Friday, 1 August 2014

Mazen Maarouf:Palestinian poet and writer

Mazen Maarouf
Mazen Maarouf is a Palestinian poet and writer. Born in 1978 to a Palestinian 1948 refugee family he lived and studied in Beirut. In 2008 he started working for Annaharnewspaper, as a critic of theatre and literature, along with other newspapers including Assafir (Lebanon), the newspaper Al-Quds-el-Arabi (London) and the magazine Qantara (Paris).
His latest collection of poetry is An Angel Suspended On The Clothesline (Dar Riad-Al-Rayyes, Beirut) published in 2012. His previous books are The Camera Doesn’t Capture Birds (1st edition: Dar Al-Anwar, Beirut 2004, 2nd edition: Dar Al-Jamal, Beirut 2010) and Our Grief Resembling Bread (Dar Al-Farabi, Beirut, 2000). He has performed several poetry readings in Lebanon and at the Voix de la méditerrannée (Lodève/ France, 2010), Poésie Marseille (Marseille/ France, 2010) and  Reel Festivals,(Edinburgh/ Beirut, 2011). A documentary was made about Maarouf on the behalf of Reel Festivals, directed by the filmmaker Roxana Vilk. 
Mazen Maarouf’s poetry has been translated in English, French, German, Spanish, Swedish, Maltese, Icelandic, Chinese, Malay and Urdu. Some of his texts were published in literary magazines in France, Scotland, Iceland, Sweden, China and Malta. Mazen Maarouf lives in Reykjavik.
He took  part in the 2013 Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival.
Some of his poems
Original language: Arabic
Translated into English by Sinan Antoon and Jasim Mohamad
Theme: Impressions from the Mediterranean

A Colored Pin
My face
may resemble Christ
I am not a woodcutter
to make a crucifix
out of my bones
and hang my body on it
like a dirty laboratory coat.
One day
I will empty my mouth
of smiles
and trample on them
just as a child would trample on a terrified breath
inside my lungs,
in narrow corridors
it so happens
that you find a stiff bird
nailed with a colored pin
believing he is perched on a branch
and that soon rain will fall
a hand opens the window
to rescue him
from the long waves of coughing
that haunt me.
My voice
Is plain bread
I dream
of distributing it
among my exhausted enemies..
dangling it
on electricity posts
for the birds..
drying it
as ceilings
that soon collapse
on the heads of their inhabitants.
To feed
the hunger of a dying fish
or inject it
as a shot of adrenaline
into a dog‘s throat
whose soft barking
was run over by a tricycle
when he crossed the road
together with my beloved
believing himself
to be a tame sack of vegetables.
But you are sad
and I have neither an extra sock
to buy a smile for you
Nor a screen of a damaged TV
inside which I could draw you:
A girl
carrying her torn teddy bear
who is crying
for a reason we know not.
And you are sad
and I
am an capsized cicada
because the weather is peaceful
cotton plants are added to the scene
and the girl
on the garden’s lap
two dimples
on the teddy bear’s face
his belly gets filled with cotton
her eyes
with tears
but the cicada suddenly rises
maliciously leaving the scene
in the first scrap cart
because he is tired
of failing to turn
into a button
by looking at the sky
that way.
About Death
When we die
The words we haven‘t said yet
Turn into bubbles
That inflate the body
And smuggle it out of the grave
While the cemetery guard sleeps
The stone slab over our bodies
Collides with us
And refuses to displace.
We ask for help from insects we don‘t care for
A worm here
Another there
Each insect nibbles one
Of those words
Leaving behind
But erasers
Piling up next to one another
Forming a skeleton
That comes back from school
Missing one piece.
My portion of sleep
Is four hours and eleven minutes.
I roll my pierced heart
on the bedcover
It barges into the door
a line of mud behind.
I believe
that a tree
will arrive one night
to stand
beside the line.
A second tree
will follow
A third
A fourth
A ninth. . .etc.
One night
the line will grow bigger
becoming a street
One night
friends will flow
out of my head
While I sleep.
They will come on the street
take a nap
under the trees.
And I
Will wake up one night
afraid of solitude
and follow them.
I throw my heart in the air
Or tails
I try by myself to guess:
My eyelid cannot be the edge of a balcony …
And this sparrow landing on the handle of the door
The handle made of an old rib
Just a confusion
The tale is open on the page of hope
And I am there
Opening my hands widely
Spreading my ten fingers like pins
To fix me down on the page
Whenever my thumb
Gets close to turn it over
I see its shadow
I thought it was an apple
Falling from the sleeve of one of the genies who live above
And it would hit my head and soak the tale with blood.
By Mazen Maarouf, translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid and Nathalie Handal

