Check out the new archives page by clicking "complete index by category..." above, or just by clicking here.
The stories are pretty disorganized at the moment, but I plan on cleaning them up, creating new categories, etc., over the next few weeks.
[We get another plug (a ways down) in this very informative article that pretty much covers almost anything having to do with poetry and the war, at least in publishing.]
Poets assert their role in the national discussion
by Michael Scharf
On March 5, the group Poets Against the War, hastily but determinedly set up by Copper Canyon publisher Sam Hamill, presented members of the U.S. Congress with a sheaf of 13,000 poems, in conjunction with a day of readings all over the country. To say that this was an unprecedented publishing event is putting it mildly. It may have been the beginning of a sea change—not only in the way that poems are published and circulated, but in the way that they are thought of in terms of their cultural role.
The presentation capped off the most visible organized poetic protest against war with Iraq. The story of how it was touched off is by now a familiar one: First Lady Laura Bush invited Hamill, among other poets, to a discussion of the work of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman. Hamill declined and sent out an e-mail calling for poems, and he asked that February 12 (the date of the White House event) be made "a day of poetry against the war." Bush subsequently canceled the event, but Hamill's call burgeoned into a Web site (www.poetsagainstthewar.org) and into the group's massive anthology, which has just been published in an abridged edition.
Just as the United for Peace.org marches on New York City of February 15 and March 22 were word–of–e-mail based, the immense poetry protest certainly couldn't have happened without the Internet. The passionate debates that have been taking place through poetry have addressed not only the war, but the cultural role of poetry itself and the means for its dissemination. Drawing attention to that role is something that National Poetry Month, now in its eighth year and beginning this week, was designed to do from its inception. As publishers prepared for NPM, we asked them how, or if, all the attention focused on poetry by the antiwar movement was affecting their plans.
Though their answers vary, most agree with Tree Swenson, executive director of the Academy of American Poets—the group that originated and remains a major sponsor of NPM—that "poetry is much more visible in the culture right now, and part of that is because this program has been enormously successful in making poetry a more important part of the fabric of American life."
Shut Up, Poets!
The academy is kicking off NPM with a New York gala designed to demonstrate how deeply those poetic threads have insinuated themselves. Entitled "Poetry & the Creative Mind, an evening celebrating the role of poetry in American culture," the event will feature prominent, nonpoet writers and performers celebrating poetry's impact on the culture at large. Those invited include Laurie Anderson, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Kitty Carlisle Hart, Caroline Kennedy, Frank McCourt, Jessye Norman, George Plimpton, Natalie Portman, Zadie Smith, Frank Stella, Meryl Streep and William Styron.
While proud of NPM's successes in promoting poetry in the past, Swenson affirms that it is the antiwar movement that has bought unprecedented attention to poetry over the past few months. "In the '60s during the Vietnam War, poetry did draw people together who were concerned about the war and wanted to make a statement. They found the voices of poets and [the poets] rose into public visibility, but I don't think at nearly the level that they have this time."
While a media stir (and bitter acrimony on all sides) resulted from recent work and remarks by New Jersey's poet laureate, Amiri Baraka, and by Tom Paulin, a British poet and Columbia University visiting professor, Hamill's work captured the most column inches and generated a surge of activity. That attention has brought greater cognizance of the poet's traditional role within public discourse, to the point where a recent screed by Neal Pollack, frequent McSweeney's contributor and ardent blogger, was capped with the injunction: "Shut the hell up, poets."
Asked why U.S. poets don't normally play a more visible role in public debates, Dan Halpern, v-p, editorial director of Ecco Press and copublisher of Fourth Estate books, finds the situation "very complicated. The poets of Latin America—Neruda, de Andrade, Vallejo—and the great Eastern European poets, especially in Russia, speak to the people. When a new book comes out in Russia, it sells 100,000 copies, and they're lined up the day it's released. The poets somehow connect with the population. Our poets don't do that. I'm not saying they're better or worse poets, but for whatever reason, they clearly don't connect. A book of poetry typically sells a couple thousand copies, aside from Billy Collins, or Louise Glück, Jorie Graham, Seamus Heaney."
One might even quibble about (Ecco authors) Graham or Glück's numbers, reportedly very much in the several thousand range themselves, though, as with most sales figures in publishing, almost impossible to verify, short of asking the poets themselves. But despite all of the antiwar activity, and NPM, Halpern still finds "poetry always has this core group of readers, and it hasn't changed that much over 30 years."
Still, Halpern finds NPM useful, "because it makes people think about poetry in a focused way—it makes readers aware that there's still poetry being written" and that it can even be a regular part of people's lives: "In times of crisis, and we saw it after 9/11, people turn to poetry. In terms of rites of passage, people always turn to poetry. And if it's good enough for these key moments of life, then what's the matter with the everyday?"
