“Counter-narcissus” by Brazilian Poet Paulo Leminski

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Brazilian Poet Paulo Leminski in his Study
Photo Credit: Veja Magazine, São Paulo/Brazil

 

My Poetry Corner August 2019 features the poem “Counter-narcissus” (Contranarciso) by Paulo Leminski (1944-1989), a Brazilian poet, translator, and biographer. He was born of humble origins in Curitiba, capital of the southern state of Paraná. His father was of Polish descent; his mother was a mixture of Portuguese, Black, and Native Indian. He publicly owned with pride, the derogatory labels of “polaco” and “negro mestiço.”

At the age of fourteen, with his parents’ approval, Paulo entered the Monastery of Saint Benedict in São Paulo. Within a year and a half, unable to cope with the disciplined lifestyle, he returned home. But his time spent among the monks wasn’t wasted. His studies exposed him to theology, philosophy, and Classical literature which demanded a knowledge of Latin and Greek. Later in life, Leminski applied the monks’ rigid and strenuous study routine to his work. Passionate about language, he became an autodidact polyglot fluent in six foreign languages.

Before the realization that poetry was his life, Paulo abandoned his undergraduate studies in literature and law after just a year, taught history and creative writing for a while, and later applied his writing skills as a journalist and advertising editor. Continue reading

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Book Release – Under the Tamarind Tree: A Novel

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Tamarind Tree with Fruits
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

The day is finally here. Today is the day I send my debut novel out into the world. It has been a long journey: four years in its conception and another five years in failing to find it a home. During the years of rejection from the guardians of the publishing world, I held onto the hope that Under the Tamarind Tree would enter the world when its time had come. Guyana, the setting for the novel, is now facing a constitutional crisis. In my adopted homeland, divisive racist politics is becoming the norm. Across our planet, gang violence and never-ending wars are driving families from their ancestral homes.

At the heart of Under the Tamarind Tree is the loss and pain that violence brings into our lives. In the United States, mass shootings by lone gunmen are devastating our communities, with little to no response from our law makers. The life of the protagonist, Richard Cheong, is changed forever when his younger brother, then eight years old, was shot to death under a tamarind tree. For Richard, the tamarind tree—a vengeful judge—becomes the personification of his guilt for not keeping his younger brother safe. His inconsolable mother’s death, shortly thereafter, had compounded his guilt. Her spirit haunted him.

Sometimes, she called out his name in the quiet of the night while he stretched out in his Berbice-chair listening to music. She often visited him in his dreams, drenched and shivering. Her chocolate-brown hair, caked with mud, draped down her back to her waist. She drowned him in her grief. (Prologue 1) Continue reading

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Book Review: Under The Tamarind Tree by Rosaliene Bacchus — Ken Puddicombe -Writer

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Great news! I’ve received the first review of my debut novel, Under the Tamarind Tree, soon to be released. The reviewer, Guyana-born Ken Puddicombe, is the author of three historical novels Racing With the Rain (2012), Junta (2014), and Down Independence Boulevard & Other Stories (2017). He lives in Toronto, Canada, where he owns and runs a small press.

Do check out his review.

COVER ART BY GUYANESE-CANADIAN ARTIST JOAN BRYAN-MUSS

 

UNDER THE TAMARIND TREE Copyright 2019 By Rosaliene Bacchus 284 pgs Published by Lulu Press, Inc. USA Review by Ken Puddicombe The fruit of the Tamarind Tree holds a puzzling allure to people in the tropics, its tangy and acidic fruit devoured obsessively, even as it stimulates the taste buds with spasms of unpleasantness […]

via Book Review: Under The Tamarind Tree by Rosaliene Bacchus — Ken Puddicombe -Writer

Guyana: Let’s have a ‘One Guyana Peace Concert’ and a ‘Day of Prayer’ Before the Elections!

