Ali’s Song: an old call for peace re-Activated

The latest poet to be featured on the lyw Youtube channel is a peace activist.  Michael R. Burch has many other titles but the selected poems that have been translated into lywtube all sound this particular chord.

Ironically, I received the green light from Mr. Burch to illustrate his poems about the same time that PBS ran their Vietnam War documentary series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novak; a series that showed people from all different sides of that war who were so sure they were right at one time and not so sure at the end.  It is a very well-rounded and thorough documentary guaranteed to make me shamefully thankful that I don’t know war and hate to that extreme.

The poems, like this documentary series, do not make me regret taking time for very somber subject matter.  I consider it a privilege.  They remind me that the world is still healing from a past that we inherited.  The poet and the film-makers presented the subjects through intimate, human perspective, like meeting an injured family member who needs me to listen and care for him/her rather than some cold horror being reported on the evening news.

The first poetry video, Ali’s Song, is a poem that depicts Muhammad Ali’s stand against the draft into the Vietnam War and for equality.  The second poetry video, Survivors, is a short yet powerful perspective on the definition of a survivor.  The third, Something, is a poem dedicated to the children of the Holocaust and Nakba.  The first poetry video is loud, rhythmical and strong.  The other two are shorter but slower and quiet.

Ali’s Song … I hesitate to summarize anything about Muhammad Ali or his relationship with his country.  However, that stand he made makes a great ruler to measure oneself by.  Read the story (a version), ask yourself what or who you think was right?  What was wrong?  What would you have done?  He had so many people telling him he was wrong and so many reasons to doubt his decision.  And if he ever did, he didn’t show it.

I hope that I should be so ready to take as strong a stand as he did when an equally important choice is presented to me — and, that I am not wrong in my decisions.  That’s just it, isn’t it?  Yeah, we need more champions today, for sure, but with information being so suspect these days, how do we make sure what we do is right?

Ali’s public image as a heavyweight champion didn’t leave much room for talk about his soul and relationship with God but I think he would have really liked the references in this poem dedicated to him.

The other two poetry videos speak for themselves.  They may be a lot quieter and slower than Ali and Ali’s Song but they are just as strong.

I would like to invite you to please check out these new poetry videos on the lyw channel. The text is best viewed in the highest HD setting in Youtube.

Ali’s Song, a poem by Michael R. Burch:

2. Survivors, a poem by Michael R. Burch:

3. Something, a poem by Michael R. Burch:

© lyw 

Warsan Shire: the Reads of a Modern, Living Poet

Warsan Shire is a great example of a modern poet who inspires her readers to the point where they engage.  At risk of infringing on copyright laws, her fans have produced their own Youtube videos, blogs and websites to honour her work.  She has inspired her readers to be active and passionate about poetry.

As a result, Warsan Shire has achieved exactly what I aspire towards as a poet.  She has achieved what I think poetry needs in its readership: active engagement — not just for our beloved ‘dead poets’ societies’ but also our living ones; the poets of this era and generation.

Warsan Shire’s popularity on YouTube alone has garnered over 100K views from these independent videos.  Her poem, ‘For women who are ‘difficult’ to love’ has generated so many different interpretations by other artists that it inspires me to think: Wouldn’t it be great, if all great poems, from living poets, were celebrated in such an unabashed way — giving pop music videos a real run for their money?  And suddenly the reader becomes more involved in judging and valuing what today’s poetry market will and should be.

However, we should note that while her readers are showing love, they aren’t obtaining proper copyright permissions; a sensitive issue with the level of share on the Internet. We all need to hesitate when at risk of infringing on another artist’s intellectual property, no matter how good the intentions are. These laws are in place to protect the work of the artists as well as the publishing industry.

However, I have met lots of obstacles in producing the videos for the current poetry campaign on the lyw Youtube channel.  I, too, have worried a few times if I was going too far in the liberties I was taking to show my appreciation for some poets and poetry. Copyright permissions are hard to get.  Contact information for the poets or the publishers is hard to get, as well.   I have done my best to adhere to the ‘fair use‘ concept used in copyright law and persisted because I believe poetry would have more love and reads, if it were more accessible, in a contemporary way.

I have a small story to illustrate a startling point.  In trying to find choice material for this blog’s poetry appreciation campaign, I started digging for poems from my own dusty library.  My library is a collection that comprises four years as an English Literature major, one year working in a bookstore, which gave me a huge discount on all books, and the rest found while wandering through used and new bookstores looking for random ideas to inspire me in any which way.  In this collection I found an anthology of ‘world contemporary poems’.  I must have bought it about 20 years ago and most likely only read about 30% of it.  Just one month ago, while producing the video ‘… a small piece of poetry can sometimes march’, I found the most amazing poet in this book  –  an amazing poet lying dormant and unknown in my own library all this time because he was buried in a 600 page anthology.  Apparently, he is also described as the greatest living poet of the Arab world.  I had no idea!  Again, he was buried in a 600 page anthology.  I was young when I bought that book.  I skimmed!  How easy it is to miss the extraordinary!

And when I discovered that his poems, ‘Song for A Man in the Dark’ and ‘Elegy for the Time at Hand’ weren’t copied all over the Internet like all my other English favourites, I just wanted to shout his poems to the world.  Adunis.  His name is Adunis, aka Adonis or Ali Ahmad Said Esber.  He’s around eighty years old now.  He has no lack of controversy posted about him online but too few poems.

I wish I could show you all the great poems in my library that are not being actively celebrated online.  I would love a great big, ‘show and tell’, online because there are too many poets lost in my library.  I think poetry needs readers to be encouraged to be active fans. I love the passion of Warsan Shire’s fans.  It gives me hope for the future of poetry.  But there is that fine line:  How do we protect the artists and the artist’s industry while keeping our reads bright and burning?   Something to think about.

