Friday, February 6, 2015

Auden and Day

Beneath a craggy face the bard’s brain
pulsed with a
will to share.

Into the NBC offices he strode
with his well-known fleshy nose, angling
very slightly to the left, and the thatch
of hair curving down over his right forehead
& a very wrinkled face, sensuous and also shylike with the wrinkles in his eye corners framing
his determination

He wanted a check, on the nonce,
for his translation (with Chester Kallman) of Mozart’s
Die Zauberflöte
for NBC’s Opera Theatre production
in honor of his bicentennial

(born 1.27.1756 in Austria)
The Flute was broadcast 1.15.56
So W. H. must have completed it in’55
The year Dorothy Day was arrested
on June 15 for refusing to take shelter as required by law, during a nationwide Civil Defense drill
to prepare the masses for nuclear war

—a flyer handed out by Day
& her associates from the Catholic Worker June 15, 1955 at City Hall Park

The bard, crusty, publicly humble
his face rutted with difficulty

His cooking techniques cruelly satirized
in The New Yorker (later on, as I recall)
admired Dorothy Day
and signed over the check he had demanded (earlier than the contract required)
from NBC Opera Theatre

to her
perhaps to help pay for repairs to
the Catholic Worker shelter for the homeless ordered by the NYC Fire Department

(& the Fire folk perhaps also acting in reprisal for her sitting in
& getting arrested
at City Hall that June)

All Hail the Spirit of Generosity
& guilt over largess the bard was not
willing to forego gone from Earth since 1973

Edward Sanders 
    March 2014 

From Ed's blog:
Especially poignant is Ed's  retelling in poetry of a Chekov story which is accompanied by Jay Unger and his fiddle.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Art for Black Lives Matter

Kate Deciccio has made beautiful paintings of the parents of police victims which were carried today in the Martin Luther King Jr. march in New York City.
Photo by Liza Bear

photo by Kate Deciccio

Photo by Kate Deciccio

Photo by Kate Deciccio

Photo by Kate Deciccio

Photo by Liza Bear

Photo by Liza Bear

photo by Liza Bear

photo Liza Bear

photo Kate Deciccio

photo by Liza Bear

Friday, January 2, 2015

Student Protests in Hong Kong

Protests in Hong Kong began in September 2014, after the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) of the People's Republic of China announced its decision onproposed reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system. In its decision, the NPCSC said that civil nominations, whereby a candidate could run for election to the Hong Kong Legislative Council if he or she received signed endorsement of 1% of the registered voters, would be disallowed. The decision stated that a 1200-member nominating committee, the composition of which remains subject to a second round of consultation, would elect two to three electoral candidates with more than half of the votes before the general public could vote on them.[9]
Demonstrations began outside the Hong Kong Government headquarters, and members of what would eventually be called the Umbrella Movement occupied several major city intersections.[10] The Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism began protesting outside the government headquarters on 22 September 2014 against the NPCSC's decision.[11]On the evening of 26 September, several hundred demonstrators led by Joshua Wongbreached a security barrier and entered the forecourt of the Central Government Complex(nicknamed "Civic Square"), which was once a public space that has been barred from public entry since July 2014. Officers cordoned off protesters within the courtyard and restricted their movement overnight, eventually removing them by force the next day.[12][13]
On 28 September, the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement announced that they would begin their civil disobedience campaign immediately.[14] Protesters blocked both east–west arterial routes in northern Hong Kong Island near Admiralty. Police tactics (including the use of tear gas) and attacks on protesters by opponents that included triad members, triggered more citizens to join the protests, occupying Causeway Bay and Mong Kok.[15][16][17] The number of protesters peaked at more than 100,000 at any given time.[18][19] In a poll conducted in December, up to 20% of the 1,011 surveyed responded that they have taken part in the protests. [20] The government called for an end to the protests by setting a 'deadline' of 6 October, but this was ignored by protesters, although they allowed government workers to enter offices that had previously been blocked.[21]
The state-run Chinese media claimed repeatedly that the West had played an "instigating" role in the protests, and that "more people in Hong Kong are supporting the anti-Occupy Central movement," and warned of "deaths and injuries and other grave consequences."[22] In an opinion poll carried out by Chinese University of Hong Kong, only 36.1% of 802 people surveyed between 8–15 October accept NPCSC's decision but 55.6% are willing to accept if HKSAR Government would democratise the nominating committee during the 2nd phase of public consultation period.[23]