There is only one way
to scream:
remembering that you’re…Palestinian.
One way to gaze at your face
in the bus window:
with the passing trees
and the porters who appear
whenever you stop.
One way
to reach the ozone layer:
lightly, like a balloon.
One way to cry:
because you really are a bastard.
One way
to place your hand on your lover’s breasts
and dream:
of distant things
like the Louvre
and a small apartment in a Paris suburb,
and of so much
and so many books.
One way to die:
provoke one of the snipers
in the morning’s early hours.
One way to say whore:
to the whore in your bed.
One way to smoke hash:
in an elevator, alone,
at eleven at night.
One way to write a poem:
miserably, in the bathroom.
One way to scream:
in the sewer,
where your face appears
for a second
in the shit-filled waters
to remind you
of how you’re nothing,
absolutely nothing,
but a Palestinian.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Vijay Seshadri:One more pride of India

                                Vijay Seshadri

Vijay Seshadri was born in Bangalore, India, in 1954 and came to America at the age of five. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio, where his father taught chemistry at Ohio State University. His poetry collections include 3 Sections (Graywolf Press, 2013), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; The Long Meadow (Graywolf Press, 2004), which won the James Laughlin Award; and Wild Kingdom (1996).
His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in A Public SpaceAGNI, The American Scholar, Antaeus, Bomb, Boulevard, Epiphany, FenceFieldLumina, The Nation, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, the Philadelphia Enquirer, PloughsharesPoetryThe San Diego ReaderShenandoah, The Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, the Times Book Review, TriQuarterly, Verse, Western Humanities Review, The Yale Review, and in many anthologies, including Under 35: The New Generation of American Poets, Contours of the Heart, Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times and The Best American Poetry 1997, 2003, 2006, and 2013.
Seshadri has received grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts and has been awarded The Paris Review’s Bernard F. Conners Long Poem Prize and the MacDowell Colony’s Fellowship for Distinguished Poetic Achievement. He holds an AB degree from Oberlin College and an MFA from Columbia University. He currently teaches poetry and nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College, where he has held the Michele Tolela Myers Chair. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. 
The 98th annual Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism, Letters, Drama and Music were announced on Monday by Columbia University. Seshadri's '3 Sections' is a "compelling collection of poems that examine human consciousness, from birth to dementia, in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless," the announcement said.
The prize for the poetry category was given for a "distinguished volume of original verse" by an American author. A Columbia University alum, Seshadri would receive USD 10,000 reward. Here are some profound lines from his award-winning collection of poetry.
Some of his poems


They were in the scullery talking.
The meadow had to be sold to pay their riotous expenses;
then the woods by the river,
with its tangled banks and snags elbowing out of the water,
had to go; and then the summer house where they talked—
all that was left of an estate once so big
a man riding fast on a fast horse
couldn’t cross it in a day. Genevieve. Hortense. Mémé.
The family’s last born, whose pale name is inscribed on the rolls
of the Field of the Cloth of Gold. As in the fresco of the Virgin,
where the copper in the pigment oxidizes to trace a thin green cicatrix
along a seam of Her red tunic,
a suspicion of one another furrowed their
consanguine, averted faces.
Why go anywhere at all when it rains like this,
when the trees are sloppy and hooded
and the foot sinks to the ankle in the muddy lane?
I didn’t stay for the end of the conversation.
I was wanted in Paris. Paris, astounded by my splendor
and charmed by my excitable manner,
waited to open its arms to me.
Bright Copper Kettles

