Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Patchwork and poetry

One day I passed a beautiful sewing, knitting and patchwork shop. They announced an introductory class making a Ohio star. It is as you can see a simple nine block pattern. being a novice and born in Ohio I decided to give it a try.  And here is the result.
Of course I kept thinking about it and my friend Roselyn Johnson who is a master quilter and a really nice lady. Owning one of her wild quilts I decided to try for my own composition in the somewhat larger size of a bedspread or a throw. Of course being a poet I couldn't help myself.

a nine patch Ohio Star
because of poverty
in winter
the blocks are made
in summer they are put together
and then when blanket
given to
whom needs it most
my mother couldn’t do it
left Ohio
and only now
I know
I am a Ohio Star
sewn together of scraps
of continents and countries
languages and longing
so I give myself away
in the brave choice
of brightest color
a riot of displacement
in this port
finding a coherence
of sort

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cicatrizado - Poetry in Hoboken

Cicatrizado is the successor to the first volume Yawn on stone, hopefully to be followed by a third project. All is flawlessly organized by Frank De Vos, who developed the concept. Hartmut De Maertelaere took the pictures of trees with scars which inspired the poets. The district of Hoboken, Belgium is the publisher of the books. Eighteen black and white images of a knot, a scar on a tree, a detail, a feel of a bark of a tree lead to insights and moods and metaphors, to rhythms, all different.
All poets present read their work and the cellist Judith wonderfully played six Bach pieces in the beautiful Hoboken castle in the snow. I was impressed by a poet I didn't know: Ann Van Dessel. She writes the poem as the observer who sees the trees who see what humans do. 'They put their roots towards our feet' and 'they carve breath in our hands'. It was a pleasant gathering, a great initiative. The poems and pictures can be still be seen in the Hoboken park.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pen and Writers in Prison Committee

This is an invitation to you, if you are an author reading this. But do read on if you aren't a writer. If you are not already member of your local Pen, consider joining and as a second step consider volunteering for their Writers in Prison Committee. From Pen International (situated in London) is the following brief overview for last year. The core business is the defense of freedom of speech and the authors who get in dire straits exercising this right.

Over the whole year in 2012, the Committee monitored over 870 attacks:
·         14 writers and journalists killed clearly in relation to their professions
·         Another 31 murdered where the circumstances are not clear
·        157 writers are serving long prison terms for their writings in countries including China,      Vietnam, Turkey, Eritrea and Uzbekistan
·         Another 133 are detained whose cases are under investigation by PEN
·        Around 10% of the long term prisoners were freed before the end of their sentences.
·         170 are on trial without being imprisoned
·         Other abuses include death threats, imprisonment for short periods and harassment.

The Writers in Prison Committee of International Pen has composed an excellent tool: A guide to defending writers under attack.

You will get information about the Rapid Action Network (the RANs). Through these mails you are informed about a specific case, the relevant addresses for the country concerning the RAN are also provided. You will be asked to write a letter in defense of the author and in defense of free speech. The earlier the phase you do send your letter, the greater the impact. A Pen Centre can also adopt an honorary member who is imprisoned and in need. Pen Flanders has supported Zheng Yichun  from China who after seven years is now released without civil rights or political rights, and without funds. So the WIPC is looking for funds so that medication and the special food needed for diabetes can be bought. Memet Bahkir  from Turkey has now his documents in order and is living in Germany. Just to name two.

Since it is impossible to follow the events in the whole world we have chosen two areas of interest for which we have the expertise and contacts through several authors: Central Africa and Eastern Europe. We believe that is the way to have a greater impact. Of course with certain other emergencies we will also act.

