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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "activism"

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Split This Rock Poem of the Week: Naomi Ayala

November 11, 2010 ·

In Adams Morgan, Two Years of Neighborhood-Wide Reconstruction Come to a Halt for the Night


And now, where the moon
rose behind here,
three stories loom—
inexplicable to the eye.
Floodlights lift
the puddles in the alley
to sad perfection.
No other brightness
to make beautiful
the edges of the dark.
Progress comes—
mocking visitor, a snoop—
to awed spaces
where we hold up
our pots and pans,
brush sweat
from our brows, wipe hands
on threadbare dishrags,
scold and kiss our children.
We should be glad—
some people tell us—
life is precious, move on.
Others say poverty
is redemption: leave.
And waiting to wake
we stir all night. We pray.
Our father, god
of the cupboard and the ladle,
redeem us. 

-Naomi Ayala

From This Side of Early (Curbstone Press 2008).  Used by permission.

 

Naomi Ayala is the author of This Side of Early and Wild Animals on the Moon. She teaches at The Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD and the Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences at UMASS-Boston and serves on the Board of Directors of DC Advocates for the Arts.

Ayala was a featured poet at the 2008 Split This Rock Poetry Festival and appeared on the panel “Women & War/Women & Peace:  International Voices” and read as part of the Beltway Poetry Quarterly celebration at Split This Rock 2010.   

Split This Rock Poem of the Week: Jaime Lee Jarvis

November 3, 2010 ·

Aral

"Forty years ago, Muynak was a busy fishing port ... Today the waters have receded so much that there is not a drop as far as the eye can see. ... Cancers, lung disease and infant mortality are 30 times higher than they used to be ... The children of Muynak have made a playground out of the wrecks of ships ..." -BBC News, March 16, 2000


Was it the rush of words in that language
we understood only when we cocked our heads,
speaking on the slant, slurring our way
through the grammar of another way of life?

Was it the whirr of metal shards the ragged
children hucked at our heads
the way they delivered their greeting

hellofuckyou

obscenity blunted by effervescence but
still bearing that cutting edge?

Was it the slow groan of the abandoned barges
that sheltered them, crumbling through
geologic time, salted and sharp-jointed
like the people living among them
--their desiccated hope?

Or the whoosh of power as we hurled
words back at them in their own language,
mouths stretching and puckering to make
the sounds they sang? Our speech waxed formal
and the children

armed to their rotten teeth with the remnants
of a fishing industry--brandishing scythes torn
from the rotten hulls--laughed at the village accents
we'd worked so hard to own.

Maybe it was knowing
they were doomed
to die from the inside out,
that their empty sea was brimming with
what had already killed them.

Maybe it was the shimmer in the distance,
the heat shining like water, mocking us
with what we had come to see, mocking us
with what we would never learn to see.

-Jaime Lee Jarvis

Used by permission.

Jaime Lee Jarvis is a professional editor, trained technical writer, and environmental activist. She visited the ship graveyard in the town of Muynak in 1999, when she was a Peace Corps volunteer in Uzbekistan. A decade later, news about the ongoing ecological disaster and human tragedy surrounding the shrinking Aral Sea has largely disappeared from public view.

Jarvis was volunteer coordinator for the first Split This Rock Poetry Festival in 2008, and now serves on Split This Rock's board.

Split This Rock Poem of the Week: Mark Doty's "Charlie Howard's Descent"

October 25, 2010 ·

Split This Rock mourns the gay and lesbian young people who committed suicide in the past weeks: Justin Aaberg, Asher Brown, Raymond Chase, Tyler Clementi, Aiyisha Hassan, Billy Lucas, and Seth Walsh. Their deaths demonstrate again the power of words. Words can destroy.

But they can also restore, give hope, remind us of our common humanity. We are privileged to be able to share with you this week Mark Doty's poem "Charlie Howard's Descent," which he read so movingly at the inaugural Split This Rock Poetry Festival in 2008. Charlie Howard's murder took place in 1984. Sadly, we still need this poem now more than ever. Please send it to everyone you know as a call for an end to hate, an end to bullying, a call for a full and rich life for every precious young person. 

Charlie Howard’s Descent

Between the bridge and the river
he falls through
a huge portion of night;
it is not as if falling

is something new. Over and over
he slipped into the gulf
between what he knew and how
he was known. What others wanted

opened like an abyss: the laughing
stock-clerks at the grocery, women
at the luncheonette amused by his gestures.
What could he do, live

with one hand tied
behind his back? So he began to fall
into the star-faced section
of night between the trestle

and the water because he could not meet
a little town's demands,
and his earrings shone and his wrists
were as limp as they were.

