Although it is raining where I am in Mexico right now, I don’t think I need to rehearse the new Hong Kong demonstrators’ umbrella martial arts style:
October 17th, 2014 · Man-made Disaster
Via: Retort, this Leigh Phillips piece from the Jacobin of 13 August 2014 is very clear on why the Ebola situation is stuck where it is today. Phillips is a science writer and EU affairs journalist whose writing has appeared in Nature, the Guardian, Scientific American, the EUobserver and the Daily Telegraph.
The Political Economy of Ebola
The Onion, as ever, is on point with its ‘coverage’ of the worst recorded outbreak of Ebola, and the first in West Africa, infecting some 1,779 people and killing at least 961. “Experts: Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People Away,” read the cheeky headline of the July 31 news brief.
Our shorthand explanation is that if the people infected with Ebola were white, the problem would be solved. But the market’s role in both drug companies’ refusal to invest in research and the conditions on the ground created by neoliberal policies that exacerbate and even encourage outbreaks goes unmentioned.
Racism is certainly a factor. Jeremy Farrar, an infectious disease specialist and the head of the Wellcome Trust, one of the largest medical research charities in the world, told the Toronto Star: “Imagine if you take a region of Canada, America, Europe, and you had 450 people dying of a viral hemorrhagic fever. It would just be unacceptable — and it’s unacceptable in West Africa.”
He noted how an experimental Canadian-developed Ebola vaccine had been provided on an emergency use basis to a German researcher in 2009 after a lab accident. “We moved heaven and earth to help a German lab technician. Why is it different because this is West Africa?”
But Ebola is a problem that is not being solved because there is almost no money to be made in solving it. It’s an unprofitable disease.
There have been around 2,400 people killed since Ebola was first identified in 1976. Major pharmaceutical companies know that the market for fighting Ebola is minute while the costs of developing treatment remain significant. On a purely quantitative basis, some might (perhaps rightly) warn against focusing too much on this one disease that kills far fewer than, for example, malaria (300,000 killed since the start of the Ebola outbreak) or tuberculosis (600,000).
Yet the economic constraints retarding progress in developing Ebola treatment also explain why drug companies are resisting developing treatment to those diseases as well as many others.
The last decade has actually seen a tremendous advance in research into therapies for Ebola, usually in the public sector or by small biotech companies with significant public funding, with a variety of treatment options on the table including nucleic-acid-based products, antibody therapies, and a number of candidate vaccines — five of which have successfully protected non-human primates from Ebola.
Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been telling everyone in the press who will listen to him in the last fortnight that an Ebola vaccine would be within spitting distance — if it weren’t for the corporate skinflints.
“We have been working on our own Ebola vaccine, but we never could get any buy-in from the companies,” he told USA Today.
“We have a candidate, we put it in monkeys and it looks good, but the incentive on the part of the pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine that treats little outbreaks every thirty or forty years — well, that’s not much incentive,” he told Scientific American.
Almost everyone familiar with the subject says that the know-how is there. It’s just that outbreaks are so rare and affect too few people for it to make development worthwhile — that is, profitable — for large pharmaceutical companies.
“These outbreaks affect the poorest communities on the planet. Although they do create incredible upheaval, they are relatively rare events,” Daniel Bausch, the director of the emerging infections department of Naval Medical Research Unit Six (NAMRU-6), a biomedical research laboratory in Lima, Peru, told Vox. “So if you look at the interest of pharmaceutical companies, there is not huge enthusiasm to take an Ebola drug through phase one, two, and three of a trial and make an Ebola vaccine that maybe a few tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people will use.”
John Ashton, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, wrote a vituperative opinion piece in the Independent on Sunday decrying “the scandal of the unwillingness of the pharmaceutical industry to invest in research to produce treatments and vaccines, something they refuse to do because the numbers involved are, in their terms, so small and don’t justify the investment.
“This is the moral bankruptcy of capitalism acting in the absence of an ethical and social framework,” he concluded.
This situation is not unique to Ebola. For thirty years, the large pharmaceutical companies have refused to engage in research into new classes of antibiotics. Due to this “discovery void,” clinicians expect that within twenty years, we will have completely run out of effective drugs against routine infections. So many medical techniques and interventions introduced since the 1940s depend upon a foundation of antimicrobial protection. The gains in life expectancy that humanity has experienced over this time depended on many things, but would certainly not have been possible without antibiotics. Prior to their development, bacterial infections were one of the most common causes of death.