Margarita Donnelly, director of Calyx Books, the small press based in Corvallis, Ore., that recently released A Fierce Brightness: 25 Years of Women's Poetry, concurred. "I come from a different culture—I'm from an Irish-American family from South America, where poetry causes revolutions, where poets are often leaders of political movements, and works of poetry are treated much differently than the way we treat things in the U.S., which is this white tower, sort of separate from reality."
Donnelly finds that such perceptions have a direct impact on Calyx's mission. "We're a feminist press. In the very word 'feminism' there's a political connotation given to it automatically by society at large, and who knows how many interpretations [of feminism] there are. For us, it's simply about giving women a voice." So even if the poems Calyx publishes don't carry an overt, issue-based message, "poetry is political whether it's 'political' or not."
The split between "political" and "nonpolitical" in public consciousness wasn't always so absolute, as Farrar, Straus & Giroux's Jonathan Galassi notes. Watching many of the poets on his list react to world developments, he finds the recent transformation "reminiscent of the '60s. It's bringing out a vein of poetry that has been sort of underground. When I was young, from Robert Lowell to Allen Ginsberg, that was one whole string to the lyre." Lowell, while taking part in Stalin-era red-baiting, was imprisoned as a conscientious objector to WWII and was outspoken during Vietnam, as was Ginsberg, who is perhaps the last U.S. poet with mass appeal who was consistently outspoken in his work and life.
New World Order
But it may be that the lyre has simply been re-tuned. Along with Ginsberg came Bob Dylan and Gil Scott-Heron; Grandmaster Flash and Public Enemy followed not too long after that. And this year saw the smash opening of Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, more Grammys for Eminem and packed performance poetry reading spaces across the country.
Clearly, as poet Eileen Myles recently put it in an open letter to Slate editor Judith Shulevitz (who had dismissed poetry readings as "uncomfortable" in a New York Times Book Review piece), "[T]he happy meeting of live poetry with a very impoverished human need to hear any speech live, but particularly rhythmic speech is unstoppable. Judith, people just like it. They really do. They like to sit communally and hear messages that aren't tinkered with by the government, or intended to sell a product, or gauged to spin some denatured piece of information that's already been stripped of dangerous and alarming content. Poetry is and has been for a while where lots of citizens get the real and irregular news of how others around them think and feel. What is so discomforting about that?"
Shulevitz and Myles were arguing about poetry readings of page-based work, rather than performance poetry, but there is often little separating the two, beyond the poet and audience's affects. If one classifies rap and hip-hop as genres with slightly different demands than conventional or performance poetry, then recorded poetry readings on CD have not yet had sales that noticeably surpass books (despite Shulevitz's enthusiasm for recorded poets, who are preferable because "you can always turn them off"). It may be that cheap, high-quality digital recording devices—both audio and video—are just starting to infiltrate performance venues and that recorded poetry's full competitiveness is still a few more years away.
What this year has seen is a remarkable spate of excellent poets in translation, bringing the news from other corners.
Graywolf, a small press based in St. Paul, Minn., recently published Without an Alphabet, Without a Face: Selected Poems by Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef, a socialist who has been in exile for years and now lives in London. Poetry editor Jeff Shotts makes it clear that "we accepted and put this book under contract about a year and half ago, before Iraq was something everyone wanted to talk about." But the press thought Youssef perfect for its Lannan Translation series. And Shotts strongly believes that Youssef's work can affect people's thinking on the situation. Indeed, he says, "Anyone who cares about complicated thinking about Iraq should be reading this book. As with all of our books, publishing it was primarily an aesthetic concern, but certainly a political one as well."
The awareness level of what Laura Cerruti, who recently took over as poetry editor at the University of California, calls "global poetics" seems generally heightened. "A lot of times you're talking about poets who are very involved politically with what's going on in their countries. We're interested in African poets, and when you start to delve in, it just comes up."
While not basing her decisions solely on aesthetics, Cerruti looks for the kind of connection that Halpern spoke of. "We're not going to publish someone solely because they have a particular political view; we're going to publish really influential poets. That can mean the strength of the language, but it can also be the message," Cerruti says. In doing so, the house takes care to approach from a variety of angles. "We've always published on both sides of every issue: this spring we have [Palestinian poet] Mahmood Darwish and we have [Israeli poet] Yehuda Amichai." Both are deeply engaged with the political questions facing Israel and Palestine, and even know each other. "And we publish both."
"Balance" in such undertakings was a theme struck repeatedly. Suzanna Tamminen, editor-in-chief at Wesleyan University Press, spoke of the press's mission as "try[ing] to represent as broadly as possible the best of what is going on in contemporary poetry. We really try not to become too closely aligned with any one school or type or mode or poetic presentation, but Wesleyan itself has such a liberal history, and I definitely feel that the press reflects that as well."
As well as the excellent international work available, there is still plenty of poetry being published by U.S. writers that might not sell 100,000 copies, but which is connecting through various means, some of them grassroots and some unabashedly partisan.
