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

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Wallada Bint al-Mustakfi

August 6th, 2015 · Arab Culture, Arabic, Poetry, Translation

A romantic rendition of, supposedly, Wallada bint al-Mustakfi

A romantic rendition of, supposedly, Wallada bint al-Mustakfi

Yesterday I posted a review of  Ibn al-Sa’i’s Consorts of the Caliphs, which mentions one of the great women poets of the 10C: Wallada Bint al-Mustakfi (Córdoba, 994–1091). She has been a favorite of mine for a long time, both for her art & for her stance as a woman in Muslim culture. Habib Tengour & I published some of her work in volume 4 of the Poems for the Millennium series, The University of California Book of North African Literature and thought it would be useful & pleasurable to re-post those poems here on Nomadics. The translations from Arabic are by Abdullah al-Udhari.

Wallada Bint Mustakfi was the daughter of Muhammad III of Córdoba, one of the last Umayyad Córdoban caliphs, who came to power in 1024 after assassinating the previous caliph & who was assassinated himself two years later. Her early childhood coincides with the high period of the Córdoban Caliphate, while her adolescence came during the tumultuous period following the eventual succession of Sanchuelo, who in his attempts to seize power from Hisham II plunged the caliphate into civil war. As Muhammad III had no male heir, al-Mustakfi inherited his properties, which she used to open a palace and literary hall in Córdoba (i.e. an al-Andalus site for poetry readings). She was described as an ideal beauty of the time: blond, fair-skinned, and blue-eyed, as well as intelligent, cultured, and proud. She was also somewhat controversial, walking out in public without a hijab. The first verse of the first poem below was written on the right-hand side of the front of her robe, and the second verse on the left-hand side.

By Allah, I’m made for higher goals and I walk with grace and style.

I blow kisses to anyone but reserve my cheeks for my man.

The love of her life was the poet Ibn Zaydun, whose preference seems to have been, however, for polymorphously perverse philandering.

Come and see me at nightfall, the night will keep our secret.
When I’m with you I wish the sun and moon never turn up and the stars 
stay put.

If you were faithful to our love you wouldn’t have lost your head over my maid.
You dropped a branch in full bloom for a lifeless twig. You know I am the moon yet you fell for a tiddly star.


Ibn Zaidun, in spite of his qualities, is unkind to me for no reason.
He looks at me menacingly as if I’d come to unman his boyfriend Ali.


Ibn Zaidun, though a man of quality, loves the unbent rods in men’s trousers.
If he saw a joystick dangling from a palm tree he’d fly after it like a craving 


Is there a way we can meet and share our love once more?
In the winter I used to wait on hot coals for your visits.
Now I feel worse since you’ve gone and confirmed my fears.
The night rolls on, but absence stays and patience won’t free me from longing’s grip.
I hope Allah waters the new land that’s become our home.

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In the Footsteps of Powerful Slave and Free Women of Baghdad

August 5th, 2015 · Arab Culture, Arabic, Translation

consortsVia the always excellent Arab Literature (in English):

Shawkat Toorawa, Associate Professor of Arabic Literature and Islamic Studies at Cornell University and co-executive editor of the Library of Arabic Literature, has worked on collaboratively translating Ibn al-Sa’i’s Consorts of the Caliphs, off and on, for more than a decade: first as part of Radical Reassessment of Arabic Arts, Language, and Literature (RRAALL), and later as the editor of the Library of Arabic Literature volume, which was published in 2015:

Ibn al-Sa’i’s Consorts collects portraits of 39 women associated with powerful men in the tenth through thirteenth centuries. The women are by turns clever, bold, musical, accomplished poets, beautiful, pious, loyal, and generous. In the interview that follows, Toorawa talks about why it’s not so embarrassing for Ibn al-Sa’i to write about the lives of women, how the LAL editors became comfortable translating jariyah as “slave,” and ways in which he’d like to teach with this text.

