Posts Tagged ‘poetry’
February 10, 2014 | by Sean Carman
In the 1971 Liberation War, in which Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan, the Pakistani army adopted the rape of Bangladeshi women as a military tactic. Over the course of the more than eight-month conflict, the Pakistani military raped or made sex slaves of between 200,000 and 400,000 Bangladeshi women.
In 2010, the poet Tarfia Faizullah traveled to Dhaka, Bangladesh, to interview survivors of that atrocity, whom their new government has given the name birangona, a Bengali word that means “brave woman” but might be better translated as “war heroine.”
Seam, Faizullah’s collection about those interviews, and about the experience of traveling to Bangladesh to conduct them, won the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award and will be published on March 6. Faizullah’s collection translates the Pakistani army’s atrocities against the birangona into poetry. It also investigates, and attempts to come to terms with, Faizullah’s own heritage, identity, and experience. One of her interview poems begins: “Each week I pull hard / the water from the well, / bathe in my sari, wring / it out, beat it against / the flattest rocks—Are you / Muslim or Bengali, they / asked again and again. / Both, I said, both.”
Tarfia Faizullah and I spoke by telephone in January.
The subjects of these poems have a striking, immediate urgency, and I wondered what inspired you to write them.
In 2006, I happened to go to a poetry panel at the University of Texas at Austin, where I saw a Bangladeshi writer, Mahmud Rahman. He had translated an excerpt of a novel, Talaash, by a writer named Shaheen Akhtar. Her book is about the life of a woman who had been raped by Pakistani soldiers during the 1971 Liberation War. It was the first time I had heard about such a wide-scale atrocity in Bangladesh. I became fascinated by it, and started researching and writing the first of the interview poems, just from imagination.
What made you decide to travel to Bangladesh to interview the women yourself? Was there a particular experience that made you realize you had to go there?
I realized very quickly there was only so far my imagination could go, and only so much research I could do from the States. So I applied for a Fulbright because it seemed—you used the word urgent, and it seemed very urgent for me to go to Bangladesh and record the voices of these women, and spend time in the country in which these atrocities occurred.
I was struggling to articulate the difference between being seen as a whole person versus self-fetishizing. I was starting to reckon with what it means to be a South Asian Muslim woman from West Texas, and how sometimes it was very easy to identify as one thing or another. At the same time, something about the poems I was writing felt off to me. There was something wrong in my assumption that, even if the poems were imagined, I could claim to understand what a woman who had undergone something like that would be going through, and what it might mean to her.
Even as I was trying not to fetishize my own identity, I was running the risk of writing poems that exoticized or diminutized the experience of being a victim, or being treated as a martyr, when a lot of the birangona haven’t lived their lives that way. That was when I knew I had to go. Read More »
February 4, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- A strange but urgent side effect of LA’s switch from sodium-vapor to LED streetlights: in night shots, the city will look strikingly different on film.
- One last item about the Super Bowl, before it goes graciously into the night—the art of Super Bowl ticket design.
- As a postscript to yesterday’s Tulipomania post: Dennis O’Driscoll’s “Tulipomania,” a poem from the April 2002 edition of Poetry.
- Relatedly: “Each day we are faced with sound bites and catchphrases deadening and trivializing our language … poetry is the corrective.” In defense of poetry’s cultural sway.
- Against grammar, or its ruthless enforcers: “Blind adherence and conformity … pave the way for fascism.” Now everybody get out there and split some infinitives.
- To the literary bachelors of New York: Housing Works’ Literary Speed Dating event needs more gentlemen seeking ladies. (Ladies’ tickets are sold out. They’re waiting for you, you, you!) The event is on February 10; use the discount code QUEEQUEG for three dollars off the fifteen-dollar admission.
January 22, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
Howard Moss, the late poet, was born today in 1922. Moss’s Selected Poems won the National Book Award in 1972; he served as The New Yorker’s poetry editor for nearly forty years, from 1948 until his death in 1987. The Paris Review published his poem “A Balcony with Birds” in our fourth issue, circa the winter of 1953; an excerpt follows.
