“Advice for Countries, Advanced, Developing and Falling: A Call and Response” – Poem by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo

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2019 United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo
Photo Credit: Joy Harjo Official Website (Photo by Shawn Miller)

 

My Poetry Corner April 2020 features the poem “Advice for Countries, Advanced, Developing and Falling: A Call and Response” from the poetry collection An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate of the United States. (Note: The following excerpts of poems are all sourced from this collection.)

Born in 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the first of four siblings, Joy Harjo is a poet, musician, playwright, and author of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Her father was Muscogee (Creek) Nation and her mother of mixed ancestry of Cherokee, French, and Irish. Her mother exposed her to poetry at an early age, but painting was her first love.

My mother was a songwriter and singer, Harjo relates in her poem “Washing My Mother’s Body.” My mother’s gifts were trampled by economic necessity and emotional imprisonment. // My father was a dancer, a rhythm keeper. His ancestors were orators, painters, tribal chiefs, stomp dancers, preachers, and speakers… All his relatively short life he looked for a vision or song to counter the heartache of history. Her father’s drinking and abuse ended their marriage.

At sixteen years of age, Harjo’s abusive and violent stepfather kicked her out of their home. She moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she received her high school education at the Institute of American Indian Arts. After graduation, she returned to Oklahoma, gave birth to a son, and returned to New Mexico to pursue a life as an artist. In 1973, as a second-year undergraduate at the University of New Mexico, she discovered poetry. After earning her BA in 1976, she moved to Iowa to obtain an MFA at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

“After all the abuse I had been through, I saw [poetry] as a way to transform what is harsh into something nourishing,” Harjo said, during an interview with Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Laure-Anne Bosselaar in January 2020. “I had found something in poetry not found in painting that was so compelling. I could write about Native women, fighting for our rights in over 500 tribal nations.” Continue reading

Now is the time…

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We are living in a time of great societal disruption. Despite all our advanced technology, we have been kicked off our pedestal by a mere virus. The COVID-19 doesn’t adhere to humanity’s border controls nor our military might. Its rampant spread across human populations is yet another reminder of the consequences of the imbalance our species have exerted on our planetary interconnected Web of Life.

As we grapple with social isolation, anxiety about paying our bills, and uncertainty about our future, now is the time to take stock of how we got here and where we are headed. If we wish to survive as a species, we humans must drastically change the way we live.

It’s no coincidence that our planetary societal disruption is occurring at a time of climatic and ecological crises. They are all connected. What’s more, these crises all have a common denominator—homo sapiens, Earth’s apex predator. The COVID-19 pandemic is just a taste of what lies ahead for humanity with the ongoing unraveling of the Web of Life.

Now is the time to appreciate our collective contribution and responsibility in providing and caring for each other.

Now is the time to determine what is truly essential for our well-being.

Now is the time to question our values and priorities.

Now is the time to examine our economic theories and beliefs built on individual acquisition and ownership of Earth’s gifts to all in the Web of Life.

Now is the time to determine what kind of future we want for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and future generations.

I recommend for your consideration the predictions of 34 big thinkers presented in the article, “Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently. Here’s How,” published by Politico Magazine on March 19, 2020. The areas covered include community, tech, health/science, government, elections, the global economy, and lifestyle.

Fear not the duality of life. New beginnings come with letting go of what we hold today as precious for our well-being.

Thought for Today: A Warrior of the Light faces the COVID-19

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A Warrior of the Light knows that certain moments repeat themselves.

He often finds himself faced by the same problems and situations, and seeing these difficult situations return, he grows depressed, thinking that he is incapable of making any progress in life.

“I’ve been through all this before,” he says to his heart.

“Yes, you have been through all this before,” replies his heart. “But you have never been beyond it.”

Then the Warrior realizes that these repeated experiences have but one aim: to teach him what he does not want to learn.

~ Excerpt from Warrior of the Light: A Manual by Paulo Coelho, Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa, HarperOne, New York, USA, 2003.

PAULO COELHO, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist, best known for his novel, The Alchemist (1988). His work has been published in more than 170 countries and translated into eighty languages. His books have had a life-enchanting impact on millions of people worldwide.

Climate Crisis Update

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Last week, a high pressure system over the overheated Pacific Ocean brought summer temperatures to Los Angeles of over 80℉ (26.6℃), reaching its peak of 88℉ (64℃) on Friday, February 28. Experts have observed that violent crime increases with hotter temperatures. Had the heat inflamed the man who entered our parking structure at 12:17 a.m. that Friday morning? Our surveillance cameras show him heading straight for a vehicle, dosing it with gasoline from front to back, and then setting it ablaze.

We were lucky. The winds blew the flames away from our apartment complex and onto the neighboring building, causing smoke and fire-hose water damage to two apartments. With concrete walls separating each four-vehicular unit, the fire did not spread throughout our parking structure. While only four of our neighbors lost their vehicles, the event left us all unsettled and vulnerable.