This is a wonderfully fun book. But wasn’t it a bit of a step down for Ibn al-Sa’i, as a historian, to focus so much on the lives of (mere) women? What would his contemporaries have thought?

They would not have perceived it that way. One way to think about it is this: In order to be a good historian, you have to be comprehensive. You cover all the bases. These women are interesting to him. He was so interested that he wrote two books about these women, but the one about the women who lived to see their sons became caliph is lost. This means that he is interested in them because of their connection to these people who he believes domake history—men.

It’s also the same kind of question people ask about al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi, who writes Ta’reekh Baghdad (The History of Baghdad), this amazing fourteen-volume work of anyone important who was ever in Baghdad. There are women in it, but basically it’s about men. Al-Khateeb also writes a book about party crashers [The Art of Party Crashing in Medieval Iraq, translated by Emily Selove]. There are different theories about why these authors wrote such books. Sometimes it was to show virtuosity. Sometimes they were practice works—they were practicing their ability to gather disparate material.

But we mustn’t forget that these guys are real intellectuals, that they’re interested in everything.

For contemporary readers, there’s something of a supermarket check-out line, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” appeal to Consorts. Who would’ve read it in its time?

Obviously it wouldn’t be sold in supermarkets. Now, was it being sold widely in bookshops the way other things were being sold? I don’t know. Four hundred years earlier it would have been. But at this time, it’s not clear to me who was reading it. He wrote it right before the fall of Baghdad.

He’s a librarian at a law college. He writes this work and he looks [back] at the Golden Age, and it’s hard to tell if he’s approving or disapproving. He’s not disapproving intellectually of it, but the women he’s celebrating are the latter-day women, the women who are pious. I assume the idea is that the people who choose to marry them make good choices in marrying them.

How is it the pious women being celebrated? It’s the witty women who are more interesting and fun.

It’s a paradoxical thing, since the book seems to be at cross-purposes. On the one hand, I think he’s saying, there was a Golden Age. There was a Baghdad when Baghdad was great. And the women from then were witty and well-educated, and that’s something to aspire to—that level of culture.

By putting them in the same book with these latter-day women who aren’t as accomplished, there’s a sense in which it’s a continuum. We continue, he’s saying, to be a cultured civilization. The paradox of course is that many of the latter-day women are free-born. He doesn’t say that he wants the earlier age to be restored.

Is there a reason the women’s profiles aren’t in listed in chronological order?

It may be that he hadn’t quite sorted out how he wanted this book to look. He might’ve still been trying to work through the following question in his mind: What do I think the role of the wives and favorites of the caliphs is, both as exemplar and as historical fact?

Julia Bray’s introduction indicates that Ibn al-Sa’i and others were freer to explore the lives of slaves than they were to explore the lives of free women. They were a commodity, and thus more open to our scrutiny?

I think it’s fair to say, based on the historical record, that we have very little information about the private lives of free-born women, generally, in the Arab-Islamic world, unless there’s some other thing that makes them important. Authors just didn’t record information about the private lives of prominent women. There are countless male authors about whom we don’t know even whether they were married or had children.

And it’s the case that slave women, notably the ones that were connected to caliphs, are people about whom people felt they could write. One of Ibn al-Sa’i’s principal sources regarding slave women, is al-Isfahānī’s thirty-volume Kitāb al-Aghānī [Book of Songs]. He’s a cultural and literary historian, and he’s interested in the fact that the slave women are poets, and that makes it okay to write about them, because the tradition writes about poets.

We do know about Wallada [bint al-Mustakfi], a free-born woman in Spain. And why do we know about her? She’s a poet. Most of the time, it’s because of their professional or vocational position: women poets, women scholars, women who love djinn. Even if it’s marginal like that, it’s a category about which people get interested as a category.

There isn’t a book called The History of the Private Lives of Abbasid Housewives, and I think it’s because they didn’t think of them as a category.

It’s not different ideas of privacy?

