I'm so pleased and proud to note that Delphi Quarterly, the journal of online interviews with writers of literary prose and poetry that started as a small idea in my head last fall has marked a whole year of existence with its fourth issue this fall.
It's been a tremendous year, and I could not have done it without the help of my early co-editor and fellow-interviewer, Joe Ponepinto, and newer co-editors Dan Gutstein and Shilpa Kameswaran, nor without the interest, enthusiasm, and intellectualism of every single writer-interviewer who has worked assiduously on thoughtful and thought-provoking interviews all year--including Linda Legters, Ankita Bhargava, writers from the Bangalore Writers' Workshop, Jenn Alandy, and again, Dan and Shilpa who started with Delphi as interviewers first.
The year has been wide-ranging and diverse: in earlier issues, we have featured interviews with poets, experimental prose writers, fiction writers, writing teachers, and writer-publishers: Neil Shepard, Gretchen Henderson, Farah Ghuznavi, Sharbari Ahmed, Maureen Thorson, Kathleen Rooney, Justin Sirois, Rheea Mukherjee, Bhumika Anand, Tania Hershman, Steve Himmer, Dan Cafaro, Minal Hijratwalla, and Sarah Gorham.
Truly, we are a writing community, and I thank you all for being and becoming a part of Delphi.
The Fall Issue presents the work of writers Patricia Sarrafian Ward, Dan Gutstein, and writers from the Afghan Women Writers' Project. Please drop in for a read.
And if you'd like to interview for Delphi, or if you have a book of fiction/creative non-fiction/poetry/ecology or a play or film or a writing workshop you'd like to profile, please drop us a line. We want to hear from you!
pleased to say that Delphi Quarterly, the online journal I've been working on
for the last couple months, neglecting Afterviews for, is now live -- yes, the
Oracle speaks :)
now also has a co-editor, writer and LA Review Book Editor Joe Ponepinto. We
think it's a fantastic inaugural issue -- and we are pleased to be featuring
women and men writers, workshop leaders, and publishers. We're also travelling
the world--with writers from the US South to the Northeast and mid-Atlantic to
India and Iraq.
We're all about writers interviewing writers, so if you are a writer of
literary or ecological prose or poetry, please consider introducing a writer
whose work you know on Delphi. Visit our Guidelines page and drop Joe Ponepinto
or me a line at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to be interviewed for a recent or older
publication, or if you'd like to interview other writers occasionally or
regularly for Delphi, also let us know. This is all new, but we hope sometime to
link interviewees to interested interviewers.
was conceived with other writers in mind, so do please spread the word -- if you are a writer, known or unknown, anywhere in the world, this
space is for you, your voice, and the voices of writers you know whose work you
think deserves a wider audience.
I'm happy we've launched, and I look forward to meeting you at Delphi!
More regular fare from Afterviews to appear soon :)
Mountain Rose Herbs are the ones who, through their email newsletter, apprised me of Rosemary Gladstar's lovely new video series where she talks about herbs and herbal remedies from her garden retreat in Vermont. I should probably note I am not in any way affiliated with anyone mentioned, I just love their ethos and their practice. In her recent videos Rosemary Gladstar talks about herbalism as an art and a practice, and in this latest one where she walks you through her Vermont summer garden brimming with yarrow and goldenrod and burdock and evening primrose, she talks of solar energy and how plants harness the immense energy of the sun so when we consume them we are consuming "pre-digested sunlight" -- isn't that the truth.
I recently watched a video on Ayurveda--Ayurveda: The Art of Being--where one of the practitioners explained Ayurveda as seeing all plant and animal creation as part of the same whole, so that the Ayurvedic herbalist or healer is mere conduit between the part in need of healing/the deficiency in one and the part offering the healing/the bounty in the other. Isn't that interesting?
One of the books on my bedtime shelf lately is Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs, which is an introduction or beginner's guide to herbs you can grow in your garden and use for all sorts of things, including colds and flus and infections and cleansing and vivifying. She also takes you step by step through the processes of creating tinctures and salves and infusions and teas. Being the unfortunate kind of reader who craves pictures this book is perfect for me, with its glossy photos of plants and plant remedies and golden honeys in bottles. I am dipping in to read, one plant at a time.
Among the herbs she mentions, in our own tentative, newly-dug New England garden this blazing, cooling October is: calendula, oregano, rosemary, wild plantain, straggly purslane, lavender.
