Having just finished another Bart Ehrman book, Jesus, Interrupted, I can’t help but ponder the human need to remain in the distant past. The human need to remake that past to fit the present. Square pegs and all of that. The round hole of now. The miserably archaic square peg of then. This need is both puzzling and understandable, given how difficult and complex life is in the present, in our modern world. Understandable, in that because of those difficulties and complexities, people want to hold on to (their perception of) simpler times, more basic constructions and instructions, a binary system or two or three. Puzzling because of the incommensurability of that simpler time and those binary systems with today’s multiplicities. Yes, ancient ways can bring us calm and a sense of foundational relief. But effectively and pragmatically speaking, they provide zero clues when it comes to making our way through this maze … Click to continue . . .
Sometimes, poetry is like a mystery, like a detective story put to song. Sometimes similes and metaphors string bits of life (like notes) into a song, a symphony, or a collage of chords never heard together. The point. Yes, that’s often the point. The bridge works for visuals as well. And for tactiles. The bridges work between humans, between nature, between humans and nature and beyond. Inside, outside, vertically, horizontally, depth and foreground, finding all dimensions, incorporating disparate elements. Harmonizing. Even atonally. Even off key to form new strings of keys washing into larger lakes, rivers, oceans of meaning.
The poet Jill Magi works some metaphorical magic on a seemingly unlikely topic below: Labor. To borrow a phrase, it’s a labor of love going back in time and leading to the present. Metacritical irony, in a sense, as she works in the vineyard to find the heart of work.
It has always puzzled … Click to continue . . .
by Jill Magi
Last fall I found myself at the gate of an archive. Remembering something from my labor and union past and thinking about my work life at present, I came across the on-line finding guides for the Wagner Labor Archive at New York University. The writings here are a warm-up to my trip into that archive. As of this spring, I’ve been inside, but that writing—is it poetry?—is slow to come along. For now, I’m using exposition to trace the outline of a shape I do not yet know.
November 4, 2008
On the day of an historical election, after weeks of hearing the word “socialism” used as a weapon (as they bail out the banks), I am anxious. So to offset this feeling, I browse around the internet—a way of tuning out, not unlike a drug, or a prayer that I will find the thing I need—
I come across the site of the Tamiment Library … Click to continue . . .
Another aspect of The Secrets is generational conflict and resolution. This is most obvious in the battle between Naomi and her father, Rabbi Hess. Not only does her father see Naomi as rash in her desire to break with tradition and forgo the arranged marriage, he also feels she does not understand his role within the family, or the true role of his departed wife. Naomi says very little about her mother, but makes a powerful insinuation that Rabbi Hess treated her badly and caused her great pain. We don’t know how she died, but it’s clear from Naomi’s comment about her weeping in the kitchen that she was not happy. Rabbi Hess appeared not to know this. The extension of roles moves beyond family barriers and extends far into the ultra-orthodox world. Avi Nesher makes the rabbi more complex, and a bit more sympathetic, by portraying him as at least willing to teach his daughter and let her go … Click to continue . . .
Ancient obstacles, barriers, walls. Ancient stereotypes, prejudices, forced inequalities. Continue to the present day. Continue around the world. A fine Israeli film, The Secrets, explores those barriers and shows the conflicts within traditions, between traditions, in a fresh, often moving way.
The story is not complex, but there are surprises, and those surprises break down walls. A brilliant young Israeli woman, Naomi (played by Ania Bukstein), wants desperately to become a Rabbi someday, like her father. She knows that this is next to impossible, given the ancient strictures of her ultra-orthodox faith. But she also knows that she has studied harder than her male peers, knows the Torah and the Talmud better than they do, and appears to be far more serious about enlightenment. The only barrier for her is her gender.
Naomi’s father has arranged a marriage for his daughter and his best Yeshiva student. There is nothing there. No spark, no life. Naomi knows the student doesn’t … Click to continue . . .
[Guest blogging today, Robert Mueller]
In high-temperature mellow Vanessa Boyd sings and quizzes and spells, coaxing a super-planing frisson and still more touchy thrill for her audiences in local New York City establishments. I recently heard a dynamite (truly!) performance at a box of a Bengalese food counter way downtown. There was no highlighting, no shadowing, just good acoustical and a capella reaction. Offering song, spoken word and an intriguing assertiveness drama (bordering on the unique), her performing had every bit of that true and unaccountable magnificence that you might not believe coming from her all-at-once sleek and purple and dazzling ukulele accompaniment. These are tonalities to behold, splendors even in their undoing of their “desperate sexuality.”
In the two years or so since her arrival from a Tennessee home-ground, Vanessa Boyd has brought more than her intertwined delights; she has brought an expediency of wonder. She has grown a following and a style, and a committed and … Click to continue . . .
Celebrated poet and activist, Sheema Kalbasi, has brought out a new anthology of Persian poetry. You can sample a few poems from this collection below.
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The Arts know no national boundaries. The Republic of Arts and Letters encompasses the entire world. For too long, those in power across the globe have benefited mightily, cynically from pitting group against group, nation against nation, and we all suffer as a result. We suffer in the lack of understanding that acompanies a parochial vision, a narrow vision, a limited range of experiences. We suffer from the loss of genius and innovation. No government should restrict us from meetings with the widest array of human nature and Nature Herself. Open the doors, the windows!! Open the curtains! Remove the veil!! Cross the seas! Cross every sea! It’s time to beat proverbial swords into plowshares and share art, philosophy, literature … Click to continue . . .
IT’S A MAN’S WORLD TO THE END OF THE END—
I am a woman. Simply.
To look at me is a sin —
I must be veiled.
To hear my voice is a temptation
that must be hushed.
For me to think is a crime
so I must not be schooled.
I am to bear it all
and die quietly, without complaint.
Only then can I be admitted to the court of God
where I must repose naked on a marble cloud
feed virtuous men succulent grapes
pour them wine from golden vats
and murmur songs of love…
That old man sitting on the bench
is you, a little boy biking around
Your hair is now white, spread
by the traces of age
and I? My youthful skin
has persistent wrinkles of regret
Locks on the bolt
Secrets behind the doors
And the moist … Click to continue . . .