἰς ἄλλο γένος into the Other… as into the Same.

46.3 To him who yells at “words,” language will refuse itself. He who yields to language, him… words will find.

46.4 “my” and “my” and “my” poem. — “These times” and their mypoems. — Assaisonnons…

46.5 Counterlights—: To counter the lice.

46.10 The human chance today: Return to the Future!

46.11 Space rockets, earth satellites, cosmodromes. Conscience, long ago flown ahead, stumbled ahead. The launchpad heart.

46.12 Lies have… long legs.

46.26 God needs the heretics…for this he punishes them.

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On the Road to Sundance…

January 21st, 2016 · Film

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 10.53.54 AM

Will be gone for the weekend, driving from Boise to Park City to attend premiere of Miles’ movie. Yesterday’s New York Times also quoted that photo:Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 10.58.19 AM

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Ettore Scola (1931-2016)

January 20th, 2016 · Obituaries

Filmography as director

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