Regarding books: I had thought I might have finished something this week--I am reading
Duo Duo's Snow Plain, a collection of short stories by a modern Chinese
poet, and dipping into Isaac Babel's Collected Stories--the combination of reading these two together makes for a surfeit of surrealism, at least, the stories I have read so far, of a frozen woman in a cabin of snow, and a man-angel with wings made of infant's sighs, no less--and re-reading
the separate beauties of Winter Stars by Larry Levis and Adrienne Rich's An Atlas of the
Difficult World, and Linda Gregg's Chosen by the Lion--this poetry that I
love takes me back to those long-past MFA days, for better and for
worse...you know you have grown older when you find yourself writing fiction out of studying poetry, once, a lifetime ago, or perhaps more--
I didn't realize I was becoming a news-pointer, but apparently, in absence of my own reviews that is what is happening around here--so until next week, sayonara, and I'll plan to Actually review, next week!
A story Matter of a Few Hours appears this week in Kweli Journal, which has recently become a quarterly. Earlier this year in March Kweli published three poems I have read often at readings in DC, but just never placed. I am so admiring of Kweli, because it is diverse, it is unafraid, and it is run by thoughtful, visionary artists, like Laura Pegram. I'm very pleased to have a story appear in such stellar company, with socially aware poets and fiction writers. Kweli is Swahili for Truth--and they are one of the rarer journals in the literary landscape, they seek to publish work that reflects the reality and diversity of America, not the unreal sameness courted by many, many others.
This spring too, Greensboro Review published a poem, Marking the Fields, on a subject I have spent years avoiding writing about, and I'm thrilled to report that Christine Lee Zilka of Kartika Review has accepted a story, Princess America, due out this fall. I feel especially honored to be included among other Asian-American writers, and, as with Kweli, with Asian-American and Latin-American and African-American writers as well.
Natural Herbal Health and Nutrition for Writers (and anyone else)
Vaguely, at the back of my mind, is a small and growing desire to become better versed in herbalism. Having spent a life being infatuated with plants of all kinds, and more than a decade pursuing TCM and Ayurveda and native American and European herbs, it is not after all a too-large leap to want to spread what I learn of the natural powers and holistic healing of plants. I love what many herbalists--Susun Weed, Rosemary Gladstar--call plants that heal us: our plant allies. I have become such a fan of herbs of all kinds lately I am thinking of pursuing the study of herbs in a more formal way. I guess I need to research first what herbalist courses are out there and where and who to study with, etc. Meanwhile I thought I'd offer any visiting writer a little herbal gem borrowed from my reading for the week, and I'll start with Nettle Tea, from Susun Weed.
If you're experiencing a flagging of energy by midday or mid-afternoon, if you feel at times separated from your once-alive burning drive and the ambition and energy you might have experienced in your teens and twenties, if you'd like to wake up every day with renewed vigor and vitality, if you need stamina and energy to finish your work on a daily basis, look to the lowly herb, the stinging nettle. There are many stories about this herb, and many herbalists rave about "her" powers, her multi-vitamin content, her mineral content, and her vitalizing effects on the adrenal glands and kidneys--nettle is not a stimulant like ginseng or ephedra but a slow and reliant infuser of energy and stamina.
For more, read herbalist Corinna Wood's article in Susun Weed's newsletter, and Susun's own words on the herb, and another informative article by Susun which tell you more and offer various recipes for herbal teas, infusions, vinegars you can make with nettle--and carry some amazing stories and testimonials from new drinkers of nettle. You can find nettle tea in your health food store or order it online from any herbal place (I use Mountain Rose Herbs). I tried it on Susun Weed's recommendation, and I have to say I did not experience its effects as slow. I drank 2-3 cups a day of nettle infusion, made the way she recommends, for a week, and felt my energy literally go through the roof--I simply don't flag anymore midday and I seem to have found enormous founts of mental and psychic energy to finish all the writing projects I am halfway through and have often dithered in self-doubt about. No side-effects, no energy drops as in caffeine, no sleep disruptions.
Seriously, it works. If you try the teabags, 2-3 cups a day of nettle tea--let it steep a few extra minutes--work just as well. It's like a mild green tea that way. But the infusion, boy, you can see and smell and taste the minerals. The infusion made and kept overnight turns almost black by morning. Very strange to me first time I saw it, but the longer it is kept steeped, it also releases a deep, blossomy kind of fragrance and taste. May not last beyond 36 hours though, you may want to refrigerate it after it is made.
