Friday, December 28, 2012


Gierik is a Flemish publication. It started in 1983 and in the second issue I had four poems: two in English and two in Dutch. I had forgotten all about that until I was invited to read in Antwerp with seven other Gierik poets on poetry day next  January 31st. I knew the people involved in it were in the process of digitalizing the complete poetry archive and felt obliged to look at it and to choose a few poems I would then read. My poems have been published 19 times; however I also wrote articles for them, did interviews with authors I wouldn't have dared to approach, translated Native American poetry, wrote about 'Guilt and Grace' as in a cowboy's philosophy... Those other writings have not been digitalized yet. It is strange to encounter my twenty years younger self, to realize that even then I wrote in Dutch and in English, although not having been raised in the USA. I had this fascination for whom I would have become, had my mother stayed in Ohio... Thus I read American authors, followed American politics and became a flower power child in my own right. I learned to belong wherever I was... The distance to my origins have been sometimes a bitter blessing, yet for which I am thoroughly grateful. I too am grateful for the 'home' poetry in all its guises has offered me over all these years.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The unacceptable

Racism, war, molesting little girls or boys, exploitation of another person, poverty, ruining the planet, Leonard Peltier still in jail, capital punishment... all unacceptable. Our feelings wake up. And I realize that all of this has to do with our values and the judgments based on these values. Yet there is also the unacceptable within myself: traits I don’t like, anger I don’t  want to feel, the dark shadow shrouding my soul, my very private hurts, shortcomings, my darker hidden self which stems from hurt... In the Western world these values are more or less shared  yet abortion, euthanasia, same sex marriage is not accepted in all layers of western population or even illegal in some countries. The more issues are seen as unacceptable, the greater intolerance will become within any given society or political system and thus opposing groups will form. Often the questioning of these shared values will not be tolerated because these values lend an illusionary sense of security. Thus authoritarian attitudes and routine dictate the course of life, suffocating creativity, change, innovation and even our freedom of expression. And still, with all the rules that should be followed, it are always the girls and women who should be decent, less ambitious, not too loud, not too much make up... Actually they are often not allowed to dream or follow their dreams. When young children are killed, we, as a world community know, we feel that this is unacceptable, we grieve with the parents and have to think about how our society functions. Assault weapons are to me unacceptable in the hands of any civilian. Thou shall not kill! Now I have a lot of friends with revolvers, guns, rifles, even uzi’s... I don’t understand the need, nor the fascination of it. I also think of Gaza, of Syria, of  my sister in law’s sun wounded severely in Iraq training paramedics... How many lives lost, maimed. To me violence is unacceptable in whatever guise. Peace on earth always means no war! The light returns... A happy, peaceful New Year to all.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Reel Molenbeek Futures

'Reel' stands for being filmed and is not a spelling mistake, filmed by Bram Goots, professional camera man and the interviews are by Maya Van Leemput. Of course a professional sound and a real editing process. It is in the editing process that the story is told. Maya and Bram conducted this type of gathering images of the future already in 25 counties, listening, enticing, conducting workshops, what ever it took to make people think about a longer term future. The end result of this documentary is an interesting mix of the ideas of three men and two women, plus a few people interviewed on the canal in a boat. They tried to imagine where they would be at in their commune 'Molenbeek', one of the 19 districts of Brussels, in their private life, how it would be to age 18 years... The film was moving through the words and actions of the five interviewees: One young girl claimed the right to decide whom and if she would marry: I am not obliged to get married, I am not obliged to have children. I will decide. Beautiful to see a splendid young woman so unafraid of assuming responsibility over her own life. There was a cultural worker who likes to work in that field, and wants more responsibility. He let himself be aged by a make-up artist and thought he looked sixty years old. He pleaded, actually all participants in the documentary did, for more cooperation, more solidarity, more human contact. Technology didn't seem to be important 'If I have a flying car, then that still doesn't me me a superhero', he said. One man, the oldest, has done magnificent work with youngsters, having them look at the stain glass windows of John The Baptist church and then have them make something abstract which is mounted in a public space in one line with the original stain glass windows. The man himself paints beautiful abstract paintings. Upon retirement he'll go back to his small town in Morocco, because there are enough artists here, but there they lack artists. He explained that every year he takes a different class in one or other art technique, this year animation film and video... He paints abstract paintings since that doesn't offend any religion, encompasses all humans, refers to Klee, Kandinsky and Mondriaan. The second woman was kind and gentle, gave her words some thought before speaking. They are new to the quarter and love its mix of people and cultures. Warm hearted. She spoke about the communal gardens in the city and how those bring people together in social and ecological project. Then there was Gustavo, black Brazilian, the only one speaking Dutch really rather well. The whole film was subtitled either in Dutch or in French. A necessity in Brussels. The beauty of his movements with his head while thinking, the fervor with which he spoke about integration and that we are all somebody's racist... Yet hopeful, yes one of his hopes is that that in the future people will be less afraid of each other. 
I was impressed by warmth and positivity of the stories shown. Yes!!! Good people, good thoughts, a great documentary.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Futures (yes, plural!)

Maya Van Leemput is a futures researcher who got her PhD 10 years ago and since then has been collecting with her partner Bram Goots (Camera and DoP) images of the future people hold. Their latest project is in Molenbeek in Brussels commissioned by ‘The House of Cultures’ of St Johns-Molenbeek. They interviewed and filmed about 30 people. Next Friday, December 21, the day the world is predicted to end, she is showing the film ‘Reel Molenbeek Futures’, starting at  8pm. Why plural? Well there are no future facts, are there? So there is not only one possible future, but many possible futures that we co-create by our action, non-action, by what we can imagine, by how we would like those futures to be. For that you need clear images, maybe even universal values... As one of her futurist friends said: With fuzzy images of the future, you get a fuzzy future. Think about it, if you see clearly what you would like in let’s say 18 years, then you can do things to make it happen. If you have never thought about it, the film might just help you realize it is a fun and useful exercise in our life to think and dream and discover our expectations about our different possible futures.
Address & time:
8 PM
House of Cultures and Social Cohesion:
Chaussee de/Steenweg op Merchtem 67
1080- Sint –Jans- Molenbeek- Saint-Jean

You're all invited... French or Dutch subtitles...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Zygomatik: Piet Verbist in quintet

The zygomaticus major is the muscle in your face from kind of your temple to your mouth. The zygomaticus minor is the one going to  the lower part of your face: together they make all expressions. So actually Zygomatik is a great name for a very expressive Jazz cd. Piet Verbist is the leader of the group, performing on Sunday morning as a quintet. Words that come up while thinking of the concert are:
unpretentious high quality
jazz funk
Above and Beyond brings the fragility of bow on strings, from lust to lost, the drums gather and accent the delicacy of the quintet. Their names: Herman Pardon on the drums, Bram Weyters piano, Vincent Brijs and Matt Renzi (San Francisco) bass and tenor sax...
The 4th piece had a genteel start, hands on drum, almost oriental, in a beautifully structured time and improvisation and thereafter we fall into Piet's magnificent: PMS Alert! read: Piet's Manic Scream Alert! Belief me it was like a rush, soft and wild in the discipline of a musical structure. Great stuff!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Friday night in Brussels