It’s also connected to different ideas of privacy, or just ideas of privacy. But I don’t think the Abbasids are that different from us. I don’t think we write about the lives of private women, either. Except for TV shows like Housewives [of Orange County, of New Jersey, of Atlanta]. And that’s so private, in a way that seems kind of odd. Whereas it’s not so odd if it’s the lives of the rich and famous.

Have you thought about how you’d teach this text?

I would love to teach it. I’ve actually suggested it to one of my colleagues, who’s talked about teaching something about free and un-free women. Other books that could go with it: [E.T.] Dailey’s Queens, Consorts, and Concubines, about Merovingian elite women. And there’s a book called Courtesans, Concubines, and the Cult of Female Fidelity, [by Beverly Bossler], which is about China. I can imagine a course that focuses on medieval Europe, medieval Baghdad, and late-medieval China — not so much to compare, but to contrast. How does this get recorded by male historians, what matters? The question of fidelity is really interesting. What does that even mean?

Recently, I taught a medieval travel-narrative class, and the students loved it. For my final assignment, I had them write a narrative of one of the trips they’d taken as kids in the style of any of the authors that we’d read, and several picked either [al-Sīrāfī’s] Accounts of China and India or [Ibn Faḍlān’s] Mission to the Volga, both from a LAL book!  What was good about the exercise is it got them to think about what matters to this author. If I ever taught Consorts of the Caliphs, I’d want them to do something similar: I’d have them write biographies of important women in the style of Ibn al-Sa’i.

The topic of fidelity does recur throughout Consorts of the Caliphs.

Right. But I don’t know if they would think about it as fidelity.

In your introduction, you talk about an earlier version of this translation, which you’d worked on with RRAALL, and you described this version as “Englishing the Arabic.” What’s the space between “Englishing the Arabic” and a good translation?

Effectively, “Englishing the Arabic” is what we’ve been calling “Industry Standard Arabic,” which is the acceptable standard currently.

You could make the argument that this is often a kind of archaic English. Fine. If you are intentionally making it sound that way, then it’s archaic English. But our initial version of Consorts of the Caliphssounded wooden. We wanted to move away from it sounding wooden. It was okay if it sounded strange, of a certain antiquity, of a different culture, of a different context. But why would we want it to sound wooden? Why would we want to make a librarian and a historian of Arabic literature sound like he wasn’t very smart?

When I was trying to demonstrate this to my students, I gave them a passage in Industry Standard, to show them that you can actually “hear” the Arabic. If you know Arabic, you can hear it. If you can’t hear the Arabic when you read the English, then it’s a successful translation from a LAL perspective.

This became clear to us in everything we tackled at LAL. When we picked up a translation of Aristotle from Greek, it didn’t sound wooden. It doesn’t sound like you’re reading Greek. It sounds like you’re reading English. Why, then, when we pick up a manual of legal theory in Arabic, does it sound like you’re reading Arabic? Why not find the idiom?

At the level of lexeme an example I like is sunna. I remember asking Joe Lowry, who translated theEpistle on Legal Theory for LAL, Why don’t you translate sunna? And he said “everyone knows what it means,” and I said: “What does that mean that everyone knows what it means?” The person who buys the book, who’s interested in legal theory, that person is not going to know what sunna means. Which reminds me, I just read an article by Kevin Reinhart, which I hadn’t read for many years, and I’d forgotten that he renders sunna “normative acts,” which is actually an excellent English translation.

Have you gotten pushback from partisans of Industry Standard?

I don’t think so, not in print — but we’re about to.

We’re working on a translation of the diwan of ‘Antarah, and when you see some of the choice we made, there are times when it’s difficult to even work out what the relationship is between the line in English and the line in Arabic. Because we’ve done things like translate [a line as] “Warriors. Hold your ground” when the Arabic is some long line about pulling the reins and God knows what else.

It’s about meaning. What we’re trying to say is: How do we make this mean in English? Not how do we make it a poem, but how do we make it mean. So we’re going to get a lot of flak when the poetry comes out. With the poetry in Ibn al-Sa’i, we stuck pretty close to the Arabic. A purist can’t get too upset.