The light that hangs in the ailanthus weaves
The leaves’ leavetaking overtaking leaves.
The actual is real and not imagined,—still,
The eye, so learned in disenchantment, sees
Two trees at once, this one of summer’s will,
And winter’s one, when no bird will assail
The skyline’s hyaline transparencies,
Emptying its architecture by degrees.
Roundly in its fury, soon, the sun
Feverish with light, goes down, and on
Come ambitious stars—the stars that were
But this morning dimmed. Somewhere a slow
Piano scales the summits of the air
And disappears, and dark descends, and though
The birds turn off their songs now light is gone,
The mind drowned in the dark may dream them on.
January 22, 2014 | by Cynthia Ozick
“75 at 75,” a special project from the 92nd Street Y in celebration of the Unterberg Poetry Center’s seventy-fifth anniversary, invites contemporary authors to listen to a recording from the Poetry Center’s archive and write a personal response. Here, Cynthia Ozick reflects on W. H. Auden, whose readings she remembers attending as a Poetry Center subscriber in the fifties.
There must be sorrow if there can be love. —From “Canzone”
Ah, the fabled sixties and seventies! Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs! The glorious advent of Howling! Of Getting Stoned! The proliferation of Ginsbergian Exclamation Points! To secure the status of their literary subversion, these revolutionary decades were obliged, like the cadres of every insurrection, to denigrate and despise, and sometimes to blow up, their immediate predecessor, the fifties—the middling middle, the very navel, of the twentieth century. The fifties, after all, were the Eisenhower years, stiff and small like Mamie’s bangs (and just as dated), dully mediocre, constrained, consumerist, car-finned, conformist, forgettable, and stale as modernism itself. Randall Jarrell, one of its leading poets and critics, named this midcentury epoch “The Age of Criticism”—and what, however he intended it, could suggest prosiness more? And what is prosiness if not the negation of the lively, the living, the lasting, the daring, the true and the new? The reality was sublimely opposite. It was, in fact, the Age of Poetry, a pinnacle and an exaltation; there has not been another since. Its poets were more than luminaries—they were colossi, their very names were talismans, and they rose before us under a halo of brilliant lights like figures in a shrine. It was a kind of shrine: the grand oaken hall, the distant stage and its hallowed lectern, the enchanted voices with their variegated intonations, the rapt listeners scarcely breathing, the storied walls themselves in trance—this was the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in the heart of the twentieth century. Read More »
January 9, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
Amiri Baraka died today, at seventy-nine; The Paris Review had the pleasure of publishing several of his poems. Baraka wrote “Pres Spoke a Language” to celebrate the jazz saxophonist Lester Young, but one could just as easily apply its eulogy to the poet himself:
had a language
and a life, like,
all his own,
but in the teeming whole of us he lived
tooting on his sideways horn
December 27, 2013 | by Belinda McKeon
And yet, of course, not impossible: of course, too possible, too much the reality of what we would always have to face one day, one morning waking across time zones, stumbling upon radio tributes, answering the phone to the have you heard, to the gut-punch, to the heart-bolt: he is gone.
Our laureate. As though that could ever be a word which could get at the marvel of him. There is, probably, no single word for the marvel of him. Only perhaps his name, alive today on countless lips, uttered with sadness and fondness and gratitude and disbelief; sparking and flaring across countless status updates, countless tweets, in countless slow nods and headshakes in shops and schools and kitchens and hallways and forecourts and farmyards. I know of a wedding in Wicklow today where his will be the name on the air as the guests wait for the bride to arrive; of a gathering in Rathowen this weekend where his poems will be read aloud in hushed pubs; of a music festival in Stradbally where lines studied at school twenty years ago will be traded like—well, like the kinds of things that are more usually traded at music festivals. (And he would be in the middle of them if he could, you know, marveling—for that was his register—at Björk and St. Vincent and David Byrne, with a sage word about My Bloody Valentine lyrics, with a wink and a buck-up for the young lads from the Strypes.) Read More »