Poets like Wanda Coleman, Juan Felipe Herrera, Alice Notley, Adrienne Rich and Barrett Watten have written careers' worth of work that deeply interrogates lives and sociopolitical systems. Their publishers are, respectively, Black Sparrow (now distributed by Godine), the University of Arizona, Penguin, Norton and Sun & Moon.
In April, Atelos press will release Rodrigo Toscano's Platform, a blistering, aesthetically supercharged poetic critique of politics as currently practiced by much of the right and the left. Atelos was founded by poets Lyn Hejinian and Travis Ortiz; their mission statement notes the press is "devoted to publishing, under the sign of poetry, writing which challenges the conventional definitions of poetry, since such definitions have tended to isolate poetry from intellectual life, arrest its development, and curtail its impact." The correlation between formally innovative work and political thinking is something that has been clear at least since Blake and Shelley.
But such interrogations don't have to be experimental or samizdat. Soft Skull, now in Brooklyn, published the notorious Bush biography Fortunate Son and recently released the book version of David Rees's explosive Web comic Get Your War On, both of which got a lot of press. Two of Soft Skull's main titles for spring are 100 Poets Against the War, an international anthology of poems in English, French and German originally compiled in a week by the force of the Web, and Off the Cuffs: Poetry By and About the Police.
But as Soft Skull's publicity director, Shanna Compton, noted, a lot of how the press gets the word out has little to do with the books: "For outreach, the Web site and the e-mail list have been amazing, and we now do almost all of our press releases online. And we are focusing much more on webzines to get our books reviewed."
As Hamill's project demonstrated vividly, the major way in which poets connect with readers, and with other poets, may now be the Internet. And it's not just smaller houses that are working the medium.
One of Knopf's major National Poetry Month activities is its "Poem a Day" project, where anyone signed up for the Knopf e-newsletter is e-mailed a daily poem. In addition to bringing poetry to people in a way that highlights its daily availability, the project helps the house cope with the April glut of the market. For Knopf editor Deborah Garrison, NPM is "a blessing and a curse, because there's just so much, you worry that certain books might get lost. On the other hand, it's nice to have the focus, and it's nice to have the front table in some stores. I still like it as a reminder to people, 'Don't forget you like poetry, and here it is, and we've got it, and there's plenty for the taking.' " In fact, they're giving it away on their Web site as well.
The Academy of American Poets' Web site (www.poets.org), which features searchable caches of poems and poet biographies, had 28 million hits and 380,000 unique visits last April, and expects more this year. Beyond the huge amount of poetry on or linked to the site, the academy is set for an NPM launch of a clickable map of the United States that will serve as a nationwide clearinghouse for information on poetry events.
There are also many recent smaller-scale projects, including niche archives of poetry from a variety of eras, modes and languages. ECLIPSE: An Archive of Enthused Writing recently came online via Princeton University (www.princeton. edu/eclipse), offering PDFs of out-of-print books by poets like Clark Coolidge and Lorenzo Thomas. The Electronic Poetry Center, out of SUNY Buffalo (epc.buffalo.edu), remains a staple, with tons of material and links to sites like the Brazilian Visual Poetry site (www.imediata.com/BVP). And then there are the blogs.
Weblogs by poets have proliferated along with blogs from other walks of life. One of the most prominent, now approaching 20,000 unique visits, is that of poet and former Socialist Review editor Ron Silliman (ronsilliman.blogspot.com). For Silliman, the blog has meant a level of accessibility that was not possible with books. "I suspect that more people read my blog on any given day than read my poetry," Silliman says seriously. "Only 800 copies of Ketjak [one of Silliman's most acclaimed books] were ever published. More people read my blog in one week, approximately 1,200, than ever had copies of Ketjak."
Primarily a place for daily critical posts, rather than an outlet for his poetic work, the Silliman blog prints and discusses the work of other poets and is now getting approximately 200 visits per day. But beyond his own blog, Silliman looks to its effects on other poets. "In 2001, there were only a few thousand bloggers in the world and virtually nobody using the form to focus on poetry. Now there are hundreds of thousands of bloggers, and a growing number that focus on poetry. May a thousand blogs bloom!"
Brian Kim Stefans, a poet, media artist and blogger, used Weblog technology to put up Circulars (www.arras.net/circulars), a site that he hopes will "focus some of the disparate energy by poets and literary critics to enunciate a response to U.S. foreign policy, most significantly the move to war with Iraq." After attending a Poets Against War event at St. Mark's Poetry Project in New York, Stefans came away "believing that poets could write speeches for our public spokespersons that would be equally as compelling" as what was coming out of the White House. "I see the site as describing a possible culture that probably just doesn't exist yet in a real-world space."
