We Sinful Women by Kishwar Naheed

We Sinful Women by Kishwar Naheed, photo of Naheed

We Sinful Women by Kishwar Naheed

Cooking, cleaning, laundry and making a little music have eaten my weekend. I am exhausted from fighting off a winter sickness and cleaning my basement. Forgive me for not presenting a researched and original written piece this day. Instead I would like to present a poem, “We Sinful Women”,  from one of the “badass” feminist poets: Kishwar Naheed.  Naheed is an Urdu poet from Pakistan. She is the founder of the Hawwa Foundation that supports women who do not have an independent source of income. A copy of this poem in English and its original can be found in We Sinful Women: Contemporary Urdu Feminist Poetry by Rukhsana Ahmad.

We Sinful Women

It is we sinful women

who are not awed by the grandeur of those who wear gowns

who don’t sell our lives

who don’t bow our heads

who don’t fold our hands together.

It is we sinful women

while those who sell the harvests of our bodies

become exalted

become distinguished

become the just princes of the material world.

It is we sinful women

who come out raising the banner of truth

up against barricades of lies on the highways

who find stories of persecution piled on each threshold

who find that tongues which could speak have been severed.

It is we sinful women.

Now, even if the night gives chase

these eyes shall not be put out.

For the wall which has been razed

don’t insist now on raising it again.

It is we sinful women

who are not awed by the grandeur of those who wear gowns

who don’t sell our bodies

who don’t bow our heads

who don’t fold our hands together.

This Machine Kills Fascists

Woody Guthrie, This Machine Kills Fascists

This Machine Kills Fascists

Woody Guthrie wrote “This Machine Kills Fascists” on his guitar. Steve Earl once said of Guthrie, “I don’t think of Woody Guthrie as a political writer. He was a writer who lived in very political times.”

This Land Is Your Land

“This Land is Your Land” was Guthrie’s answer to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”. He was so tired of hearing “God Bless America” constantly played on the radio, he wrote “This Land is Your Land”. I remember listening to a recording of this song when I was in elementary school. The song spoke of ribbons of highway, sparkling sands, and waving wheat fields. A land that was for you and me.

But Guthrie’s songs reflected what he saw around him. He signed the manuscript for “This Land is Your Land” with the comment, “All you can write is what you see, Woody G., N.Y., N.Y., N.Y.” The song originally included the following in the fourth and sixth verses:

As I went walking, I saw a sign there,
And on the sign there, It said “no trespassing”.
But on the other side, it didn’t say nothing!
That side was made for you and me.
In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

These verses were often omitted in subsequent recordings, sometimes by Guthrie.

Protest and Peace Songs

While in California during the Dust Bowl era, Guthrie was among the Okies who flooded into California. The Californians did not want these immigrants. Employed by a leftwing radio host, Guthrie identified himself as an “outsider”. He spoke and sang of the travails of immigrants with such songs as “I Ain’t Got No Home”, “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad”, “Talking Dust Bowl Blues”, “Tom Joad” and “Hard Travelin’”. All of these songs gave voice to those who had been disenfranchised.

When Guthrie moved to New York, he met Lead Belly, Cisco Houston, Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Will Geer, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Josh White, Millard Lampell, Bess Hawes, Sis Cunningham, and others. This group became his close friends and musical collaborators, forming The Almanac Singers. They wrote songs for social causes such as union organizing, anti-Fascism, peace, and generally fighting for the things they believed in. They wrote songs of political protest and activism.

During World War II, Guthrie served in the merchant marines. At first he tried to argue he could serve better by staying in the US and singing to inspire people. Friends persuaded him to join the merchant marines where he composed and sang songs to bolster moral. He composed hundreds of anti-Hitler, pro-war, and historic ballads to rally the troops, such as “All You Fascists Bound To Lose”, “Talking Merchant Marine,” and “The Sinking of the Reuben James.”

Guthrie influenced the musicians of the American Folk Revival– people such as Bob Dylan, the Weavers, and Pete Seeger. His son Arlo Guthrie wrote and sang “Alice’s Restaurant” which protested the war in Vietnam.

Songs For Our Time

I am tired of songs about dysfunctional love, random sex and the cache of trivialities most rock and pop songs litter our air waves with. I remember the first time I heard Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car”. And “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution”. They weren’t spun fluff. They felt solid and spoke from the heart. We are living in political times. I think we need songs that reflect the world around us. And we need a singer like Woody Guthrie who can see the world, sing about it in a real way, and give us our songs of peace and protest.

Aubrey Beardsley Tarot

I have written about Aubrey Beardsley in the past. He was referred to as the tragic genius of the Art Nouveau movement. He was unorthodox for his time period and his work often featured the erotic, the grotesque, and the decadent. I just discovered a tarot set of the major arcana based on his work which was created by a woman possibly named Lillie Osbourne. Beardsley’s designs lent themselves well to the cards she created. Check these out:

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Unknown-5

Unknown-7

Unknown-8

Unknown-6

September 19, 2015, lazy Saturday

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September 19, 2015, lazy Saturday.

I am waiting to see if it is going to rain. I love the rain. I am listening right now to the Wailin’ Jennys’ “Storm Coming”.

And it is giving me a break from fall garden work, building a chicken coop, and painting fence panels for a dog run. Love the new puppy. Really.

I need to run to the store and buy some butter to make zucchini bread. I don’t know if the rest of the world experiences zucchini bread, but zucchini bread is the only way to deal with this vegetable at this time of year. If you are from the US Midwest, you know what I am talking about.

I have been transferring music from recently purchased cd’s into iTunes so I can burn some sampler cd’s to share the news about some great musicians and groups I heard last week at the Wheatland Music Festival. Groups like the California Feetwarmers, Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys, and Balsam Range. Great musicians like Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton.