I look forward to a good collaboration with my colleagues and do feel proud and humbled to be the current president of WIPC-Flanders (Dutch speaking Belgian Pen section).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Nabucco - Giuseppe Verdi

José, a friend of mine offered me a ticket to the opera, one of the best seats in the house, since she fell ill. Not being well versed in classical music I decided to go and listen to the introduction the opera gives before the performances. I learned this opera is written in a new and revolutionary way: working in dialogs between voices, between instruments, between soloists and choir and the orchestra and the singers. Also that the dramatic action is driven by the characters who define the plot. The first tones of the orchestra pulled at my heartstrings, moved me, but still I didn't fathom the ride I would be on. The performance by the Symphonic Orchestra and Choir of the Flemish Opera, the instruments and voices enchanted me. The British director however deserves my greatest praise: Daniel Slater. He used the libretto and the opera with a totally contemporary eye: no costumes, but contemporary iconic clothing referring to the Arab spring, the Occupy movement, the Israel-Palestine conflict, the golden calf in Wall street, power and religion.
The opening scene the choir is seated among graffiti-sprayed walls listening to Zaccaria their backs turned to the audience, occupy masks on the back of their heads, tents like I have seen in several cities. Zaccaria is a rebel rouser and we see how the group responds, takes over his defiant attitude. Verdi in the 21st century. The choir eloquently, beautifully speaks out against persecution. I became part of the thoughts and feelings, had tears running along my cheeks. To me this contemporary direction by Slater is a voyage through war and conflict, power hunger, subjection and liberation and the possibility of forgiveness, peaceful futures for all. The 'bad Character' Abigaille sang with reckless abandon, grabbing the crown when Nabucco is overcome by madness, his singing in those moments faltering, inward turned, whereas his finale having chased Abigaille and the golden calf of Babylon having been destroyed, was powerful. To my untrained ear all did a great job, the choir however stole my heart. I absolutely loved the very last gesture: Nabucco with the flick of a hand not accepting the crown... A long applause and bravo!!! After all the old testament violence, we leave the opera with hope. Hope that Occupy and other peaceful movements will build a new sense of community.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Wolves and ranchers

There is a rancher I know, a good person, I even call him my friend, yet... He kills coyotes to protect his cattle, notwithstanding the fact that he says that feral dogs are worse than coyotes and wolves. Predators are beautiful and contribute to a viable ecological system. I don't understand the demonizing of wolves and coyotes. My friend once even shot a coyote from his truck while I was riding 'shotgun' with him. I must admit it made me more distant towards this person. I endorse the wolf protection actions of the Center for Biological Diversity. I also endorse US Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon and US Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, with US Rep. Raul Grijalva of New Mexico as a lead sponsor. Right now they are circulating a letter to their colleagues in the US Congress, expressing support for America's wolves still under federal protections, and that those federal protections remain in place. I quote from the Center for Biological Diversity:
As if the persecution and killing of over 1,000 wolves, over the past six months alone, in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin, is not enough, the US Fish & Wildlife Service now wants to remove federal protections for wolves in the remaining states where they are still under federal  protection. This unethical, anti-ecology political maneuver includes states that have just a few dozen wolves or none at all! How ridiculous is such a proposal? Why even have an Endangered Species Act if corrupt federal officials or any corrupt state government can declare a persecuted and endangered animal unworthy of protection due to lies, mythology and dirty politics? 
When I first came to Arizona, I used to hear the coyotes every night. Their night song was a reassurance, a connection to all what lives, made the stars shine brighter and the full moon more purposeful. Last year was the first time I didn't even see nor hear a coyote and I miss them bitterly. It just doesn't feel right. Also, I once encountered a red timber wolf near the Colorado river, about four in the afternoon. We looked at each other. I saw his magical brown eyes, he must not have sensed any danger coming from me, so he slowed, glanced back at me and went his way disappearing in the desert. That was however in the early '90's... Yet I can still feel the enchantment thinking about my coyotes and wolf encounters.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Winter greys