Rain, wind and darkness, dangerous driving by tired lorries swerving out of their lane and the expected standstill on the roads into Brussels. One of the tunnels into town was closed off because of a European Summit meeting. Yet following the signs for the detours, I ended up in the tunnel and got well in time to the salons of the Liaison Office Brussels-European Union where the reading was to be held. The languages used that evening where: French, English, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish - in the Chilean variety which I love, Dutch, German, Alsatian, Romanian and Greek (both old and new). It was lovely to listen to the former or still active ‘Eurocrats’ who all defended their creative irk against or not withstanding hard work and a no-nonsense atmosphere when at work. The poems were always read first in its original language and then in a translation. Some people also sculpt or paint, or do graphics, make  music. The singer, Hugo Bossut, we were sorry to hear, was ill, some people, seen the chaos on the road didn’t make it. Yet there was a good group of excellent listeners. I had been involved with the Literary circle over 20 years ago and then lapsed. Finding in a publication a poem by Huguette Bastin, who was my contact then, I decided to contact her. Thus I ended  up as the mystery guest at the end of an evening. Huguette did a wonderful job introducing her colleagues, keeping time gently. The way she presented and interviewed me was delightful. She read the Dutch versions of my poems and I read them in my variety of Mid-Atlantic English: too European for Chloride, Arizona, too American for sensitive British ears. People were generous with kind comments and some even bought Traces/Sporen, published by So it turned out to be a happy evening with light refreshments afterwards and conversations with interesting people.
My colleagues that evening were: Danial Guggenbühl, Catherine Koecks and Archie Clarke, Frederique Frahan-Dupont and Bruno Delmotte, Joqé Ponce Vicencio, Andrei-Paul Corescu, Paolo Pego, Fontini, Chiou, Isabelle Bielecki and Huguette Bastin. The second name always is the one having done or reading the translations.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

poetry in translation and life - Live

During the last week I have been translating poetry by Rose Vandewalle., by Sinzo Aanza., proofreading a Dutch - German translation by Annie Reniers, so keeping  up the blog was on the back burner. Too many words, too many languages, all the layers of meaning and the possibilities.... Yet tomorrow in Brussels I will be closing a European poetry reading. The theme is multi-linguism. All poets will be reading in their own language and some will also read translations. Since in Traces/Sporen, produced by world-internet-books. I wrote part of the poetry in Dutch and part in English the organizer wanted to talk about about writing in two languages. The interview at the start will be in French, she will read the Dutch poems she has chosen from the book and I will read in English. It is exciting and I look forward to this evening. I am curious about the other poets, the other languages and how the atmosphere will be. The reading starts at 7 30 pm: Oudergemlaan 63, 1040 Brussels (Bureau de Liaison Europe-Brussels, Belgium).  May be we'll meet there.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Snow - and refugee camps on the Syrian borders

The first minuscule snow flakes made me smile, hid the church-towers in the distance like a fine fog. Then the flakes grew bigger and I saw the roof tiles getting fluffy edges and the flat roofs turning white. It quietens the city. Time to think and meditate. I have seen pictures of the official Syrian refugee camps in Turkey. In this horrible war cluster bombs are being used in the cities. It is a known fact that those kill mainly children rummaging among the debris of their homes. So families flee with their children and their elders and end up in the no-mans-land between the Turkish and the Syrian border. These people have nothing. Turkey is nice and warm in summer but now there is a harsh winter too. Blankets, sleeping bags, tents is the minimum a family need to protect itself from the elements. The Pen Writers in Prison Committee still received messages about human rights violations in the beginning of the destruction of the country. Now since months and months nothing came through. It is also a shame how cities on the United Nations list of cultural heritage of the world are bombed to smithereens, regardless of the inhabitants. I know people looking for a way to help, to make a difference, if they found a way. I'll let you all know. It is a humanitarian emergency.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Broomstick Revolution

Grandma Edna tells us:
“WE NEED CHANGES in this world,
really big BIG changes.
I’m prayin’ they’ll be peaceable changes,
not violent and bloody ones.
I’d like to see a peaceable revolution,
a revolution of broomsticks instead o’ guns.
Call it a Broomstick Revolution.
That’s right.
We the People—
pick up our broomsticks
and work together to Sweep Injustice Out!
YOU CAN’T JOIN the Broomstick Revolution.
You’re already PART of it
if you believe in peace and Mother Earth
and respect for all living things.
The Broomstick Revolution is NOT an organization.
The Broomstick Revolution is inside of each of us,
in every beating heart of humankind,
a sacred place where we listen to the Creator
and follow Creator’s Instructions
to sweep out injustice and violence.
NEVER raise a broom in violence.
Your broomstick is a symbol of PEACE.
Peace is our purpose.
Peace is our method.
Peace is our philosophy.
Peace is our Goal.
painted on the broom-heads.
Then plant’m like FLOWERS OF PEACE
in your front yards, on streetcorners,
in front o’ stores and schools and churches and banks.
Plant’m by the millions. When they rip’ m out, plant’m again!
Ain’t no end to how many agains there can be!
Love all people, even--especially--your 'enemies'.
We want to save the world, not destroy it.
Let everyone—even the One Percent—be included!
Some advice: Stay out of big crowds
that are easily turned into mobs.
They’re waitin’ for mobs.
Work alone or in small groups,
groups of Leaders.
There are no followers
in the Broomstick Revolution.

Friday, November 30, 2012

November salon 12b

A small but select group of poets participated in last nights salon 12b. From the former poet laureate of Antwerp, Peter Holvoet-Hanssen, to poet Rudy Witsy who with Tony Rombouts presented their latest book 'Duo', from  German poet, Fred Schywek to American busker, singer songwriter Ken Post performing with Ingeborg a surprising dialog between Anaïs Nin and Jack Kerouac. Beautiful anti war texts were read by Willem Persoon. A video by swoon was also much enjoyed. Poetry by Rose Vandewalle was read from a current translation project. Roger Nupie opened the night with some thought provoking poems. Great stuff all of it. The audience was attentive, enjoyed the cake by Rose, the cheese pie by Hakata and the goulash soup by Fred. Uncyia from the Leonard Peltier chapter brought some postcards to be signed for his release. Thus beauty and commitment went hand in hand during the whole evening.