In April, the World Health Organization issued its first-ever report tracking antimicrobial resistance worldwide, finding “alarming levels” of bacterial resistance. “This serious threat is no longer a prediction for the future, it is happening right now in every region of the world and has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country,” the UN health body warned.
The reason for this is straightforward, as the companies themselves themselves admit: It simply makes no sense to pharmaceutical companies to invest an estimated $870 million (or $1.8 billion accounting for the cost of capital) per drug approved by regulators on a product that people only use a handful of times in their life when suffering from an infection, compared to investing the same amount on the development of highly profitable drugs for chronic diseases such as diabetes or cancer that patients have to take every day, often for the rest of their lives.
Every year in the US, according to the CDC, some two million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 23,000 die as a result.
We see an identical situation with vaccine development. People purchase asthma drugs or insulin, for example, for decades, while vaccinations usually require only one or two doses once in a lifetime. For decades now, so many pharmaceutical companies have abandoned not just vaccine research and development but production as well, that by 2003, the US began to experience shortages of most childhood vaccines. The situation is so dire that the CDC maintains a public website tracking current vaccine shortages and delays.
But at least with respect to Ebola, where the market refuses to provide, the defense department is comfortable intervening and setting aside free-market principles in the interests of national security.
Virologist Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston told Scientific American about his hope for the VSV vaccine, one of the most promising options against Ebola:
We’re trying to get the funds to do the human studies … but it really depends on financial support for the small companies that develop these vaccines. Human studies are expensive and require a lot of government dollars. With Ebola, there’s a small global market — there’s not a big incentive for a large pharmaceutical company to make an Ebola vaccine, so it’s going to require government funding.
William Sheridan, the medical director of BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, the developer of experimental anti-viral drug BCX4430, describes the financial predicament facing Ebola treatment research and development: “It just wouldn’t make the cut at a major company.”
But for a small company like his, the federal government has both backed research and promised to purchase stockpiles of anti-Ebola drugs as a preventative measure against bioterrorism. BCX4430 is also co-developed with the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). “There is a market, and the market is the US government,” he told NPR.
USAMRIID, along with Canada’s Public Health Agency, is also backing the development of ZMAPP, a serum of monoclonal antibiodies by a small San Diego-based biotech firm MAPP Biopharmaceutical, which was administered last week to two American doctors, Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, working with the evangelical Christian missionary group Samaritan’s Purse.
The pair had fallen ill in Liberia while taking care of patients infected with Ebola. Brantley’s condition had been rapidly deteriorating, and he had phoned his wife to give his farewells. Within an hour of Brantley receiving the experimental serum, his condition had reportedly reversed, with his breathing improving and rashes fading.
The following morning, he was able to shower on his own, and by the time of his arrival in the US after being evacuated from Liberia, he was able to climb down out of the ambulance without assistance. Writebol is now similarly “up and walking,” after her arrival in Atlanta from the Liberian capital.
We should be extremely cautious about drawing any conclusions from this development and claiming that the drug has cured the missionaries. We have a sample size of just two in this “clinical trial,” with no blinding or control groups. The drug had until now never been tested on humans for safety or efficacy. And as with any illness, a certain percentage of patients will recover on their own. We do not know whether ZMapp was the cause of the apparent recovery. Nonetheless, it is not unreasonable to state that this turn of events gives great hope.
Two of the ZMapp antibodies were originally identified and developed by researchers at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg and at Defyrus, a Toronto-based “life sciences biodefense company,” with funding from the Canadian Safety and Security Program of Defence R&D Canada. The third antibody in the cocktail was produced by MappBio in collaboration with USAMRIID, the National Institutes of Health, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The companies then partnered with Kentucky Bioprocessing in Owensboro, a protein production company that was bought earlier this year by the parent firm of RJ Reynolds Tobacco, to pharm the antibody-laden tobacco plants.
On hearing of the role of the Pentagon and Canada’s defense establishment, some have jumped to conspiracy theories. Indeed, ZMapp appears to be a perfect storm of popular nemeses: GMOs, Big Tobacco, the Pentagon, and injections that look a bit like vaccines!
But the Defense Department funding should not be viewed as nefarious. Rather, it is evidence of the superiority of the public sector as shepherd and driver of innovation.
However, not all unprofitable diseases are subjects of the colonels’ bioterror concern. And why should the private sector get to cherry pick the profitable conditions and leave the unprofitable ones for the public sector?
