Dear WordPress and Twitter followers, today I offered the first part of a two-part short reading from my new book which is coming out on August 26 from Olympia Publishers, “Poems from the Northeast.” This is now the second part, assuming that the first part was something you liked and found sympathetic. So, without more ado, here goes (this part is about 16 minutes long, whereas the first was 9 minutes or so, giving you roughly 20-25 minutes total). I hope you enjoy it. Shadowoperator (Victoria Leigh Bennett)
Category Archives: Poetry and its forms and meanings
Dear WordPress and Twitter followers, I may be able to offer you here a short video from my new book (if successful, Part II to follow immediately afterwards). I’ve upgraded from http://www.creativeshadows.wordpress.com to having my own domain name, because this was the most economical way of doing two things at once, for WordPress, and for Twitter. My new domain name is: creative-shadows.com . Please enjoy both parts of the reading if you have time (for a total of 20-25 minutes). Best regards, Shadowoperator (Victoria Leigh Bennett)
Coincidentally (and I’m just sayin’, I mean…), I started my site with my old name of https://www.creativeshadows.wordpress.com in July of 2012. Today, when I upgraded my site, I found that someone named Paulina Steele had started a media site in 2015, named creativeshadows as well. Later than. After. I mean, were there no other good names around? Just sayin’…
In the midst of so much controversy in the contemporary world about what to do to help people, both women and men, to achieve their rights and to be treated equally by their societies and fellows in those societies, it is refreshing and uplifting to read a poet who has a whole-hearted belief that things can only improve, though she is not incognizant of the problems to be faced, it is clear both from her political involvements as they are reported in her brief biography1 and the determination in the forward-looking tone of her poem, which I will comment on here (it is not possible to print the whole poem, even though it is relatively short, because it is not in the public domain. Brief quotes only are allowed.)
As we are told in the biographical paragraph itself, “Fawziyya Abu Khalid was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [in 1955]. She studied in the United States, taking a degree in sociology, and has been teaching at the Girls’ University College of King Saud University….Her work celebrates the strength and abilities of women, as well as indicating her commitment to political concerns.”1
In her poem The Pearl, Abu Khalid compares the legacy of generations of Arabic women to the physical legacy of a pearl, handed down from grandmother to mother to her, to her own daughter (or niece, etc., it isn’t quite clear). “The three of you and this pearl/Have one thing in common,” she says, “simplicity and truth,” making the two terms one in a touching poetic figure which conquers ordinary language usage. As she predicts in her poem “The girls of Arabia will soon grow/to full stature.” She further notes that they will find their predecessor’s traces and will say “‘She has passed by this road,'” which in her view, by the end of the poem, leads to “the place of sunrise” and “the heart’s direction.”
Though this more or less fairly reports the entirety of the poem’s movement in time and space, it cannot fairly represent the poem’s delicacy and beauty, as fine as a pearl of great value itself. It is humbling to realize that even though women all over the world are still having major problems getting recognized for their contributions and accomplishments, that a woman in one of the perhaps harder places to achieve this feat is so hopeful and so full, again, of strong determination, both for herself and for others to follow her. We all should have such inspiring and leading women in our lives, and she is one not only for Arabic women, but for women of the world.
This poem can be read in its short but lovely entirety in English translation (performed by Salwa Jabsheh and John Heath-Stubbs) on page 508 in the same volume which I mentioned in my last post just above, for which, see below:
(1In this case, both the poem and my biographical data are drawn from the large compendium text of world literature which I have now had occasion to mention several times on this site: Modern Literatures of the Non-Western World: Where the Waters Are Born, edited and compiled by Jayana Clerk and Ruth Siegel, with study questions and suggestions for further research. It was published by HarperCollins College Publishers back in 1995, and is still valuable today.)
Rabindranath Tagore and His “Gitanjali XXXV” (“Where the Mind Is Without Fear”)–A Prayer for Our Modern Country
Though I have often heard the name, Rabindranath Tagore (born Rabindranath Thakur), I have only read a smattering of his works, barely one or two. But this one I wanted to write upon today (and quote in full, as it is short and in the public domain), because it is a universal prayer for any country at any time, and especially for our country, the U.S., right now.
First, a brief biographical note, for anyone who may not be acquainted with this figure of world literature. Tagore was born in Calcutta, India, in 1861, and died in 1941. He was born into a wealthy Bengali family of scholars, religious reformers, writers, and musicians. Though he never took a full university degree, he started an experimental school in 1901 called Shantiniketan (“the abode of peace”) which was based on the ancient schools of India, conducted in the open air, because he did not find the British system of education sufficiently acceptable for his countrymen and countrywomen. It became later Visva-Bharati, an international concern stressing world peace and societal reform. He published his first poem in 1875, when he was 14, and wrote in many different genres, not only the creative (though all genres of writing are in some manner so), and provided by focusing on traditional philosophical thought a bridge between the past and the present.
For his book Gitanjali, which he wrote in Bengali but translated into English himself, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. Though the British knighted him in 1915, in 1919 he renounced the title due to the British massacre of many hundreds of people in Amritsar. He is the person who gave the title “Mahatma” (“great soul”) to Mohandas Gandhi. In 1940, he wrote Crisis in Civilization, which had an international humanitarian focus, and centered on racial equality. Both India and Bangladesh have since adopted poems of his as their national anthems. It is customary and frequent to find him quoted in world literatures, where all of his humanistic qualities are thus in the foreground of other countries.
Now, here is the poem, Song XXXV from Gitanjali:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls; Where words come out from the depth of truth; Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit; Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action-- Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
While I do think that this poem is universal in its applications, for every country in every time, I cannot help but think that Americans in this time in especial, with all of our particular distresses and tensions and quarrels and discord in general, may find it uplifting and inspiring.