Dead friends coming back to life, dead family,
speaking languages living and dead, their minds retentive,
their five senses intact, their footprints like a butterfly’s,
mercy shining from their comprehensive faces—
this is one of my favorite things.
I like it so much I sleep all the time.
Moon by day and sun by night find me dispersed
deep in the dreams where they appear.
In fields of goldenrod, in the city of five pyramids,
before the empress with the melting face, under
the towering plane tree, they just show up.
“It’s all right,” they seem to say. “It always was.”
They are diffident and polite.
(Who knew the dead were so polite?)
They don’t want to scare me; their heads don’t spin like weather vanes.
They don’t want to steal my body
and possess the earth and wreak vengeance.
They’re dead, you understand, they don’t exist. And, besides,
why would they care? They’re subatomic, horizontal. Think about it.
One of them shyly offers me a pencil.
The eyes under the eyelids dart faster and faster.
Through the intercom of the house where for so long there was no music,
the right Reverend Al Green is singing,
“I could never see tomorrow.
I was never told about the sorrow.”

You’d have to be as crazy as Dante to get those down,
the infernal hatreds.
Shoot them. Shoot them where they live
and then skip town.

Or stay and re-engineer
the decrepit social contraption
to distill the 200-proof
elixir of fear

and torture the...the what
from the what? And didn’t I promise,
under threat of self-intubation,
not to envision this

corridor, coal-tar black,
that narrows down and in
to a shattering claustrophobia attack
before opening out

to the lake of frozen shit
where the gruesome figure is discerned?
Turn around, go home.
Just to look at it is to become it.


He was chronically out of work, why we don’t know.
She was the second born of a set
of estranged identical twins. They met,
hooked up, and moved in with her mother,
who managed a motel on Skyline Drive.
But always it was the other,
the firstborn, the bad twin, the runaway,
he imagined in the shadow
of the “Vacancy” sign
or watching through the window
below the dripping eaves
while they made love or slept.
The body is relaxed and at rest,
the mind is relaxed in its nest,
so the self that is and is not
itself rises and leaves
to peek over the horizon, where it sees
all its psychokinetic possibilities
resolving into shapely fictions.
She was brave, nurturing, kind.
She was evil. She was out of her mind.
She was a junkie trading sex for a fix,
a chief executive, an aviatrix.
She was an angel
to the blinded and the lamed,
the less-than-upright, the infra dig.
And she was even a failure.
She went to L.A. to make it big
and crept back home injured and ashamed.


They put him in jail, why we don’t know.
They stamped him “Postponed.”
But he didn’t mind.
The screws were almost kind.
He had leisure to get his muscles toned,

mental space to regret his crimes,
and when he wasn’t fabricating license plates
he was free
to remember the beauty
that not once but a thousand times

escaped him forever, and escapes me, too:
ghosts of a mist drifting
across the face of the stars,
Jupiter triangulating
with the crescent moon and Mars,
prismatic fracturings in a drop of dew...


There’s drought on the mountain.
Wildfires scour the hills.
So the mammal crawls down the desiccated rills
searching for the fountain,

which it finds, believe it or not,
or sort of finds. A thin silver sliver
rises from an underground river
and makes a few of the hot

rocks steam and the pebbles hiss.
Soon the mammal will drink,
but it has first
to stop and think
its reflexive, impeccable thought:
that thinking comes down to this—
mystery, longing, thirst.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Kwame Dawes:spiritual, intellectual, and emotional engagement with reggae music