If, due to its profit-seeking imperative, the pharmaceutical industry is structurally incapable of producing those products that are required by society, and the public sector (in this case in the guise of the military) consistently has to fill in the gaps left by this market failure, then this sector should be nationalized, permitting the revenues from profitable treatments to subsidize the research, development, and production of unprofitable treatments.
In such a situation, we would no longer have to even argue whether the prevention of malaria, measles, or polio deserves greater priority; we could target both the big name and neglected diseases at the same time. There is no guarantee that turning on the tap of public funding will immediately produce a successful result, but at the moment, private pharmaceutical companies aren’t even trying.
This is precisely what is meant when socialists talk of capitalism being a fetter on the further development of the forces of production. Our concern here is not merely that the refusal of Big Pharma to engage in neglected tropical disease, vaccine, and antibiotic R&D is grotesquely immoral or unjust, but that the production of a potential cornucopia of new goods and services that could otherwise benefit our species and expand the realm of human freedom are blocked due to the free market’s lethargy and paucity of ambition.
Focusing on a vaccine or drugs is critical. But doing so without also paying attention to the deterioration of public health and general infrastructure across West Africa, and the wider economic conditions that contribute to the likelihood of outbreaks of zoonotic diseases like Ebola, is at best using a bucket to empty the water out of a leaky and sinking boat.
Phylogeographer and ecologist Rob Wallace has described well how neoliberal fallout has established the ideal conditions for the epidemic. Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are some of the poorest countries on the planet, ranking 178th, 174th, and 177th out of 187 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index.
Were such an outbreak to occur in northern European countries, for example, nations with some of the best health infrastructure in the world, the situation would more likely have been contained.
It is not merely the dearth of field hospitals, lack of appropriate hygiene practices in existing hospitals, absence of standard isolation units, and limited cadre of highly trained health professionals that are able to track down every person that may have been exposed and isolate them. Or that better supportive care is a crucial condition of better outcomes, whatever the treatment available. The spread of the disease has also been exacerbated by a withering away of basic governmental structures that would otherwise be able to more broadly restrict movement, to manage logistical difficulties, and to coordinate with other governments.
Epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist Daniel Bausch, who worked on research assignments near the epicenter of the current outbreak, describes in a paper published in July in the Public Library of Science journal Neglected Tropical Diseases how he “witnessed this ‘de-development’ firsthand; on every trip back to Guinea, on every long drive from Conakry to the forest region, the infrastructure seemed to be further deteriorated — the once-paved road was worse, the public services less, the prices higher, the forest thinner.”
Wallace notes that here, as in many countries, a series of structural adjustment programs have been encouraged and enforced by Western governments and international financial institutions that require privatization and contraction of government services, removal of tariffs while Northern agribusiness remains subsidized, and an orientation toward crops for export at the expense of food self-sufficiency. All of this drives poverty and hunger, and, in turn, competition between food and export crops for capital, land, and agricultural inputs leads to an ever greater consolidation of land ownership, in particular by foreign companies, that limits access of small farmers to land.
Ebola is a zoonotic disease, meaning a disease spread from animals to humans (or vice versa). Some 61 percent of human infections throughout history have been zoonotic, from influenza to cholera to HIV.
The single biggest factor driving growth in new zoonotic pathogens is increased contact between humans and wildlife, often by the expansion of human activity into wilderness. As neoliberal structural adjustment forces people off the land but without accompanying urban employment opportunities, Wallace points out, they plunge “deeper into the forest to expand the geographic as well as species range of hunted game and to find wood to make charcoal and deeper into mines to extract minerals, enhancing their risk of exposure to Ebola virus and other zoonotic pathogens in these remote corners.”
As Bausch puts it: “Biological and ecological factors may drive emergence of the virus from the forest, but clearly the sociopolitical landscape dictates where it goes from there — an isolated case or two or a large and sustained outbreak.”
These outcomes are the predictable result of unplanned, haphazard development in areas known to be the origin of zoonotic spillover, and without the sort of infrastructural support and egalitarian ethos that permitted, for example, the elimination of malaria from the American South after World War II by the CDC in one of its earliest missions.
Over these past few months, the worst Ebola outbreak in history has exposed the moral bankruptcy of our pharmaceutical development model. The fight for public health care in the United States and the allied fight against healthcare privatization elsewhere in the West has only ever been half the battle. The goal of such campaigns can only truly be met when a new campaign is mounted: to rebuild the international pharmaceutical industry as a public sector service as well as address wider neoliberal policies that indirectly undermine public health.