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Amazing Courage in Berkeley

BERKELEY PROTESTS: Amtrak and I-80 and are both open again through Berkeley after protesters managed to shut them down last night. More than 150 protesters were arrested in the demonstrations.

Even the food editor has had enuf and sees the connections. dd

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On the Occasion of Grace's Birthday-----

Sienna Paley:
for my grandmother's birthday

I was in three worlds. I remember playing with these small action figures in my grandmother's living-room. The action figures would be on their farm, riding horses. My body would be distracted playing with them. Although my mind would be engaged by my grandmother, Grace playing a tune on the piano and humming.

From Duncan Nichols
Duncan, son of Bob Nichols, Grace's partner. Anyone who wants to create a yearly, other-yearly, reading for Grace (or Bob and Grace) I'd come, or I'd help organize. telephone 802 281 2692. We should be having readings of their work

Duncan's memory of life in Thetford for Grace and Bob:
I am thinking of Grace sitting in her kitchen, jotting things down. Bob is upstairs shuffling around, busy like her, at writing/tidying. Grace is sweeping small piles of house dirt, leaves, pens, bob's boot clogs, paperclips, dust, and leaving them in opportune places. Bob comes down from upstairs. He goes outside, sharpens something, dumps some ashes from the stove, brings in a bag from the car for Grace, comes back in, plunks self down and opens some letters. Grace clatters a soup pot, takes out a big block of cheddar, boils the water for tea (or Bob boils the water and Grace opens letters). Grace looks at a packet of garden seeds. "I should have planted these carrots, Bob"  "You did wonderfully, Grace." "I can't plant them now, it's so wet. It's wetter than last summer, or is it still spring." "You can plant them in the rain." "Oh YOU could and get mud all over the place, Bob."  "Did you see this letter from so and so?"   "Oh, yes, isn't that terrific."  "I remember so and so in Germany, in Sweden, in El Salvador, in Russia, in Ireland, in New York, in Burlington, in Cape Cod, in where was that?"  "it was right here."  "Oh yes, I just wanted to clean up the place, and we had no crackers... but we had cheese, we had wine, we had tea, we had photographs of the children, of the children all over the world..."  "have you seen my glasses"   "they're right here, under your sweater."  "Oh, you're so great, you know that, you're so won-der-ful."

From Bea Gates:
“Banner” dedicated to Bob, and “Oak, November” for Grace.

for Bob
1. Bob wore salvia in his blue
    shirt's buttonhole,
    brilliant summer lasting in Grace's
    garden. Red as red can be.

2. There are three beds of salvia, flaming ovals
    at the end of the drive
    where Elsa lives on the family dairy farm
    in the old stone house next to the barn.
    She sells eggs, stacked in the deep doorway,
    and vegetables on the card table by the road, honor system.
    She laughs about her high beds of salvia--
    everyone comes up the drive to talk about them--
    "You'd think there were no more flowers in the world."