I imagine he took the insults in
and made of them a place to live;
we learn to use the names
because they are there,

familiar furniture: faggot
was the bed he slept in, hard
and white, but simple somehow,
queer something sharp

but finally useful, a tool,
all the jokes a chair,
stiff-backed to keep the spine straight,
a table, a lamp. And because

he's fallen for twenty-three years,
despite whatever awkwardness
his flailing arms and legs assume
he is beautiful

and like any good diver
has only an edge of fear
he transforms into grace.
Or else he is not afraid,

and in this way climbs back
up the ladder of his fall,
out of the river into the arms
of the three teenage boys

who hurled him from the edge -
really boys now, afraid,
their fathers' cars shivering behind them,
headlights on - and tells them 

it's all right, that he knows
they didn't believe him
when he said he couldn't swim,
and blesses his killers

in the way that only the dead
can afford to forgive.

- Mark Doty

Used by permission.

Mark Doty's FIRE TO FIRE: New and Selected Poems won the National Book Award for poetry. He teaches at Rutgers University, and lives in New York City.

Doty was featured at Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2008, when he read "Charlie Howard's Descent." You can watch video of that reading here.

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem-of-the-Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

Split This Rock Poem of the Week: Holly Bass

October 6, 2010 ·

The Furious Dance

an occasional poem in celebration of Alice Walker and her book of poetry, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing

October 2, 2010 (presented with tap dancer Melissa Frakman)

What is a furious dance?
It is not polite.
Does not shuck and jive or shuffle along.
It is not beige.
It is bold. In your face. Ready for revolution.
A solidarity of the body. A rhetoric of rhythm.
A furious dance is the knowing
that despite the opposition's best efforts
to suppress, deny, destroy
we will shake off your oppression
and stamp it into dust
with our furiously dancing feet.

Are you furious
in your peacemaking, in your pleasure making,
your life giving and living? Do you dance the sun up
and give thanks each day?

We must be furious, like our sister Alice
Her words cut through
all the tepid tea parties, the sleight
of hand and misdirection of
pundits, politicos and profit mongers
She speaks truth, sings peace
in her garden of words
fingers coaxing nourishment
from the earth's fertile being

Alice
The eighth and last child of
Willie Lee Walker and
Minnie Lou Tallulah Grant Walker
royalty of "the rural peasantry"
from red clay Georgia
this Daughter, Sister, Mother
Bearer of magic talismans:
a suitcase, a sewing machine,
a typewriter
Walker
She who make inroads
from dirt roads
Who cuts new paths
wherever her feet take her
Spelman to Sarah Lawrence
New York City to Mississippi
Gaza and Washington, DC

Poet, novelist, essayist, anthologist
editor, educator, activist
water-bearer
prophetess
sending us in search
of our mothers' gardens
only to discover that We
are the ones we have
been waiting for

We praise her for teaching
a generation of women the difference
between lavender and purple,
between feminist and womanist
for reclaiming our heroine
Zora Neale Hurston
and returning her arrow-sharp words
to their rightful position

Alice Walker has given us more
than four decades of catalytic language
beginning with a book of poems in 1967
Once
gathering into the global phenomenon
that is The Color Purple
and arriving some thirty books later here
to Hard Times Require Furious Dancing

Require is a word of urgency,
any-means-necessary
That is to say, this is not optional, people
this is a call to action,
to march, to shout, to protest, to love
to dance and dance furiously
our collective humanity.

-Holly Bass

Used by permission.

Holly Bass is a poet and performer. A Cave Canem fellow, her poems have appeared in Callaloo, nocturnes (re)view, Role Call, Beltway and The Ringing Ear, an anthology of Black Southern poetry.

Bass, Poet-in-Residence at the 5th & K Busboys and Poets, was a featured reader for the opening night of Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

Split This Rock Poem of the Week: Jeff Gundy

September 29, 2010 ·

Split This Rock Poem of the Week:  Jeff Gundy

A Day at the Pond Without Geese
 

A good day for late wildflowers--daisies and burrs
leaned out into the path for a better view, brilliant

blue somethings with tiny blooms on tall stalks.
A good day for a young dog's yapping, the splish

of a muskrat, thin gold of poplar leaves screening
the low sun. At the end of a lush summer, not much

has changed. The latest suicide bomber was nearly
done with law school. The enemy shot her brother.

Afterwards her head was found on the floor
of the restaurant in Haifa, black hair still flowing.

Like most men in such times, I want to give advice.
The pond is pretty in its small way, trees still green,

a bank of cattails, water echoing blurry greens and sky,
for once no geese to harry and complicate things.

Two quiet wrens, that dog yelping stupidly,
and a crow way off to the east. Like most men,

I think I'm smarter than most men. I dream of women
even when I'm awake. If I sit long enough, the trees

or the water will surely tell me something. A woman
passes, explaining to her cell phone as she walks.

As far as I can see, everything is calm as Eden.
Her black hair, flowing like the night.

- Jeff Gundy

From Spoken among the Trees (Akron, 2007).
Used by permission.

Jeff Gundy's eight books of poetry and prose include Spoken among the Trees (Akron, 2007), Deerflies (WordTech Editions, 2004), and Scattering Point: The World in a Mennonite Eye (SUNY, 2003). He teaches at Bluffton University, and was a 2008 Fulbright lecturer in American Studies at the University of Salzburg.

Gundy appeared on the panel "The Peace Shelves: Essential Books and Poems for the 21st Century" during Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

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