We could take inspiration from HIV/AIDS activist groups from the late 80s/early 90s like ACT UP and the Treatment Action Group, and, in the 2000s, South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign, which combined direct action and civil disobedience against both companies and politicians with a scientifically rigorous understanding of their condition.
But this time, we need a larger, more comprehensive campaign covering not just one disease, but the panoply of market failures with respect to vaccine development, the antibiotic discovery void, neglected tropical diseases, and all neglected diseases of poverty. We need a science-based treatment activism that has the long-term, ambitious but achievable aim of the pharmaceutical industry’s democratic conquest.
We need a campaign to destroy the unprofitable diseases.
October 15th, 2014 · Climate Change, Man-made Disaster
Press release by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
New forecasting method:
Predicting extreme floods in the Andes mountains
Predicting floods following extreme rainfall in the central Andes is enabled by a new method. Climate change has made these events more frequent and more severe in recent decades. Now complex networks analysis of satellite weather data makes it possible to produce a robust warning system for the first time, a study to be published in the journal Nature Communications shows. This might allow for improved disaster preparedness. As the complex systems technique builds upon a mathematical comparison that can be utilised for any time series data, the approach could be applied to extreme events in all sorts of complex systems.
“Current weather forecast models cannot capture the intensity of the most extreme rainfall events, yet these events are of course the most dangerous, and can have severe impacts for the local population, for example major floods or even landslides,” says lead author Niklas Boers of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “Using complex networks analysis, we now found a way to predict such events in the South American Andes.”
When the monsoon hits South America from December to February, it brings moist warm air masses from the tropical Atlantic. Travelling westwards, these winds are blocked by the steep Andes mountains, several thousand metres high, and turn southwards. Under specific air pressure conditions, the warm air masses, loaded with moisture, meet cold and dry winds approaching from the south. This leads to abundant rainfall at high elevations, resulting in floods in the densely populated foothills of the Bolivian and Argentinian Andes. “Surprisingly, and in contrast to widespread understanding so far, these events propagate against the southward wind direction,” says Boers.
‘Big Data’ analysis of observational time series from satellites
The international team of scientists performed a ‘Big Data’ analysis of close to 50,000 high-resolution weather data time series dating from the 15 years since high quality satellite data became available, generated by NASA together with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. “We found that these huge rainfall clusters start off in the area around Buenos Aires, but then wander northwestward towards the Andes, where after two days they cause extreme rainfall events”, says Boers. The new method makes it possible to correctly predict 90 percent of extreme rainfall events in the Central Andes occurring during conditions of the El Niño weather phenomenon when floods are generally more frequent, and 60 percent of those occurring under any other conditions.
“While the findings were hard to derive, local institutions can now apply them quite easily by using readily available data, which helps a lot,” says co-author José A. Marengo of the National Institute for Space Research in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “Major rainfall events can result in floods which for instance in early 2007 alone produced estimated costs of more than 400 million US dollars in the region. It is now up to the affected countries to adapt their disaster preparation planning.”
Method can be applied to the climate, but also to financial markets
“Comparing weather data sounds simple enough, but it actually took the new mathematical tool that we developed to detect the intricate connections that lead to the extremes,” says co-author Jürgen Kurths, co-chair of PIK’s research domain Transdisciplinary Concepts and Methods. “The data was there, but nobody joined the dots like this before. The method provides a general framework that could now be applied to forecast extreme changes in time series of other complex systems,” says Kurths. “In fact, this could be financial markets, brain activity, or even earthquakes.”
Article: Boers, N., Bookhagen, B., Barbosa, H.M.J., Kurths, J., Marengo, J.A. (2014): Prediction of extreme floods in the eastern central Andes based on a complex networks approach. Nature Communications (online) [DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6199]
Weblink to the article once it is published: http://www.nature.com/naturecommunications
For further information please contact:
PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
October 14th, 2014 · Book Launch, Poetry
Black Widow Press
or via Amazon.
From the back cover:
A magnificent multi-layered tome from the brilliant poet and translator (of German, French and Arabic) whose erudition and deep engagement with the doings of humanitas are on full display. From a lyrical bi-lingual ode to Kerouac through DIS/ASTER-OILDRECK, we are drawn into a kinetic weave of world and language. “The brain amazed/that shaped air/ makes sense/in difference./Shut your brain port./ (as if, as if)/ for a moment/ open your mouth/be wet sweet breath/be dew/be dew/be the beduin/ letter.” A book for the time, for all times, for its care, its passion, its urgent soundings.