The person who really cares can read the Arabic, and the person who doesn’t know a word of Arabic shouldn’t be worrying about it.  As many of us maintain, having the Arabic on the left liberates you.

In the introduction, you noted that there was a long discussion over the translation of the word “slave” for jariyah.

Yes, it was a long discussion. It was one of the first things we discussed, because it comes up tight away in the book.

One potential translation was “singing girl.” A group of editors said: First of all they’re not girls, and anyway it demeans and is inaccurate. Another group said: But we want to convey that it’s demeaning. Not everybody agreed.

People who study Abbasid Baghdad know very well that they were slave women, but think of them as important cultural figures, not as singing girl, or slave girl. So we thought about “slave woman.” But then someone pointed out that if we’re going to be using the personal pronoun she throughout, then it’s going to be clear that they’re women.

With every rendering, the important question is: Do we go with what it means, or are we worried about conveying in the English something that you can get from the Arabic?  In the end, we became increasingly comfortable with slave. Someone pointed out, later on: What about the problem of the American imagination, about slave evoking the North Atlantic slave trade? And we said: How does “slave girl” take care of that? It doesn’t. We decided as a group, it does mean slave after all. That’s what it means.

We also were happy about the fact that if anyone took this seriously from outside the discipline, it could enter the discussion about slavery, as opposed to a kind of precious “singing girl” thing that we keep as a preserve of Arabists who study the singing girls of Baghdad. It’s part of a larger phenomenon of slave-owning.

Were there other words or concepts that you discussed that extensively?

Yes, the names. That was a very big question: Do we translate the names of these women [being profiled]? We were excoriated at an early public event in Abu Dhabi by people incensed that we thought it was okay to translate these women’s pet names.  This was an audience of expatriate mainly Arabs and Muslims. They weren’t offended, but they were taken aback.

When we started out as RRAALL, we thought James Bond women names would work. They’re powerful, but they’re sexualized. But we were made to realize, it’s just not that simple.


We decided that we that we would translate the names of all those who were slaves, but not of any who were free-born. Someone had raised the issue: Why aren’t we translating the caliph’s regnal title? A couple of us made the case that people don’t think about what those things mean. They can, but they don’t. It’s become a name. And that’s because they’re free-born.

We’re very happy with what we settled on. We give the actual name in Arabic, then we provide a translation in quotes so that it’s clear that it’s a kind of pet name. And then we use the regular Arabic name again in the context of the anecdote. So we don’t completely fetishize it, but we also don’t protect the English reader from what would’ve been clear to anyone. If you meet someone and their name is Farah. It’s just like if you meet someone whose name is Faith or Hope — you don’t think about it. But if someone’s name was Treachery, you would notice.

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Paul Buck’s Pressed Curtains Tape Project

August 4th, 2015 · Poetry, Poetry readings, Uncategorized


by Eric Mottram, Paul Buck, Ulli McCarthy, Bill Griffiths, Pierre Joris, Allen Fisher, Robert Kelly, Cris Cheek, Kathy Acker, Jean-Luc Parant


Each boxed set costs £50 – total prices include postage

In the late 1970s Paul Buck initiated a series of cassette releases tied to his magazines Curtains andTwisted Wrist. Of a projected series, only a couple saw the light of day, made to order from master tapes and given handwritten labels. Beyond these 2 tapes (by Eric Mottram and, in combination, Buck and Ulli McCarthy) lay far more extensive recordings of magazine contributors, friends and correspondents.

Some were recorded at Buck’s home in Hebden Bridge, some were sent in correspondence, and others were recorded from public readings. A mixture of straight readings, performance pieces, or improvisations in the area of sound poetry, the archive is a unique collection which captures the experimentation and creative energies of an exciting and influential group of writers and performers.

This boxed set makes the complete collection available for the first time. A number of the recordings have never been heard in public before.