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COMMENTARY By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine
The West Indian Magazine, July 27, 2019
Reprinted with permission of the author

 

Some may think that the idea is outrageous or even downright crazy. But we need to allay the fears of Guy­anese, to ease the tension, and show that we can work, sing and pray to­gether. We need a ‘One Guyana Peace Concert and a Day of Prayer’ and we need it before the elections. Both events should be non-political and aim to celebrate Guyana as a peaceful nation.

The daily vitriol on social media, from peo­ple that live thousands of miles away from Guy­ana, is bereft of peace or harmony. The online posts stir up hate and call on people to go to war. But Guyanese know bet­ter. They know that at the end of the day the races depend on each other for their survival. They know that we are inter­locked by economics and history and we can’t do without each other. Elections bring out the worse in us but isn’t time that we put aside the hate and look at each other as Guyanese first?

Take a walk at the business places. You will see people buying and selling freely without re­gard to race or ethnicity. In fact, the races will tell you that without each other they can’t do busi­ness. Their livelihoods depend on one another. In Vergenoegen, where I was raised, many busi­nesses were owned by Afro and Indo-Guya­nese. We supported each other without the slight­est regard to race.

When it came to cul­tural events we joined hands and celebrated. In fact, many Afro-Guya­nese knew the rituals of the Hindu wedding cer­emony better than Indi­ans in the village. The people took pride in the achievements of the chil­dren and we looked out for each other. If only we can get back to the days of mutual coopera­tion and respect and treat each other as brothers and sisters rather than as enemies.

The politicians would like to see enmity be­tween the races because they become relevant when the society is di­vided. A divided society preys on differ­ences and hate. After years of di­viding the nation, it is time to wake up and tell the politicians to put aside the hate. It is time to call out the politicians and urge them to act in the interests of the people. [Emphasis mine.] Continue reading

Divisive Racist Politics: Will America Survive?

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“Send Her Back” – US President’s Campaign Rally – North Carolina/USA – July 17, 2019
Photo Credit: HuffPost, YouTube Video

 

I know about divisive racist politics. I have experienced it up close in Guyana, the land of my birth—one of the “shithole countries” that our president loves to denigrate. Divisive racist politics has crippled my birthplace over the past fifty-three years since its birth as an independent nation. As a multiracial woman, I know firsthand the ways in which hate, rancor, fear, and distrust can splinter families, communities, and relationships in public spaces, such as our schools and workplaces.

Caught up in what Guyanese call “the racial disturbances”—during the years leading up to independence in May 1966, between the two major population groups of descendants of African slaves and Indian indentured laborers—I became a marginalized citizen. Beginning in adolescence, I learned to navigate the racial minefields, to dodge and take the blows.

In my debut novel, Under the Tamarind Tree, to be released in the coming months, I tackle the roots of Guyana’s divisive racist politics and its impact on the lives of my racially diverse characters. You can learn more about my motivations for setting out on this literary journey in my article “The Making of Under the Tamarind Tree.”

While the chant rose to “send her back,” during a recent presidential campaign rally, America’s transnational corporations are sucking Earth’s natural resources from all those “broken and crime infested places from which they [non-white immigrants] came.”

Continue reading

Earth’s Climate Emergency: Break down the walls!

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YouthStrike4Climate Student March – London, UK – April 12, 2019
Photo Credit: Common Dreams (Photo Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

 

To those people who are still in denial that humanity faces a climate crisis that would most likely lead to the extinction of our species, not to mention most other species, I say, wake up to reality. We cannot afford to wait until reality strikes you in the groin or chest for us to take evasive action as a united nation.

 

Greta Thunberg at the World Economic Forum 2019 – Davos, Switzerland
Watch Video: World Economic Forum, Published on January 25, 2019

 

Because we adults are asleep at the wheel, leadership in humanity’s existential crisis now falls upon our youth. After all, it’s their future that is at stake. Greta Thunberg, a fifteen-year-old Swedish student has had enough of the failure of world leaders to act. In her address to the ultra-rich gathered at the World Economic Forum in January 2019, she tells them:

“I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

 

Senator Dianne Feinstein speaks with young activists of the Sunrise Movement
California Office, USA – February 22, 2019
Watch Video: Washington Post

 

Here in the world’s leading economy, our leadership is more concerned about preserving their self-interests, their political party, and the status quo. On February 22, 2019, when young activists of the Sunrise Movement visited the California office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to ask her to vote for the Green New Deal, she was firm in rejecting their petition.

