Thursday, March 29, 2012

Adrienne Rich -- 1929-2012

Terrible news for all of us, the void left in the universal consciousness is profound. Adrienne Rich has been a mentor, an influence and voice for many of us. She embodied the enlightened philospher-poet showing the inseparability of poetry and the personal from political and global reality. Her words will continue to have a great impact. Mine are inadequate to expressing my sense of loss. We have been honored that she expressed her love and support of the Blue Collar Review over the years. She was a friend of mine.

North American Time

When my dreams showed signs
of becoming
politically correct
no unruly images
escaping beyond border
when walking in the street I found my
themes cut out for me
knew what I would not report
for fear of enemies' usage
then I began to wonder

Everything we write
will be used against us
or against those we love.
These are the terms,
take them or leave them.
Poetry never stood a chance
of standing outside history.
One line typed twenty years ago
can be blazed on a wall in spraypaint
glorify art as detachment
or torture of those we
did not love but also
did not want to kill

We move but our words stand
become responsible
and this is verbal privilege

Try sitting at a typewriter
one calm summer evening
at a table by a window
in the country, try pretending
your time does not exist
that you are simply you
that the imagination simply strays
like a great moth, unintentional
try telling yourself
you are not accountable
to the life of your tribe
the breath of your planet

It doesn't matter what you think.
Words are found responsible
all you can do is choose them
or choose
to remain silent. Or, you never had a choice,
which is why the words that do stand
are responsible
and this is verbal privilege

Suppose you want to write
of a woman braiding
another woman's hair--
staightdown, or with beads and shells
in three-strand plaits or corn-rows--
you had better know the thickness
the length the pattern
why she decides to braid her hair
how it is done to her
what country it happens in
what else happens in that country

You have to know these things

Poet, sister: words--
whether we like it or not--
stand in a time of their own.
no use protesting I wrote that
before Kollontai was exiled
Rosa Luxembourg, Malcolm,
Anna Mae Aquash, murdered,
before Treblinka, Birkenau,
Hiroshima, before Sharpeville,
Biafra, Bangla Desh, Boston,
Atlanta, Soweto, Beirut, Assam
--those faces, names of places
sheared from the almanac
of North American time

I am thinking this in a country
where words are stolen out of mouths
as bread is stolen out of mouths
where poets don't go to jail
for being poets, but for being
dark-skinned, female, poor.
I am writing this in a time
when anything we write
can be used against those we love
where the context is never given
though we try to explain, over and over
For the sake of poetry at least
I need to know these things

Sometimes, gliding at night
in a plane over New York City
I have felt like some messenger
called to enter, called to engage
this field of light and darkness.
A grandiose idea, born of flying.
But underneath the grandiose idea
is the thought that what I must engage
after the plane has rage onto the tarmac
after climbing my old stair, sitting down
at my old window
is meant to break my heart and reduce me to silence.

In North America time stumbles on
without moving, only releasing
a certain North American pain.
Julia de Burgos wrote:
That my grandfather was a slave
is my grief; had he been a master
that would have been my shame.
A poet's words, hung over a door
in North America, in the year
The almost-full moon rises
timeless speaking of change
out of the Bronx, the Harlem River
the drowned towns of the Quabbin
the pilfered burial mounds
the toxic swamps, the testing-grounds
and I start to speak again.

-- Adrienne Rich

Monday, March 19, 2012

Leonard Cirino Presenté

When a poet dies, a light goes out and the consciousness of the universe is a bit dimmer. It is with great sadness that we lose Leonard Cirino to liver cancer. Leonard was and continues to be an inspiration. As I wrote him a month ago, it may be small consolation but, for writers, our words live on beyond our moral existence. Leonord Cirino's mortal existence ended on March 9th. He was a prolific poet who authored over 24 books. He also mentored and published many others as Pygmy Forest Press. The Blue Collar Review was fortunate to have published his poetry over the years and to count him as a supporter. He is and will be missed.

Every once in a while I’ve run into what I call a “pure poet” – all the dross burned away – someone whose only desire is to tune in, and to help others tune in, to the source of poetry. I love these people. Leonard Cirino was one of them.
Leonard taught himself poetry while he was an inmate in an institution for the criminally insane. He learned it by reading and writing. When he found a good thing, he ran with it, using the words of those he considered masters as springboards into his own work.

He made poetry with the rain and wind. He took fragments of a cup that had been dropped and broken and made them into a vessel to carry living water. Leonard has gone into the great silence, but the words he left behind keep echoing.

–Barbara LaMorticella

for Arthur Longworth

My poems flutter, crows hooded in darkness,
but now the sun is so bright it's colder
than when fog huddles down in the valley.
After a while winter makes prisoners
of us all, even those with four-wheel trucks,
snowblowers to get out of their driveways.
In your cold cell you sleep under a blanket
so thin the light left on all night shines through.
Outside, the crows watch over great meadows
where sheep and cows gather to gain
a little warmth and comfort. Oh those birds,
singing out the daily obituaries.

-- Leonard Cirino