I'm on a quest to drop pills and capsules of vitamins, and I like the boost of nutrients in nettle infusion. For vitamin and mineral content, please see Susun and Corinne's articles.
This poem from Muriel Rukeyser, poet scientist, social activist, feminist is on the Poetry Foundation website--oddly evocative of our time although written before cell phones, iPhones and Droids, the Net--in 1968:
"In our period, they say there is free speech. They
say there is no penalty for poets, There is no penalty for writing
poems. They say this. This is the penalty."
I have read her work before to teach it but I want to read more of her work this fall merely to read it--like Denise Levertov, she wrote out of passion and conviction, she opposed war and stood up against it--to read of her and other poets who marched against the Vietnam War and spoke out against it makes one wonder: where are the marches against these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq now?--I marched with 2 or 3 in the early years. What happened to the anti-war marches? Why was war not really mentioned in that first Presidential debate? Why are we reading no news about it except in the alternative media? Has America accepted war, or is America wallowing in information blackout by the everyday media?
I looked up The World Can't Wait, and apparently there have been protests in front of the UN this week and there are actually marches this weekend, in Chicago, New York, San Francisco. It's worth reprinting Debra Sweet's preface: "Obama expanded the U.S. war on the people of Afghanistan begun 11
years ago by the Bush regime, now the longest war in U.S. history. The
U.S. occupation is fought not only with military personnel, and
mercenaries for hire, but increasingly by Special Forces and unmanned
"The U.S. continues to imprison and indefinitely detain people without
charges, conducting night house raids that terrorize innocent people,
and conditions leave women worse off than when the U.S. invaded.
"This war MUST end now, not in 2024, a date arrived at by Obama and Karzai, and not on an obscure date in the future!"
Amen to that. Please march if you're in those cities and can do it!
Well, having informally hiatus'd for almost two years now, I probably should start a new blog--I am so lost in writing short fiction, long fiction, poetry though currently I have put reviewing lately on the back-burner, it's a lovely thing to do but it does take time and in between dashing with my lovely 7-year-old Sophie to piano classes and gym classes and soccer practice and soccer games and school potlucks I am lucky to get my week's reading in let alone writing.
Not to mention becoming interested in herbalism, fitness, and health--I am currently reading Feed Your Tiger by Letha Hadady, and Asian Health Secrets (her book too) and planning to live on green tea and apples and mushrooms and seaweed--these are incredible books, full of amazing information on Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs, homeopathy, nutrition, cleansing.
There's Susun Weed too, for her assured and compendious knowledge of native American and European and other herbs. If you have the slightest hint of a weight issue or a hormone balance issue or an age issue or really a health issue of any kind, read their books--really illuminating and life-changing.
I am also reading Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks--dreamily, in snatches, on the treadmill (maybe that's why I haven't finished it yet), week after week. It's a lovely, wrenching, amazing book. What's a bit shocking about it is that he apparently wrote it in 4 months. We're talking about a book that seems to have been written after a great deal of research on the war. His capacity for perceptive and credible description, page after page, stops me in my tracks. The movie--or rather, television serial from BBC I think--is on PBS, or at least it was when I watched it in the spring--and is wrenching in itself, but the book is of course always so much more of an immersion. Ravishing in places.
Set mostly around the time of the Great War (First World War) it follows the story of a young English man who is working in France and falling in lust and love with his employer's wife and then enduring various vicissitudes which propel him into signing up for the military which of course opens up new vistas of vicissitudes and almost leads to perdition but not quite, being our sensitive though occasionally frozen protagonist he survives the war and survives the trauma of personal loss, and lives to leave legacies behind for a future progenitor to find.
I have to marvel at what an omniscient narrator can do--the story seems to lurch from third-person limited inside a few of the characters' heads to third-person omniscient, rather casually, on and off, and I can't decide currently if it comes across as too facile or just an odd authorial quirk which establishes a particular kind of narrative authority. Some of the writing seems a little too blunt and hard-fisted, words for words' sake, to establish whatever it is they are establishing--narrative, or character, or setting--and the voice and POV go with that hardness, announcing rather than painting in, but elsewhere there's fluidity in action and image, it's eerily enterable.