The set contains 10 tapes, as follows:

001: Eric Mottram
002: Paul Buck
003: Ulli McCarthy
004: Bill Griffiths
005: Pierre Joris
006: Allen Fisher
007: Robert Kelly
008: Cris Cheek
009: Kathy Acker
010: Jean-Luc Parant

10 white audio cassette tapes in card slip case + printed booklet containing extensive sleeve notes
Released in an edition of 50 copies
In association with Blank Editions
Sound production: James Torrance
Cover art: Perle Petit

Buy here

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Ernst Jandl would have been 90 today!

August 1st, 2015 · Poetry, Poetry readings, Uncategorized

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Kenneth Irby (November 18, 1936 – July 30, 2015)

July 30th, 2015 · Obituaries, Poet, Poetry

Irby at home in Lawrence, trying to point me toward a CD we wanted to listen to — November 2011.

Irby at home in Lawrence, KS, trying to point me toward a CD we wanted to listen to — November 2011.

Profound sadness at the passing of an old friend, a major poet — whose work is way underappreciated in this, his country —, a great lover of literature, landscape and music. Below a poem from the sixties — p. 133 in his indispensable The Intent On (Collected Poems 1962-2006), North Atlantic Books 2009 — one of the poems I came across early on in his book Relation, and that introduced me to a part of this land I knew nothing about, and which I learned — via Robert Duncan — to call Irbyland. For more on his work, check out the Irby homage on Jacket2, here.


Three Geographical Variations

for Ed Dorn

North out of Lawrence we turned
east before we had to a back
track to Valley Falls and Ozawkie back
roads north into Hiawatha
Old trips of the past will not save us
Noon meals in or out of a calendar
picture quiet and readdress the east
turn into White Cloud and Iowa Point
to reach toward the river and where
the river’s urge in us eased us a little
That is the flow the urge toward
each other links hand in hand as
word in word driving drinking beer all Sunday afternoon
I have come west and at the far ocean remember
It does not matter loose specifics of whose
the linkage matters the flow
the closeness possible the intimations of divinity
as intimations of the dreamed spread land
spread before the eyes of those White Clouds diddled sooners
even the willful wily promoters
looking west at the land’s run
out from under them


I will not let blood and I do not know
if there is any turning back upon the land
to traverse, how much
traversing now will reopen
what spaces seem nowhere
ease us together—it is not different to go past
the endless misuse of landscape
here in Berkeley or there in New Mexico, what space
is open beyond is open across the whole world
Looks past whatever salvations of individuals
realizing salvation is only to pass
into the space all people live in


There is no need to substitute any world for this one
in order to come into any wonder or more
enter the open imagination. Good and evil
seem kindness and indifference    at each footstep
At the other edge of each tree    another pasture
the shade fallen on each face into the sun
Into each lit house dark street we walk home
The stories where we are all changed
beyond the wardrobes back wall    pass through
The eye is blue wonder brown opener the horizon
shines through upon the toss and fling the ring glints
head up in the air    grass goes by    like starlings
iridescent in the sky

—16 Apr 1966

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James Hansen & Climate Danger in the ‘Hyper-Anthropocene’ Age

July 28th, 2015 · Arctic Ice, Climate Change, Environment, Fossil fuel, Permafrost

SealevelchangeHere the two concluding sections of J. Hansen et alii‘s paper: Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 ◦C global warming is highly dangerous. You can find the whole paper, footnotes, bibliography & figures here.

7 The Anthropocene

The Anthropocene (Crutzen and Stoermer, 2000), the era in which humans have contributed to global climate change, is usually assumed to have begun in the past few 25 centuries. Ruddiman (2003) suggested that it began earlier, with deforestation affecting CO2 about 8000 years ago. Southern Ocean feedbacks considered in our present paper are relevant to that discussion.

