“He Called for Momma” – Poem by Barbados Poet Laureate Esther Phillips

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Barbados Poet Laureate Esther Phillips
Photo Credit: Peepal Tree Press (UK)


My Poetry Corner August 2022 features the poem “He Called for Momma” from the poetry collection Witness in Stone by Esther Phillips published by Peepal Tree Press (UK, 2021). Born in 1950 in the Caribbean island-nation of Barbados, she won a James Michener fellowship of the University of Miami where, in 1999, she earned an MFA degree in Creative Writing. Her poetry collection/thesis won the Alfred Boas Poetry Prize of the Academy of American Poets and went on to win the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Award in 2001. In 2018, she was appointed as the country’s first Poet Laureate.

The poems in Witness in Stone [Footnote 1], Phillips’ fourth full-length poetry collection, are quiet and personal, often nostalgic in tone when honoring people who had played important roles during her childhood years growing up in the countryside. Her generosity of spirit shines through even in the poems that speak of the harsh reality of the legacy of slavery, colonialism, and postcolonialism that still looms large in the lives of Caribbean peoples.

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Reflections on the Nature of Being

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NASA James Webb Space Telescope – Deep Field Image SMACS 0723 – July 2022
Galaxy cluster as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago
Photo Credit: Webb Telescope (NASA)

This is the first in the series of my reflections on the “shifts of being” proposed by Jem Bendell in Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos (UK/USA 2021).

On July 12, I watched in wonder at the first full-color images of Deep Field Image SMACS 0723 recorded by the NASA James Webb space telescope. I am nothing amidst the thousands of galaxies in just a tiny patch of our vast Universe. Among the estimated two trillion galaxies in the observable Universe, our own Milky Way Galaxy extends for about 100,000 light years across. Such vastness boggles my mind, considering that one light year covers 5.8 trillion miles (9.5 trillion kilometers). Located in the Orion Arm, our Sun is just one of 100 to 400 billion stars caught in its gravitational spiral.

Planet Earth, my home, is a mere rock revolving around a life-giving star. The more our space telescopes reveal the secrets of our Universe, the greater the mystery of the dark matter and dark energy that fill the emptiness of space. We humans are nothing but stardust. I am humbled. 

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The more relaxing thing — Guest Post by Australian Poet & Storyteller Kate Duff

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Kate’s poetic reflections hit me exactly where I am at this moment when she writes: “Growth is suffering, growth is exposure, growth is moving towards the things which make us flinch, perhaps even terrify our hearts.”

Growth is not measured in the present moment It is always by looking back, seeing the difference Between there and here, that we are able to take a bearing Growth is not linear, it is not lateral It is perhaps more accurately, a series of curves that only a certain spatial awareness gained from standing…

The more relaxing thing —

The Writer’s Life: Creating New Narratives in a Post-Truth World

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Heat Wave Hits Europe: Trafalgar Square, London, July 19, 2022
Photo Credit: ABC News (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

For this week’s Sunday post, I had planned to share my reflections on “shifts in being” needed for deep adaptation to our planetary climate and ecological existential crises unraveling in real time. While regions of our planet face heat waves, wildfires, droughts, floods, and other Acts of God, our political leaders fumble, grumble, and stumble to implement the solutions proposed and agreed upon at the United Nations Climate Change Conferences held since its establishment in 1992.

I could not find the right framework to put my reflections into words. By the end of my workday on Friday evening, I had scrapped four unsuccessful attempts. After clearing my mind with a touching father-daughter movie, Don’t Make Me Go (Prime Video, 2022), I returned to my writing task shortly after 10:00 p.m. At 2:24 a.m. of a new day, with frustration taking hold, I scrapped another four drafts and went to bed.

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“My President Asks Me about Redemption” by Yemeni American Poet Threa Almontaser

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Yemeni American Poet Threa Almontaser (Photo by Yasmin Ali)
Poet’s Official Website

My Poetry Corner July 2022 features the poem “My President Asks Me about Redemption” from the debut poetry collection The Wild Fox of Yemen (Graywolf Press, 2021) by Yemeni American poet Threa Almontaser. Born and raised in New York City, Almontaser earned an MFA in Creative Writing and a TESOL certification from North Carolina State University. She is an editor for Tinderbox Poetry Journal and a juror for both the Pen America Writing for Justice Fellowship and the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards. A translator and English teacher to immigrants and refugees, she lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.  

Winner of the 2021 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, The Wild Fox of Yemen is Almontaser’s attempt to showcase Yemeni experiences, underrepresented in the Arab American literary world. In an interview with Dana Isokawa for the Poets & Writers Magazine in December 2021, the poet said: “I couldn’t find contemporary work written by an Adeni American of this generation. It makes me sad to know a culture so rich and ancient is hidden in this way.”

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Thought for Today: Cooperation of Women Crucial to System of Patriarchy

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Front Cover: The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner

The system of patriarchy can function only with the cooperation of women. This cooperation is secured by a variety of means: gender indoctrination; educational deprivation; the denial of women of knowledge of their history; the dividing of women, one from the other, by defining “respectability” and “deviance” according to women’s sexual activities; by restraints and outright coercion; by discrimination in access to economic resources and political power; and by awarding class privileges to conforming women.

Excerpt from the last chapter (p. 217) of The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner, Oxford University Press, New York, USA, 1986.

GERDA LERNER (1920-2013), an Austrian American historian, was the single most influential figure in the development of women’s and gender history since the 1960s. In 1980, she won a professorship at the University of Wisconsin where she built America’s first PhD program in women’s history. With the conviction that patriarchy was the first and ultimate source of all oppression, she undertook a massive research project in the 1980s that she published in two volumes: The Creation of Patriarchy (1986) and The Creation of Feminist Consciousness (1993). She served as President of the Organization of American Historians from 1981 to 1982.