There are other books I'm reading, too many at one time!--but maybe I'll spare the world for now and refrain from listing them. I think I want to do something a little different with this blog. I admire writer blogs that are simply personal and open and candid and opinioned, I learn from writer blogs that offer so much on writing. I crave the inspiring and community of listening to and speaking with other writers. And while I have played with the idea of starting a literary journal online, I think currently what I have the time for is a much more casual and candid blog, where I can throw in lovely writing things I find online, maybe on a weekly basis--things that enlighten or inspire or support and sustain or extend one's writing self. God knows we could all do with some inspiring. (Not to mention sustaining...)
So here's one gem, from The Common's website, a tiny video featuring James Salter's travelogue--what some would say his erotic--novel: a long time ago, when I read A Sport and a Pastime, I think it was purely for the language, wanting to drown in that exquisitely lyric prose, but maybe it was also for France, traveling in a dream through France with his (sometimes inexplicable) characters--he talks here about the book--and oh look, another Olympic writer, he wrote this one in 3 months!--and being young and being in France, post-war. Interesting post by Paul Yoon too, on his reading of that book. James Salter at The Common
And because I adore the Paris Review interviews, here's their conversation with James Salter. "Hope but not enthusiasm is the proper state for the writer.” And: "I’m not the first person who feels that it’s the writer’s true
occupation to travel. In a certain sense, a writer is an exile, an
outsider, always reporting on things, and it is part of his life to keep
on the move. Travel is natural."And: "It seems to me that when you read, what you are really listening for is
the voice of the writer. That’s more important than anything else." And so much more--
Gorgeous, lyric, Cry, the Beloved Country published in 1948 has a narrative pull seemingly drawn from both the clarity of the storytelling and the complexity of its subject matter--black struggle in the time of apartheid in South Africa--but also from the strength of its characters and the simultaneous simplicity and depth of the often lyric writing. An old Zulu pastor, Stephen Kumalo, leaves his village Ndotsheni (peopled only by old men and old women, children and babies, for the men have all left, to work and live in the mining compounds or in shanty towns in Johannesburg) in search of his son, whom he discovers ultimately has just committed the unspeakable, the murder of a young white man in Johannesburg, a man, moreover, who has been working for justice for the blacks, and who is the son of the white farmer who owns the arable land above their village. In his search he encounters people, both black and white, who offer him friendship and sustenance; in his turn, he makes his own rescues, offering a home to his "gone-to-the bad" sister and her child, and to the pregnant girlfriend of his son. Jarvis, the father of the slain man, undergoes his own transformations as he comes to understand his dead son through his writings, and begins to work possibly in his memory to help the people of the village, Ndotsheni.
The story is about allegiance, community, and friendship but also about betrayal, as Kumalo's son is abandoned by his accomplices on their arrest, and compelled to face his trial alone. Kumalo too is abandoned by his brother in this, for his son was one of the accomplices--the brother, a public speaker and open critic of the white use and exploitation of black labor, thereby displaying an interesting underside to his character. The whole issue of black crime being examined though, as an offshoot of white treatment of blacks--the forced segregations, the breaking of the tribe and the family--and the various plausible reactions within it--Absalom's fear and confession, his friends' lies, the white court's conviction of Absalom and the levying of the ultimate sentence, amid the backdrop of the unsuccessful mining strikes, the white managers' fear and tight control, the fear the white residents have of the "natives"--offered as part of the spectrum of inequity dominant in the country's narrative. Echoes of Native Son (Richard Wright) in storyline and dramatic center.
Underlying it all is the beauty of the country and its landscapes, a desolate beauty for the people who live in it are suffering. Some of the most beautiful passages in the book arise from the intermittently-used omniscient voice speaking as if to the country, and speaking out of its witness. I liked especially the book's structure and its shifting use of perspective, particularly its striking, unusual use of the larger omniscient addressing stark realities in South Africa interspersed with the more intimate limited-omniscient hovering chiefly over Kumalo and Jarvis, but I was also compelled by the iambic, almost-biblical (Old Testament) tone and rhythm and meter to the narrative.
From its mystical opening: " There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it" to the rise and return of the omniscient voice with its powerful words: "Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much," the language in the book, born of voice, drives the narrative and keeps you deep in the center of the story.