                                      Kwame Dawes
Born in Ghana in 1962, Kwame Dawes moved to Jamaica in 1971 and spent most of his childhood and early adult life there. As well as poetry, he is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and plays; he also practices as an actor and musician. His poetry is profoundly influenced by his "spiritual, intellectual, and emotional engagement with reggae music", and he has collaborated with musicians and artists to create a dynamic series of performances based on his poetry. His book Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius book remains the most authoritative study of the lyrics of Bob Marley.
Dawes studied and taught in New Brunswick, Canada on a Commonwealth Scholarship, and as a PhD student he was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Brunswickan. From 1992-2012 he taught at the University of South Carolina; he is currently Professor of English at the University of Nebraska, and with Glenna Luschei editor-in-chief at the Prairie Schooner. Dawes is also a faculty member of Pacific University’s MFA Program. He is co-founder and programming director of the biennial Calabash International Literary Festival, which takes place in Jamaica.
He is the author of seventeen collections of poetry. The most recent titles include Duppy Conqueror (Copper Canyon, 2013); Wheels (2011); Back of Mount Peace (2009); Hope's Hospice (2009); Impossible Flying (2007), and Gomer's Song (2007). Progeny of Air (1994) was the winner of the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection. In 2001, Dawes was a winner of a Pushcart Prize for his long poem, 'Inheritance'. He is the editor of many anthologies, including Wheel and Come Again: An Anthology of Reggae Poems, and Red: Contemporary Black Poetry, and he is also the Associate Poetry Editor of Peepal Tree Books, where he edits their impressive Caribbean Poetry list. Dawes received the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2012.
In 2009, Dawes won an Emmy Award in the category of New Approaches to News and Documentary Programming - his project documented HIV/AIDS in Jamaica, interspersed with his poetry, photography by Andre Lambertson, and music by Kevin Simmonds. The website is the culmination of this project.
In these recordings made specially for the Poetry Archive, Dawes' command of a range of tones and styles of delivery is demonstrated - from the powerful social commentary of 'Yap', a brutal account of homophobic violence made all the more disconcerting from the voice's impersonal reportage, to the melodious, rhythmical lament of 'Trickster', where the explorations of language become a path, 'a way to tell how I would be met on the road.' 'Sketch' is a tender portrait of illness that draws on and then questions the power of words to heal and console, revealing the impermanence of a wish, however keenly felt, to 'clean a grey line where your brows were…these markings of what you have suffered'. 'Wheels', meanwhile, alertly and humorously catalogues the doubts of a 'gangly televangelist', and 'Rituals Before the Poem' gently satirises the reverence around poetry's typical subjects, striking a tone of playful instruction - paralleled in Dawes' 'Memos to poets' (viewable on his website): over 100 short pieces originally broadcast on Twitter, that include everything from acidic witticisms on writing, to memorable, aphoristic adages that challenge and appeal to the wisdom of poetry reader or writer.
Some of  his poems

A Good Woman Blues

O Lord, Berta, Berta, O Lord, gal oh-ah,
O Lord, Berta, Berta, O Lord, gal well.
Go ’head marry, don’t you wait on me oh-ah,
Go ’head marry, don’t you wait on me well.
Might not want you when I go free oh-ah,
Might not want you when I go free well.

When you are out on the road, hustling
shelter in some taking-woman’s hovel,
when you wonder how long you will be
a broke blues man with only some
twenty-year-old story of how you were

somebody, how you sat in the same
studio where big-ass Ma Rainey
used to sit and drink bourbon; of how
people knew you, knew your voice,
how it was to buy a suit, walk
the country street and hear your
voice on the radio, and it has been
so long these stories like your clothes
have gotten so thin they don’t keep
you warm no more; and when out
there, you walking to the crossroads,
where you meet all kinds of monsters
and ghouls, and where you learn
how to limp and use your big
stick to part the arms of women,
you have nothing to keep you going
on dark nights when everything
feel like crap, and you are fifty
years old and you are not dead
and you have nothing to show for it;
no child whoever called you daddy
cause you never stayed long enough
for them to smell your skin,
and for you to hear them say it;
and you know that going back,
you will spoil all the lies
those women told for you, about
their daddy who will walk
around with his big hands
and his only instrument; who can
make a woman take off
all her clothes on the spot
and leave her man just by
the weeping and lonesome
feelings he can make with the piano.
That sharp-faced, cool-eyed man,
their daddy, who took a schooner
to France where everybody knows
his name—if you go back
with your tired self, looking
for a nip of booze to keep you warm,
and some fried chicken
for old time’s sake, what good
will that do? So all you have
is this one truth: that Cleo
is your Penelope and until
they nailed that coffin,
she stayed the one good thing
you ever did; she was a good
woman and she loved you,
and sometimes that is all a man
needs to keep on walking,
sometimes it all a man’s got;
all that has kept him from
the chain gang to the juke joint,
along those lonely roads
cutting across America—
that Cleo is all he ever had,
and Lord knows, she waited,
but you can’t outwait God,
Lord, Berta, Berta, you can’t
outwait, the Lord.