(My biographical data is drawn from a large compendium text of world literature which I have had occasion to mention before on this site: Modern Literatures of the Non-Western World: Where the Waters Are Born, edited and compiled by Jayana Clerk and Ruth Siegel, with study questions and suggestions for further research. It was published by HarperCollins College Publishers in 1995, and is still valuable today.)
Though I suppose I shouldn’t ordinarily assume that I still have readers, after having been away for so long from blogging (but I see on my statistics page that you few faithful are still reading my old posts), this morning I have taken down my novel, Dot and Charlie (A Novel About Love, Sexism, and Infidelity) because it is the source manuscript for a number of poems I wrote to insert in it, which are now going to be published separately in a poetic manuscript. This takedown is for the purpose of not violating the poetic copyright; I expect to be able to reinsert the manuscript of the novel in its entirety as soon as all matters are concluded with the publication of the poetry (3 books in 1).
This is all I have to offer for today, but it’s the start of a bright New Year, which hasn’t started off so very brightly politically here in one sense, in that there have been major disruptions and protests against lawful passage into a new presidency in Washington, D.C. recently. Still, we are all hopeful here in the U.S. that our new President Biden and Vice-President Harris and their cohorts can remedy the ills this nation has suffered, and that others who have doubted it or them will come to see that they are intending and doing well and good. As for the rest of the globe, we have to hope for it as well that it will come back to health and well-being, especially with the virus vaccines now available increasingly to so many. All the best to you remaining from the holiday seasons, and take care. I hope to let you know more when I know it, and possibly can start posting again more frequently, as soon as I finish up some of my crafting projects and have the time to read and review books again (I look forward to finding this time again before too long). Happy New Year!
Shadowoperator (Victoria L Bennett)
Upon first perusing Rupi Kaur’s second book of poetry, The Sun and Her Flowers, published in 2017 hard upon the heels of her extremely successful first book, Milk and Honey (which I haven’t yet read), I was at first a little disappointed. The complicated devices and figures I, at least, prefer to find in poetry were missing. The poem was a long sort of prose poem of most short, declarative sentences, with a few questions strewn here and there, interspersed with clever sketches of the stages of a woman’s life. The most complicated comparison seemed to be that of comparing people to sunflowers, which, in the titles of the various divisions of the poem, go through stages of “wilting,” “falling,” “rooting,” “rising,” and “blooming.” That seemed at first not only too simple, but a little simple-minded. But something kept me reading, anyway. Perhaps it was the desire to see the “plot” fulfilled, which is one of the characteristic things analysts say drives the reading of a prose work. I mean, given the organic governing metaphors, and the theme of “to everything a season,” a certain uplift at the end was to be expected, it was apparent. Still, this particular evocation of the growing season had somehow become more interesting than just the generalized comparison: she had sneaked it in on me.
As I read, I followed the poem through the delineation of a violently-inclined love affair and its end, the grief and desolation which follow the ending of even a bad love, the gradual recuperation that, if one is basically life-oriented and sensible, one tries to develop or find, the impulse toward re-growth that follows, and the also gradual rise into a new love and a community awareness of the family as a whole. But let’s take that a little slower. The first parts of the poem are addressed to a “you” who is a bad influence; then, gradually the “you” disappears; then it morphs into a “you” who is a sudden and surprising treasure; then, an awareness of the loves of different generations of the family develops; then, a recounting of the difficulties that migration presents even to two parents or forbears who love each other, and a detailing of the anxieties and separations they must endure for their families comes next; then, a modest gesture toward discussing the life of societal pressures and how this affects immigrants in a new country sums up the whole. Really, by the time I finished the book, I was quite impressed with just how forcefully and completely this poetic vision had fulfilled itself, and all in a series of simple, non-capitalized, mostly unpunctuated sentences. (Not that capitalization or punctuation are regular in poetry anyway, as a general rule, or that they are to be expected in free verse, but when one is confronted with apparent simplicity as a device, one can begin to question whether or not it’s overdone. Happily, such was not the end result in this case.)
By this time, I was sufficiently humbled to want to read the graceful (and again, simple) biographical sketch of Rupi Kaur which takes place at the end of the book. It was a bit vague, and I would have liked more details (which, like jewels, or buds, if one prefers to stick to the organic metaphor, were strewn throughout the summary). Basically, the artist’s statement was that “I am the product of all the ancestors getting together and deciding these stories need to be told”). One set of topics which I have not touched upon yet, and which the poem also dealt with in detail was female liberation from the restraints of a conventional and hidebound societal influence, and how various generations of women have achieved it. As the blurb stated, and as I have in a general way sketched out above were: “love, loss, trauma, healing, feminity, migration, and revolution.” That’s just about said it all, but that’s saying a lot.
There are many different styles and kinds of poetry kicking around these days, and everyone can mostly choose for himself or herself which to pursue for edification, but if you read no other book of poetry this year, it’s at least arguable that you should read this one, which is based in technique upon the poet’s experiences in delivering performance poetry in places in Canada, her country of adoption. After all, you can hardly go wrong with a long poem which has not only an organic metaphor governing its development, organic metaphors consistently expressing things “all flesh is heir to,” but which also describes a particular historical experience of a large group of people. Give it a read; I think you’ll be both pleasantly surprised and greatly impressed, whatever your first impression, or your overall take on performance poetry. As for me, at some time in the near future, I’ll be dipping into Milk and Honey by the same author, to see what word experience she started out by allowing me to immerse myself in! Shadowoperator