Independence Day 2022: Millions of Women Lose Bodily Autonomy

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Pro-Choice Abortion is Health Care Poster
The Nation (Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Due to a problem with my WordPress Editor, thankfully now resolved by our Tech Team, I was unable to publish the following post on July 3rd.

I am heartbroken. I could not hold back the tears on Friday, June 24, on hearing news about the overturn of Roe v. Wade. With one blow, the U.S. Supreme Court has demolished decades of women’s struggle to gain control over our bodies and lives. Regardless of our stance on abortion, this is a severe blow for all women of childbearing age in America, especially low-income and minority women. In the Dobbs, State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, decided on June 24, 2022, dissenting Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan (p. 159) noted:

The majority [members of the US Supreme Court] would allow States to ban abor­tion from conception onward because it does not think forced childbirth at all implicates a woman’s rights to equal­ity and freedom. Today’s Court, that is, does not think there is anything of constitutional significance attached to a woman’s control of her body and the path of her life.

In the twenty-first century, in the world’s most powerful and democratic nation, The Court finds that the right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition, so declares the majority on page 2 of their June twenty-fourth decision. Our Founding Fathers must be turning in their graves. For sure, they did not intend for the Constitution to remain rooted in eighteenth century norms and traditions. They knew that conditions change over time and specified the process for amending the Constitution, when needed.

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“Risk Poem” by Brazilian Poet Maria Rezende

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Brazilian Poet Maria Rezende
Photo Credit: Camilo Lobo on Poet’s Website

My Poetry Corner June 2022 features the Risk Poem (Poema de Risco) from the 2003 debut poetry collection Feminine Substantive (Substantivo Feminino) by Brazilian feminist poet Maria Rezende. Born in 1978 in Rio de Janeiro, she is a poet, performer, cinema and TV editor, and wedding celebrant. During her twenty years of literary life, she has published four collections of poetry.

Growing up in a home where her parents were avid readers, she began reading at an early age. On her thirteenth birthday, her parents gifted her an anthology of poetry by Vinicius de Moraes. While the anthology opened the world of poetry for her, the work of the great poets left her believing that her own verses could add nothing of value.

Six years later, Maria’s lack of confidence in her own voice changed when she attended spoken poetry classes conducted by poet and actress Elisa Lucinda. In learning to recite poems by the renowned poets in the Portuguese language, she freed her voice and began writing poetry. In her 2016 interview with Fabiane Pereira, published in Helosia Tolipan, Rezende said that writing and speaking out loud are inseparable processes for her. “When I write a poem, I immediately read it aloud to feel the rhythm, change words because of this, add or delete verses,” she told him.

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Thought for Today: Parents For A Future

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Front Cover: Parents For A Future: How Loving Our Children Can Prevent Climate Collapse by Rupert Read
Photo Credit: Parents For A Future

I hope [parents for a future] will be fuelled by rage—the righteous rage that springs from love for their most vulnerable. Rage that the world has left it too late to enjoy a smooth transition to a system that can last…. I hope they’ll be honest and courageous enough to face the dreadful reality that things are going to get worse for our children for quite a long time to come even if we now truly do our best…. [Climate disasters] are coming; they are worsening. We can only seek to mitigate them in the true sense of that word. Which means adapting to what is here and what is coming in a manner that mitigates the force of the blow, shrinks as fast as possible the ongoing harm we are doing, and transforms our system to a better one: more local in its economics, more resilient, less materialistic, slower, more equal, more caring and relational, saner…. I hope that you, parents of the future, take it into your own hands, together, to change things in this way, in this direction. I hope that you won’t wait around for [governments] to fix things, but that you’ll get on with transforming your community, and what you can; because y(our) kids can’t wait.

Excerpt from “A Proposal: Parents For A Future” (p. 150), Parents For A Future: How Loving Our Children Can Prevent Climate Collapse by Rupert Read, UEA Publishing Project, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK, 2021.

PROFESSOR RUPERT READ is based in the Philosophy Department at the University of East Anglia. He is widely known in the UK for getting the BBC (in 2018) to change its policy of featuring climate-deniers to ‘balance’ the facts when reporting on dangerous human-caused climate change. He has been a national spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion and for the Green Party, and was formerly a two-term elected Green Party local Councillor in Norwich. He is an expert on the Precautionary Principle, on which he has won AHRC grants and written reports for Parliamentarians. He is author of Philosophy for Life: Applying Philosophy in Politics and Culture (2007), This Civilisation is Finished: Conversations on the end of Empire and What Lies Beyond (2019), and Extinction Rebellion: Insights from the Inside (2020).

California: A gardener’s woes in a drought-stricken land

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US Drought Monitor – California – May 31, 2022
Source: US Drought Monitor

Gardening on the weekends has been my lifeline since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in March 2020. When I am outdoors among the trees and plants, all my cares and fears disappear. I am fully engaged. I am present. I am at peace.

Since drought is a recurring issue here in California, I have planted mostly succulents that are quite content with watering once or twice a week. Some succulents prefer even longer periods of ten to fourteen days between watering. But a sudden rise in temperatures can shock even the sturdiest of succulents. In March, when we experienced two days of high summer temperatures, a branch of my largest, three-foot high, jade plant collapsed with heat stress. With summer almost upon us, there will be no respite for several other plants that need extra water for giving their best.

Rosaliene’s Garden Plot with Succulents – City of Los Angeles – California – June 3, 2022
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