3. A banner year for salvia
    and I kept thinking as the fall wore on,
    past Grace--how she always watched the spaces between
    pulling to make room for every kind,
    how the smaller buds must miss her hand,
    zinnias popping heads and tough pale stems,
    blue pansies curling to sun without her.
    The vegetable garden just over the lip of the hill,
    tomatoes still coming, long squash, and pumpkin,
    beans gone by, and Bob tramping by, walking slowly
    looking up    at the curving line of trees
    looking down    hands in pockets
    at the thick flower tangle--
    the salvia upright
    announcing triumph
    because it knows death
    alive   alive. 
--Beatrix Gates
Oak, November
for Grace
There’s an oak leaf, one    caught in the latch on the door
lodged like a letter in a letter box.
It knocks slowly, eight-prongs    the wind
tips it back, head leaning away    stem like a tail,
wind knocking softly    turning over the life of a tough brown leaf.
Stronger than a grasping hand, it takes years
for the veins to dissolve to brittle lace and still not want
to search the good brown dirt.
How did it? Why did it come so near the end? The oak.
From the bathroom window,
green rubber gloves across the sash
splay fingerless in crumpled, inside-out positions.
The leaf waves again.
The handsavers grow lazier and may have to go
in the trash bucket before the next cleaning.
I study the oak      the many kinds of brown
graying and reddening oak across the clearing.
The message will open, and I will not have touched the veins.
I write a friend whose blood is not making enough
more real blood    the kind that carries what we need
to every extremity in a day.   I spill out, too much on the page.
The oak scratches a life into the soft wind.

I wanted to send word, tell her I got the message--
you don’t have forever you know.  
--Beatrix Gates
(appeared in Ploughshares)

Garrison Keillor:
It's the birthday of American short-story author Grace Paley (books by this author), born in New York City (1922). She grew up in an immigrant neighborhood in the Bronx, where she was surrounded by a wide variety of languages. Her own parents spoke Yiddish and Russian at home, and English in public. She loved to hear the different tongues, and especially loved listening to all the gossip, but when she first started writing poetry, she wrote in a formal, stilted British style because she thought that's what poems were supposed to sound like. Then, in college, she met W.H. Auden and he agreed to read her work. She later recalled: "We went through a few poems, and he kept asking me, 'Do you really talk like that?' And I kept saying, 'Oh yeah, well, sometimes.' That was the great thing I learned from Auden: that you'd better talk your own language."
She wrote while her children were at school, and eventually moved from poetry to fiction. She wrote three stories and showed them to her friend, who happened to be married to an editor at Doubleday. He told her that if she could write seven more, he would publish the collection. Her first book was The Little Disturbances of Man (1959), and it was full of the voices of the immigrant women in her Greenwich Village neighborhood. She only wrote three books in all, but she was always busy doing something: teaching, or giving talks, or engaging in political activism.
From Nora Paley:
Today is my mother's birthday although she thought it was the 10th for most of her life. In this photo -a march against the Iraq War -she was feeling very weak and very determined though never stopped thinking about the lives of the grandchildren and the beauty of the world.

Joel Kovel writes:
"What sticks in my mind just now about Grace is how lightly she bore the burden of fame. There was a simplicity about her that allowed her to be directly herself and transcendently universal in the same moment. That's why I write, "just now," above: a great soul like Grace is always to be renewed. How her parents must have sensed something when they named her "Grace"!"

Susan Brooke Stapleton
Happy birthday Grace.... miss your beautiful spirit.

Pati Hernandez:
Happy birthday my dear friend Grace..... Always missing you, yet always with me....

Linda Elbow remembers:
"...the celebration of her being named Poet Laureate of Vermont. It took place in the Representatives Chamber of State House.  After Governor Jim Douglas introduced her, Grace stood up to speak. Douglas put behind the podium a little stool for her to stand on.
When she came to see our circuses she as always sat on the ground in the front row.
Oh, Grace!

…..What's that beautiful poem that Grace wrote about sitting outside and watching Bob work and thinking how much she loved him? There might have been a grandchild in this poem too."

Nora found it:
Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face

how did this happen
well that's who I wanted to be

at last a woman
in the old style sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt grandchild sliding
on off my lap a pleasant
summer perspiration

that's my old man across the yard
he's talking to the meter reader
he's telling him the world's sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth I tell my grandson
run over to your grandpa ask him
to sit beside me for a minute I
am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips. 

John Bell wrote:
 " I think the new Modicut Puppet Theater project Great Small Works is doing (for example our performance tomorrow night at YIVO), and our commitment to understanding activism, theater, and modern Yiddish culture, is, at heart, deeply indebted to the direct inspiration Grace has given us, individually and collectively."