The Circulars blog brings together posts from poets mainly in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., but Stefans gets regular reports from other countries, such as Turkey; and "people also submit things out of the blue." The Circulars site was a little over a month old in March, yet Stefans had 53,000 hits in a recent week and has been logging close to 3,000 unique visitors a day. Compared with the figures Halpern cited for printed poetry volumes, that seems fairly staggering.
Yet Web work is not limited to poets who are against the war. In a reaction to Poets Against the War, Circulars and other sites, a Web site under the name of Poets for the War (www.poetsforthewar.org) was "created out of pure frustration at seeing a bunch of poets get publicity for supporting terrorism and a murderous tyrant like Saddam Hussein al Tikriti," as its home page notes. The group was founded by Charles L. Weatherford, proprietor of AKA Wordsmith, a Web-based company "created to provide custom poetry and creative writing for all occasions." The site features numerous poems critical of the antiwar movement.
And beyond free archiving, blogging and anthologizing on the Net, commercial activity continues apace. Launched last September, Bigsmallpressmall.com brings together four publishers—Fence, McSweeney's, Open City and Verse Press—with the "shared interest in promoting new and unusual writers outside of the mainstream publishing system."
Keeping People Involved
As the poet and critic Alan Gilbert noted in an essay posted on Circulars, "There's a difference between a now in which one's range of political and artistic choices are primarily immediate reactions to a current situation, and a present that draws upon a culture and politics of resistance rooted in the past, present, and future."
We are at the moment deep within a pressurized, reactive "now," where many poets and readers are struggling to define and cope with events and to find a voice within them. Whether or not we move into a reflective, responsive "present," where it is assumed that poets play an active role in public life, will be a measure of poetry—and of publishing—in the years to come.
But for now, as Alice Quinn, poetry editor of the New Yorker and executive director of the Poetry Society of America, remarked, "I think it's okay what's going on, don't you?" The last few months, Quinn finds, have produced work and readings that are "answering the highest obligation of poetry, to wake people up to life in its fullest terms."
There were some glitches in the notifications sent from the blog so some of you were receiving tons of repetitive emails from us... sorry. New policy: no emails from Circulars unless it's cumulative accounts like the following list of new stories (or if the house is on fire).
News: the site has been averaging about 2,000 hits a day, sometimes peaking at 3,000+. It also has a search engine. I'll be rearranging the categories and such things to make it more cogent.
Thanks to all of you who have appreciative emails about the site, and apologies if some of the links and stories sent in have not made it up in a timely fashion.
Please try to pass this email on to friends of yours who want to test our eclectic mix of plagiarized news stories, tasteless political humor, the most oblique (but best) political poetry out there and a really, really lively comments section -- I highly recommend perusing through it.
Following is a list of some of the items from the present homepage. I'm too tired right now to write anything more than this bland preamble but so be it. Take care.
Letter of Resignation by John H. Brown, Foreign Service Officer
To: Secretary of State Colin Powell
March 10, 2003
Dear Mr. Secretary:
I am joining my colleague John Brady Kiesling in submitting my resignation from the Foreign Service (effective immediately) because I cannot in good conscience support President Bush's war plans against Iraq.
BAGHDAD SNAPSHOT ACTION: Court Appearance
So, Emilie and Lytle, who were arrested for posting pictures of Iraqis in Soho, will have their day in court tomorrow morning at the Criminal Court of Manhattan. The Baghdad Snapshot Action Crew will be their to support them. You should show up with your friends and support them too. Info below...
Charles Bernstein: Enough!
In these difficult times, let us not draw away from our poetics in an attempt to redress the ominous possibilities of future U.S. government policies or the onerous effects of current government policies. As poets, we need to pursue our own forms of ethical and aesthetic response rather than engage in the sort of pronouncement by fiat and moral presumption of President Bush and his partisans.
UPI: Pentagon Papers Leaker Seeks Leaks on Iraq
WASHINGTON -- Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers, on Tuesday called on government officials to leak documents to Congress and the press showing the Bush administration is lying in building its case against Saddam Hussein.
Gothic News: New Bush Portrait Found Hanging Upside Down from Mount Rushmore
(Gothic News Service, 3/10/03) Early Sunday morning visitors to Mount Rushmore reported that they were astonished to find they could not look up the 5,725-foot mountain and see the 60-foot high carved stone heads of U.S Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Instead, they found themselves looking at a large painted portrait of President Bush hanging upside down on a cable stretched several hundred feet between the barely exposed foreheads of Lincoln and Washington.
Salt Publishing: 100 Poets Against The War
The most talked-about and successful ebook of recent years is published here for the first time in paperback. “100 Poets Against The War,” a trilogy of downloadable electronic chapbooks was first published online on January 27, 2003 and has since made world-wide news from the LA Times to the Moscow dailies. This book holds the record for the fastest poetry anthology ever assembled and disseminated; first planned on January 20, 2003 and published in this form on March 3, 2003.
Russell Mokhiber: Ari & I
[One of the nice features of commondreams.org are the postings by Russell Mokhiber of his unedited interactions with White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer during the daily press briefings. Here's the latest one.]