Meanwhile, further north, an extreme low pressure system over the Arctic has brought a warmer winter across much of Russia and parts of Scandinavia and eastern Canada. In Moscow, heavy snowfall arrived mid-January, two to three months later than usual. Beginning in December 2019, rising temperatures have broken the record, reaching 44℉ (6.6℃) last week. The spring-like weather in February, the snowiest time of the year with nose-biting cold below 5℉, have left many people in Moscow amazed. Ice skating enthusiasts are disappointed with Gorky Park’s melting ice rink. Continue reading

Epiphanies from Under The Tamarind Tree by Rosaliene Bacchus

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More praise for Under the Tamarind Tree: A Novel from JoAnne Macco, retired therapist and author of Trust the Timing: A Memoir of Finding Love Again.

JoAnne blogs at “Anything is Possible!”

Anything is Possible!

front-cover-under-the-tamarind-tree

At first I didn’t think I had much in common with Richard Cheong, the main character in Under the Tamarind Tree.  His story is set  in the country of Guiana during the 1950s and 60s during a time of political and personal danger which I have never experienced.  Richard’s father was Chinese and his mother was from India. His dream is to have a big chicken farm. The father of three girls, he is obsessed with longing for a son.

Stepping into a different culture, even through reading a novel, is often uncomfortable at first. Reading this book helped me grow in humility and understanding.  As I read, I grew to like Richard and to care very much about him and his family.

I realized that there are important things that transcend culture. Richard and I do have things in common. His little brother was killed at the age…

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The Writer’s Life: Getting Feedback for Work in Progress

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I’ve been blessed in being part of a supportive writers’ critique group comprised of accomplished writers. Over the past five years, we’ve met once a month at a local restaurant. Our numbers have fluctuated between four to six writers with work in progress. But things don’t always work out the way we would like them to. Life happens. We have other pressing needs besides our writing.

With our active members now down to two of us, we’ve begun frequenting the Monday Night Fiction Workshop held at Beyond Baroque, a Literary | Arts Center in Venice, Los Angeles County. As I struggle with the first draft of my current writing project, I’ve found the fresh voices stimulating and motivating to keep pressing forward.

Instead of a third novel, to be set in Brazil, as planned, I’ve decided to explore the theme of the woman as a social construct. The minority male elite–not forgetting the women who support them–who control our global capitalist economic system are leading the human species, along with non-human species, towards extinction. Women play a vital role in maintaining the profitability of this system. If we are to reverse course, the role of women in society urgently needs to be re-examined. Continue reading

“Certainty” by Brazilian Poet Carlos Machado

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My Poetry Corner February 2020 features the poem “Certainty” (Certo) from the poetry collection Glass Bird (Pássaro de Vidro) by Carlos Machado, a Brazilian poet and journalist. Born in 1951 in Muritiba, Bahia, Northeast Brazil, Machado earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the Federal University of Bahia. He studied journalism at the Faculty of Cásper Libero in São Paulo, where he lives since 1980. He is the creator and editor of the fortnightly bulletin, poesia.net, dedicated mainly to the promotion of contemporary Brazilian poets.

Machado’s debut poetry collection, Glass Bird (Pássaro de Vidro), published in São Paulo in 2006, was well received by literary critics. From the first verse of his poem “Anatomies,” from the same collection, I glean that the glass bird reveals both faces of the human character: on one side, our obscure dreams and aspirations; on the other side, the things with which we surround ourselves.

anatomy of things

to strip bare
the glass bird
and see on its side
hidden from view
the other side
of its image
 

In his poem, “Things” (As Coisas), from his collection Blunt Scissors (Tesoura Cega, 2015), Machado looks at the things we accumulate to define who we are as individuals within society. Things have no say in our lives, the poet observes. They don’t have desires or power. Regardless of the value we bestow on them, they are all equal – all indifferent to humanity’s fate.

Things don’t have guilt.
They are only witnesses
of our comedies. 

Things don’t embrace causes.
It is useless to accuse them
of any inclination,
loyalty or felony. Continue reading

The Choices We Make

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Pen Scratch Verse 182 by American Artist Michael Caimbeul

 

February 5, 2020. This is the day that the United States Senate chose to acquit Republican President Donald Trump of the impeachment charges brought against him by the Democratic controlled House of Representatives. I found the evidence of his guilt compelling. Except for just one of its members, the majority Republican senators chose to stand firm behind their leader. The loyalty to their party is admirable. It’s a valuable commodity in our times of divisive politics. On the other hand, party loyalty doesn’t always align with the best interests of we the people. Ever since corporations gained personhood and began financing politicians, corporate interests have gained paramountcy.

Today, we live in a New Republic. The balance of power has shifted beneath our feet. All that remains for the President and his Executive Branch of loyalists to consolidate their power is to seize control over the Supreme Court of the United States. All they need is a little more time.

