Monday, August 29, 2011

Debate on climate change, culture and art

The panel
Plastic bag for culture, yet biodegradable

I went to listen to a debate about ecology and culture. Basically the question was 'what can the cultural sector do to prevent climate change which, when nothing is done, will make children sick in about 20 years'. There is a radical solution: Insulate your house, don’t eat meat or fish, don’t fly and in 20 years we would have avoided that the temperature would go up with the fatal 2°C. I learned that working half an hour equals drinking a glass of water. Each worth one unit, and the bad news is: one person has only 40 units per day for a good ecological footprint. Many solutions are at best tentative or even misleading. I try to buy organic and fair trade food and products, I have paid to carbon offset flights but it seems that is not the right system. Many artists have renovated their house in order to leave a smaller footprint, some installed solar power, others make artwork with low ecological impact. As a poet and literary translator I wonder whether I do have to feel guilty for using my laptop extensively, for using a lot of paper to check in print for mistakes. I wonder that people speak about not eating meat or fish, not flying, making tickets more expensive but don’t really deal with social injustice or the cost of war, cost in lives, in destruction, in pollution by the heavy armored tanks, the war planes. I wonder what the ecological cost is of war. Or is war just considered to be a branch of polluting industry? And if you want to know how I went to this debate: I walked, I shared one cup of coffee (bio & fair trade) and connected to people.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Studies in light

 From my window the summer-sunsets dress the city in extravagant colors.
Sometimes etching the silhouette of the city.  Other times almost erasing the city, plunging it in darkness without being foreboding, cloaking the nuclear power plant. A vision of nuclear free futures.

Then there are the rainbows, warming the city, promising happiness or pots of gold at the foot of them, almost in reach. The light against dark skies is forever changing and enchanting.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

No death penalty - No more executions

Troy Davis, whom I truly believe to be innocent could be executed in September.
I don't believe that the death penalty is acceptable punishment.
Over the years, the case of Troy Davis has inspired many people to take action. It is a painfully clear example of the many flaws of the death penalty. Serious doubts about guilt have persisted, yet many people have still not heard about this incredible case more fit for a legal thriller than reality:

A flawed investigation, alleged witness coercion, police "tunnel vision", flimsy evidence, and a clumsy legal system that cannot seem to do the right thing. Several times we all who have written letters or signed petitions for him and Amnesty International have been able to postpone the execution date. After the Supreme Court refused to hear Troy Davis' appeal, I feel compelled to help spread information about him and his case.
Poetry for life: Jeez us by Fred Schywek in English translation or read the German original.


Thou shalt not kill

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Anti-War-Day, September 1st, 2011

Freedom and peace for all – No more war!
European trade unions called for freedom and peace for the whole world in May 1961. This appeal, this summons is today more topical than ever.

It’s been ten years now since the war in Afghanistan began. News about victims of battles, attacks and war actions reaches us almost on a daily basis. What the population needs is work and stability instead of instability and violence. We demand the retreat of all troops out of Afghanistan and strong support for civilian society.

Troops in Afghanistan, planes in Libya are signs of the willingness of the West to deploy troops in any place in the world. We do not want intervention armies, but a strong basis democratic control of all military decisions.

This years spring saw the massive protests in the Arab world. A wave of democratic protest rolled from country to country over North Africa and the Arab Peninsula. The regimes of Tunisia and Egypt were toppled. Especially the young generations hold high hopes that in these societies the democratic process will unfold peacefully, in solidarity and progressively. These processes need to be supported financially, with medical aid, assistance of suffering civilians.

Lessons from the past spell it out clearly that the weapons the ruling governments used against their own population for the major part had been sold to them by the European armament industry: Germany, Belgium, Spain, France ...  The selling of arms to regions in crisis should be classified under crimes against humanity. Defense spending has to be curbed in a a sustainable way.

The farewell to nuclear energy should also entail the end of all nuclear weapons! After the end of the cold war today there are still 23.000 nuclear weapons ready to be deployed. Our wish is a nuclear free world!