— Anne Waldman
ON PIERRE JORIS:
Pierre Joris is a genuine Luxembourgian Yankee, who has invaded the American language, not to plunder but to enrich us with his presence. The scope of the work is large, the thrust is synthesizing, the idiom particular and rich. A renard-coyote, his accomplish-ment is there for all of us to see and hear.
— Jerome Rothenberg
…Pierre Joris is a wonderful poet of remarkable breadth of concern and lyric occasion.
— Robert Kelly
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Prologue: End of Century Revisitation, or, A Closer
Canto Diurno # 2: A / To Jack Kerouac : Ode Bilingue | 17
II. 2000 etcetera: the Barzakh
eyes | 30
red crane crosses window | 31
This afternoon Dante | 32
there is no weather this morning | 33 desire of a line| 34
wave to the three women | 35
on the back porch again | 37
Tuesday, May 23rd, 2000 | 38
care of house, dead | 39
evening writing | 40
but mind has no care | 41
Shaman’s Dream Question | 42
Seven Elegies Preceded By A Meditation Postmodern Elegy | 44
1. Telegrammatica Per Franco | 45
2. For O.P. | 46
3. with Armand in mind | 47
4. For Barry MacSweeney dead this week at 51 | 48
5. A calm vademecum dose | 50
6. for R.C. — A Man for all Occasions | 52
7. Nattell is | 53
EP: heard, not seen | 56
Reading / Writing # 18 | 57 Monsoonish | 61
A Later Lemur Offering | 63
First Lemur Mourning | 65
Three Little Proses | 66
Measure | 68
Out Between | 69
Gymnastics, anybody? | 71
Now the bell tolls | 73
The fire alarms ambulances down Madison | 74
9/11/01 | 75
The Rothenberg Variations | 77
1/1/02 | 93
What the dream ends in | 94
dream anguish give | 95
[Introït to my Purgatory] | 97
L’Heure Bleue | 99
Poem upon returning to these States after a 6-month absence | 101
I have never | 102
for Gerrit at 75 | 103
A Certain Shabbiness, or:
The Circus is Leaving Town for Good | 104
April 1st ’04 / Venice Beach | 105
FOR TOM 107 |
Three Ontological Goggles
1. Diaspora is | 109
2. Nomadism is | 112
3. Poetry is: Definitions for Tom Nattell | 116
Nimrod | 121
from: An Alif Baa
preamble to an alphabet | 124
128 | ب
129 | A poem in noon ن
Nicou | 134
It is so like me you | 136
“Nothing No one Nowhere Never” | 139
All you ever can write about | 140
The Rheumy Eye of Night | 141
oh to have an alphabet | 143
Another end to writing/reading # 18 | 144
But the ear | 145
The monument to the dead | 146
Coils to Scratch | 147
For an Oud | 149
in the golden pheasant | 150
Along the coast of Sri Lanka fish feed | 151
07.29.09. Bourg d’Oueil | 152
Bourg Birds | 153
The Sanctuary of Hands | 154
7/23/14 1:48 PM
The Fez Journals
On Miles’ 13th birthday | 159
Bab Bou Jeloud | 161
In Fez | 163
In Larache | 164
to go to the bottom of the pool | 167
Looking out over Fez — | 168
On the terrace of the Star of Fez | 169
Pools are for fools. | 170
Sunday morning 7 a.m. | 171
What if the birds were the shadows | 172
National Characters | 174
the heat is in the soup, | 175
the star of Fez again | 176
Leaving Fez | 178
Mongolian Capital | 180
the eighth climate I asked | 181
The Scumline | 183
At Justin’s, late | 187
Trust the first word that comes | 188
Wrist | 189
Canto Diurno # 4
The Tang Extending From The Blade | 192
For love | 208
For Yoori Kang & Joseph Mastantuono, at their Wedding | 211
Canto Diurno #5
1. At the Mondrian | 213
2. Lunch at La Grille (1.30 p.m.) | 216
There are ways and then there are ways to make this page wider | 219
Blurb for Hütte | 221
Reading Edmond Jabès | 222
Papyrus | 223
Letter to Steichen’s Ed | 224
I like the imp | 228
In Praise of Pinot Blanc | 229
48 Words, found, somehow: | 230
The Autopoetic Path | 231
Anton Webern Returns from Hungary | 232
Reading Rothschild & | 233
R.I.P. for C. L.-S. | 235
Homage to Badia Masabni | 236
RoToR response | 237
This tanker… | 240
Sour Birth | 243
Day’s End Run | 244
Winter Poem | 245
New Year Poem | 246
What I see: | 247
On Goethe’s Flyleaf | 248
Shakespeare’s sonnet #71, re-Englished after Paul Celan’s German
version without consulting the original | 249
Time is never timely | 250
R Train Spotting | 251
Early Morning Trail | 252
Dear George, | 253
is it a good thing to find | 254
Time is Vexing | 255
The Gulf (From Rigwreck to Disaster) | 256
Rigwreck | 258
Interlude 1 | 270