Meanwhile, after centuries of human remodeling, Earth’s web of life is over-stressed and in meltdown. Our planet is overheated. Wildfires across drought-stricken grasslands and forests rage with unusual ferocity. The polar ice caps are melting faster than predicted. Mountain glaciers are retreating. Sea levels are rising, redefining coastlines worldwide. Storms powered by overheated oceanic waters batter our coastal cities and island nations, inundating our lives. Continue reading

Thought for Today: Dismantling the Doomsday Machine

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Here is what we know now: the United States and Russia each have an actual Doomsday Machine… These two systems still risk doomsday: both are still on hair-trigger alert that makes their joint existence unstable. They are susceptible to being triggered on a false alarm, a terrorist action, unauthorized launch, or a desperate decision to escalate. They would kill billions of humans, perhaps ending complex life on earth.

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Does any nation on earth have a right to possess such a capability? A right to threaten—by its simple possession of that capability—the continued existence of all other nations and their populations, their cities, and civilization as a whole?

Excerpt from The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner by Daniel Ellsberg, Bloomsbury Publishing, New York, USA, 2017.

In 1961, Daniel Ellsberg, a consultant to the Department of Defense and the White House, drafted Secretary Robert McNamara’s plans for nuclear war. Later he leaked the Pentagon Papers.

A Hundred Seconds to Midnight

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On Thursday, January 23, 2020, our atomic scientists advanced the Doomsday Clock another twenty seconds, bringing the fate of humanity to a hundred seconds to midnight. For those who don’t know, midnight signifies humanity’s self-annihilation with its nuclear arsenal. The guns that Americans cling to, like a toddler clings to his teddy bear, would be rendered useless in the face of a nuclear threat. To learn more, read the full statement issued by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

In his article “Twin Threats,” published in The Nation magazine (issue dated 01/27/2020), Michael T. Klare argues:

“All things being equal, rising temperatures will increase the likelihood of nuclear war, largely because climate change will heighten the risk of social stress, the decay of nation-states, and armed violence in general…”

Of special concern are India, Pakistan, and China—all well-armed with nuclear weapons of mass destruction—that will face conflicts over dwindling water supplies. Pakistan and western India share the same Indus River system. Likewise, eastern India and western China both depend upon the Brahmaputra River for their water needs. Unlike oil, water is essential for human survival.

While the American government continues to publicly disavow our global climate emergency, Klare notes that our “nation’s senior military leaders recognize that climate disruption is already underway, and they are planning extraordinary measures to prevent it from spiraling into nuclear war.”

On Friday, January 24, at the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, during a panel discussion about the impact of climate change on the global economy, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quick to say: “Let’s call it an environmental issue and not climate change.” What’s more, he argued, experts are overestimating its monetary impact.

During a press briefing the day before, Mnuchin dismissed climate activist Greta Thunberg’s call for divestment from fossil fuel companies. He told Yahoo Finance: “After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain that to us.” What can Greta and the rest of us economic neophytes learn from the experts?

On January 15, prior to its event in Davos, the World Economic Forum released The Global Risks Report 2020 in London, UK. Bear in mind that this report, produced in partnership with Marsh & McLennan and the Zurich Insurance Group, deals with financial risks for transnational corporations and national and the global economies.

Over 750 global experts and decision-makers were asked to rank their biggest concerns in terms of likelihood and impact. For the first time in the survey’s ten-year outlook, the top five global risks in terms of likelihood are all environmental. In concise terms, these risks are:

1. Extreme weather
2. Climate Action failure
3. Natural disasters
4. Biodiversity loss
5. Human-made environmental disasters

The political landscape is polarized, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning. This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks.
~ Borge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum

Biologically diverse ecosystems capture vast amounts of carbon and provide massive economic benefits that are estimated at $33 trillion per year – the equivalent to the GDP of the US and China combined. It’s critical that companies and policy-makers move faster to transition to a low carbon economy and more sustainable business models. We are already seeing companies destroyed by failing to align their strategies to shifts in policy and customer preferences. Transitionary risks are real, and everyone must play their part to mitigate them. It’s not just an economic imperative, it is simply the right thing to do.
~ Peter Giger, Group Chief Risk Officer of the Zurich Insurance Group

I’m no economic expert. I know only that the soulless corporate personhood has devised ways to thrive on the chaos and detritus of human calamity. To the billionaire-class and those who aspire to join them, gathered recently at the World Economic Forum, I say: Your self-enrichment economic system is the Number One risk to humanity’s continued existence on Planet Earth. While you continue to amass unimaginable wealth, the explosive inequality among the masses of real people worldwide just requires a climate-induced drought and famine in a nuclear-armed nation for ignition.

When the Doomsday Clock strikes midnight, money markets and a nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) will lose their value and meaning for any surviving remnant of our species.