(Kleine Nachtmusik)

The room
suddenly tilts and turns        
caches me
in its grabby arms
its hands ablaze with longing
arouse me
with each of its fiery tongues
envelops me transports me

the room
scorching breath
whirlpool and spiral
the room
oh it spins and stalls
soon in higher gear
drags me down in its fall
ends in a plunge
a prodigious shivering plunge

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cruel Beauty - Mieke De Loof


MiekeDe Loof writes historical crime novels. The first one I read was ‘Duivels offer’ in 2004 situated in the Vienna of 1913. For this she was awarded the Hercule Poirot Prize. The latest novel Cruel Beauty plays in 1914 in Vienna's learned and moneyed circles filled with paintings, psychiatry, sacred texts and young girls and a predator on the prowl. It a sequel in a series which eventually will consist of seven books. The main characters Jesuit and spy Ignatz and his friend Elisabeth return. The city Vienna itself still is a marvelous backdrop creating atmosphere and giving a chance to inject a few historic or urbane facts into the story. In this book there is a serial killer on the loose. The murders are staged as paintings by Egon Schiele who is a minor yet very present character through which art and death become interwoven. I read the book in one day, intrigued and charmed. For a word nut it is also great to learn a new Dutch word ‘Altaardwaal’ the cloth surrounding the altar. Well, no I am not going to tell you  the story, just if you read Dutch: go get the book snuggle up on a cold night and you will have a great time. Mieke does great work.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Johan de Boose interviews Marleen de Crée

A chill, a touch of blue and two days gone by. Thursday noon in the Permeke library in Antwerp, a captivating author in his own right Johan de Boose and Marleen de Crée held a very interesting conversation. I have known Marleen's work since over 30 years and the talent of the interviewer dug out some interesting information and insights new to me. It must be challenging and wonderful to be interviewed by someone who knows "the metier", the necessary skills as well as the interviewee. Then the answers can open new perspectives. When one listens to Marleen it all seems so logical and as it is supposed to be. This isn't quite the right formulation since she is also strong willed and has an original mind of her own. All this packed in the beauty of her sonnets and rondeau's. She perverts, changes these traditional forms: strange punctuation, no rhymes, no open lines... You name it, she has done it. I now also know how the musicality of her verses came about. She went to a good boarding school where they had a choir. She had a very high soprano voice and so she sang in the choir. Their school won most contest because of this soprano voice. At home too there was a lot of singing, and many books. She started reading the books on the top shelf and worked her way through all the books. One could say that was her classical period. She adores Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu and all the poetry by Rainer Marie Rilke. She would joyfully reread them, but so little time, so many books to read and write. Here you find 3 wonderful video-poems made with Marleen's poems, a happy collaboration with Swoon Bildos who is invited to many Video festivals to showcase his work.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

No more bombing of civilians

My grandfather collected stamps: big books with old stamps, but also a smaller one with stamps emitted by the United Nations. So I knew about Palestine and Israel when I was about seven years old. I have always worked for peace, believing in negotiations. A few days ago Rabbi Alissa Wise remarked that the current assault on Gaza is being paid for by the blank check from the US government to the Israeli military. So basically all US citizens pay for bombing citizens in Gaza. Bombing citizens who ever does it morally wrong. Unacceptable. It is also an infringement on human rights of the civilian victims. So no more tax dollars for consistently violating human rights. Gaza has one and half million people living on a very small area: It is probably the largest open air prison, about 140 square miles. There are regular food shortages, people loose hope, children are stressed and hungry. 
Some 10% of children under five in the Gaza Strip have had their growth stunted due to prolonged exposure to malnutrition. "Stunting (chronic malnutrition) is not improving and may be deteriorating," concluded the World Health Organisation in May of this year. For those of you who understand German I post an interview with Gunter Grass.
So: Please no more killing of children. A Flander's Pen colleague took too many pictures of these gruesome after the first attack. I only post one. One kid who might survive in that first night 25 children died or were severely wounded.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Den Hopsack

The theme of the day was Coffee and Cinnamon. You have to realize that in Dutch this is a nice alliteration 'Koffie en Kaneel' It was a nice brunch and the eight poets reading got it as a reward. Of course Ericson Accosta, an author in prison in the Philippines, without even a charge as a Pen Writers in Prison action.
I don't have good pictures of the poets reading, but there was a nice mix of subjects and styles.
Per usual there is music to relax in between the readings or performances. This time it was Scarabee on violin and cello, two young performers learning to perform for an audience. Of course it is also about the written word and here you see a few of the books on offer. As always a warm and kind mix of people, known and totally unknown poets performed and all were listened to. A nice morning and I am lucky enough to have performed several times in the course of their 40 years of poetry readings. Thanks Den Hopsack! Thanks to the invisible workers!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Messages from Newtopia

 Last night was wonderful, was poweerful: authors living in Belgium and abroad shared their thoughts and writings on human rights and how the universal declaration of human rights could be improved. First there was music, spoken word, rapped with African instruments. They also had the last word. One author, journalist Fatena Al-Ghorra was not present since the terrible events in Gaza unfolded she went home to witness the situation.
Here from left to right Chris De Stoop, reading a fictional letter to Amnesty international about emotional rights. Isn't the family the most dangerous place on earth? Isn't emotional coldness by parents something that kills one souls and maims for life? Next is Dejan Anastaijevic who picked up on one of my pet peeves: Freedom of speech, as used by a finish mobil phone producer, perverting the idea of content to profit. Free movement as picked up by an American Car maker... Naema Tahir read in Dutch from her book Bruid van de dood. The choice of the girl not to accept an arranged, read forced marriage, and instead joining the army in Pakistan...
Here you see David Van Reybrouck interviewing, talking with Tahar Ben Jelloun: a wise man, thoughtful and clear. With his book L'étincelle he is a Moroccan voice about the Arab Spring and its evolution. There was a beautiful, very slow Videopoem about a wall by Moroccan  Hamza Alloubi one just sees the light change and hears the text. A great evening with many Pen colleagues present, as always ready to defend freedom of speech and to help the authors who are in danger because of using this fundamental right. Standing in the blackest night on a forlorn platform of a train station, a bittersweet melancholy lingered and ended up strengthening my commitment.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My friend Vicky - out West

She lived her life the way it was supposed to be. Like so many of us. A husband, children... Some of it good, bad times too. Like so many of us. She changed, made mistakes, missed the right or left turn. Yet she became alive and kept looking for whom, for what?
What is what she found first, deep in mud ... Then she found whom, whom she could dare and share with. Thus we met, thus she left, following her road with heart.
Godspeed Vicky... Still moving on and on.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Drones - Text from Amnesty USA

