Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cuba week in Brunswick

At the end of March Brunswick will be celebrating Cuba Week, a celebration of our connection to Cuba through our official sister city there, the Cuban city of Trinidad. Here are two poems from my favorite contemporary Cuban poet, Nancy Morejon:

As in days gone by

We could sit down, as in days gone by
to read the famous writer's last book.
We prefer the river, the dam, the bird,
the bottom of the heart open
for the reaper.
O what blessed smoke from the future
vanishes between our hands.

for the pleasure of Rafael Alberti

(for guitar)

Between the sword and the carnation
I love utopias.
I love the rainbow and the kite
and I love the song of the pilgrim.
I love the romance between the bear and the iguana.
I love passports: when will passports cease to exist?
I love daily chores and the taverns
and guitars in the evening.
I love a thorny island in the throat of Goliath
like a palm tree in the center of the Gulf.
I love David.
I love liberty, which is an everlasting flower.

Two poems by Cuban poet Nancy Morejon


For several years now, the word "transparency" has been big with politicians, diplomats, news reporters ... I have never felt right when I hear a politician say that we need transparency , but now I have a new take on it. I have been reading a book called Living with Djinns - Understanding and Dealing with the Invisible in Cairo (by Barbara Drieskens) and in it there is a whole section on transparency.
In this book, the author says that "Almost everyone I met in Cairo at least once went through a period in their lives in which they were searching for answers to the "secrets of Allah". They searched for shafafiya, transparency."
In Cairo people might say "he has transparency". "Shafafiya is not a fixed state of being, but of becoming. One can never be transparent except ina certain context, for a certain amount of time, when Allah blesses you with some transparency. "Some people are more sensitive to the influences of angels and djinns, demonstrated by their having meaningful dreams and premonitions. These qualities can be developed and extended by trying to reach transparency." "Part of reaching this state of transparenct is personal effort but a greater part of it comes through Allah's grace.
The road to transparency is a journey into oneself. It entails serious questioning of what one is doing, why and how. But there is also the second element: the deepening of religious knowledge and its application as a moral standard."
Now when the politicians talk about the necessity of transparency, I will understand.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Poet's Life in Palestine

from a wonderful new book My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness - A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century - by Adina Hoffman, from Yale University Press - a life of the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammed Ali, but also of his family, his town, and a history of Palestine in the second half of the twentieth century. Here is something to think about :
"For a full decade almost no Arabic books were available for sale in Israel, a situation brought about by the Arab states' blockade of Israel and Israel's strict censorship policies. Arabic books were neither imported nor printed within the country for several years, and even after initial attempts were made to publish locally, the number of volumes that emerged was miniscule. One scholar who has surveyed the situation that prevailed during the first ten years of Israel's existence counted just eight books of Arabic poetry, written by five poets - this, though poetry had been for centuries that language's most privileged and popular form of literary expression. The overall situation was perhaps summed up best in a single line (novelist Anton Shammas calls it "the best known line in local Arabic literature") written in 1956 by Nazareth poet Michel Haddad, who had recently come to be one of Taha's best friends "Farewell to thee, ability to breathe."