“We have our own Green New Deal,” Feinstein tells them. “I’ve been doing this for thirty years. I know what I’m doing. You come in here and you say it has to be my way or the highway. I don’t respond to that… I just won a big election.”

 

Youth climate activists during sit-in at Washington DC office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – February 25, 2019
Photo Credit: Common Dreams (Photo Sunrise Movement)

 

The following Monday, February 25th, over 200 young members of the Sunrise Movement joined about twenty Kentucky high school students outside the Capitol Hill office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to demonstrate their support for the Green New Deal. They failed to meet him. Instead, the Capitol Police arrested more than forty of them.

While there is yet no consensus on the Green New Deal—which right-wing commentators view as a socialist takeover of our economy—lawmakers in Washington DC are busy undoing decades of environmental protection regulations. Then, on June 20th, the New York State Assembly passed its own Green New Deal at the state level. Their aggressive Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act calls for net zero carbon emissions statewide by 2050.

On July 9th, our young climate activists gained another victory in their call for action. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) announced the introduction of a resolution in Congress to declare that the climate emergency facing our planet demands a “national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States” in order to “restore the climate for future generations.”

Over two dozen lawmakers, including most of the senators currently running for president, signed on as co-sponsors.

Blumenauer calls for a reality check. “To address the climate crisis, we must tell the truth about the nature of this threat,” he said in his statement.

“What we need now is Congressional leadership to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them that their short-term profits are not more important than the future of the planet,” Sanders said. “Climate change is a national emergency, and I am proud to be introducing this resolution with my House and Senate colleagues.”

Working to solve the climate crisis will create tens of millions of union jobs, empower communities, and improve the quality of life for people across the globe,” Ocasio-Cortez added. 

Read the full Climate Emergency Resolution.

Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, supports the resolution. “With an unhinged climate denier in the White House, it’s on Congress to steer us away from climate suicide,” he said in a statement. “This resolution is a sane recognition that science says we need a massive transition away from the production and consumption of dirty fossil fuels.”

The time is now to break down the walls of partisanship, the walls of fear, the walls of ignorance, the walls of hatred and divisiveness, the walls of exclusion, the walls of separateness, the walls of inequality.

“Our house is on fire!” alerts the high school student Greta Thunberg.
“Let it burn!” says The Bully, sitting at the top of the world. “The oil is mine! All mine!”

“This is the Dark Time My Love” by Guyanese Poet Martin Carter

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British soldiers arrive in Georgetown – British Guiana – October 9, 1953
Photo Credit: Stabroek News (Photo British Pathé)

 

My Poetry Corner July 2019 features the poem “This is the Dark Time My Love” by Guyanese poet Martin Carter (1927-1997) from his poetry collection, Poems of Resistance from British Guiana (London 1954). Following the suspension of the British Guiana Constitution in 1953, the poet-politician composed the poems in this collection during his three-month detention, together with other political leaders, by the British Army.

For readers unfamiliar with Guyana’s history, a former British colony until May 26, 1966, slavery ended in 1834. Indentured laborers began arriving from India in 1838 and continued until 1917. Other immigrant workers came from Portuguese Madeira (1835-1882) and China (1853-1879). The population of the colony in the mid-1950s was about 450,000 people (UN estimate).

Born in 1927 in Georgetown, the capital of then British Guiana, to middle class parents of African, Indian, and European ancestry, the young Martin grows up with an appreciation for literature, poetry, and philosophy. After attending the colony’s prestigious Queen’s College, for boys only, he gains entry to the civil service, working first at the post office, then later as the secretary of the superintendent of prisons.

