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Poetry & Poets in Rags of June 14

Poetry & Poets in Rags of June 14
By rus bowden on 06/14/2011
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Dear Poetry Aficionados,

Poetry & Poets in Rags blog:

Before we get into the business of the poetry news this week, a heartfelt thanks goes out to Willard Spiegelman (http://ibpc.webdelsol.com/judges/willard-spiegelman) for being the 2010-11 Poem of the Year Judge for the InterBoard Poetry Community (http://ibpc.webdelsol.com/poty-may-2010-apr-2011). And a big congratulations to the poets Mandy Pannett and E. Russell Smith, both of the poetry board The Write Idea (http://www.helenwhittaker.net/phpBB2). Yes, it was a sweep, and Mandy took two spots. Here are his results, with commentary:

First Place: Best after frost, by Mandy Pannett: http://ibpc.webdelsol.com/poems/best-after-frost

Second Place: Motown Layover, by E. Russell Smith: http://ibpc.webdelsol.com/poems/motown-layover

Third Place: A New Cartography, by Mandy Pannett: http://ibpc.webdelsol.com/poems/a-new-cartography

I''ll announce May 2011 results next week.

We begin Poetry & Poets in Rags with a pair of stories, much as we did last week, only this time with two prominent poets in different parts of the world making their statements. Syrian poet Adonis tells President Bashar al-Assad, "The Socialist Baath Party has not remained in power this long because of the strength of its ideology, but because of the power of its iron fist." And Mexican poet Javier Sicilia tells the American people, "Americans have to realize that behind every puff of pot, every line of coke there is death, there are shattered families."

Last week, we led out with Bahrainian Ayat al-Gormezi (also spelled Ayat al-Qarmezi, Ayat al-Qurmezi, and Ayat al-Ghermezi). This week, we find she has been sentenced to a year in prison, and we find specifics on her torture. Also in her clutch of links are articles that will look at the situation in her country.

On the topic of unjustly detained poets, we have two in the news from Iran this week, Sam Mahmoodi Sarab and Said Muglani. One of the two Muglani links is to a petition to have him freed. Please check it out.

We subtract a detained poet this week as well. It has been found out that the detained Syrian poet Amina Abdallah Arraf al Omari, the other of the two headlining stories from last week, is a fiction. A blogger named Tom MacMaster made up the Gay Girl in Damascus, and apologized. He used Facebook pictures of Jelena Lecic, a British woman who is not gay.

This week''s articles call what he did a hoax. And I wondered when I found out: here a lot of us are trying to bring out to the world the reality of situations, and here we have someone apparently crying wolf through fiction. Next time, there really could be a Gay Someone Somewhere, and no one will pay attention, conversely assuming what''s real to be fiction. Furthermore, people were effected. For one, his actions caused the Syrians to try to determine which and if one of their detainees was this dual American citizen.

MacMaster said that he wanted to draw attention to the situation, and to some degree, he did. He created an avatar, a fiction. It had a PR appeal, but fiction rubs fact-finders and editors the wrong way. Yet, here we have charges of a "hoax", when in fact Macmaster stood to gain nothing, and charges of an apology not being enough, when maybe it was too much. Here we are trying to make sure that governments treat poets well, and give them due freedom of creative expression, and we ourselves are tempted to cross the line and have a writer pay dearly for an avatar.

Just as we ask Sarah Palin to distinguish the fact from the fiction in Longfellow''s poem Paul Revere''s Ride, we must ask ourselves to determine reality, and allow for bloggers creating avatars. They may be good ones, or bad ones, but no one should be castigated or imprisoned for bad poetry or a bad piece of fiction.

In any creative process, there is a departure point from reality and the pulse of the status quo. Where the poet decides to depart is his or her choosing. Again, it might be a good choice, or a bad one, the result a great piece of art or a bad one, but never anything to be prosecuted or persecuted for.

We run into this with modern memoirs. But we also find it when the UK convicts Samina Malik for writing a bad poem about how to behead someone and posting it in a forum where suspected terrorists go. Good for the court system across the pond for finding the distinctions and reversing that decision. After all, anyone could have written that poem after first witnessing the beheading of Nick Berg, as easily as writing a poem on how to make breakfast. This is the same for Johnny Logan Spencer, who was talked into pleading guilty and is now in prison for his Barack Obama sniper poem. Never was he involved in a conspiracy to kill the president. Like Malik, he wrote a bad poem, and posted it in a forum most of us would not want to hang around. And most of us know that Lizzie Borden did not give her mother forty whacks with an ax, and her father forty-one.

Could a poem be used in the commission of a crime? Anyone who has seen Batman knows the Joker would use rhymes that were part of his modus operandi. We need to be at least sophisticated enough in our forensics to know when a poem is integral to a real crime or conspiracy. Other than that, there is no way a poem can threaten a government, unless that government feels the need to control what the citizens are thinking and dreaming up, the self same citizens the government is there to serve, the citizens the media is there to serve.

It''s the creation of both fiction and poetry that we must protect. We are not yet at the developmental stage where we have societies in which we are all fine with fiction and reality freely intermingling. We need to get there though. It''s how we think all the time, each one of us perceiving the world and actions differently, to the point of witnessing different activities in the same venue, and telling our histories differently. Fiction and poetry enrich our thinking and communication. We use fiction and poetry to be creative and move our cultures forward to improvement. It''s vital. We are familiar with the power and limits of metaphor. Nowadays we need to get used to the power of avatars, be alert for them, get better skilled at their use, and what their good powers may be.

As I said last week, if 20-year-old Ayat al-Gormezi''s poetry is a threat to a regime, it''s not much of a regime. And if her poetry is a threat, it''s like Adonis said this week, such a government''s power can only be in its military, not in its ideology.

Thanks for clicking in.


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© By rus bowden On 6/14/2011 7:56:44 PM
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