Ruddiman (2003) assumed that 40 ppm of human-made CO2 was needed to explain a 20 ppm CO2 increase in the Holocene (Fig. 24c), because CO2 decreased ∼ 20 ppm, on average, during several prior interglacials. Such a large human source should have left an imprint on δ 13CO2 that is not observed in ice core CO2 (Elsig et al., 2009). Ruddiman (2013) suggests that 13 5 C was taken up in peat formation, but the required peat formation would be large and no persuasive evidence has been presented to support such a dominant role for peat in the glacial carbon cycle.

We suggest that Ruddiman overestimated the anthropogenic CO2 needed to prevent decline of Antarctic temperature. The CO2 decline in interglacial periods is a climate 10 feedback: declining Southern Ocean temperature slows the ventilation of the deep ocean, thus sequestering CO2 . Avoidance of the cooling and CO2 decline requires only human-made CO2 forcing large enough to counteract the weak natural forcing trend, not the larger feedback-driven CO2 changes in prior interglacials, because, if the natural forcings are counteracted, the feedback does not occur. The required human- 15 made contribution to atmospheric CO2 would seem to be at most ∼ 20 ppm, but less if human-made CO2 increased deep ocean ventilation. The smaller requirement on the human source and the low δ 13C content of deep-ocean CO2 make the Ruddiman hypothesis more plausible, but recent carbon cycle models (Kleinen et al., 2015) have been able to capture CO2 changes in the Holocene and earlier interglacials without an 20 anthropogenic source.

Even if the Anthropocene began millennia ago, a fundamentally different phase, a Hyper-Anthropocene, was initiated by explosive 20th century growth of fossil fuel use. Human-made climate forcings now overwhelm natural forcings. CO2 , at 400 ppm in 2015, is off the scale in Fig. 24c. CO2 climate forcing is a reasonable approximation 25 of the net human forcing, because forcing by other GHGs tends to offset negative human forcings, mainly aerosols (IPCC, 2013). Most of the forcing growth occurred in the past several decades, and two-thirds of the 0.9 ◦C global warming (since 1850) has occurred since 1975 (update of Hansen et al., 2010, available at http://www.columbia. edu/~mhs119/Temperature/).

Our analysis paints a different picture than IPCC (2013) for how this HyperAnthropocene phase is likely to proceed if GHG emissions grow at a rate that continues to pump energy at a high rate into the ocean. We conclude that multi-meter sea level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic con- 5 sequences of such large sea level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.

This image of our planet with accelerating meltwater includes growing climate chaos and storminess, as meltwater causes cooling around Antarctica and in the North At- 10 lantic while the tropics and subtropics continue to warm. Rising seas and more powerful storms together are especially threatening, providing strong incentive to phase down CO2 emissions rapidly.

8 Summary implications

Humanity faces near certainty of eventual sea level rise of at least Eemian proportions, 15 5–9 m, if fossil fuel emissions continue on a business-as-usual course, e.g., IPCC scenario A1B that has CO2 ∼ 700 ppm in 2100 (Fig. S21). It is unlikely that coastal cities or low-lying areas such as Bangladesh, European lowlands, and large portions of the United States eastern coast and northeast China plains (Fig. S22) could be protected against such large sea level rise.

Rapid large sea level rise may begin sooner than generally assumed. Amplifying feedbacks, including slowdown of SMOC and cooling of the near-Antarctic ocean surface with increasing sea ice, may spur nonlinear growth of Antarctic ice sheet mass loss. Deep submarine valleys in West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin of East Antarctica, each with access to ice amounting to several meters of sea level, provide gateways 25 to the ocean. If the Southern Ocean forcing (subsurface warming) of the Antarctic ice sheets continues to grow, it likely will become impossible to avoid sea level rise of several meters, with the largest uncertainty being how rapidly it will occur.