Doug Rokke: Depleted Uranium, the War Against Ouselves (interview)
Traprock Peace Center
QUESTION: Any viewer who saw the war on television had the impression this was an easy war, fought from a distance and soldiers coming back relatively unharmed. Is this an accurate picture?
ROKKE: At the completion of the Gulf War, when we came back to the United States in the fall of 1991, we had a total casualty count of 760: 294 dead, a little over 400 wounded or ill. But the casualty rate now for Gulf War veterans is approximately 30 percent. Of those stationed in the theater, including after the conflict, 221,000 have been awarded disability, according to a Veterans Affairs (VA) report issued September 10, 2002.
Gothic News: Burning Man Festival Site in Protest Ritual
(Gothic News Service, 3/9/03) Two Rangers at Black Rock Desert – the annual site in Nevada for the Burning Man Festival - were greeted by a strange vision this morning. Talking to a Reno newspaperman, one of the Rangers reported, "It was sunrise across the playa and we were on our first patrol. When we looked down from the perimeter ridge, we initially saw an astonishingly large grid of either body or garbage bags. Through our binoculars, against the rising sun, we could still see that they were definitely filled - it could have been potatoes or anything big and lumpy. Each bag was spaced about 30 feet away from the next one - about 50 parallel lines going north and south, and about 40 going east and west. The whole thing made a large rectangular space, about a mile long and a kilometer wide. Frankly I can’t say if was just spooky, or both spooky and spectacular, to see all those black bags begin to get the first rays of the sun."
rabble.ca: A Better Idea
[Excerpted from an article by Judy Rebick recently posted on rabble.ca, a Canadian alternative online media source. rabble.ca has a special anti-war coverage section as well, featuring great articles, columnists, and events around Canada.]
from A Better Idea by Judy Rebick:
The Lysistrata Project, one of the many anti-war actions sweeping the globe, reminds us that women’s opposition to war goes back a long way in human history. While I am glad to see a revival of the ancient comedy of women refusing sex to men if they go off to war, I would a prefer a more modern version of women’s resistance. How about a story where women form a global non-violent army and rise up against the men in power?
USA Today's Tips for American Tourists
A survey in the February issue of Conde Nast Traveler states that according to a recent Gallup poll, a declining number of Americans (54% today vs. 79% a year ago) believes that the USA enjoys a favorable image abroad. Further, a majority of Americans (64%) cite a fear of unfriendliness as the top concern of traveling abroad during wartime.
Many analysts believe that the real reason for the upcoming US war on Iraq is the Bush administration's goal of preventing further Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) movement toward the euro as an oil transaction currency standard (Iraq has already made the switch). As long as oil is traded predominantly in US dollars, it's easier for the US to maintain economic control over world oil reserves. Following are links to a number of stories on this subject...
Joshua Clover: What Is Called Violence
[This is largely in response to Keston's Short Critique of Pacifism. I am making a new post rather than a comment since in part I hope to use this as a sort of informal poll on a specific question (at the end of this post). All links open new window]
Keston's critique is a concise and articulate distillation of a long and long-elaborated debate. I admire it for that, and I should say that I also agree with its central beliefs. It has two lacunae worth talking about, which I hope will lead from its abstract clarity to a pragmatic discussion of direct action tactics.
Ron Silliman: On The Social Mark Symposium
[I'd like to reproduce Ron Silliman's recent post on The Social Mark symposium on Circulars but it's proving to hard to format, so I advise going to his blog to read the post -- which goes on to consider Ginsberg and various aspects of affect and content in "political" poetry -- in its entirety.]
"Like its cousin ambiguity, empathy is something that is exceptionally difficult to communicate in any function of life, let alone a poem. It is absolutely not possible in a text that seeks agreement, or which seeks to demonize anyone..."
The Observer: Revealed: US dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war
Secret document details American plan to bug phones and emails of key Security Council members
[A useful reminder, perhaps, that the new possibilities for organized resistance presented by better communications technology are at the same time new possibilities for the defense of imperialism. -- Keston Sutherland]
The United States is conducting a secret 'dirty tricks' campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq. Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer.
A Mini-Anthology of Anti-War Poems
[Taken from Enough! from O Books]
So there’s this episode of Mary Tyler Moore where Ted’s trying to get a raise & after finagling and shenaniganizing he puts one over on Lou & gets his contract changed to non-exclusive sos he can do commercials which is not cool WI Lou & the gang because Ted’s just a brainless gimp & it hurts the image of the news to have the anchorman selling tomato slicers & dogfood so Lou gets despondent because the contract can’t be rescinded but then he gets mad & calls Ted into his office & says, you know his voice, “You’re going to stop doing commercials, Ted” & Ted says “why would I do that Lou?” & Lou says ‘Because if you don’t I’ll punch your face out” & Ted says “I’ll have you arrested” & Lou says “It’ll be too late, your face will be broken, you’re not gonna get too many commercials with a broken face now are you Ted?” & Ted buckles under to force & everybody loves it that Lou’s not despondent anymore he’s back to his brustling chubby loud loveable whiskey-drinking football-loving ways. Now imagine if Ted were Lou, if Ted were the boss. You know how incredibly fucking brainless Ted is, but let’s imagine he understands & is willing to use force. That’s the situation we’re now in as Americans.