Today I bring the thoughtful text of Amnesty USA concerning drones, a subject which has since the beginning bothered me. It seems clean and clear but it kills. Remember: Thou shallt not kill.
Amnesty USA's text:
I am writing to urge you to take immediate steps to bring the United States government's policies on the use of armed drones, and other such "targeted killings" or "signature strikes", in line with US obligations under international human rights law and, in the very limited circumstances where it also applies, international humanitarian law.
What has already been publicly revealed about these policies and practices is enough to conclude that the current US approach is unlawful, violating the fundamental human right of anyone, wherever in the world they may be found, not to be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life. However, it is clear that many details about the legal and factual underpinnings for both the policies and for particular killings are still being kept secret. This would include the alleged 2010 classified Department of Justice (Office of Legal Counsel) memorandum reported to give the legal justification for the killing of US citizens without trial in certain circumstances, such as occurred in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in September 2011.
We in the public may not yet know all the individual names or identities of the people who the US government has killed under these policies, but we do know some things more generally about them. We know that among those killed were some who were essentially accused in secret of crimes or other wrongdoing but in respect of whom no efforts were made to bring them to justice in a court of law. We know that there were others about whom the government had no specific information but who may simply have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. We know that among those killed have been men of different ages, women, and children. We also know that every one of the people the government has killed, whoever they were and whatever they may have been believed to have done, had the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life. International human rights standards define what is and is not an arbitrary deprivation of life. Outside of specific recognized zones of armed conflict, states must comply with law enforcement standards. The integrity of the international system for protection of human rights depends in no small part on states respecting the fundamental principle that the more permissive targeting rules under the laws of war apply only within such zones of armed conflict.
While I recognize that some of the killings in question, if conducted in the context of specific recognized zones of armed conflict may not be in violation of international human rights or international humanitarian law, current US policies appear also to permit extrajudicial executions in violation of international human rights law, virtually anywhere in the world. Among the particular concerns of Amnesty International are:
- the government's continued reliance on a "global war" legal theory that treats the entire world as a battlefield between the USA and armed groups, on which lethal force may potentially be used virtually anywhere at any time without regard to human rights standards;
- the administration's invocation of the right to use force in self-defence to justify the deliberate killing of virtually anyone suspected of involvement of any kind in relation to a range of armed groups and/or terrorism against the USA, particularly through the adoption of a radical re-interpretation of the concept of "imminence";
- reports that a "guilty until proven innocent" approach is taken to military-age males who are killed by a strike, even if there is no specific evidence that they were directly participating in hostilities in a specific armed conflict;
- the fact that key factual and legal details of the killing programme remain shrouded in secrecy.

These aspects of US policy and practice are not only of concern in their own right: they also weaken the credibility of the USA as an advocate for respect for human rights by other states; they set dangerous precedents that other states may exploit to avoid responsibility for their own unlawful killings; and if unchecked there is a real risk that the US "global war" doctrine will further corrode the foundations of the international framework for protection of human rights. There has also been widespread speculation that current US policies and practices with respect to such killings may inadvertently be building support for the very armed groups and terror attacks that US officials say provide its justification.

I call on you to

- Ensure that the US refrains from all unlawful use of lethal force, including against individuals suspected of terrorism.
- Ensure maximum effort by the US, in cooperation with other states, to ensure that those responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks in the USA, and for planning or carrying out similar such attacks anywhere in the world, are brought to justice for their crimes in fair and public trials without recourse to the death penalty.
- Disclose further legal and factual details about US policy and practices for so-called 'targeted killings', 'signature strikes', and "Terrorist Attack Disruption Strikes", including the alleged 2010 classified Department of Justice (Office of Legal Counsel) memorandum reported to give the legal justification for the killing of US citizens without trial in certain circumstances, such as occurred in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in September 2011.
- End claims that the USA is authorized by international law to use lethal force anywhere in the world under the theory that it is involved in a 'global war' against al-Qa'ida and other armed groups and individuals.
- Recognize the application of international human rights law to all US counter-terrorism operations including those outside US territory.
- Bring US policies and practices on the use of lethal force in counter-terrorism operations in line with the USA's international human rights obligations, particularly, by:
- Ensuring that any use of lethal force outside of specific recognized zones of armed conflict complies fully with the USA's obligations under international human rights law, including by limiting the use of force in accordance with international human rights standards for the use of force in law enforcement;
 - Ensuring that any use of lethal force within a specific recognized zone of armed conflict complies fully with the USA's obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, including by recognizing and respecting the rule that if there is doubt as to whether a person is a civilian, the person is to be considered a civilian.
- Ensuring independent and impartial investigations in all cases of alleged extrajudicial executions or other unlawful killings, respect for the rights of family members of those killed, and effective redress and remedy where killings are found to have been unlawful.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pen Flanders-writers in prison committee

A small but dedicated group from WIPC-Flanders gathered last night to discuss the situation of writers who are in prison for exercising their right to free speech and freedom of expression. World politics obviously influence what the causes and issues are. For instance, before the bloody civil war in Syria, we would receive regularly rapid action requests. But since there are no officials one can really talk to or send a card or letter to, we have received no requests at all. On the other hand: Mexico, Russia and Belarus, China, Turkye, Cameroon will keep us busy enough. Sadly. The subject of Internet freedom also arose: Each person has the right to search the net for information or to publish on the net. Network providers who squeal to the authorities (like in China where you cannot use the word Tibet in a post) should adhere to the code of ethics of the net. Next year May there will be the International WIPC conference in Krakow: a good time to reconnect and get to know people in trouble, learn how other chapters work and be recharged for enthousiastic work. There is however a relatively new element to deal with: Chilling. An author is threatened by a corporation, a group not to publish or else... Usually the threat is to one's livelihood or one's family. it can also be a barrage of hate mail, like happened to one of our members. As my brother wrote in his last letter, our father often pointed out: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance".

Thursday, November 8, 2012

birds in the head - rose vandewalle

For those among you who read also Dutch I need to write about 'vogels in het hoofd' by Rose Vandewalle. This is a moving, insightful, forgiving and understanding set of 3 short pieces, published in the series 'Art is free and cannot be paid' by De Dodopers, Eindhoven, The Netherlands. This is the Indian summer issue October 2012. The well chosen painting 'Chinese statecircus" by Eline Rausenberger expresses well the multitudes of feelings and absurdities a demented person might feel or the family member who with a watchful eye analyses, processes and creates beauty out of a dire situation.
Her texts are the result of yearlong lived experiences and and thoughtful analyses of what is happening on a deeper level. Her humanity leads her to understanding the plight of the demented mothers and fathers in the home as well as the pressure on the underpaid and overworked staff. She has helped me understand situations on an emotional and intellectual level and thus helping me deal with my mothers dementia.
De Dodopers in an initiative of Bert Jans, one of the publishers of Fingerprint, Eindhoven and aims to make the best possible small books without having to make a profit. They call it doing 'useless' things because the goal is not profit but beauty and enjoyment.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Four more years: elections matter!