I still need to practice fiddle (working on “Oh Susanna” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain”), configure a new router, download a database and do homework, and watch Dr. Who later.

Lazy Saturday. Best kind.

 

Maya Angelou

maya-angelou

Recently Maya Angelou died. She was 86 years old. She was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. As a child she lived there and in Stamps, Arkansas. As a black child, she saw and experienced racial discrimination first hand. As a teenager she was awarded a scholarship to study dance and drama at San Francisco’s Labor School. At 14, she dropped out to become a cable car conductor. The first one San Francisco saw. She gave birth to her son a few weeks after earning her high school diploma.

Undaunted by her life experiences, she sought adventure. She toured Europe with a production of the opera “Porgy and Bess”. She studied modern with none other than Martha Graham. She danced on television variety shows, recorded an album titled “Calypso Lady,” joined the Harlem Writers Guild, and wrote and performed in such historic productions as “The Blacks” and “Cabaret for Freedom.”

She lived in Egypt and Ghana.

She knew several languages.

She worked for civil rights with Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King.

None other than James Baldwin encouraged her to write. And so she wrote “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

If you are not feeling the loss by now of this brilliant woman, you have no soul. If you cannot see the fearlessness in her actions, you do not know courage. Please take a moment and look for her poems. Read them and let them sit in your mind.

Here is “Still I Rise”

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

What Sort of Savage?


The world is such an amazing place. So much to explore, so many discoveries to be made, so much to do. It is almost dizzying and sometimes the questions I have spin me. I doubt if I could live five, ten, a hundred lifetimes if I would learn all I want to learn.

Because I cannot live without poetry, I am just going to post a poem by Gary Snyder from his Pulitzer Prize winning collection titled “Turtle Island”.

The Great Mother

Not all those who pass

In front of the Great Mother’s chair

Get passt with only a stare.

Some she looks at their hands

To see what sort of savages they were.

National Poem in Your Pocket Day


Poetry is a happy thing! It is like a puzzle where words are used as tightly as possible to convey multiple meanings and emotion. I love poetry. I love the economy of poetry. And the possible impact.

Today, I am carrying “Crystal Spider Ascension” by Charles Wright in my pocket. What are you carrying in your pocket?

Crystal Spider Ascension

The spider, juiced crystal and Milky Way, drifts on his web through the night sky
And looks down, waiting for us to ascend …

At dawn he is still there, invisible, short of breath, mending his net.

All morning we look for the white face to rise from the lake like a tiny star.
And when it does, we lie back in our watery hair and rock.

Poetry: The Red Poppy by Louise Gluck

I found this poem this evening in my insomniac wanderings across the internet. It struck a chord. Louise Gluck is a poet from New York who is currently a poet in residence at Yale University. Her work has been characterized as being neither “confessional” nor “intellectual.” I liked the simplicity of this poem. It brought to mind the floral paintings of Emil Nolde.

The Red Poppy
by Louise Gluck

The great thing
is not having
a mind. Feelings:
oh, I have those; they
govern me. I have
a lord in heaven
called the sun, and open
for him, showing him
the fire of my own heart, fire
like his presence.
What could such glory be
if not a heart? Oh my brothers and sisters,
were you like me once, long ago,
before you were human? Did you
permit yourselves
to open once, who would never
open again? Because in truth
I am speaking now
the way you do. I speak
because I am shattered.

Poetry: “When You Are Old” by W.B. Yeats

I am currently writing a story revolving around a changeling and have been reviewing Yeats’ poetry. Much of the poetry of William Butler Yeats draws from Irish folklore and mythology. He was greatly influenced and participated in the Celtic Revival of his time period and was linked romantically with Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne. Even though they each married other people and drifted apart, she influenced his poetry. Ezra Pound was also an influence on Yeats’ poetry and Yeats’ poems grew more modern in their expression and imagery but he never gave up using traditional verse forms.

W.B. Yeats left a large and fascinating body of work. He won the Nobel Prize for poetry in 1923. This morning I was reading “When You Are Old.” This one does not draw from Irish folklore and is not romantic in the sense of the romantic movement. I have been thinking about the phrase “pilgrim soul” and what that conjures for me. The final stanza I am still puzzling through. The overall tone of this one for me is regret and lost love. Yeats himself lived to be quite old and passed away when he was 73 in 1939. Please read and enjoy Yeats’ “When You Are Old.”

When You Are Old

by W. B. Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

The Ode Less Traveled

Next week I will post more six sentence stories!

Today I would like to recommend a fabulous book about poetry titled The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry writes in the book:

“I have a dark and dreadful secret. I write poetry…. I believe poetry is a primal impulse within all of us. I believe we are all capable of it and furthermore that a small often ignored corner of us positively yearns to try it.”

In The Ode Less Traveled, Fry offers exercises so that the reader can learn about, explore, and write poetry. It is both a kind of workbook that he expects you to deface as well as a textbook to learn about poetry. He wrote the book and kind of operates on the assumption that most people don’t like poetry because it is mysterious and intimidating. He leads the reader through lessons that help them to not just write poetry but to read poetry with a new perspective.

I highly recommend this book. I write poetry to improve my fiction. I want my words to pull multiple duties and have muscle. Writing poetry helps, I believe, to strengthen prose. I am going to work my way through The Ode Less Traveled in the next few months. I will post about the book and what I discover as I work my through it.

The first lesson in the book is about iambic pentameter. The heroic line. It is about listening to the lines, savoring them, and finding where the stresses are that give the words rhythm.

Go forth and listen aptly for the beats in language!