U.S. Diplomat John Brady Kiesling: Letter of Resignation
[The following is the text of John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Mr. Kiesling is a career diplomat who has served in United States embassies from Tel Aviv to Casablanca to Yerevan.]
Dear Mr. Secretary:
I am writing you to submit my resignation from the Foreign Service of the United States and from my position as Political Counselor in U.S. Embassy Athens, effective March 7. I do so with a heavy heart. The baggage of my upbringing included a felt obligation to give something back to my country. Service as a U.S. diplomat was a dream job. I was paid to understand foreign languages and cultures, to seek out diplomats, politicians, scholars and journalists, and to persuade them that U.S. interests and theirs fundamentally coincided. My faith in my country and its values was the most powerful weapon in my diplomatic arsenal.
Scott Pound: The Other War That's in the Works
[Scott Pound has been posting to the Buffalo Poetics List a running diary of his time in Turkey which I will start posting here also. If I get inspired I'll go back and pick up some of the prior ones.]
2.27.03, 13:00, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey
A former student of mine who recently graduated came back to campus to see me the other day. He was making the rounds announcing his impending marriage. Delighted for him, I said, “Congratulations! When?” He looked down at his feet for a few seconds and when he looked back up at me all the happiness had left his face. “I don’t know,” he said. “We will wait.” Standing between him and married life is 8-16 months of compulsory military service, and potentially an extended period of conflict in the region, conflict in which he may be personally involved. He thinks a U.S. invasion of Iraq would just be the beginning. He’s probably right.
A R R A S: new media poetry and poetics
Hinka cumfae cashore canfeh, Ahl hityi oar hied 'caw taughtie!
"Do you think just because I come from Carronshore I cannot fight? I shall hit you over the head with a cold potatoe
[Here's an email I sent out to everyone on my address book -- probably sounds bit self-congratulatry, but there are a lot of people working on this site now, in different ways. Alas, I do little actual writing for this site, and it gives some idea of where I think it's going.]
CIRCULARS has become a pretty distinctive mixture of writings by poets and artists (including satires, leaflets, and the "Mirakove Relays"), report activities (including news of arrests), links to political humor sites, a repository for articles covering things you won't hear about in the news (including government leaks and floor speeches), and some lively debate pro and con (look at the comments bar). Thanks to all of the editors, writers and hecklers who have contributed so far!
We were also recently written about in an article in the Village Voice. The article prompted over 5,000 hits over the past 4 days -- 1300 on Thursday alone.
One can question what a site like CIRCULARS or any indy media site does to stop the march toward war -- I do myself -- but there is no doubt that a lot of information and opinion has moved through the internet consolidating public anti-war sentiment in a way that is not happening on television, and that the web can spark new ways of imagining and enacting protest -- of creating a culture with its own points of focus, senses of humor, etc. -- that couldn't have happened 20 years ago. As many people are reading indy-media sites online, and what flies into their inboxes, as are reading the New York Times, and they are not necessarily radicals "in the know," with the right subscriptions and contacts.
I still hope that something some poet writes for CIRCULARS or any site, like Poets Against The War, becomes as addictive as the Senator Byrd speech has been for those with email trigger fingers -- "forcing the hand of chance," as they used to say. If I can be faulted for thinking of this as a media war leading up to the "real thing," I think it's an ok mistake to make -- I think of the entire Homeland Security Department as a multi-media department, lodging their camouflaged, gun-toting performance artists in the NYC subways at their will, and without petitioning for handouts. This all seems so incredibly shameful and insulting to me; I hope they keep doing it if only to embarrass themselves further.
Perhaps we can bring it to a point where we can organize worldwide protests EVERY WEEK -- sounds ridiculous of course, but not impossible. But I, personally, think the protests made a difference, if not in the US then to the people the US will have to talk to for airspace, foot soldiers, or even a sympathetic chat on the phone (or in the headlines). This one feel good moment is not enough, and people seem willing to spend a few hours walking in the same street.
Other site news: today I'm installing a search engine!
Please pass on word of Circulars to friends of yours who might be interested, and especially to other site and listservs who might include them in a links column, blogroll, etc.
Here's a few items that have appeared recently (the first paragraph of each entry is included -- all the stories go on from there):
Bookseller Purges Files to Avoid Potential "Patriot Act" Searches
In the interest of avoiding potential searches under the Patriot Act, Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont has already discarded the names of books bought by its readers' club, and will purge purchase records for customers if they ask. "When the CIA comes and asks what you've read because they're suspicious of you, we can't tell them because we don't have it," store co-owner Michael Katzenberg said. "That's just a basic right, to be able to read what you want without fear that somebody is looking over your shoulder to see what you're reading."