The Greenland ice sheet does not have as much ice subject to rapid nonlinear disintegration, so the speed at which it adds to 21st century sea level rise may be limited. However, even a slower Greenland ice sheet response is expected to be faster than carbon cycle or ocean thermal recovery times. Therefore, if climate forcing continues 5 to grow rapidly, amplifying feedbacks will assure large eventual mass loss. Also with present growth of freshwater injection from Greenland, in combination with increasing North Atlantic precipitation, we already may be on the verge of substantial North Atlantic climate disruption.

Storms conjoin with sea level rise to cause the most devastating coastal damage. 10 End-Eemian and projected 21st century conditions are similar in having warm tropics and increased freshwater injection. Our simulations imply increasing storm strengths for such situations, as a stronger temperature gradient caused by ice melt increases baroclinicity and provides energy for more severe weather events. A strengthened Bermuda High in the warm season increases prevailing northeasterlies that can help 15 account for stronger end-Eemian storms. Weakened cold season sea level pressure south of Greenland favors occurrence of atmospheric blocking that can increase wintertime Arctic cold air intrusions into northern midlatitudes.

Effects of freshwater injection and resulting ocean stratification are occurring sooner in the real world than in our model. We suggest that this is an effect of excessive small 20 scale mixing in our model that limits stratification, a problem that may exist in other models (Hansen et al., 2011). We encourage similar simulations with other models, with special attention to the model’s ability to maintain realistic stratification and perturbations. This issue may be addressed in our model with increased vertical resolution, more accurate finite differencing method in ocean dynamics that reduces noise, and 25 use of a smaller background diffusivity.

There are many other practical impacts of continued high fossil fuel emissions via climate change and ocean acidification, including irreplaceable loss of many species, as reviewed elsewhere (IPCC, 2013, 2014; Hansen et al., 2013a). However, sea level rise sets the lowest limit on allowable human-made climate forcing and CO2 , because of the extreme sensitivity of sea level to ocean warming and the devastating economic and humanitarian impacts of a multi-meter sea level rise. Ice sheet response time is shorter than the time for natural geologic processes to remove CO2 from the climate system, so there is no morally defensible excuse to delay phase-out of fossil fuel emissions as 5 rapidly as possible.

We conclude that the 2 ◦C global warming “guardrail”, affirmed in the Copenhagen Accord (2009), does not provide safety, as such warming would likely yield sea level rise of several meters along with numerous other severely disruptive consequences for human society and ecosystems. The Eemian, less than 2 ◦C warmer than pre-industrial 10 Earth, itself provides a clear indication of the danger, even though the orbital drive for Eemian warming differed from today’s human-made climate forcing. Ongoing changes in the Southern Ocean, while global warming is less than 1 ◦C, provide a strong warning, as observed changes tend to confirm the mechanisms amplifying change. Predicted effects, such as cooling of the surface ocean around Antarctica, are occurring 15 even faster than modeled.

Our finding of global cooling from ice melt calls into question whether global temperature is the most fundamental metric for global climate in the 21st century. The first order requirement to stabilize climate is to remove Earth’s energy imbalance, which is now about +0.6 W m−2 , more energy coming in than going out. If other forcings are unchanged, removing this imbalance requires reducing atmospheric CO2 20 from ∼ 400 to ∼ 350 ppm (Hansen et al., 2008, 2013a).

The message that the climate science delivers to policymakers, instead of defining a safe “guardrail”, is that fossil fuel CO2 emissions must be reduced as rapidly as practical. Hansen et al. (2013a) conclude that this implies a need for a rising carbon 25 fee or tax, an approach that has the potential to be near-global, as opposed to national caps or goals for emission reductions. Although a carbon fee is the sine qua non for phasing out emissions, the urgency of slowing emissions also implies other needs including widespread technical cooperation in clean energy technologies (Hansen et al., 2013a).