Intense and moving character portrayal too; the characters of Kumalo and Jarvis feel tangible by the end of the book. The novel has been widely celebrated and lavishly praised and made into a movie, available in audio, etc. Highly recommended. Makes me want to go read all of Alan Paton's other work now...
Thank you again, all of you who entered the Authorbuzz book giveaway and sent me your notes, well-wishes, and emails with fascinating ghost stories of your own. Thanks especially for waiting, since I found myself first wrapped up in schoolwork, then needing to finish school work, then rushing to do last-minute Christmassy things for my daughter. I'm coming out of all the fogs now! and hoping to become a better blogger this year -- so stay tuned!
Meanwhile, congratulations! to the 6 winners of a copy of Temporary Lives: Glendel Williams, Virginia Campbell, Mari Rusk, Victoria Guardado, Joan Bendall, and Fran Pyeatt.
Not everyone sent in a ghost story but everyone's names were entered in the drawing anyway. The stories you sent were variously brief or detailed, several intriguing and compelling. Only one librarian sent in her story, and it's a fascinating one (see below). Thank you too, those of you who entered but unfortunately didn't win a copy--I would love to be able to send you all copies, I wish I could afford to! I do hope it won't stop you from getting a copy of Temporary Lives in some other fashion, maybe from your library, and reading it anyway!
With their prior permission, I post the winners' stories below--enjoy!
"When I was about ten years old, I woke up one night and saw this pretty woman standing by my bed, smiling down at me. I looked at her and noticed that I could see the wall through her body. I saw that she had a blue dress on, but it was transparent, too. I felt no fear, no animosity. She was smiling kindly. I just turned over then and went back to sleep. The next morning, I described this lady to my mom and she said it must have been my aunt, her sister, who had been shot in a hunting accident a few months before I was born. The woman's dress and hair that I described were exactly the same as my aunt's when she was buried. I never saw the lady again."-- Glendel Williams, Parsons, KS "I have lived in the same house for over 30 years. My mother and I owned the house together. She passed away several years ago. I have had many paranormal experiences in my home, both before and after my mother passed away. The first experience was to glance over at a living room window late one night and see the "Scream" face looking in! I rushed to the door and turned on the front porch light, and not a "soul" was about! Another time, on Halloween night, I heard distinct footsteps on the wooden floor of the upstairs hallway. My mother and I were both downstairs and no other "human" was in the house. One night, I went upstairs to my room without turning on the stairway light. When I got to the doorway of my room, a large misty shape moved from the area of the doorway and went across the room and out the window. One bright Sunday morning, I had overslept, which is a rare occurrence. A voice from the doorway of my room said: "Are you getting up?". I looked over through sleep-filled eyes and saw the blurred image of a large friendly blonde woman dressed in red and royal blue. I answered, and then realized it wasn't my mother! The "woman" was twice the size of my mother (who was actually downstairs in the kitchen). Since my mother passed away, I have noticed unusual scents in the house. I have smelled my grandfather's pipe tobacco, my grandmother's lily of the valley, and my mother's fingernail polish remover. All of these people are deceased, and none of those items are in the house! The time that I was the most afraid was when I came home to find my house almost in a vacuum state. There seemed to be no air, no sound, and no smell of any kind in the house. My cats were in hiding. I don't know what had been in the house, but it had some kind of mojo!" -- Virginia Campbell, Clifton Forge, VA
"I've had several types of questionable experiences with something present.
My neighbor's house was for sale and they were selling his furnishings. I didn’t know anything about why his house was for sale, but I definitely felt " a presence". I had met him a couple of times. But I was amazed that everything in his house was for sale. I asked the person representing the house why "ALL" his stuff was for sale?? She said he had died, and I immediately knew he died at home. I could feel his presence! I felt so sad the whole time we were in there, I couldn't explain it. Then I learned he had committed suicide, probably from insulin, because he was losing his eyesight. He was very high up in his company and lived alone. I felt even more sad that I hadn't known and could have offered some assistance. Would it have made a difference?