 If You Know Her
If you know your woman, know her rhythms,
know her ways; if you paying attention
to her all these years, you will know
how she comes and goes, how she slips
away even though she is standing in
the same place, you will know that her
world is drifting softly from you, and she
may not mean it, because all it is
is she is scared to be everything, scared
to be finding herself in you every time,
scared that one day she will ask herself,
all forty-plenty years of her, where
she’s been; if you know your woman,
you will know that mostly she will
come back, but sometimes, when she
drifts like this, something can make her
slip; and then coming back is hard.
If you know your woman, you can
tell by the way she puts on heels,
and she does not sashay for you
because it is not about you—how
she will buy some leather boots
and not say a word about it,
and you only see it when she walks
in one night, and she says she’s had
them forever; you will see the way
she loses the weight and pretend
its nothing, but when she isn’t seeing you
looking, you can see how she faces the mirror
lifts her chest to catch a profile,
and how she casually looks at her
ass for signs of life. If you know
your woman, when you are gone, she
will find things to do, like walk
alone, go see a movie, find a park,
collect her secrets and you won’t know,
because she is looking for herself.
And she won’t tell you that she wants
to hear what idle men say when she
walks by them; because what you say
is not enough. If you know your
woman, you know when she’s going
away and you will feel the big
hole of your love, and you can’t
tell why she’s listening and humming
to tunes you did not know she heard
before, and she will laugh softly
at nothing at all. If you know your
woman, you will see how she comes
and goes, and all you can do is wait
and pray she will come back to you,
because you know that your sins
are enough for her to leave and not return.

Avoiding the Spirits

Berniece: I don’t play that piano cause I don’t want to wake them spirits.
They never be walking around in this house.
          —The Piano Lesson, August Wilson

When at sunset the congregation gathers
in the low light of St. Helena’s old gray
Baptist chapel; they guard their hearts
from the whisper of the low-bellied trees;
calling on the blood as they brush off
the dew on their coats by the burial ground.

When they sing, the sound has the flat
simplicity of prayer, a sound that brings
heat to your neck, tears to your eyes
because you can hear in the rugged
rafters, hewn from old-growth trees
at the water’s edge, the voices of all those
people who had nothing but lament
and Jesus to fill the gap of a stolen life.
The sisters can’t make a man cross
that threshold unless he has come
to lay someone to rest or to witness
a child’s blessing or a daughter’s
wedding, for a man can’t hear the flat
voices in the church and not feel
the droop of his shoulders
and the weight of his dangling
empty hands that have too often
hung helpless for prudence’s sake, for good
sense, making him not a man
but an empty shell, a creature
who laughs to stop the shame
of not being able to keep his family
together and safe. No, he will rather
sit in the dark cathedral of the juke
joint and let the blues of sardonic
regret and caustic distance
wash him, make him know that
he is alone on the road, and all
he’s got is his story. My people
long gave up on the ancestors
    when they learned that those
   stepping out of the woods
  are the crippled gods, the beaten
  gods, the blackened and burnt-out
   tongueless gods, the broken
   gods, the castrated gods, the shadow
  gods with questions, asking
  us if they will ever heal, asking
 for a balm from the living. Who wants
 to pour libation for the burdened
  spirits? Silence is our salvation,
 that and the reassurance of this earth,
 this clear air, this forgetting.