Saturday, October 24, 2009

Poetry on Palestine and Israel: Check out Sunday, 10/25 in D.C.

"We need authentic, honest discourse in the American Jewish community. It must start today and it must be about Palestine and Israel.

" - Kevin Coval, excerpted from the Huffington Post, 10/24.

I'm posting the following as an act of support for the poet activists speaking out on behalf of dialogue on a complex issue of our time. How to address Israel? How to understand the US's role? How to unpack the many narratives told by Palestinians, Israelis, World Leaders, Military and Peace figures? I received a letter earlier in the week describing a truly sad and unfortunate censoring of these poet activists, Kevin Coval and Josh Healey, who were originally invited to come and speak at JStreet. I know Josh through his work at Madison's First Wave Spoken Word program, as well as meeting him at Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam. I encourage any and all who are able to tune in to this important dialogue, and participate on Sunday.


with Kevin Coval and Josh Healey

Sunday, October 25
Busboys and Poets, Langston Room
2021 14th St, NW (near U Street Metro station)
Washington, DC

This past week, Kevin Coval and Josh Healey were censored and un-invited from this weekend's J Street conference in D.C. as a result of attacks in various right-wing blogs and online magazines. In defiance of these McCarthyist attacks, and J Street's subsequent accommodation, Coval and Healey have decided to proceed with the original event.

They will share their poems and dialogue about Israel/Palestine, identity and justice, and (especially now) free speech. No longer part of the J Street gathering, this event is open to the whole community: conference attendees, artists, activists, youth, elders, Jews, Palestinians, gentiles, and anyone down to build.

Free event. All-ages, all are welcome.

For background on the situation, see:

For more info, contact

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Friday, October 16, 2009

"Ancestors:" A Meditation

It's my grandmother Borgmann's 95th birthday next week. Our family is gathering from all over the Midwest - and beyond - to celebrate this matriarch of our clan who resides in Osmond, Nebraska. Ninety five years. What has someone seen in 95 years? Whew. What have they lived through? Makes my head spin trying to imagine.

Grandma Adeline's youngest child, my aunt Marian, has been compiling memories of Grandma B. As the last in the brood of 11, Marian is sort of the family historian. She began a book project for her mother - that includes a chapter devoted to each of her eleven children. These pages swirl in my mind this morning. I can see the pictures and bios of all my aunts and uncles, each of my cousins making an attempt to document their lives. It's an act of deep regard, reverence, I think. The book is a way to honor Julia Adeline Schilling Borgmann's time on the planet. It's a way for each and everyone of us to take stock of where we come from. In the same vein, I think it is also an equal invitation to consider where we are going.

Where will we be at age 95? How many of us will be around? What will we have witnessed? What will we have created? What will we have let go? What will our homes and hearts, families, careers look like? Where will we reside?

Enter: Today's poem. Harvey Ellis' work, "ancestors," shared this day on "The Writer's Almanac," thrusts me smack dab into the middle of all these questions. I am surrounded by contemplations of not only Julia Adeline, but of her spouse, Johnny. I can see the sapia-hued photographs and skin tones of Edna Bell Arduser, Great Grandpa Liewer, the scads of boxed images of my mixed-German-ancestry. I wonder if a picture of Clara or Matthias is contained anywhere - as the original owners of my engagement diamond? I know Great Grandpa Henry is there -- the boxer who rode the train from Cincinnati. I return to Grandma B, and recall her own train ride tales over the US landscape. I can hear her deep, baritone voice, tell me about traveling from Reno and back, with a divorcee, (whose name was Rose?). I recall my own awe-struck silence listening to her first hand account of meeting Amelia Earhart at a Chicago Luncheon while visiting a cousin. I see her sewing and making sandwiches for a Jewish family she nannied for on the east coast, prior to her own married and mothering days. I try to fathom my own life, with her alongside me. Her blood and marrow in my own bones. Her parents - and all of my other Borgmann/ Schilling/ Liewer/ Arduser ancestors - filling out the sinews of my body. Their lives informing mine. Their steps, tracks, train rides, boat-rides, guiding mine.

It's something to consider, you know?

I invite you to read Ellis' poem copied below. Drink it in. Meditate on your own ancestry. Who is beside you? Who is breathing within? How are you moving and stretching and making things happen today? What parent, aunt, uncle, great-great, do you want to draw on in your journey at this moment? You know they are close by.

Happy Contemplating!


by Harvey Ellis

my ancestors surround me
like walls of a canyon
stone hard
their ideas drift over me
like breezes at sunset

we gather sticks
and make settlements
what we do is only partly
our own
and partly continuation
down through the chromosomes

my son
my baby sleeps behind me
stirring in the night
for the touch
that lets him continue

he is arranging
in his small form the furniture
and windows of his home

it will be a lot like mine
it will be a lot like theirs

"ancestors" by Harvey Ellis from Sleep Not Sleep. © Wolf Ridge Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)