Being female, mixed background, pro-choice, for GLBT equal rights, convinced that climate change is a danger to the world and worrying about the wars that are still raging, I am glad Barack Obama carried this election. Most people don't vote their interest but their values, which include for me caring, accepting diversity (race, gender, age, migrant groups...), the environment, including energy issues, and social justice, healthcare. So I count myself as part of the democratic coalition which has better visions for our possible futures and did vote my values. I look forward to the President bringing home the troops from Afghanistan so that thee are no more foreign wars to be fought and that we can concentrate on rebuilding what is broken in the USA and be peacemakers and bridge builders in the world. That is my dream and hope for the country: freedom and dignity for all, generous and tolerant, the most diverse nation of the world. Let's all keep reaching.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cinema Inch'Allah

There are good day’s to be taken out of one’s own world and to be introduced to another. On such a day an invitation  from my daughter to join her and go and view a documentary by Vincent  Coen  & Guillaume Vandenberghe was welcome, also because mu curiosity was peaked by the title of the documentary. The film team followed over a couple of years four Belgo-Moroccan filmmakers living in Brussels. They started as teenagers with a small handheld camera, filching it every time the father, rightful owner of it, wasn’t around. In the course of the documentaries we see the evolution in the camera’s they acquired. It is a generous movie: we gain an insight in the otherwise closed world of Moroccan families. We see the difference in treatment of a daughter and the wife of the same man. We see the longing of a mother to become a grandma and admonishing her son the get on with it. Doing it in a a formalized way so that it looks almost like she acted her request with typical ways of moving and of looking. We also see Brussels, to many Flemish people an extraneous entity from where the country is governed and where the royal family lives. We also witness the personal crises of Farid: from the bad relationship with his family when filming and starting to question whether it is ‘halal’ to film at all since Islam forbids the portrayal of anything living. So he radicalizes and this is a bit too prominent in the documentary. For instance the success of the actor Reda is all but lost. The four friends have several films under their belt, projecting their fears and hopes. The wonderful thing is that they show the prejudices which are held against the Moroccan community and by making their films, they claim the right to define themselves.Worth while!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

American elections - I voted early and you?

Being an ex-pat I voted early from abroad and yes I voted for Obama. I must admit it was with a bit less of enthusiasm than the first time. I have signed many petitions to the president, some of which he has taken on board, others not. My main reason to vote for him is that we share more of a caring approach, a world view for society than I will ever share with the other candidate. Climate change is at least acknowledged and thought about. The fact that in Arizona reproductive rights for women are not in the health insurance package but Viagra is, says something about the other party. Being a woman, the only to vote for me is Obama. With democrats we have the chance that we can autonomously decide about reproductive issues without an employer being able to influence what is included in one's health insurance. That is a personal issue and should not be taken away from women. I also thank the president for standing for GLTB rights. My beef with Obama is that, although less of a hawk than his opponent, although he has ended the Iraq war, for which I am grateful, he still uses drones and signs for each attack with them. And of course capital punishment in my heart, mind and soul is wrong. Not granting presidential pardons, commuting the sentences of people on death row is a lost opportunity. Yet I am deeply convinced that Obama is better for the world and the USA and that better options for good possible futures for all might be open.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Amour - Michael Haneke

Amour was in the Cannes competition of 2012. My film companion José discovered it in the Cartoons and invited me to go and see it. It is a honest, moving treatment of aging, illness and death. George and Anne are two retired music teachers living in Paris. One day Anne suffers a stroke which leaves her paralyzed on one side. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play the intimate and terrifying process of aging and decline. The vivacious, loving and tender relationship from the beginning is under pressure when Anne looses more and more of herself in a always deeper dementia. What is left of us in the end? What dignity, what control? How to love and live through that. I was very moved when Anne refuses to eat or drink. I saw a while ago the same facial expression in my mother's face. The strain on George of caring for Anne is insupportable, yet he promised never to put her in a hospital or home. The relationship with their daughter Eva who lives abroad gets very strained. Eva is performed by Isabelle Huppert .The performance of Trintignant and Riva. The setting is a beautiful book lined apartment in Paris where the world seems beautiful and safe. The fun loving gentleness between the protagonists at the beginning of the film is sublime, making the grief to follow harder. I won't tell the plot. Just if you have a chance go and see the movie.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Unintended consequences

For while I wrote monthly a piece for the eight page Chronicle. Often I would deal with strange differences between the USA and Europe. I wrote my 500 words one a month before I left for an other stay at the 'gas station' dealing with the different views about guns and Uzi's and the high tech bow and arrows a friend had so he could hunt without a permit. Anyway, the conclusion ran something along the following line: seen I had not been raised in a gun culture that I didn't own neither a gun, a revolver nor a rifle and since I felt I would be a danger to myself if I would try to use one I would probably be shot with my own gun. Being on my own however I did not want to give the impression that I was totally defenseless. The people knew my two dogs, so I could invoke them for the job. And I remembered that upon leaving the last time, being halfway through the process of adding a kitchen to my place that I had left a crowbar next to the bed. So my last line was just that: But I have a crowbar next to the bed. I return and we muddle on doing the kitchen. In such cases all the neighbors come by and give their opinion and good advice. So one of neighbors after the inspection of the going-ons called me over and said: I wouldn't if I were you use the crow bar, you could crack someone's skull with that. Go get yourself a baseball bat. That will hurt the other person less.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Unciya and Hakata's birthday

 Unciya and Hakata, Grandmother and big sister in Lakota, invited a bunch of people for their birthdays. They are the heart and soul and workforce of the Flemish Leonard Peltier Chapter. Yet they got fed up by all the wannabes they have to deal with  when they visit certain gatherings. Thus they decided on a Flemish theme.