Tiring are the short days with insufficient light, with weeks of cold, and often dangerous roads... The clouds hang over the houses, wisps of moist droplets fade out the horizon. I love to watch the clouds, seeing creatures from mythology, recognizing faces, following the changing drift. The winter seagulls and even a heron flying sometimes high and sometimes low. In summer it is the screeching of swallows and house martins. I always liked to meditate that way or to loose myself in the windy stream of imagination and life. Yet so much goes on, that pulls one back into the greyness of now. The short lived pinks and reds at sunrise fill my soul. So I give thanks and know that we are all related. We are concerned when more than 60.000 people have died already in Syria, where children freeze in the makeshift camps. We are concerned when a homeless man dies near Brussels central station. We are concerned when the media shorten our perspective, only concerned with the provocations of power-hungry politicians. The clouds thicken, thus loosing the view of another steeple... Maybe it is just a winter morning's blues that makes me feel this way. Or is it thinking about the funeral of a friend's mother, thinking of my own mother, smiling when I fuss over her. She who spoke four language, hardly uttering a few coherent words who is still among us but not quite. She would now be a perfect confidante, since three seconds later all is past and wiped out... Yet I never dared to test this theory since she seems to understand in the moment what one says. So she might feel sorrow. Thus I fuss over her, joke, act foolish, am the clown and she laughs and smiles in the moment.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


There are several museums I really like: among others the Louisiana in Copenhagen, the Guggenheim in Venice, the Centre George Pompidou in Paris and the Muhka and also the Royal Museum of Fine Art both in Antwerp. What these museums have in common is the beauty of their collections and the light, airy space. Some modern and some stately, the perfect space for the Brueghel's and Rubens' collections. In the museum boijmans van beuningen is the current exhibition is called 'The Road to Van Eyck'. I like the exhibition: the few original Van Eyck paintings, his magnificent book of hours, the 'cheap' fast work made for export to the south was sometimes cartoon like, yet sought after in his time and now, and the funny painting of a lady with her lover and husband, whose glasses she had taken away so he wouldn't notice. However the museum itself and the way of presenting was not optimal. The floor and walls in the same dust gray, the lighting scarce, the lettering (with interesting texts) hard to read. It felt stuffy, with closed in spaces where people couldn't circulate freely. Yet it was a good outing with dear friends, catching up on sharing and talking. Oh yes, people in Holland are taller than in Belgium, so in the bathroom you'll have to adjust to a rather tall toilet bowl.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Gierik reading in den Hopsack

Eight poets had been announced. One however, René Hooybergs had caught a nasty virus and couldn't make it. He was aptly interpreted by Tin Vankerkom, who memorized His and her texts and then performs them with a very expressive rendering. Yet in a way there were more than eight voices to be heard. One poet writes under three heteronyms, which is kind of being some one else, like Pessoa, the great Portuguese poet did. In this way a reading by Sven Peeters can become a reading by three or four different voices, bringing the presence of Balkan poets, their longing for a far away friend, nightly forages through cafés and bars. Ahh, the schizophrenia of belonging to different  parts of the world. Sven Cooremans read intimate poetry. I didn't know this poet. His detailed language shifts and thus reaches out to you, makes you pay attention since he is telling you something important you need to know. Vera Alexander Beerten's work I have known and appreciated since a long time. She read 'Kindertotenlieder', a cycle dealing with the death of 35 children, when crossing a river on a raft which capsized while trying to go to the other side of the village. Moving. Richard Foqué, with sonorous voice read 'landscapes' and very structured poems, brought peace and rest. The most important guest  was Guy Commerman, one of the two founding fathers of Gierik. I love his quiet way, his sense of relativity, his gentle humor and yes his poetry. he opened and drew us all into the evening. The MC of the evening was Frank De Vos, introducing every poet in the superlatives, they deserve, reading the first poem of the book the poets were reading from. Form the bilingual Traces/Sporen I read a poem which had some music in it since that was the official theme.

Like the bird
singing till the morn
of her last day
whistling waveringly
softer than a male
but with a courage of her own
was killed
by others
because her song
so will I sing
and if sometime somewhere
in a Laundromat
someone speaks about this singing
like she about Garcia Lorca spoke
and danced to his bloody word
then my song
is heard.

Slide show of the evening by Fred Schywek
The Gierik reading brought fun memories of the redaction meetings at my place, each  one involving a bottle of Whiskey (mainly drunk by Dirk Claus) and a bottle of Genever and also a home cooked meal.