Love at First Sight | 272
Interlude 2: | 284
Dis/aster — Oildreck | 287
October 13th, 2014 · Uncategorized
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October 11th, 2014 · Arab Culture, Censorship, Intellectuals, Mashreq, Poetry, Poetry Festival
On September 27, 2014, Jordanian-British Poet Amjad Nasser was denied permission to board a plane bound for New York, where he was to inaugurate the new Gallatin Global Writers Series at New York University. Like other writers who face ideological exclusion from the U.S.—including Ilija Trojanow almost exactly one year earlier—Nasser was given no reason for this denial. This policy of silence must change to ensure that homeland security is not abused a cover to bar those who express ideas that the American government disfavors. PEN sent the following letter, in partnership wit Split This Rock, protesting Nasser’s exclusion to the Department of Homeland Security on Friday, October 3.
The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528
Dear Secretary Johnson,
We are writing to express our profound concern regarding celebrated British-Jordanian poet and novelist Amjad Nasser’s denial of entry to the United States on Saturday, September 27, 2014.
Invited to give the inaugural address in the Gallatin Global Writers Series at New York University, Mr. Nasser was detained at Heathrow Airport in London and prevented from boarding his flight to New York. The Department of Homeland Security representative who spoke with him for two hours on the phone before refusing him the right to travel to the United States declined to provide any reason for the denial.
Our organizations represent thousands of poets, writers, and others passionately committed to the free exchange of ideas. Mr. Nasser is one of the major poets of the Arab world. He has worked as a journalist in Beirut and Cyprus. Since 1987 he has lived in London, where he is managing editor and cultural editor of the independent daily newspaper, Al-Quds Al-Arabi. He has published nine volumes of poetry, four travel memoirs, and a novel. His works have been translated into ten languages. While some may find some of his views or those of his newspaper controversial, we are aware of nothing in his background that would be grounds for his exclusion from the United States.
At this time of conflict and crisis, it is important to keep open the channels of dialogue and communication between the American people and our counterparts all over the world. If Mr. Nasser has been determined to constitute a threat to the security of the United States, this information should be presented to him, along with an opportunity for him to respond to the evidence. Absent any such communication, serious questions arise about whether Mr. Nasser has been denied entry to the U.S. on the basis of protected acts of expression through his writings or speeches.
We ask you to institute a review of this case and to clearly set out the criteria that the Department of Homeland Security uses to make such decisions, as well as to either provide Mr. Nasser with the reasons for his denial or, alternatively, grant him the entry to which he is entitled.
Executive Director, PEN American Center
Executive Director, Split This Rock
- See more at: http://www.pen.org/blog/jordanian-poet-denied-entry-us#sthash.1wkgbBgG.dpuf
October 3rd, 2014 · Poetry, Poetry Festival, Poetry readings, Uncategorized
¡ T O D A Y !
BOISE STATE MFA READING SERIES
Friday October 3rd, 2014: Pierre Joris,
The Cabin Literary Center, 801 S. Capitol Blvd, 7:30 p.m.
* * *
EVERGREEN COLLEGE READING
Monday 6 October
Talk on Paul Celan (9:30 to 11 a.m.)
& Poetry Reading (1 to 2:30 p.m.)
both are in: Lecture Hall 5, The Evergreen State College
* * *
X San Luis Potosí Festival
Tue, October 21 – Sat, October 25
San Luis Potosí, Mexico
Pierre Joris & Nicole Peyrafitte
* * *
November 5 & 6
Pierre Joris & Habib Tengour
Reading & Talk
* * *
The Shed Space
366 6th Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY
Vyt Bakaitis and Pierre Joris
Penser avec Derrida, où qu’il soit.
Jeu 11 déc (14h-19h30)
Ven 12 déc (9h30-20h)
Sam 13 déc (9h30-16h)
Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine, Abbaye d’Ardenne, 14280 Saint-Germain la Blanche-Herbe.