 Breughel and the food of his time became the fare: Black pudding sausages with organic applesauce, white sausages, frikadels with cherries, good dark bread and 10 kinds of regional beers and as a desert delicious safron ricecream with brown sugar. Doesn't Hakata look like the milk girl by Vermeer? Of course among the joy and bustle of dogs running around and the talking Leonard peltier was not forgotten: They passed out postcards to send to the White House to ask the President to commute Peltier's sentence. Good work my friends!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Two poet friends -

Recently two friends of mine who write poetry had a presentation of their latest book. One in The Black Panter by Marleen De Crée: Tussen boog en snaar (Between bow and string) a grandiose overview of her work and the other one in the Hoboken town hall Frank De Vos: Naamvallen in het ontheemde. In order to translate the latter title well, I'll have to do some more thinking. Naamvallen are conjugations of nouns and literally it is "Namedropping". That is the first problem, the second is in het ontheemde: normally it is 'de' ontheemde: the homeless, the rootless, the uprooted, a displaced person also a drifter yet 'het' ontheemde is not a stupid grammatical mistake, but a beautiful metaphor for the strangeness of the world in which we live. Both poets have great musical knowledge and taste. So for Marleen we heard Floris De Rycker playing the Thiorbe (imagine a very long necked lute) and Frank surprised us with Bach and others on the accordion, the poor mans organ. Both musical delicacies I had never tasted. Marleen deserves this second volume of the Parnassus series for her assiduous unwavering writing, unimpressed as she is by fads or fashions: You find really modern sonnets, other strict forms and when you read they flow, are natural and they will grab you. Yes I love her work and beginning of January a bilingual book will come out called 'Sequenza', as in the way Berio did some of his compositions. She chose 5 poems from 7 volumes of poetry when she turned 70, a good overview for English speaking readers.
Frank's work has a mesmerizing rhythm, almost like a litany in church with in the first cycle a repetition of the words: I, we, us: the solitary poet striving for, finding 'the other' in his writing. I am very impressed by his anti war poetry. If you can read Dutch, just get both books.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The ugly face of flemish nationalism

I am compelled to write about politics today. In Belgium there where communal elections and in Flanders' biggest city Antwerp he, whose name I don't want to give more google hits, won. The arrogant, aggressive, power hungry bully declared "The city is ours"... Ours? A non-inclusive city, with strict separations between who is part of 'us' and who is not? No way. The city's slogan used to be "The city belongs to everybody", an inclusive idea which worked. Commentators say it is good that 'he' won since the extreme right lost half their votes. A good thing it is not: The extreme right was a clear enemy, surrounded by a 'sanitarian cordon' meaning that no other party would govern a town with them. According to their own figures his party, the N-VA, has 21 % people who came from the 'Vlaams Belang' (former Flemish Bloc) embedded in its list. According to vlaams belang even 40%. So the extreme right becomes salonfähig and thus invisible in its workings. The leader who won was biting in his speeches, merciless in his moment of victory. He and his supporters marched loudly as a mob to the town hall, almost storming it, claiming it theirs. The man lost half his weight in a short time with a crash diet. He not only cuts a sharp image now a days but he is even sharper and ruder than before. He declared the local elections to be a preview for the next elections in 2014, when he hopes Belgium will be turned into a loose confederation. Flemish Chocolate? Walloon steel? To me that would be an aberration since I perceive there is something like 'Belgitude': Magritte, Ensor, Absurdity, 13 dog breeds, a joie de vivre. The storming of the town hall, the physical demonstration of their power is over the edge of democratic behavior. Oh how sad it is to be an aging hippie, living in an non-inclusive society where rudeness and aggression is rewarded. Ugliness rules. All the efforts to keep Antwerp a lively town with not to many cars and car free walking streets will also be undone with parkings in front of the Rubens' house and the Town square, two places where now one can walk around, go for a drink and relax, talk with friends.
With N-VA as the leading party there can be no relaxation. We all need to be vigilant and live our values, whatever may come, lest we end up in the capital of Dystopia.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Futures envisioned in song and dance: Hola!

Agencefuture got it's start years ago in London. After a doctorate about the images of the future on the BBC, Maya wondered how the future was imagined in the real world. She and photographer - camera man and fervent cyclist Bram set out in the world on recumbent bikes to go in search of the images other people hold. Their latest venture was the Maono project for which they made a wonderful road book for each of the participants to fill out or to be inspired by.
A wonderful result of the cooperation between development aid, research into the future and working together with artists in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the song 'Hola' which has been written and composed and performed as part of the project. Joy and peace, creativity, understanding and a good dose of perfectionism and respect are the ingredients of this heartwarming song.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Black Lamb

During the opening of the group exhibition of Black Lamb I got intrigued by some of the artists and spoke with three of them. Bruno Kristo's work I knew and thoroughly appreciate and I went because of him. And as a friend says: stick your nose out of the door and something will happen. The first artist I had a conversation with was Yosvany Malagon Hernandez from Cuba. His work is interesting because of his philosophical approach to art history and because he transforms political criticism in art. I loved his artistic rendering against violence and capital punishment. He also has a series of the Polish Pope worked in in different paintings relevant in European cultural history. He often combines objects and pictures in his work. I had forgotten by camera so please look here for all pictures. The second artist was Japanese Hiromi Oikawa living in New York. The paintings which spoke most to me were two portraits of a young girl. One an involuntary suicide bomber, who went to the police in tears and showed how she was rigged, trying to get rid of the bomb. She was punished at not yet 15 years to seven and half years of imprisonment. The other girl is her best friend's daughter, innocent open giggly. And then Italian Norma Des: at first glance passing by her pantings, I thought frilly, girlish, decorative. Yet, the work kept calling me back. My subconscious must have felt how she empowers women. Pink as innocence is deconstructed through a pink loose ribbon as perverse. In an other painting an abundant redhead says: mette mi come segno: show me as a sign (maybe even a signal). We spoke at length, brushing up on my Italian. Through the lively conversation I learned to appreciate a painting I had felt to be horrible, seeing the beauty but also despair which befalls us all at times...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Breathless in Antwerp

City life can be really dusty. Especially fine dust is a real killer. In many European countries the freeway is still cutting cities in half, causing noise pollution and also a lot of fine dust being spread through the cities, causing lung problems. There are communal elections coming up. The aim of today's gathering was to raise awareness and to ask people to vote for one of the four parties - ranging from a pro industry party - called 'liberals' but not in the American understanding of the word - to the greens and a left wing party involved in health service 'medicine for the people'. In Antwerp there are two contenders to become Mayor, yet none of them were present, nor seem they to be interested it what is a very important issue. Covering the ring, making a tunnel, for the 300.000 cars a day which impact over 300.000 inhabitants would provide cleaner air. The citizens would breathe better and be healthier. The city expects 100.000 new inhabitants: schools, kindergartens, social housing all has to be build. In covering the ring, a green lung for the city would be created and new space where the urgently needed provisions could arise. The through traffic would be lead around the city in what is called the Meccano plan. To show support for the plan four poets read, among whom the former City Poet Laureate, speeches were delivered by Ademloos founder Wim van Hees and Manu Claeys from StRaten generaal. People were invited to bring a pick nick, and while I blog tango is being danced on top of the Craeybecks-tunnel  where the whole action is held in pleasant green surroundings.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