Every form of contempt for people, glorification of war and chauvinism is an affront to human dignity and unworthy in a democracy. The extreme right, hate mongering groups instigating violence and racism shall not find a foothold in our society.
Fred Schywek
Annmarie Sauer organizers of the 2010 and 2011 European Poetry Festival
Text on the basis of a position paper of the DGB (German umbrella organization of trade unions)
September Days of Peace (Campaign of world internet books)
September 1: Salon 12b: Worldwide Anti-War-Day: 8 PM
Participating September 11: NINE ELEVEN TEN Performance, Organizer Frank De Vos, Casa Louisa
September 17, 2011, European Poetry Festival Antwerp
8 PM with the city poet laureate Peter Holvoet-Hanssen and the support of the Permeke Library

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Follow up on high end ghetto

I need to correct something  I wrote in the last posting: high end ghetto. I transpired this morning that the weapons the man brandished were FAKE. The policeman got injured by a rubber bullet from one of his 'toy-guns'. His ploy was to commit suicide by policemen shooting at him.
In these economically difficult times, people get deeper and deeper in trouble and more and more psychologically imbalanced people live in the streets. We saw it in San Francisco where after two days you knew who slept where, who begged where, what route another followed. One also knew who was slightly aggressive and who was not. We live in difficult times.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

High end Ghetto

The other night  my blind and almost deaf griffon was restless, barked. I checked things out and found nothing amiss. I remained unaware of the events developing around the building. 
A former psychiatric patient, know by the courts and the police (among others for shoplifting) ran amok, brandishing according to eyewitnesses, two revolvers and a machine gun... Shots rang out.

The police responded... The other man finally shot a policeman in the leg. His colleagues replied in kind and shot the perpetrator in the leg so that he couldn't cause more harm. How did the poor man get his small arsenal with the strict gun laws. I guess the street provides.
50 shots in all where fired, right across these venerable old houses... 
Obviously every one tells me their story, obviously some people were shaken since some visiting friends upon leaving the building got caught up in the situation. I's like Chicago here. It seems we're living in a high end ghetto, my neighbors commented.

The picture I didn't take was where the blood still is coloring the sidewalk, not withstanding  a night with pouring rain.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

devorah major

devorah major is one of the featured poets who will perform and read at the 2nd festival of European poetry. She will travel from San Francisco to Antwerp. She has been invited to read and perform poems from the upcoming anthology Harbors of the West and some powerful anti war poems. You can read a poignant poem about her ancestry.
I am a California born granddaughter of West Indian documented and undocumented immigrants, and Eastern-European immigrants (all documented I believe but I am not as aware of this side of my family line.) As a second generation writer I have found the universe of words, where one can create other worlds, other times, or freeze time or place as it is, to be a place of power, comfort, terror. Poetry found me first, later it was fiction and still later creative nonfiction found a way to carve a place in my writing soul. Words stuck, cut through my tongue, healed, confronted, questioned, demanded, flowed. I wrote while single, while in and out of love, as a new mother, and then as a poet in residence at a cultural center while my second child grew in my womb. I wrote through the painful dissolution of a difficult marriage and through biting poverty as a singe parent. And I still write- as woman black and proud, born in a family which has for generations struggled to make a better way , a more just world. And my writing has borne fruit. Thus far four books of poetry, two poetry chapbooks, two novels, and myriad single poems, short stories and non-fiction essays have been published.

   I have written of family, of the streets, of struggle in both poetry and prose, fiction and non-fiction. I have performed my poems on war and peace, love and survival in England and Wales, in Bosnia, in Northern and Southern Italy, and at innumerable cultural and political gatherings in the US. I have served as Poet Laureate of San Francisco 2002-2006. Poet, novelist, internationally touring performer my books include street smarts, where river meets ocean, and with more than tongue, An Open Weave and Brown Glass Windows. For over twenty years I performed and recorder with Opal Palmer Adisa as a part of the poetry jazz performance group “Daughters of Yam.” I am featured on two Daughters of yam CDs as well as four other music and poetry compilations. Completed forthcoming collections are teardrops in the mouth of the moon and treasure hunting. I write as witness and as questioner. I write as one who loves. I cobble together my living as a writer, performance poet, poet in residence in community and/or institutional settings, and part time lecturer at an art college.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Marcinelle mine desaster

On august 8  1956 a fire broke out in Marsinelle, a coal mine in the French speaking part of Belgium; 262 people perished. 136 Italian miners and 65 Belgian.  The death toll of Italian immigrants in coal mines and caused by other work related accidents comes to over six hundred in Belgium alone between 1946 and 1956...