Colloque organisé avec le soutien de l’IMEC, de la Région Basse-Normandie et de la MRSH de l’UCBN (Université de Caen Basse-Normandie).
Ce colloque fera l’objet d’un programme détaillé.
Consulter le site du Collège www.ciph.org
* * *
September 30th, 2014 · Arab Culture, Freedom of Speech
[The Gallatin School of New York University invited Amjad Nasser, one of the major poets of the Arab world, to inaugurate its Gallatin Global Writers series on 30 September. On 27 September, US Homeland Security at Heathrow, London, interrogated Nasser and prevented him from boarding the plane without giving any reason. The bilingual reading will take place as scheduled in protest of this occurrence. Nasser will join from London via Skype. The following is the essay Nasser wrote after the incident. It is translated by Sinan Antoon]
When Your Name is on the “Blacklist”
I read once that the number of names on the American “blacklist” is around one million. But that was before September 11. No one knows what the number became after it. One may think upon hearing of the existence of this list that it has to do with the names of those involved in practicing, financing, or glorifying “terrorism.” Or the drug lords who destroy the youth of the world. Or the arms merchants who supply peoples’ conflicts with instruments of murder. No, the list had some of the most prominent writers and artists from all over the world who had supported the struggle against colonialism, the right to self determination, or even the struggle against local dictatorships, such as Pinochet in Chile, and others in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Among them were names such as: Marquez, Graham Greene, Doris Lessing, Neruda, Mahmoud Darwish, Dario Fo, Mandela and a large number of leftist intellectuals, including the Greek intellectual, Yannis Milios, who was invited by New York University to take part in a debate, but U. S security at JFK sent him back home after a lengthy and humiliating interrogation.
One the most outrageous incidents of American security hysteria involved detaining the American writer Diana Abu Jaber and questioning her for hours even though she is a well-known novelist. I read her account of the experience of “entering” America in an essay she wrote after being allowed back into her own country.
I have dual citizenship, Jordanian and British (this is a right guaranteed by law in both countries) and have been working in journalism for more than three decades. In fact I have never had any other profession. I have published ten books of poetry, four travel books (which means travelling to many countries) and a novel whose English translation was published a few months ago by Bloomsbury. It is forthcoming in the U.S next year. I also have a beautifully designed poetry book entitled “Petra” which was published a few days ago by an American publisher, Tavern Books, and translated by the American poet and translator Fady Joudah. I have no other activity besides writing. Yet I still found myself on the list of those barred from entering America. Thus, all of a sudden I am on the blacklist. Or perhaps I have been on it from the time of red berets, which has long gone, but without knowing.
This is the story, in brief: I was reading Lorca’s “Poet in New York” on my way to Heathrow airport and thinking of the title. What did Lorca mean by it? Is it merely a predicative title? But what if there is a poet in New York or in any other city. This is not information. We can tell from the title of Lorca’s book. But New York is not just another city and Lorca is not any poet. The presence of a poet whose favorite words are: olives, oranges, vineyard, dirt road, lemon leaves, brooks, a moon dangling from a naked sky by a silk thread, in New York (a city unsuitable for poetry according to him) cannot be ordinary. It is news then: There is a poet in New York! Just as an Arab film that was quite popular in its own day: A Bedouin in Paris. The contradiction exists from the perspective of the filmmakers, just as it exists from Lorca’s perspective, between the poet and New York. As if poetry and New York cannot meet, just as bedouinism and Paris never do.
I arrived at Terminal 5 in Heathrow, the one dedicated to British Airways which was supposed to carry me in two and a half hours to the other side of the Atlantic: New York. The procedures commenced and then an American homeland security representative came into the picture as soon as my name reached the Homeland Security folks who are residing, it seems, in British airports. The homeland security official spoke on the phone to the British employee who was carrying out the usual procedures. At first I did not know to whom the British employee was talking, but then I heard my name repeated a number of times. Then the employee gave me the phone with a puzzled look on his face. “The Homeland Security men want to talk to you,” he said. The strangest “conversation” ensued: Your name, your father’s name, your mother’s name, your paternal grandfather, your maternal grandfather, your great grandfather, your height, your weight, the color of your eyes, of your hair. . . at this point I told the homeland security person: It is turning white now! “What was its color before? Brown? He asked. “No, black,” I said. The “conversation” continued: What will you do in New York? Who invited you? I answered: New York University. Who invited you there? Sinan Antoon. What does he do? He’s a professor, and he’s a poet and a novelist too. How do you write his name in English? Do you have relatives or friends in America? Where do you work now? Where did you work before? What are the addresses of those institutions? Al-Turra? Isn’t that the city where you were born? Where is al-Turra? (If you knew you would never ask, I thought). Where do you live? Is it your own home? Hounslow? Where is Hounslow? And on and on for two hours I was on my feet in front of the counter facing the British employee who gestured to all those standing in line behind me to go and focused on me.