Dr. John Bell
Director, Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry
Associate Professor, Dramatic Arts Department
University of Connecticut

1 Royce Circle, Suite 101B

Storrs, Connecticut  06268

Happy Birthday Grace!

December 11 is Grace's Birthday. 
Please send memories, quotes, favorite stories, photos to to be posted here in celebration of her!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Protests Around the Country Against Police Brutality and Grand Jury Decision

Protest at Harvard Square against Garner decision

Howard University students shutting down Union Station in Washington DC December 3, 2014.

Students at the University of Texas Austin Protest the Garner Decision.

Hundreds of Students "die in" at Columbia University tree lighting ceremony.
(photo via Columbia Spectator)

Protesters chanting “black lives matter”, “I can’t breathe” and “this is what democracy looks like” blocked northbound Interstate-35W in Minneapolis Thursday afternoon, backing up traffic as they marched to City Hall.

Lake Shore Drive closed in both directions in Chicago as demonstrators march onto the highway.

Ithaca College students take over the student center with a die-in.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Becoming Grace: Performance at Mesa Refuge

Naomi Newman
Becoming Grace
A One-Woman Performance about the
Life and Work of Grace Paley
Sunday, December 14
3:00 pm
Point Reyes Presbyterian Church 
followed by a reception at the Mesa Refuge

To register and buy tickets online through Point Reyes Books,

Playwright and actress Naomi Newman is the 2015 Regina Barnes Fellow at the Mesa Refuge. Naomi will give a solo performance of Becoming Grace, a play based on the life of Grace Paley, as a benefit for Mesa Refuge. Culled from snatches of Paley's stories, poems, essays and interviews, the play describes her life as a Jewish writer, mother, activist and, ultimately, lioness of literature.  The performance will be followed by a reception at the Mesa Refuge.

About Naomi Newman: Naomi Newman was the co-founder of the Traveling Jewish Theatre Company (TJT) as well as a TJT playwright, director, and performer for 35 years until its closing in 2011. Before that she sang on the concert stage, acted in television, and had a psychotherapy practice. 
Co-sponsored by Point Reyes Books and the Mesa Refuge 
The Mesa Refuge is a writers' retreat located in Point Reyes Station, California. Our mission is to provide a quiet and inspiring space for people writing about ways to create a more just and sustainable world. We have traditionally focused on the environment, economics, and social equity.
The Mesa Refuge, 11 Los Reyes Drive, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Friday, September 26, 2014

Looking Back at the First Invasion of Iraq in 1991

From the historic Gulf Crisis TV Project. Before "social media" youTube and before Indymedia, this was a key example of community media sharing around the globe. Grace Paley speaks about three minute into this tape. Next is one of the many presentations at the World Tribunal on Iraq in Istanbul.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jacob David George who committed suicide when he heard Obama's latest war announcement

The Human Cost of War: IVAW Testimony ~ Jacob David George from First Unitarian Church on Vimeo.
U.S. veteran communities are reportedly grieving at news of the suicide of Jacob George, a three-tour veteran of America’s last decade-plus of war, after he failed to find relief from physical and mental injuries he sustained in battle. In a clip from a veterans event last year, he spoke of his experience with various types of therapy and performed his original song, “Soldier’s Heart.”
George’s suicide occurred after President Obama announced new war plans against the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
In his presentation, which is viewable below, George spoke of the limitations of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which he said “isn’t designed to address the depths of the wounds we have.” The VA doesn’t “really look at the soul and how the soul has been injured in war.”
George regarded antiwar work as the most important part of his recovery. “I marched with my brothers and sisters to the NATO summit and I threw my medals back. And the act of throwing released something inside of me. I don’t know what it is. I’m still trying to figure it out. But it played a role in healing my soul.”
His therapist noted that “the VA could never endorse something like that. Because it’s so politically loaded. ... The VA couldn’t say ‘Hey, look, you need to organize a protest. You need to march to the Pentagon with 100,000 veterans.’ ”

See Jacob George’s website

George responded: “Do you hear what you’re saying? You’re telling me that you can’t offer me the actual healing rituals and ceremonies that I need, that an entire generation of people needs in order to heal their soul.”