Nick Lawrence/Jonathan Skinner
War On Iraq?
(leaflet for Teach-Ins)
Over the past year and a half the Bush administration has put forth a variety of arguments for prosecuting a war on Iraq to unseat Saddam Hussein. Keeping up with these arguments can be confusing—partly because they keep changing. At the same time, both here and abroad, challenges to the administration's reasoning continue to mount. What follows is an attempt to break down the major areas of debate.
Empire At The Brink: A Call To Action
We stand truly at an historical juncture, with several directions mapped before us, and several more unknown. Yesterday's protests demonstrated an immense will for peace around the world, a growing sense "the people" have had enough. While immensely inspiring, the moment also calls for a clarity of mind, to assess the powers before and behind us, as well as within, and the road ahead. We must not underestimate the technological and ideological behemoth massed at the borders of Iraq and lodged in the minds of the men who command it.
Lytle Shaw and Emilie Clark in New York
Account of the Clark/Shaw Arrest
Many friends have asked for more details about our spending the night in jail for taping up flyers last Thursday, February '3. So we wanted to offer a description of what happened. First of all, the flyers we were putting up were images of daily life in Baghdad taken by Paul Chan. As many of you know, Chan was in Baghdad in December and January as part of the Iraq Peace Team, a project of Voices in the Wilderness. Last Thursday night about fifty people met to pick up 8.5 x ''-inch copies of Chan's photos and begin posting them around Manhattan. The goal, of course, was to particularize and humanize our soon-to-be victims.
Mirakove Relay#2: On Patriot Act II
CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY OBTAINS SECRET DRAFT OF PATRIOT ACT II
The nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity has obtained a draft of a secret document called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003. This document is more commonly known as the Patriot Act II, and is designed to "give the government broad, sweeping new powers to increase domestic intelligence-gathering, surveillance and law enforcement prerogatives, and simultaneously decrease judicial review and public access to information." You can download the document here:
"These Weapons of Mass Destruction Cannot Be Displayed"
"The weapons you are looking for are currently unavailable. The country might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your weapons inspectors mandate." ... so begins this parodic 404/Not Found page (http://www.coxar.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/) for the UN Weapons Inspectors scouring Iraq. The page also offers a variety of helpful suggestions, including "Some countries require 128 thousand troops to liberate them. Click the Panic menu and then click About US foreign policy to determine what regime they will install."
Kasey S. Mohammad
Acknowledged Legislators: A Rant
I sense that the poetry community is in a sensitive transitional period right now. By "the poetry community," I mean all the thousands of people who write poetry and who are increasingly more aware of each other's views and activities than historically ever before thanks largely to electronic technology. And by "sensitive" I mean simultaneously very promising of increased dialogue and cooperation, and very delicately poised on the brink of bitter conflict. It seems trivial to use such a phrase when the world is poised on the brink of a much bitterer conflict, but it is especially that larger conflict, along with poets' responses to it, that has advanced this transitional phase dramatically in the past month or so.
The human shield has arrived, but what now?
Suzanne Goldenberg in Baghdad
At times it felt like hell on wheels. But the peace activists who travelled across a continent by London double-decker bus arrived at a Baghdad bomb shelter yesterday with their sense of mission just about intact. Few places in Baghdad convey the horror of war as sharply as the al-Ameriya shelter, where 400 Iraqi civilians were incinerated by US missiles during the last Gulf war.
Senator Robert Byrd: Senate Floor Speech - Wednesday, February 12, 2003
Reckless Administration May Reap Disastrous Consequences
Senate Floor Speech - Wednesday, February 12, 2003
To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war. Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.
nationalphilistine.com: Baghdad Snapshot Action goes online and worldwide
[New York City]-- On February 13, 2003, teams of artists and activists postered New York City with thousands of copies of snapshots from Baghdad. Quiet and casual, the snapshots show a part of Baghdad we rarely see: the part with people in it. The snapshots were taken by a friend of ours who just got back from Baghdad working with the Iraq Peace Team (link below). Yes, he saw Iraqis suffering and struggling. But he also saw Iraqis dancing and laughing. This moved him because laughing under the weight of the UN sanctions and the threat of an absurd war is no easy task. We were moved because the people in the pictures remind us of our friends & family.
Bob Perelman: Where We Are
for Kerry Sherin
We may not have chosen to live inside Dick Cheney’s mind, but we do.
Wyoming, I read somewhere, is the safest place to live in North America.
No tornados, no tsunamis, no earthquakes, no hurricanes, monsoons, cyclones, or floods. No major airport: no big planes crashing in the sleet. Not even much traffic: not too many car crashes.