Aware of the oppression and despair of the sugarcane workers who toil under harsh conditions on the British-owned sugar plantations, Carter joins the political struggle for self-governance. In “Looking at Your Hands” (1), he affirms his solidarity with the plantation workers in their shared struggle under British rule. 

No!
I will not still my voice!
I have
too much to claim –
[…]
you must know
I do not sleep to dream
but dream to change the world.
  Continue reading

American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism by Henry A Giroux

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Front Cover: American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism by Henry A Giroux
(City Lights/USA 2018)

 

American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism by Henry A Giroux is a collection of essays that aim to shake up Americans to the growing threat of Trump’s authoritarianism to America’s democratic institutions. The author observes that “while the United States under Trump may not be an exact replica of Hitler’s Germany, the mobilizing ideas, policies, and ruthless social practices of fascism, wrapped in the flag and discourses of racial purity, ultra-nationalism, and militarism, are at the center of power in Trump’s United States.”

As defined by the Oxford Online Dictionary, fascism is “an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.” To examine the echoes of fascism under Trump, Giroux refers to Robert O Paxton’s nine “mobilizing passions” of fascism described in his work, The Anatomy of Fascism (2004). These include:

  • sense of overwhelming crisis;
  • subordination of the individual to the group;
  • belief in victimization of one group to justify violence;
  • dread of group’s decline;
  • call for a purer community;
  • authority of a natural leader;
  • supremacy of leader’s instinct over reason;
  • beauty of violence and efficacy of the will for group’s success; and
  • right of chosen people to dominate others without restraint.

Continue reading

Carbon dioxide levels in Atmosphere hit record high in May

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Source: Earth System Research Laboratory, NOAA

 

Atmospheric carbon dioxide continued its rapid rise in 2019, with the average for May peaking at 414.7 parts per million (ppm) at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory.

The measurement is the highest seasonal peak recorded in 61 years of observations on top of Hawaii’s largest volcano and the seventh consecutive year of steep global increases in concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), according to data published June 4, 2019, by NOAA and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Learn more.

“Nothing to Worry About” ~ Poem by Palestinian-American Poet Remi Kanazi

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Front Cover: Before the Next Bomb Drops: Rising Up from Brooklyn to Palestine
by Remi Kanazi [Haymarket/USA, 2015]

 

My Poetry Corner June 2019 features the poem “Nothing to Worry About” from the poetry collection Before the Next Bomb Drops: Rising Up from Brooklyn to Palestine (Haymarket Books, 2015) by Remi Kanazi, a poet, writer, and organizer based in New York City. Born in 1981, he is the son of Palestinian refugees who fled Palestine during the Nakba of 1948 when the state of Israel was established. In this collection, he not only addresses the Israel-Palestine conflict, but also examines racism in America, police brutality, US militarism at home and wars abroad, Islamophobia, and more.

In “Nakba,” the opening poem of the collection, Kanazi shares his maternal grandmother’s story of fleeing from her homeland, living in exile, and not being able to return home.

she was scared
seven months pregnant
guns pointed at temples
tears dropping
stomach cusped
back bent
dirt pathways
leading to
dispossession

For Palestinians worldwide, Nakba, which literally means “catastrophe,” refers to the period 1947 to 1949 when Zionist colonizers ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinians and destroyed 531 villages.

Palestinians leaving a village in Galilee after the creation of Israel in 1948
Photo Credit: Aljazeera [Reuters]

 

Kanazi grew up in a small, predominantly white town in Western Massachusetts where he assimilated American customs. During his teenage years, he learned more about Palestine, but, as the only Arab family in town, he avoided contentious debate. In 2001, four months before 9/11, he moved to New York City.

In an “anti-Arab, Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian kind of world,” Kanazi says during his interview with Now This News on April 29, 2019, “[t]o be Palestinian in the United States is to face erasure; it’s to face marginalization.”

After Kanazi attended his first Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, in 2004, he was inspired to begin writing spoken word poetry. Based on his own receptivity, he realized the potential of using this medium to share his political thoughts with the young generation. Continue reading