Monday, July 28, 2014

From Dissent: Dear Nick Kristof: Your Palestinian Gandhis are Already Here

Weekly protest in Bil'in, June 2011 (Anna Paq, courtesy of
Writing on July 19 in a column intended to “correct a few common misconceptions” about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Nicholas Kristof perpetuated one of his own. Offering unsolicited advice to Palestinian political leaders, Mr. Kristof wrote: “If Palestinians turned to huge Gandhi-style nonviolence resistance campaigns [sic], videos would reverberate around the world and Palestine would achieve statehood and freedom.” Mr. Kristof’s sentiment is admirable. His glaring ignorance of ongoing Palestinian peaceful grassroots campaigns is not.
At a time of colossal regional violence, the growth of peaceful grassroots campaigns for Palestinian statehood and civil rights is one of the few uplifting stories in Israeli-Palestinian politics. Over the past decade, these campaigns have originated in communities with particular grievances, and slowly transformed into weekly marches for civil rights and statehood. In Bil’in, Palestinians have marched every Friday since February 2005, when community members first organized in defiance of the expropriation of half of the village’s farmland by the neighboring Modiin Illit settlement (the Israeli High Court returned one-half of the stolen land in 2007). Those demonstrations were featured in the Academy Award–nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras, one of the few instances of global media attention on Palestinian peaceful protests. In Nabi Saleh, weekly marches have protested a similar expropriation of land, and the denial of basic civil rights by military rule. Other active villages include Budrus, Jayyous, Beit Surik, Biddo, Al-Wlajeh, Ni’lin, Ma’sara, Beit Ummar, and Iraq Burin, among others. Weekly demonstrations include anywhere from several dozen to several hundred protesters.
Weekly marches have not been the only Palestinian peaceful campaigns. Other methods include barricading roads on which Palestinians are not permitted to drive, mass prayer events, and hunger strikes. The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee serves as an umbrella organization for these efforts, coordinating “marches, strikes, demonstrations, direct actions and legal campaigns, as well as supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions,” according to its website. Some peaceful protesters have also worked with American and European counterparts to organize international demonstrators, such as a series of demonstrations on April 15, 2014, to protest use of U.S. tax funds to support the Israeli occupation.
The leaders who have emerged from these movements speak the Gandhian language of transformative nonviolence that Mr. Kristof implores them to employ. When I was in Bil’in last month, leading activist Iyad Burnat explained his philosophy of nonviolence to me: “I want my freedom, and I am not free if I harm another person.” Another activist in Bil’in, who preferred not to be named for fear of reprisal, told me: “If you want to visit my home, I do not care if you are Muslim, Jewish, or Christian. But you cannot bring violence with you, you cannot solve disputes with violence. That is our message to the Israelis who occupy us.”
While Mr. Kristof is wrong that Palestinians have yet to learn the value of peaceful grassroots campaigns, he is right that the Gandhi-like Palestinian movement is not “huge.” Why haven’t more Palestinians joined the movement? One theory is that Palestinians refuse to reject militancy. Another is that they fear the draconian violence visited upon peaceful protesters by the Israel Defense Force.
To understand why more Palestinians haven’t joined weekly peaceful protests, it’s important to consider something that Mr. Kristof likely overlooked in formulating his advice: Israeli Military Executive Order 101 outlaws political gatherings of more than ten Palestinians in the West Bank, meaning that Palestinian peaceful gatherings inherently amount to illegal civil disobedience. Unsurprisingly, the Israel Defense Forces responds to these protests with force as a matter of policy. Nearly every Friday in the Palestinian villages in which demonstrations occur, the IDF unleashes an occasionally lethal, always perilous, combination of tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, water cannon–fired “skunk” liquid, and—sometimes—live fire. Onestudy found that between 2004 and 2011, thirteen Palestinian civilians were killed in nonviolent demonstrations; Iyad Burnat, the Bil’in organizer, puts the overall figure at closer to forty.