Another time, I work in a hospital, and at night--my co-worker and I heard all this furniture moving upstairs. We knew they were remodeling the floor above us, but NOT AT NIGHT! We had Security go up there, but no one was there!"-- Mari Rusk, Maple Grove, MN
"My 17-year-old son Manuel was shot and killed 12 days before Christmas 1998. 3 months later, I was sitting on the couch and all of the windows were closed in my apartment. All of a sudden, a breeze that smelled of my son rushed past me and I knew that he had come to visit me." --Victoria Guardado, Anaheim, CA
"I work as a librarian at the Sullivan County Library system in Tennessee. At one point, I was the assistant librarian at our Bloomingdale branch in Kingsport, TN. Our head librarian there worked at the branch for well over 20 years and besides church, it was pretty much the whole focus of her life (she was not married and had no children). While I worked with her, she developed a brain tumor and passed away. After her death, there were several instances, when I am sure that I saw her ghost at the library. One time I was standing before the bathroom mirror washing my hands and I saw just a glance of her in the mirror as she passed behind me. Another time I could swear I saw her sitting in her chair behind the checkout counter. Our cleaning lady was sure that her ghost was knocking books off the shelf while she cleaned. Another time, I was in the bathroom and I sensed her presence, so I just said out loud, "Janice, just let me go to the bathroom in peace!" After I spoke, I sensed that she left the room." -- Fran Pyeatt, Kingsport, TN
Dance on the Turquoise Whale, a story from my new collection of short fiction, For the Sake of the Boy (seeking a publisher :) is live today in the Ether Books app. on Apple--iPhones, -pads, -tunes, etc. Please drop in to read. The Ether Books blog which mentions the post is here. This is a first-time publication of Dance..., and also my first publication in the UK or globally by a UK publisher. (Thank you Ether!)
Ether Books is a new publisher of short fiction on mobile phones and handhelds--and I am awfully happy they have taken a few of my stories. Not having an iPhone myself, I haven't seen the story yet--and I'm yet to figure out how to make it work in iTunes! (if you have any tips for me, let me know!)--but I'm sure it's easier than I am imagining.
If you're a reader, do look through Ether's interesting and growing selection of short fiction and non-fiction--which includes writers such as Hilary Mantel, Tania Hershman, Penelope Lively, Hanif Kureishi, and Paul McCartney. If you're a writer, send in your short fiction to them!
Thanks everyone, for the wonderful--and spooky!--ghost stories trickling in to my mailbox! For those who didn't catch this edition of Authorbuzz, send in your own true-life ghost story to add your name to a drawing for one of 5 signed copies of Temporary Lives I'm giving away. (Via email: email@example.com) Contest still open. And here is the Authorbuzz link, with more about the ghost stories in Temporary Lives: http://authorbuzz.com/dearreader/ramola.shtml
Thanks, too, to all the librarians who have sent me stories of ghosts they've seen--some in libraries! To find out more about the contest for librarians--I'm giving away five author-discounted copies of Temporary Lives to the most striking stories of hauntings emailed to me--here is the Authorbuzz link: http://authorbuzz.com/dearreader/Lramola.shtml
And I hope, with your prior permission (I'll email you first), to post the winning stories right here, so stay tuned!
Some lovely, if astonishing news: Temporary Lives has been named a finalist in fiction for the 13th Annual Literary Award in Fiction from the Library of Virginia, along with Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna (recent winner of the Orange Prize) and Josh Weil's The New Valley. Terribly illustrious company. Their books sound awfully interesting. Feel a bit like an impostor. But of course charmed and gratified. Thrilled to be in such company.
The full press release can be found here: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/news/press/13thAnnualLiteraryAwardsFinalists.pdf
And an interesting, most gracious review of Temporary Lives from Charles May, the noted short story scholar: http://may-on-the-short-story.blogspot.com/2010/08/temporary-lives-by-ramola-d.html
I'd wanted to continue with my AWP posts -- so much to say! -- but realize the 4th is tomorrow and am reminded by The World Can't Wait that we are apparently living in a time -- and a place -- where one gruesome war after another is brought up, sanctioned, and embarked on, while most of the US shops on, in numb consumerism, unable to connect those images on the screen with the sinister bottomless churning of the military-industrial machine financed by us. Middle America needs jobs, so let's invent Endless War, sorry, continue it endlessly so we are lost in the loop of weapons manufacture, weapons sales, weapons utilization against various external entities for various presented-as-noble reasons and no-one will want to break out of it, so smooth is the spinning.