At the canal to the left - Bij het kanaal naar links

The play by Alex Van Warmerdam is a co-production between Toneelhuis ( Belgium) and Orkater (The Netherlands). When I bought the tickets for the performances, the person on the phone said: Oh you will enjoy that one. As it is: I feel bewildered, dissatisfied, wondering... The content: two families (one consisting of four people: mother, father, brother Machien, sister Angelique and the other just a father and son Lucien) have a feud since a few generations. Living in dystopian times the mother, seen the father hasn't been paid for a long time, and the son of the other family look for cooperation setting in motion a chain of events. From a depressed woman, she becomes strong while the policeman father grows weaker and grayer. Machien hates the other family for not being of pure blood. The two families are the only six white people left, Angelique being 'the only fertile female'. Under the bridge are the Congolese, to the east 'the pretty but dark' Iranians, to the south the gypsies and Mongolians and along the canal 'it is black with people and who knows where they are from'. Luciens plan is to make a child with Anglique. The mother brokers the deal. After the suggested intercourse, she goes home, embraces her brother who kills her. End of play. People, also the bunch of young boys from an out of town school who had chosen this as a cultural activity laughed. I failed to appreciate the jokes. The play was what a classical play and listening to other theater goers on the way out, it seems I was not the only one to be dumbfounded. A strange effect of the co-production was that in each of the families there was one character speaking the Flemish variant of Dutch which puzzled me for a while what it mean, why...
The introduction was right: I quote: I see a full house. It happens outside, but all of you came here. I don't know whether you made the right choice. I suggest you lower your expectations.
A last positive remark: the actors did a great job in the performance and the school boys were giggly after the suggested intercourse and having seen naked breasts...

Monday, September 24, 2012

A visitor

Since a few days I have been thinking of Jean: A Vietnam vet, Navy, special ops, suffering from PTSS, a miner and bicycle racer on national level. When she, a woman of 62, visited me with Aurora her Hybrid wolf, she was stuck in body and soul. Not pathetic, but searching as so many of us. The latest identity, beside being a father, a soldier and trans-gender, came about when her mom died and she discovered that she was Cherokee. She even found the family name in the books. She didn't quite look the part because of a German father. 
How does one integrate a voice from one life segment to the next. Only in the bike racing, she was recognized as an athlete before and after the operation. She always knew she was a woman, born into the wrong kind of body. Where can she find acceptance, a companion, peace of mind and fulfillment? The wish has never come true for her since no group fully accepted her for all she has been. If only our society were less judgmental and more welcoming to all differences... She lived her life the way it was supposed to be. Like so many people do. She was a man, married, had children, cross-dressing  in the weekends. Some of her life was good, some bad times too. She changed, made mistakes, missed a right or left turn on the way. But she kept looking. I am not sure for what, nor for whom. She had a dear friend Dave, good buddies. he just accepted her the way she had become. What she found was who she was, whom she could be if she dared to share her friendship and true soul. When we met, I had to push Aurora, her big wolf of my bed, laughing about the silliness of it. Then again she left, following her road from past to present and future... And then she was no more but a memory and a lesson.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Iraqi Ghosts

 How to express the reality of war? The three young Iraqi artists each have survived three wars. That is nine wars right here, says one of the actors. True enough. There are as many wars as there are participants, victims and survivors, as many wars as people have to live true them. The play is disquieting, loud, funny, clashing, a confrontation with what we have only seen or heard in the media. It is the personal experience of the three Iraqi actors which informs this play. The female roles are performed by Flemish/German actresses. The audience is eased into the drama of war through the first scene with the actors wearing animal masks, animals as victims of war too. I particularly like that each scene was introduced and 'framed', explained and thus creating expectations as to what is to come and how long the particular scene will take.
The vivid images created on the scene, incorporating elements of home - oriental carpets, couscous, food, projected film - are all elements of the questions raised: What is war? How do people live in times of war? The three main images which follow are: The day before the war, marked by fear, tension and preparing for what one cannot prepare. The next scene is the day after the war when distrust reigns, when old friends no longer dare to shake hands. Who is a friend anyway and who is foe? The third day there is war. One of the actresses states: I feel alive, all worries have been lifted, all the rest is unimportant. Now it is all about survival. The performance, albeit very personal, is reaching for a universal almost physical language. In the play language plays a main part: the two actresses speak in German, English and Dutch and a few times almost grammolo, often as a consecutive rendering of the texts spoken in Farsi. To me that was mesmerising. Iraqi Ghosts is a play by Mokhallad Rasem in cooperation and improvisation with the actors Duraid Abba, Sarah Eisa, Ahmed Khaled, Julia Clever.
Remember: Peace is the way.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Theater play: FLOU - (Blurred)

The author of this strangely beautiful play is actress Abke Haring performing together with Han Kerkhoffs the play FLOU. In a disquieting opening with electronic music the two actors stand absolutely still next to each other holding hands. The rectangle on the floor and the floating roof above their life represents an abstract home. During the music drops fall in an array of glass containers. The roof leaks. The couple battles out their pain in a discouraging silence. The repetitive dialogs are pure poetry. His unwillingness to speak is magnified by her voicing his thoughts which he calls nagging in the drip drop on the stage. There is a moving part when they put small glass saucers under falling drops - yet they fail doing it together. Grim. The two longer monologues of the man are very sexual in a strangely ordinary language, talking as he is about wild sex in the deep freeze compartment of the supermarket. His language here is coarse, uncaring about her feelings. Every kind of frozen or fresh produce is used in this wild fantasy of an impromptu encounter with a past flame. At the same time it is almost hilarious. Yet it is obvious the couple doesn't have a lot of sex, or anything else with each other but being stuck, powerless to go or to let go, unable to be fulfilled by each other. The whole performance is punctuated by long eloquent silences, communicating something important, they are unable to share. Towards the end the woman asks to let her grow in 'a being without words', thus seeking the ultimate intimacy of being understood and understanding without words. Words have been used before, are charged and therefore treacherous. Yet this kind of silence would also be a hell of loss, emptiness, and a disappearing self... An intriguing performance balancing, as the author qualifies it, between duet and duel.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Unsung hero

Rose vdw is one of my unsung heroes. She is gentle and compassionate, a good friend and poet. She is quiet spoken, a lover and supporter of art. She bakes a mean apple cake which I savor with relish. She is also a help in working through my feelings concerning my mother who is suffering with dementia. Rose, for about 16 long years, visited her mother with Alzheimer in the ‘Cocoon’. This soft spoken soul however was a power house when she felt her mother had not been dealt with as she deserved. The institution offered ‘comfort care ‘, which turned out to be mainly comfortable for the nurses. The patients would be bedded down every day and every night. They were no longer dressed, nor would they sit at a table to eat, or sit in a comfortable chair in the afternoon. Then the daughter became the advocate who trembling with emotions of sadness and anger would defend the quality of life of her mother and thus also of the other patients. When my mother's illness began, Rose would answer my questions, sometimes sketch what awaited me in the logical evolution that was to follow. She gave invaluable insight and thus acceptance of what was to come.

Here a moving poem about her mother’s reaction when Rose's father passed away.