Till then, this week’s poetry appreciation video(s) are links to two videos produced for Warsan Shire on Youtube by other artists.  Please enjoy this amazing poem, ‘For women who are ‘difficult’ to love’:

written by lyw

Have you Seen Poetry Yet?

Wildflower image c/o http://f.hatena.ne.jp/uralic/20120816053135

Poetry is the title of a film about a grandmother, from a small town in Korea, reacting to her current life and a recent local tragedy that has involved her family. Despite her age and the odds against her, she continues to try to better her circumstances by taking a poetry class.

The film itself is very visual and always gives just enough character and plot to keep your imaginations grasping for the rest of her; very much like the fragmented narrative style of modern poetry.

The main character is unable to plainly tell us or anybody how she really feels or what she is doing and why.  And never does.  At the end of the film … well, I’m a natural-born spoiler, so I won’t go any further about the contents of the movie.  Despite feeling quite melancholy after this 2 1/2 hour long film, I think it is worth seeing.  The story and main character are beautifully portrayed and I continued to think about the film for several days after seeing it.

Slide1As part of the poetry campaign for this blog, this week’s poetry video takes a sample from a poem within this film to entice you to either read the full poem or watch this film.

This is, by far, my favourite poetry video that I have done for the lyw channel on Youtube.  This poem so captures the delicate yet enduring quality of the main character of this film.  It was a pleasure to choose the quiet black and white photography to breathe with this meditative text.  I only wish I could have had the freedom to render the whole poem.

I don’t know if it’s a copyright thing but the entire poem is difficult to find on the Internet. The one I did find was not faithful to the English translation provided directly in the film. However, when I went back to the film to read the poem faithfully, I found the placement of periods and commas a little confusing there, as well.  Most likely, something was lost in translation. We just need to learn Korean, I guess, for the real version of the poem.

Please visit the following link to this week’s poetry video, sampling one of Poetry‘s poems:

blog written by lyw

Image Credits:

… a small piece of poetry can sometimes march

 

painting: "Charles Leslie - Landscape" by Charles Leslie (British, 1835-1890) c/o wikipedia

painting: “Charles Leslie – Landscape” by Charles Leslie (British, 1835-1890) c/o wikipedia

Watching the news, reading Hemingway and most non-fiction tends towards that factual quality that says: take it or leave it for what it is.  And when the news is unpleasant, it can leave one feeling a little helpless.  And when such a story meets a great poet, this combination can be an effective vehicle for delivering uncomfortable truths.

Like the news, a poem can inform a reader on all the realities of our day but with a lot more empathy. A great poet can make a news story, the poet’s story.  A great poem invites readers to make the poet’s story, their story – if for just the moment of reading.  Thus, this kind of news can be quite powerful.

Painting: "Magdalen with the Smoking Flame c1640 Georges de La Tour" by Georges de La Tour c/o wikipedia

Painting: “Magdalen with the Smoking Flame c1640 Georges de La Tour” by Georges de La Tour c/o wikipedia

Some of the best poems ever written are about the ugliest subjects such as war, hatred and other such human sorrows and evils.  My purpose in this blog is to attract more readers to poetry not disturb them away, however, since we explore the best qualities in poetry I think this less sunny side must be touched on a little bit.

Langston Hughes was the first poet, in my research, to pull me in this direction.  While his work is very soulful and searching, his poetry is also very politicalfor lack of a better word.  I don’t think he crafted himself that way as a poet.  His life was simply submerged in political and social circumstances and he let that out in his poetry.

painting: James Ward - Gordale Scar c/o wikipedia

painting: James Ward – Gordale Scar c/o wikipedia

Deeper into this research, I found two incredible poets who wrote amazing poetry about war. It was late at night. I was alone in front of my laptop.  I fell into the war poetry of Miklós Radnóti and Wilfred Owen and it felt like the world stood still.  The poems are disturbing but I can honestly say I am grateful to be disturbed by this work, especially the postcard series from Miklós Radnóti.  Not only did he write powerfully but he gave the raw story about his circumstances, while still retaining his humanity and helping me feel my own even when reading about such a horrible time in our history.  I’m being deliberately vague.  If interested, please find the full poems.  They are uncomfortable, though.  His poems brought me closer to that time in history than any film, book, teacher or documentary I have experienced on that subject.  And they are very short poems.

If this blog has peaked your interest, please check out this week’s ‘poetry appreciation’ video on Youtube, … a small piece of poetry can sometimes march, which is a short collection of fragments from brilliant war and political poetry, with a fitting intro from one of Dylan Thomas’ famous poems.  I took care to exclude anything that was too graphic or depressing.  The purpose of this video is not to disturb anybody but to suggest that some poems, some poets – like some subjects – may be worth being disturbed by and to invite readers to seek out these poems, as well as other poets that have the skill to tell our harder stories.

Also, if interested in exploring other art forms that were inspired by social/political circumstances, please check out:

  1. ANPO: Art X War – a 2010 documentary film directed by Linda Hoaglund. This film discusses the post-war American military occupation in Japan through the eyes of visual artists.  http://www.anpomovie.com/
  1. The Wasteland – an uplifting documentary of an artist who goes to Rio de Janeiro’s largest landfill site to create portraits with garbage aided by local garbage pickers. http://www.wastelandmovie.com/
  1. Also please check out Andrew Graham Dixon’s art documentary series on Russian Art where he features the courageous work of the Wanderers. It was available online but unfortunately I was unable to find an active link. He’s prominent on YouTube. I imagine it will become available again soon.