Two falls ago, not happy about the Pledge of Allegiance, and not sanguine about the question demanding the bearing of arms--which most born-here Americans never have to face, and which could only elicit an equivocation--but nevertheless, wanting to vote somewhere, I became a citizen of the US, after waiting--and being disappointed--for years, for India to allow dual citizenship. India apparently wants to designate living-abroad-citizens Persons of Indian Origin--there's a PIO card I'm yet to obtain--who have to renounce their Indian citizenship, but whose Indianness apparently won't be contested. The US wants new citizens to swear they will bear arms (if needed in a war), and I don't think this is merely a throwback to those old times when the right to bear arms was a big deal, it's a deliberate inclusion on that application form for citizenship.
All that being said, I think it's important to speak out when a government of a country one is/or has become a citizen of continues to engage in acts of violence--war is systematized violence, isn't it--against the citizens of other countries. We do not become citizens of governments, we become citizens of countries. (Yes I know the latter warrants an essay on its own...)
And what better time to speak of it than now, the eve of the Fourth--going beyond the fireworks and the picnics and the numbers of flags being sold everywhere...it's very very sad, but we live in a country whose government is waging war in several countries, supporting war in several countries, and often engaging in hostile actions against its own citizens, and if we're not informed, and we don't protest, we remain complicit.
The World Can't Wait is running an ad campaign, seeking funding for a run in Rolling Stone, on war crimes committed by the Obama administration in Afghanistan. Their Crimes are Crimes statement, looking for signatures, can be found here.
Human Rights Watch reports that "France, Germany, and the United Kingdom use foreign intelligence obtained under torture in the fight against terrorism"--the press release, and the posted report can be found here.
CodePink, Women for Peace, runs many campaigns and protests against war and the funding of war, and this one about the incredible killing power and continuous killing of civilians--in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq--by drones, offers chilling statistics about what these constant killer machines are doing, with our tax funds.
Free Gaza, the international human rights group which organized the Freedom Flotilla carrying aid for the Palestinians under siege in Gaza and which was attacked by the Israeli Navy May 31, has released its report on the attack on the ship Mavi Marmara, their press release and report can be found here.
Brave New Foundation has posted its entire documentary Rethink Afghanistan online. If you really believe the US is helping rebuild Afghanistan or save Afghanistan from the Taliban, this documentary is a must-see.
Restrepo, the film chronicling a year's deployment of a US platoon in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, was released by National Geographic on June 25, and is showing at E Street Cinema in DC.
Alternative Methods, a play about torture in Iraq, which "explores indefinite detention, learned helplessness, and the deep involvement of psychologists in torture" written and produced by a former Writer's Center student and friend of mine, Patricia Davis, is running now at the Capital Fringe Festival in DC. The site has all the information about shows, as well as dozens of links to further reading and other advocacy organizations.
Of creating art out of what one sees and lives through, in his speech accepting the 1980 Nobel Prize of Literature, the poet Czeslaw Milosz said: ""To see" means not only to have before one's eyes. It may mean also to preserve in memory. "To see and to describe" may also mean to reconstruct in imagination. A distance achieved, thanks to the mystery of time, must not change events, landscapes, human figures into a tangle of shadows growing paler and paler. On the contrary, it can show them in full light, so that every event, every date becomes expressive and persists as an eternal reminder of human depravity and human greatness. Those who are alive receive a mandate from those who are silent forever. They can fulfill their duties only by trying to reconstruct precisely things as they were, and by wresting the past from fictions and legends."
So, while everyone else typed their notes up at Denver, on the plane from Denver, and directly post Denver, I wrote mine in my head mostly and find I have them these days as a sort of subterranean constant companion--procrastination is my middle name apparently, I could possibly take up a new career selling it by the pound. I'd like to say I was so wrapped in teaching, writing, reviewing, playing with Sophie--not to mention taking her to school, signing up for her next school, also to tennis, piano, ballet--not to mention getting caught up in all the myriad little things we necessarily do to hold the world together sundawn to sundown--but I kinda know about those writers out there who do Everything and do it All the time and generally put me to shame.
The spring semester ended and the summer semester started too soon. I am back to teaching online--two classes through the Writer's Center, one through GW--back to sneaking time in between grading for my own writing, back to the old craving for time to read. Nevertheless, here is some of what I wanted to say, about AWP, which to me was a marvellous experience, and a first, since I've never been able to afford it before, time or money-wise. (This time it was all-expense-paid, thanks to the Grace Paley prize--for which yes I'm very grateful--they flew me out, put me up, wined me, dined me, all of it, very dizz-inducing.)