But if living in Wyoming is so safe, living inside Dick Chaney’s mind, though it was formed in Wyoming and stood for Wyoming in the Senate, is not safe at all.
How do you get from Wyoming to Shock and Awe?
Getting from Love to Hate, that’s easy: Love, Live, Give, Gave, Gate, Hate.
[Here are links to two stories in the Village Voice about poet protest activities in NYC; the second one has a little bit on Circulars.]
Circulars is looking for reports from protests tomorrow and Sunday from where ever you may be. Especially useful are summaries of some of the speeches since many of us are not going to be anywhere near the podium. Photographs are also really cool. Just send to the email address at the right.
Btw, I've changed the design a bit so that it behaves a wee better with Netscape -- it was a real mess before, but even now is very hard to read. The original template of this site was lifted from Movabletype.org, a blog site, and they just don't seem to have cared to make the templates Netscape compatible.
I also wanted to make the header smaller to push the stories up, but I took the liberty of making the rotatating thing to the left slightly bigger and centered over the column, just cause I like the way it looks (click on it and see how it changes.) I took it from the site levitated.net -- I'll put a credit under soon.
Some of you will notice that "Poets for the War" have made some contributions to the comments section. I've been asked to delete them but I think I'm going to keep them on since I don't want anyone to think it's a given that poets are against the war -- in fact, I see this as a reminder that the anti-war argument must always be refreshed.
You'll also notice that there are some different names posting now. I've added numerous people with author privileges though I expect that my own presence will continue to dominate here simply because I'm a web-guy and check in more often. I hope, though, that the community takes more advantage of this site somehow, either through authoring or commenting.
See (some of you) tomorrow... Brian
[Below is the original set of principles I put together the insomniac night when this website took shape in my mind. I hope to revise it and include it in a sidebar to give the site some specific identity distinct from other art/politics website -- a sense that this site investigates a form as much as operates in the chain of activist sites -- but for now, I'll let it be provisional.]
CIRCULARS intends to focus some of the disparate energy by poets and literary critics to enunciate a response to U.S. foreign policy, most significantly the move to war with Iraq.
CIRCULARS intends to critique and/or augment some conventional modes of expressing political views that are either entirely analytical, ironic or humanistic. These are all valuable approaches, of course, and not unwelcome on CIRCULARS, but our hope is to create a dynamic, persuasive idiom that can work in a public sphere, mingling elements of rhetoric and stylistics associated with the aforementioned modes -- analytical, ironic or humanistic.
CIRCULARS is, in this sense, a workshop -- a place to explore strategies.
CIRCULARS was not created in the spirit of believing that all poets should be "political" or even "social" in nature. While such arguments are free to be made on the website, and poems related to the themes of the site are (selectively) welcome, the focus is on articulating statements that are unique to the poetry community while not speaking for "poetry."
CIRCULARS holds no party line, nor is it particularly adherent to notions of the "avant-garde." All perspectives are welcome provided they are articulated intelligently or (in some cases) amusingly, and that they do not articulate perspectives or advocate actions that are, in the editors' judgment, of an entirely unethical nature.
CIRCULARS understands that, in the world of the internet, the link can be as powerful as word of mouth, and is itself the prize of an effective rhetorical strategy. These are "circulars" because they are circulated.
What we want:
Original writing -- book reviews, manifestos, modest proposals, etc. -- is, of course, most welcome, but also writing from listservs that are otherwise not public, as well as statements originally appearing on other websites, blogs or in print. (The content of CIRCULARS can appear elsewhere, but if you do reproduce the text please include a link to the original page.)
Multimedia submissions are welcome. This would include pages that work within the design structure of CIRCULARS involving visual, sound, animated and interactive components. However, we don't plan on doing more than installing a piece that the contributor has already completed, since we don't anticipate having much time to collaborate on pieces.
Though the site's primary focus will be on opinion, announcements and reports about activities related to the themes of this site -- performances, readings, actions -- are welcome. Links to other sites, articles, scandals, and events are also encouraged. Some poetry will appear here, but at the discretion of the editors.
Entries will be categorized and archives according to themes or, in some cases, according to author. This system, however imperfect, will allow visitors to the site to catch up on threads of dialogue with some ease. Entries will also be archived according to month, as is standard with weblogs.
There will be an unmoderated comments section, but the editors reserve the right to cancel entries that are deemed offensive. This would include personal attacks on individuals associated with the site, and comments of a racist, sexist or otherwise demeaning nature.
Contributors are invited to utilize this space for open forums, with the understanding that other material will intermingle with their own as it arrives, and that this material might contradict the main focus of such forums. In this case, a special archive category can be created linking entries related to the forum.
Note on design:
The present design is just one of the standard templates of movabletype.org -- we hope to make it a little more distinctive soon! Other elements, such as a blogroll, links, etc., will be added over time. Any feedback concerning the design of this site -- readability, functionality -- is welcome.