The IDF also punishes villages known for nonviolent civil disobedience campaigns in other ways. Nonviolent demonstrators have been arrested and imprisoned for “incitement”; children can be detained and processed in the IDF’s notoriously gruesome military court system, whose treatment of children UNICEF has called “cruel, inhumane and degrading”; and permits for work in Israel can be revoked. The IDF has confirmed that it uses collective punishment against villages in which these protests occur. It turns out that there are substantial costs to even peaceful resistance against the state that controls your access to water, electricity, transportation, employment, and freedom of mobility. In this context, what seems remarkable is not that more Palestinians do not join the demonstrations, but that so many have persevered over the past decade.
These harsh IDF responses are not provoked by Palestinian violence. A leaked 2010 U.S. State Department memo records Israel’s top military official in the West Bank, General Avi Mizrahi, promising to use skunk water and mass arrests to quell “even demonstrations that appear peaceful.” As one senior Israeli military official told an American counterpart in 2011: “We don’t do Gandhi very well.”
While Israel’s response to Gandhi-style tactics has been utterly condemnable, Palestinians have certainly not perfected the tactic. Kristof writes that “too many Palestinians define nonviolence to include rockthrowing. No, that doesn’t cut it.” Mr. Kristof is right that occasional rock-throwing does occur, but he is thoroughly wrong to define and dismiss the movement by this practice. Stone-throwing is not employed as an organized strategy of demonstrators, who use marches and sit-ins to make their point; those who throw stones tend to act alone or in small groups, and often after the IDF initiates violence against peaceful demonstrators.
The relentless emphasis on stone-throwing cedes any sense of proportionality, ignoring the egregious violence with which the IDF crushes Palestinian demonstrations by official policy. As Iyad Tamimi, a leading organizer in Nabi Saleh, told me when I visited the village last month: “After one day of protest, we pick up 1,500 tear gas canisters. Are the Israelis nonviolent?”
To substantiate his claim about rock-throwing, Mr. Kristof turns not to a third-party report, but instead links to the official IDF blog. On that page, the IDF misleadingly boasts of “protecting the right of Palestinians to protest peacefully,” despite the fact that Israeli military law explicitly denies Palestinians the right to political demonstration.
Of course, it would be ideal for no rock-throwing to occur, just as it would be ideal for the IDF not to resort to violence in crushing popular demonstrations, just as it would be ideal, writ large, for the IDF to withdraw from the West Bank, which it occupies in contravention of international law. But demanding that Palestinians absorb the tremendous personal costs of nonviolent civil disobedience, then dismissing the promising movement because of marginal stone-throwing, all while ignoring the vast IDF violence against Palestinian civilians—this is not the empathy Mr. Kristof has offered to others struggling for human rights around the globe.
This brazen disproportionality is precisely why Mr. Kristof’s advice is so insulting. In the past decade, Palestinians living under a grinding military occupation have undertaken profound personal and community sacrifices to organize peaceful demonstrations for civil rights and statehood. Instead of empowering these courageous moderates by sharing their stories, Mr. Kristof turns a blind eye, dismissing the cost of their courage while arrogantly suggesting that he will pay attention when Palestinians learn to behave perfectly.
It’s this type of superficial media coverage that makes so preposterous Mr. Kristof’s prediction that “the resulting videos [of nonviolence resistance campaigns] would reverberate around the world and Palestine would achieve statehood and freedom.” Thevideos are here, here, here, and here, among other places, Mr. Kristof. Will you start sharingthem?

Sam Sussman co-directs Extend, an American start-up non-profit organization that offers five-day educational tours of the West Bank to young American Jews. He is an M.Phil. candidate in International Relations at Oxford. He tweets @SamSussman1.