The English translation of a traditional  miners poem from the Ruhr area:


Glückauf! GoodLuck! The words you hear from all,
Who stand by us down in the mine;
It speaks of loyalty and standing tall
Also in the worst of time.

Glückauf! The song that everyone sings,
Who with us hand in hand
The black gold to the surface brings
For the good of the fatherland.

Glückauf! You hear it all around
In shafts dark and deep.
St Barbara protect, do safe us keep
From the Tommy knockers cracking sound.

Glückauf! Be it also your last hello,
When you take your leave
On that road we all must go,
The one that gives nobody real reprieve.

You'll find the original German poem Glückauf here

Saturday, August 6, 2011

August 6, the bomb and all things nuclear

On this day it seems wise to think about the dangers of most things nuclear: be it for military use or for the production of energy. The use of nuclear in medicine seems to help people with certain cancers, so that seems ok within our present knowledge.
But throwing a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, an abomination and crime, the nuclear accident in Chernobyl, the Three Mile Island meltdown of the core, Fukushima, all are part and parcel, proof even that nuclear power in human hands turns deadly. So Nuclear energy: no thanks...

The long now

the long now
10.000 years
who can then
read this
the symbol

who knows then
for the cause
of double timing halftime
short selling
of what how log
then still
has to come
years from now
the late burden
of moot mushrooms
and fantasies of fission

we all live
in the halftime
of the long
now -

Nuclear energy no thanks, nuclear bombs and other dirty uranium enriched weaponry, no thanks. Old nuclear plants are kept open longer in Belgium among other countries. Germany takes the lead in decommissioning nuclear plants...
Find the Dutch translation of the poem here.

Friday, August 5, 2011


It is sad that one has nothing else to offer but the words of a poet in the face of the political upheaval in Syria, where governess troops have killed over 2000 of their own people, have imprisoned scores, disregarding civil rights and freedom of expression by their citizens. The governement bullets found even a barely one year old baby. Violence does not work, brings only grief.
The poem Hama was written in Dutch by Bart Stouten when peace reigned for a while. See salon12b for the Dutch original and the German Translation

This summer weeds turned on
the watermills of Hama.
Shredded memories?
The old aqueduct won't ever again
cast them off. Where once was the field
now the consolation of a poster Old Hama:
it is Assad, father and son
and 30.000 dead. Look
how explosive they grow,
overgrowing a year
about which the city doesn't speak.

Like a child feeling found out,
twenty years later:
collective memory,
waiting for my ride.

A cart jolting and jerking
with no where to go.
The set repertoire of a folktale-teller
no one has seen.
Somewhere I'll find him
says Lonely Planet.
His world invitingly
ajar. Like the window.

Elsewhere, other-worldly:
two old people
in a mobil home at the Orontes river.
Belgians sure enough.
She peels an apple,
he tells the story,
in bits and pieces.


Hate got stuck, like a record,
lack of understanding, like a memory, in awful hunch
like stale beer after closing time,
while the rain wails on the sidewalk
and the sidewalk slowly turns to leaves         
from a drunken dessert with the wobbly camel
of an awful hunch.                                               
Like a record that got stuck, the muezzin wails
that you are dead, like lost sheep
in a late afternoon sun. Not a shepherd to be seen
as far as history still goes, and that is further
than your oath of secrecy. In unreadable reality
comes an Arab newspaper with strangle-sounds
and arabesques for show, with glasses Nescafe
paid for by the Baath party.
Hate hung around, on the shore of the Orentes river,
in my sub-chilled dessert, air-conditioned
in the reflection of the high minaret
which this morning continues to cry out my old love.