The Homeland Security person who was interrogating me on the phone knew somehow from inside the airport that I am a poet and a writer and that I have an invitation from New York University to give an inaugural reading for a new cultural program. But that did not matter to him. He knew that I was a journalist and that I have never had any other profession my whole life, but that did not matter to him. He knew that I was approaching sixty years of age, but that did not matter to him. He knew, of course, that I have British citizenship, which cannot be acquired, I imagine, by someone “suspicious,” but that did not matter to him since he was exercising his own American dominion on British soil. Despite knowing all this he said: I am sorry. You cannot board this departing plane (It had already taken off) to New York.
- What is the reason?
- I cannot disclose that.
- Do I not have a right to know the reason?
- Just like that?
- Just like that.
* * *
Just like that. I will not be able to continue what I started to think about; Lorca and New York. Because I cannot go to New York, to which thieves, arms dealers, drug lords, and corrupt government officials can go. I thought as I was getting on the subway to return to my home. Had Lorca lived after the McCarthyism (which seems not to have totally ended in the United States) would he be able to enter New York again? My hypothetical answer: He would have been at the top of the blacklist for two reasons. First, he was an anti-Fascist, anti Franco Republican. Second, he penned that immortal invective, not against New York as a city and multitude of humans. But rather as predatory capitalistic relations that excel in transforming sweat, blood, and human wailing into a waterfall of Dollars.
[Translated from the Arabic by Sinan Antoon. You can read the Arabic here.]
September 29th, 2014 · Arab Culture, Translation
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September 28th, 2014 · Book Launch, Essays, Poetics, Poetry, Uncategorized
It is no exaggeration to suggest that Robert Kelly may well be America’s most prolific poet, and certainly one of the most singular and ceaselessly innovative writers the country produced in the 2nd part of the past century. To date, he has published more than 70 books of poetry and fiction — books that reveal a breathtaking range, from freshly minted trobar clus and contemporized sonnet forms, to epic-length narratives and non-narratives — such as Axon Dendron Tree, The Common Shore, The Loom, or the first two installments of a recent trilogy, Fire Exit & Uncertainties.
Just as compelling are the volumes of shorter lyric forms, such as Finding the Measure, Songs I–XXX, Not this Island Music, and Lapis, or his even more experimental work, such as Sentence, The Flowers of Unceasing Coincidence, or his writing-through of Shelley’s poem, Mont Blanc. The deeper unity of the work is unavoidably present in the voice that underlies the multiplicity of forms. As Guy Davenport wrote: “A Kelly poem is a Kelly poem. It dances in his way, sings in his intonations, insisting on its style. No American poet except perhaps Wallace Stevens has his sense of balance in a line. [...] Kelly has nothing to hide: the untiltable balance is there to begin with.”
Less visible than the poetry, but certainly no less important, incisive, worth preserving & circulating anew, are the trove of essayistic materials disseminated throughout numerous small & not so small magazines of the second-half of the 20th C and beyond. The out-of-print 1971 In Time was Kelly’s sole published book of essays properly speaking, even though he has been writing on his (& others’) poetry & poetics since the early 60s.
Long over-due, the present volume, A Voice Full of Cities, collects for the first time Kelly’s essays, statements, & other writings on poetry & poetics, making available a vast array of difficult to obtain works. The editors’ aim was to insure that — in Robert Kelly’s own words — “the fifty years of thinking around the fifty years of making won’t get lost, and making and thinking will be seen as one thing.”
A forthcoming companion volume from Contra Mundum Press, A City Full of Voices, will present critical essays on Robert Kelly’s work by a wide range of contributors.
A Voice Full of Cities: The Collected Essays of Robert Kelly, edited by Pierre Joris & Peter Cockelbergh (Contra Mundum Press, 2014). ISBN 978-1-9406250-6-5. $35.00, 22.50 £, 25.50€. Bookstores can order through Ingram and elsewhere or directly through us. For a review, desk copy, interview request, or for direct orders, write to: