WORLD POETRY DAY - Readings from Owen Sound, Ontario

 

World Poetry Day, March 21, 2003

Dialogue Poetry – Owen Sound, Ontario

 

Report by Daniel Kolos

 

March 21st is the traditional day for kicking off Words Aloud poetry Cooperative’s yearly reading series.  Since we have discovered last year that this is also the date of World Poetry Day sponsored by Dialogue Poetry, we have enthusiastically merged these intents.  When I first began to advertise this year’s event, many of our traditional supporters contacted me expressing their interest in reading their own poetry.  Some of these inquiries were shy, and we discovered a wealth of previously ‘hidden’ poets in Grey and Bruce Counties of southern Ontario.

 

Our featured poets were Gloria Alvernaz Mulcahy from London, Andrea Jarmai from Toronto and Penn Kemp from London.

Gloria read very personal poems laced with shamanistic allusions.  Her poem welcoming her grand-daughter into this world is reproduced below.  Andrea Jarmai read from her Chapbook, “I, Ahab”, poems from her first full-length poetry book due in 2004, and translations she is doing of the Hungarian poet, George Faludy. 

 

Penn Kemp’s work followed in her own footsteps, something she started for World Poetry Day in 2002.  Her poem, Poem for Peace in Two Voices, has now been translated into over 60 languages.  I am one of the translators, both into Hungarian and into the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic script.  Karl Backhaus, the German translator, read, along with Andrea, the Mennonite translation;  Andrea and I ‘performed’ the Hungarian in lively sound poetry;  Dan Shatil read the Poem for Peace in Hebrew;  Gloria and I took Anne Welwood’s Latin translation and turned it into a Gregorian Chant.  Then Penn and I chanted the ancient Egyptian, and Penn, together with Gavin Stairs, performed the ‘mystery language’.

 

This year was our sixth annual start at the Coffee Bean in Owen Sound.  47 people crammed the space and there was a lively trade for poetry books during the intermission.  Each featured poet was followed by three others.  We heard poetry from Anne Duke Judd, Jennifer Frankum, Dawna Proudman, Judy Lowry, Beverley Viljakainen, Paul Scott, Don Willmott, Doug Cleverley, Claire Fanger, Astrid Wayman and me (Daniel Kolos).  Those who kindly sent their poem by e-mail will have it published on the Dialogue Poetry 2003 website: http://www.dialoguepoetry.org/ebooks/2003_anthology.pdf

 



POEM FOR PEACE IN TWO VOICES

Calm came clear
of cloud
early one morning               Calm come clear
before things started               of cloud

Calm came at noon               Calm come
A cardinal perched                 clear
on black bough                           of cloud
in blazing sun.

Calm came at night              Calm come clear
stretching as cats do,                of cloud
constant stretch and change.

Forsythia brightened            Calm come clear
as the house slept.                    of cloud

Now calm come                      Now calm come
in the face of                              clear of
brawl                                            cloud

 

Penn Kemp

London, Ontario

Poem for Peace in Two Voices in many translations can now be heard on the London Music Archive at http://chrw.usc.uwo.ca/mp3/2002/Kemp,%20Penn%20-%20Poems%20For%20Peace/kemp.htm
The poem and thirty of the translations can also be heard on www.germination.mytown.ca.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

Peace Poem Two


There is no "they" -
it is our children's homeland
made a battlefield,
our skies befouled,
our streets aflame,
our sisters mourning.

Turn off this prime-time war!
Tune to homeless and hungry,
move beyond greed and its wars.
With a parent's voice
call "Enough!"
and let fly the doves of peace.


-Anne Duke Judd

Port Elgin, Ontario

 

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


"...the Butterfly Effect - the notion that a butterfly
stirring the air today in Peking can transform
storm systems next month in New York."
     Chaos: Making a new Science by James Gleick


   BEYOND CHAOS

Look not to this day's world for hope:
Chaos we have, and raging storms.
Cloud thunder - then famine and flood.
Bomb thunder - then destruction and blood.
Lamentations rise up, and tears flow down.

The valley of the shadow is all valleys.
Dazed millions sit and stare at sitcoms,
while, in the corporate castles high above,
drunken dancers spin the wheels of misfortune
to shape the fate of the unwitting world.

In such a time of turbulence as this,
who dares declare the planet's future bright?
or claim that peace and justice will prevail?
The omens all portend calamity,
and chicken entrails presage doom.

Yet in the chaos-scholars' books one finds
some unintended flecks of light.
Chaos can unfold exquisite beauty -
though ever with such complex design
that only the one next fold can be foreseen:

All further futures preclude prophesy.
The least significant of beginnings
may bloom with unexpected power:
a flitting insect stirring the air
may change storm systems far away.

Hope looks today to butterflies -
bringing their gifts of loveliness and life:
the delicate tracery of their wings,
profusion of colour in balanced symmetry,
and a generative task in Nature's flow.

Let us then follow the butterflies -
not claiming to grasp the immensities,
nor soaring on pre-planned pathways to the stars,
but seeking fragrances and flowers,
and planting the pollen of life abundant.

In knowing chaos, we know too
the tiny turbulence we stir
may someday cumulate to quell
the rushing eagle's hurricane
and then, perhaps, create a rainbow.

     Don Willmott

Owen Sound, Ontario

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Rage Blooms Like a Minefield

annihilation

like a quiet lake wrapped in night

invites escape from fight and flight

sometimes in my quiet house my cat purrs for no reason

my abdomen hollowed out

with my permission

less than empty

kissed by a breeze softer than sorrow

my mother shuns my daughter

who stole her brush and a doll

that was mine when I was a girl

Amanda’s hair runs like seaweed in a shallow stream

a stick man with wide obsidian eyes

told me he thought of fighting in Vietnam

preferable to feeling nothing

earl grey tea, roses, Bonnie’s laugh

teenagers painted Columbine red

a six-year-old in Flynt shot a little girl

the more they bleed the harder we try to erase them

amethyst, garnet, turquoise, amber

meal times I watched spittle stretch and shrink

dad chewed his food

a good man with a short fuse

patchwork quilts worn thin as skin

victims morph into bullies

wiping out words they hate more than war:

fear, powerlessness, grief

criticism, racism, misogyny

chafe like a knife on stone

inside my brain wanting to get out

cool cotton pillowcases just before sleep

"sluts" boys call girls who give blow jobs

"kings" boys call the recipients

desperate to be liked

snapdragons, foxglove, pansies, calendula

Oklahoma City

The World Trade Towers

the President demands his turn

lavender and mint soap, sheepskin slippers, blueberries

rage blooms like a minefield

sometimes I freeze

sometimes I dance

 

Dawna Proudman

Durham, Ontario

 

*    *    *     *     *     *     *     *    *

 

I, Ahab

 

With this iron I do thee wed.

There are ropes attached, mind;

What hate has joined in one thrust

Indifference on one part

Won’t soon put asunder

The bond.

I know no impediment to love in fire and thunder.

I kiss; consume now what you left me

The last time we met.

On this Manila cable,

The widow’s son, sworn to go

On pain of dismembered’immolay to the end

Of his tow; below; and there perish thought.

Perdition be damned, and so too Ahab – the arm

Of the law, with one leg to stand on –

Biblical authority – I come; a blow for a blow.

Pitiless Titans, feasting on kindred, we both;

The sin mine alone; because

I know.

I have heard the mermaids screaming

On Sirius’ invisible shores:

“No more, thou cannibal, marked Zoroastrian,

Lightning-struck Cain;

Nommo!”

Oh yes, they will scram for me.

Hot oil-blood poured in the ear of my half-shell, that font,

Spermaceti of kings, I’ll own;

We deaf hear the ocean,

Hear it roar, hear it roll, hear it call us all Ishmael

(Dispossessed children of the lesser part of God,

The smaller ball),

As you all hear it in a conch placed adjacent,

But – I quote the raven: that’s all.

I hear; I obey; I go;

Where no man must go before me,

Virgin white Kali; I go.

To die; to sleep;

Perchance to know.

 

Andrea Jarmai

Toronto, Ontario

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Baghdad Burning :
A Verse Essay

I.

In the second half of the ninth century
Abu Yusuf Ya'qub ibn Ishaq al-Kindi
the Philosopher of the Arabs (noted for his creation
of an Arabic vocabulary for philosophy)

taught in the Abbasid court in Baghdad
where the founding of the Bayt al-Hikma (the House of Wisdom)
for translating works of foreign learning
enabled his schooling in the arts

of the Persians, the Hindus and the Greeks. The debate
about the legitimacy of philosophy for orthodox Islam began also
with al-Kindi -a debate now considered to have been lost
though Baghdad remained luminous for years,

a massive source of intellectual wattage
burning right through the tenth century, when Ibrahim ibn Sinan
studied tangents to circles, the apparent motion
of the sun, the geometry of shadows

and the quadrature of the parabola, refining the theories
of his more famous grandfather Thabit ibn Qurra (who had begun
fifty years earlier to improve upon Archimedes'
views of integration), the two of them

laying a foundation for what Isaac Newton
(a late bloomer of no special promise) in 1687
turned into the Principia, perhaps the greatest
mathematical treatise ever written.

In those days Baghdad was the battery
storing a virtue whose burning lit
for centuries beyond itself
what had not yet become the West.


II.

Upon algebra (from the Arabic, al-jabr,
meaning 'reunion of broken parts')
Newton built the calculus
which seemed harmless in itself,

but there is still so much history here
that is unknown or poorly glossed;
I have heard that the Assyrians
have long had the custom

of concealing Syriac manuscripts
in the caves of northern Iraq.  Still dark
what other histories (or whose)
lie hid there - an uncertainty

about to be fixed forever
unseen like the position of a black hole
for if Baghdad is burning again
this will come as no shock

to anyone, since where else have we sought
so diligently and so long to grasp
what we did not understand?
So little beyond what we learned

from the Kitab Sirr al-Asrar
(the Book of the Secret of Secrets,
the most popular text
in medieval Europe)

can now be told of Baghdad
resting in the crepuscular dawn
beneath the cold sparkling
from the anti-aircraft guns,

since anything of wisdom it still holds
is claimed either to be ours already
or to be lethal to us and thus
less esoteric than classified.

 

By Claire Fanger

RR, Hanover, Ontario

 

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

 

War is Not a Solution

 

War is not a solution,

It is the ultimate failure of humanity’s promise,

The final act of moral and ethical denial of love,

When ignorance and fear lead us to reptilian responses:

Striking out and own the hope we are make of,

The possibility we refuse to realize through our being…

Our raceless oneness truth of mortal diversity!

On the threshold of discovery…

                                        …that peace is that awareness.

Paul Douglas Scott

03/08/03

Williamsford, Ontario

 

*    *    *    *     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

WE ARE THE WORLD . . .

 

We are the world, the world is us, he said.

What kind of riddle is this? I mused.

But that was a long time ago;

And I’m quite a lot older and a little bit wiser now.

 

Recently, I asked a child of four what her other name was, purely for the joy of hearing her say, “Viljakainen”.

And then she asked, “And what is yours?”

“Viljakainen,” I replied.

To her quizzical “How come?” her older sister whispered in her ear, “Because we are related.”

 

When does the us-them begin?

When are we to know that we are all related and not merely to some?

That this must be understood, if we are to be truly human, is evidenced, is it not, by the rare shouts, always from moving vehicles, to those of us on Durham street corners holding placards, “War is Not a Solution,” “An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind” and so on.

Why does anyone feel the need to say, let alone to shout, “Kill them all and let God take care of it!” Or “Get outa here! We’re gonna blow them all up!” or even “Go Home!” when we are already home?

 

This, too, is an apt issue upon which to contemplate, to meditate, to pray, and to act.

For this is the stuff of War.

Does not every war, every act of violence begin in the mind of a single angry, insecure, afraid person, whose point of view is then validated by other angry, insecure, frightened people?

 

For God alone’s sake, America, however you choose to define God, wake up, open your mouths and speak for genuine Truth, Liberty and Justice!

For you too are the world (not that you seem to have ever doubted it!).

The world is also you.

“God bless America,” your President is fond of saying, although it’s now been changed to “God bless our country!” (Are you already in hiding, Mr. Bush?)

Come out and participate . . .

Why not God bless the world? 

 

All of us are the world; the world is “us”, lower case, not capital U period capital S period . . . the children, women, men, animals, birds, plants, air, earth, water, and sky that sustain us all.

 

God has blessed every one of us —with intelligence, with life.

The time has come that so many of us have long awaited . . .

Hating is a luxury we can no longer afford, even in jest.

I need never again to hear a friend’s very young child say, “Tell them not to hurt the children!”

Gratitude, Cooperation, Love, and Truth await our deployment. So be it!

 

 

Beverley Viljakainen

Poems for the Spring Equinox and for Peace

March 21, 2003

RR Priceville, Ontario

 

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

 

what the winds have scattered

 

God knows this shaking

scatters understanding to the four winds

so that neighbours kill one another

over property and belief

empires crumble

borders are drawn and redrawn

and diplomacy bows to the rule of the gun

 

but here and there amongst the chaos

seeds of wisdom proffer peace

for all is one great word, one world, one love

all belief is one

the many are one

 

though invented conflicts and differences divide us

yet we can unite in one purpose and desire

bringing to life our vision of peace

as seeds sown on fertile ground

before the rains come

soon ripen with abundant offerings

 

to give thanks for these

we need only be quiet

gather what the winds have scattered

and share the blessings with

All Our Relations

 

Doug Cleverley

December 1991

Owen Sound, Ontario

 

*    *    *    *     *    *    *    *    *

Judas’ Mother

 

The eleventh Hour has flown.

Slinking away

From howling gloom-gray mound

Stumbling down

- scattering silver from a thorn-ton sow-skin purse,

Shame steaming through his silken skin-trade shirt –

He hurtles into liquid Black.

A silvery sound follows him,

A song of words forever lost before begun –

Words not meant for him, not ever, ever meant for him.

“Soon you shall be with me in my Heavens.”

Somewhere

Between the shud-shocked hill

- the Cross –

And the ghostly limping tree, His mother stood

Purple against the shrieking sky –

Hell-bent he paused,

Preening his dank dark locks

Screening her though hollow fingers.

She has long-since cruelly shorn her hair

Her eyes, once incandescent

Animal-proud mother-eyes,

Narrow now, scan him dimly now –

Her mouth seamed and prim

Asks,

“Son, as you Truly my son Judas, son?”

 

Caged in guilt

He hunts in this Real Night

(but knows it isn’t there)

A hint of light.

Eyes groundward

He hears her palely say,

“your hair – it was your glory once –

Is still quite nice.”

Then

“Son, there is a bitter wind.

Take my coat.”

Her words hang like questions.

And through the doom of his cursed culpability

Her echoes search into his tomb

Of ever-lost humanity.

 

Astrid Wayman (March 21, 2003)

Eugenia, Ontario

 

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

A Modern Crusade

 

It is Lent. The armies are dug in throughout the desert.

Their rations are bacon and eggs in the morning, steak and potatoes at night.

They will attack at dawn.

Jesus weeps on the shoulders of his heavenly father.

Daniel Kolos

Priceville, Ontario

 

Visit Dialogue Poetry 2002

Return to main Poetry page