********* It was nice, first of all, to run into Jane Shore at the airport, and then after that Ethelbert Miller, and then later, Nancy Naomi Carlson on the plane, and, since we all shared that ill-fated flight to Denver which was held up by the sneakily-smoking Qatari diplomat who had to choose that particular evening of all the 365 in the year (with all of us trapped in a pressurized cabin thirty thousand feet above sea level, literally rocking above the Rockies) to sass some seriously unsassable flight attendants about lighting bombs on his shoes and thus precipitating a national crisis which held us up from check-in at our hotels for at least 5 hours if not more--a saga I should probably expound on elsewhere!--we definitely had time to catch up.
The funny thing was, I had carried with me the Dec 2009 issue of The Chronicle to read the interviews with Colum McCann and Ethelbert Miller on the plane, and then we ran into Ethelbert at the airport, which was marvellous. If you've never met him, not only is he a terrific poet and poet's advocate and literary editor and social commentator and activist, he is just the nicest person, with lots of advice for someone with a new book who is still exploring ways to promote it. Ethelbert runs a blog at http://eethelbertmiller1.blogspot.com/
I wanted especially to make a note of his advice to writers at the tail-end of Shonda Buchanan's interview with him: "It's important to keep tradition alive. Try and document as much as possible. This will help to reclaim memory in the future....it's important for all young writers to understand that they have the capability to shape history and not simply be shaped by it. I would remind writers to see themselves as witnesses, and to always speak the truth to the people, as well as truth to power..."
I read a story this cool rainy afternoon at The Writer's Center in Bethesda to a small and intimate group of listeners who braved the dripping rain beside the wonderfully and diversely talented Dan Gutstein, who read a series of variously intense and playful non/fictions from his new book titled Non/Fiction. It's a book to dip into and savor, and it's another I'm adding to my review list for this summer.
The story I read (from Temporary Lives) was The Man on the Veranda, written years ago in the first flush of Garcia Marquez fascination, published in small spiral notebook, also making an Honorable Mention in the Zoetrope Fiction prize (2003 I think). It's the first time I read a story whole, and I was worried about boring my readers to death.
Choosing a story to read at a reading is an interesting exercise--I don't want to keep reading the same story, but it seems like some stories elicit a stronger reaction than others. Balancing the niceties of time constraints with excerpts intending to whet rather than dampen interest in the rest of the work, with being present in the moment and responding to audience reaction while still planning a few things to say, etc. all seems very delicate. Still, The Man... is a story I like, and I learned a few things reading it all the way through aloud like this--one, as one of the audience also advised me later, I don't really need to read every paragraph! to keep a sense of the central narrative alive, and two, each time I rush as I worry about time (in a subterranean attempt to ease the listener) I could actually lose a listener. Lessons to apply to the next reading, I guess.
It was lovely to read with Dan Gutstein though, whom I've shared an office with at GW, and also charmant to run into Mark Wallace, prolific author of poetry and fiction and various other forms, also from (even longer ago) my days of teaching composition and literature at GW. It felt like a GW thing, which was cool, and raised echoes of the last, great reading, in April at GW, with Gina Welch, who read from her very intriguing memoir of living among evangelical Christians in Jerry Falwell country, In the Land of the Believers. (For more on that reading, please see Tess Malone's vibrant blog post in April on the GW English Blog.)
That was a very special reading, for many reasons, not least that I come from as-dedicated and often evangelical Christians in the deep south of India, which seems to bear uncanny resemblance to the deep south here in the US, and read from the one story in Temporary Lives which touches on this (the title story)--not to mention how extraordinary it was reading with Gina, who is amazingly talented and charismatic, and, although it was rather surprising to see the room so packed, it was also nice to end my semester at GW on such a high note. Another book on my list!
For now I'm reading Ariel Sabar's My Father's Paradise : A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq, also a book I discovered on attending a reading at GW--a fascinating memoir of his experiences in Iraq and his re-creation of his father's and other relatives' lives--especially interesting to me because of my (maternal) grandfather's connection with Iraq, a story I am excavating and wanting to write about--after serving in the British Army during World War I he stayed on and lived in Basra and died in Basra, as did my grandmother--another amazing character I want to write about. I'll post a review when I'm done. In addition to catching up to all those posts I wrote in my head for April!