I have loved him so much, she said.
A month before he died - he couldn't
eat a bite - she had set out there
the same stack of sandwiches
already for fifty years. He fumed.

A wounded lion. The berry jam, soon a
bloodstain on the carpet. In almost
a scuffle he was felled by her as if a feather.

I have loved him so much, she said
while crying and unknowing of the days,
now angry, then again fearful was left behind.
On her own a passport with a spotless past.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy Birthday!

Yesterday it was Leonard Peltier's birthday. Two dear friends, Unciya and Hakata, run the Flemish Leonard Peltier Chapter and decided to do something for his birthday. So in a small literary café Den Hopsack a reading was organized from his prison writings My Life is My Sundance. Of course reading the whole book Is a bit long. I was asked to compose an overview of his thoughts in the book and to read it to the audience. Hakata had made an excellent slide show, running slowly in te background. And Unciya, she rebel roused the people present explaining about AIM and why they do what they can for Leonard. They made some money to be send to the defense team.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


You have all heard about Selma, Alabama as a city where Dr. Martin Luther King fought for civil rights. Selma was the launching point for pivotal protests that hurtled the voting rights movement into the national spotlight. It is also a city of tragedy: thousands of students, religious leaders, my late husband and families fighting for civil rights in Selma were arrested, injured, or brutally killed.

I quote the text from : "I grew up in Selma. Now, as a community organizer, I think often about the sacrifices of the people who lived here before me. I was outraged and ashamed to learn that Selma's city council is sitting idly by as a local neo-Confederate group expands a public monument to a founder of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Monuments celebrating violent racism and intolerance have no place in this country, let alone in a city like Selma, where the families of those attacked by the Klan still live.

Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate military leader, a founding member of the KKK, and the first Grand Wizard of the KKK. He wasn't even from Selma -- why should Selma be honoring his shameful legacy of racial segregation and terrorism?

If Selma wants be viewed by the rest of the country as forward-thinking, we cannot give in to those who pine for the "good ole days" of the 1860s. This monument has blighted our town for far too long. Please join me in calling on the Selma city council to remove the monument celebrating Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Petition Letter

Dear Selma City Council,

I am writing to strongly urge you to stop the current plans to expand a monument celebrating Nathan Bedford Forrest.

People know Selma, Alabama as the city where Dr. King fought for civil rights. Selma was the launching point for historical protests that hurtled the civil rights movement into the national spotlight. It is also a city of tragedy: thousands of students, religious leaders, and families fighting for civil rights in Selma were arrested, injured, or brutally killed.

It was shocking to learn that Selma would ever choose to celebrate the legacy of a Ku Klux Klan founder and Grand Wizard by allowing a monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest to stand on city property. For the council to allow this monument to be expanded would simply be beyond the pale.

If Selma wants be viewed by the rest of the country as forward-thinking, we cannot give in to those who pine for the "good ole days" of the 1860s. The Selma city council has no business allowing the the city's history and the memory of those who fought for civil rights to be smeared in this way. I demand that you stop the expansion of the Nathan Bedford Forrest monument and remove it from public property.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Poetry in the park in Hoboken

 It was a wonderful afternoon: Easy talk among like minded friends, good poetry read. The choice of musicians grand. Left, poets listening to poets reading. Right Roger Nupie and Vera Alexander Beerten. Roger read naughty homo erotic poetry, lighthearted and fun. Vera read a cycle of poems about 34 children drowning on a Friday night during the war. Chilling to the bone. The words smuggled in all had to do with caring for one or other issue or being moved by something. The audience was wonderful participating in the exchange with poets: looking up at the leaves in the dappled light, repeating words when a poet asked them to...

It was all great stuff. The extra appearance of Iron Maiden lead singer Blaze Bayley was a pleasant surprise. Many reasons to be grateful.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


I read a lot, I love books. Yet some of my friends are shocked at how I treat my books. Usually in pencil, yet also in pen and ink or anything that will write, I make notes in my books. Underlining, adding exclamation marks, putting in the initials of whom I should send a specific quote to. Sometimes an elaboration, a yes! Or No! No! Sometimes when rereading a book years later, I don't even recognize my younger self. There was a time that books that weren't in almost unread, virginal state wouldn't be bought nor sold in a second hand shop. yet that has changed in the last years. Books belonging to authors, writing in a book they have read, have now become more valuable and are considdered a tool in literary studies. In 'De Brakke Hond' in the section called 'Glimpen' by Paul Claes I read a note about a very industrious librarian who had erased all the penciled in notes and remarks from Dutch poet Jan Leopold in a book of poetry by Mallarmé. It is a shame we lost the insights and comments in the margins. It is I guess like looking in through an illuminated window, or reading over another's shoulder...sharing a thought with an unknown person.

The square and B B King

I am sitting in a trendy square and am amazed at how young the city has become. Just here and there a graying beard, a white head. Just two, three ample gray haired women. The 30/40 year old are mainly skinny, Sancere sipping and speaking about a new partner be it in love or in business. Also relationships turned sour are a frequent subject. Good advice, or advice meant as such, is balanced by hard edged principles, used as a dam against more hurt. And then from somewhere a line of music:

If you don't know
what to do
listen to T-Bone Walker
if you don't now
what hit you
when you're under
a bad spell
can't hide the thrill
to B B King

Thursday, September 6, 2012


The days shortening make me a little sad, yet last night having to run an urgent errant at dusk I was thrilled that people had turned on their lights. Many shutters were down, or the curtains drawn, yet here and there I could catch a glimpse of beautiful woodwork in an almost stately home or a beautiful rosette centering the luster of a crystal chandelier. But the greatest joy was seeing people going about heir daily life: kids  doing homework or crafts at the table, a parent puttering around in the background, cooking, clearing clutter and coaching from a distance. People eating or talking gave me a sense of warmth, a sense of caring and community. Of course there were some voices of crying toddlers, angry parents shouting, a couple fighting... There one felt how overburdened the people were within their situation, how hard it is to deal with the daily disasters. These glimpses give me an insight in what seems to constitute happiness, serenity and a feeling of belonging. Last night 's image I cherish most is an old man sitting and reading by a lamp near the window. He is secure in his place, knows where he belongs and so he is reassuring to me. These short flashes of unknown people's life seem to hold for me valuable wisdom and insights.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Around the kiosk

Frank De Vos organizes next Sunday, September 9, a beautiful gathering of eight poets who will smuggle in their words around the kiosk in Hoboken. It starts at three, be there!

Smuggle ware from Croatia:

Birds whisper softly
don’t drown out
what was thought

Bells clang
-       it is six o’clock-
to the day
the good life
in submission
to a normal life
of singing women in black

the heart  full of fire
the soul in the wind
and the distance that calls

Birds whisper softly
don’t drown out
what you think at all