The task of achieving a reduction of atmospheric CO2 is formidable, but not impossible. Rapid transition to abundant affordable carbon-free electricity is the core requirement, as that would also permit production of net-zero-carbon liquid fuels from electricity. The rate at which CO2 emissions must be reduced is about 6 % yr−1 to reach 5 350 ppm atmospheric CO2 by about 2100, under the assumption that improved agricultural and forestry practices could sequester 100 GtC (Hansen et al., 2013a). The amount of CO2 fossil fuel emissions taken up by the ocean, soil and biosphere has continued to increase (Fig. S23), thus providing hope that it may be possible to sequester more than 100 GtC. Improved understanding of the carbon cycle and non-CO2 10 forcings are needed, but it is clear that the essential requirement is to begin to phase down fossil fuel CO2 emissions rapidly. It is also clear that continued high emissions are likely to lock-in continued global energy imbalance, ocean warming, ice sheet disintegration, and large sea level rise, which young people and future generations would not be able to avoid. Given the inertia of the climate and energy systems, and the grave 15 threat posed by continued high emissions, the matter is urgent and calls for emergency cooperation among nations.

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Lee, Again

July 27th, 2015 · Poet, Poetry

As I opened the beautiful Fulcrum Press hard-cover edition of Lee’s The White Room, out fell a letter and typescript of the poem “Old Bosham Bird Watch”, which you can read in toto in the available extracts from the Collected. Here the first page of Lee’s typescript:Leems

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Lee Harwood (1939-2015)

July 27th, 2015 · Obituaries


Sad to see an old friend and a poet I admired very much leave our world. You should check out his Collected Poems published by Shearsman Books in 2004. Download a PDF sampler from this book here. Below, a poem from the early 70s:

Five postcards to Alban Berg

waves break over the headland
the pain of closeness  / “to a lover”
The mountains
walk in the mountains
The lightness of touch
clear air

the blue sky
(pan to) spring ploughing
and cattle grazing on the (green) slopes
the wild flowers abundant and      many coloured
Can you see now?   can I… ?
Many miles away…      Here

The dark night  / “close to your lover”
the rain and wind outside

in the evenings as the sun sets
red skies and the swimming

the insult of an image
when it’s only what’s here before you

the skies clear        (blue)
midday       the moon still there
sheep deep in the flowers      daisies and poppies
Off beyond the distance “you”
Minutes in the day when (maybe) the pictures cross
and focus
The island     firm
the mountains up into the sky      “beyond”

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Neo-Beat Amazigh Band

July 25th, 2015 · Amazigh, Arab Culture, Music, Translation

It was a pleasure last week to get together with poet El Habib Louai & his band — for their lovely gig in Brooklyn that included Louai’s Arabic translation of Ginsberg’s “America” & plenty of other goodies, poetry- and music-wise. They are a treat! Catch them if you get a chance…


Neo-Beat-Band_Page_2Neo-Beat-Band_Page_3 Neo-Beat-Band_Page_4

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Tomorrow: 50th B-Day of Dylan going Fender Stratocaster

July 24th, 2015 · Music, Whatever

As Carl Wilson remarks on Slate reviewing Elijah Wald’s book Dylan Goes Electric! Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties: “Because history is told by the victors, rock lore holds up the Newport tale as the fierce nonconformist standing up to the timid crowd, but on a deeper level it was one nonconformity against another, a dispute about what it meant to rebel.” And the famous myth about Dylan being booed, bottles thrown on stage, Pete Seeger supposedly asking for an axe to cut the cables, etc. seem to be just that: myth, i.e. one way of telling the story. As Wilson sums up Wald’s version: “Far from being driven from the stage, for instance, Dylan and band actually overstayed their allotted time, the closing-night showcase having been programmed to maximize diversity (and minimize idolatry) by granting tight 15-minute slots. Dylan was in the middle of the bill. There definitely was booing, but the most vociferous was about the shortness of the set. Others were responding to the uneven sound mix; only a minority were folk fundamentalists. (Still, since Dylan had never been received with anything but rapture at Newport, even a scrap of real hostility was news.) Also, nothing seems to have been thrown at the stage except in the solo acoustic encore, when Dylan asked for “an E harmonica” and a tinny rain of mouth harps clattered to the floor beside him.”

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