Poem for April 6: Nazim Hikmet’s “It’s This Way”

It’s This Way
I stand in the advancing light,
my hands hungry, the world beautiful.

Nazim Hikmet (1902, Salonica - June 3, 1963, Moscow)

My eyes can’t get enough of the trees–
they’re so hopeful, so green.

A sunny road runs through the mulberries,
I’m at the window of the prison infirmary.

I can’t smell the medicines–
carnations must be blooming nearby.

It’s this way:
being captured is beside the point,
the point is not to surrender.

Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)

Nazim Hikmet

NAZIM HIKMET, popularly known and critically acclaimed in Turkey as the first and foremost modern Turkish poet, is known around the world as one of the greatest international poets of the twentieth century, and his poetry has been translated into more than fifty languages. Born in 1902 in Salonika, where his father was in the foreign service, Hikmet grew up in Istanbul. His mother was an artist, and his pasha grandfather wrote poetry; through their circle of friends Hikmet was introduced to poetry early; publishing first poems at seventeen. He attended the Turkish naval academy, but during the Allied occupation of Istanbul following the First World War, he left to teach in eastern Turkey. In 1922, after a brief first marriage ended in annulment, he crossed the border and made his way to Moscow, attracted by the Russian Revolution and its promise of social justice. . . . [click here to read more about his life from the introduction to his selected works, edited by Blasing and Konuk.]

Poem for April 5 — “While Watching the Clock at Work” by Carol Tarlen

While watching the clock at work, I contemplate the end of entropy

And what will the rapture look like?
Will files dissolve into dust devils
and swirl off my desk
leaving piles of ashes beside the phone?
Will invoices melt in the xerox?
Will I have time to fax the kidney of a bat
to an organ bank
and demand an immediate finder’s fee?
Yes! And my computer will refuse to backspace;
I will scatter my typos like bones,
While my immediate supervisor and the CEO
nip at my heels like a pack of half-dead dogs.
I will eat the appointment calendar for lunch,
and, in a bulemic fury,
toss it down the office toilet,
dreams of corporate mergers
swimming with sewer rats.
Oh orgasmic ecstasy!
Oh joyous rain falling on my
aching skin!
I am making a personal phone call to Gabriel,
deleting the memories of a
thousand machines,
ripping the chains from my ankles,
kicking off my correctly-office-
attired one-inch heels
my bare feet dangling delicately
above my bulletin board
as I gloriously rise to paradise
and join the angels liberation

Carol Tarlen

This poem and others were published in 2005 in the on line journal What If as a tribute to Carol Tarlen (click the link to read more of her work), who died in 2004.  The editor of What If wrote the following about Tarlen:

From the Editor: Carol Tarlen’s description of herself for a journal I was involved with in the early 90s called News From Nowhere, where the first three of the poems below were previously published, went as follows: “Carol Tarlen is a clerical worker at U.C. San Francisco, a member of AFSCME Local 3218, a left-wing sort of anarchosyndicalist, and a bad-tempered pacifist. She writes poetry, fiction and essays.” Carol’s work was published in anthologies like Liberating Memory: Our Work and Working Class Consciousness, and journals like Pemmican Press and Working Classics. She was politically active in the League of Revolutionaries for a New America, a group whose politics I couldn’t quite grasp but which included some of my favorite San Francisco poets: Jack Hirschman, Sarah Menefee, and Jorge Argueta, as well as Carol and her husband David Joseph. Carol was feisty, seemingly tireless, although she always said she was exhausted whenever you saw her, and she had endless reserves of contempt for the stupidity of rulers and endless reserves of compassion for the underdogs of the world. Her life and work are described in an excellent obituary by Julia Stein in the current issue of Pemmican Press. She died a year ago this June and this is a small tribute to her enduring inspiration.

For Victims of the Jobless Recovery: “Life Ain’t Been No Crystal Stair” – by Denise Narcisse on the CWCS blog

[The crystal staircase image was used very successfully by Langston Hughes in his poem, “Mother to Son.”  That poem is not included in the article, but we have reprinted it below as well.   For the entire article, click the link in the title of the article — Lew Rosenbaum]

No Crystal Staircase: Working-Class Lives under The Recession

April 5, 2010 ·

Three weeks ago, I flew to Charlotte, North Carolina to participate in a conference of social and behavioral scientists. Because employment and the economy are topics that many within this group study, I expected to discuss research on employment and the economy at the conference.  Like others, I worry that the media and the government’s focus on the economic hardships of the middle class will decrease discussions of and concern for the plight of lower-income groups.  What I did not expect during this trip was the casual conversation that led me to consider these issues shortly after landing in Charlotte.

The only passenger aboard the bus that picked me up from the Charlotte airport, I asked the driver if he was Greg— the driver that I had spoken with a week earlier about getting to and from the hotel where my conference was being held.

“No, I’m Dan,” the driver replied. “Greg no longer works for the hotel.  He quit last week.”

“He quit?” I asked.  “Well, I just spoke with him last Sunday, and he said he could drive me to the Hilton in the mornings for  my conference.”

“I can take you to the Hilton in the mornings,” Dan said.  “Greg is an airplane pilot who worked as a driver for us after the airline he was working for laid him off.  A different carrier offered him a job last week, so, naturally, he accepted it and quit his job with us. Greg shouldn’t have been working as a driver in the first place—not a man with his education and skills.”

In the past, economic recessions have primarily affected blue collar and low-level retail jobs, but as Greg’s story reveals, the current economic recession has affected many professional and skilled white-collar jobs as well. Yet, as troubling as they are, stories like Greg’s pale against the stories of many working-class and poor people who are struggling to survive after losing jobs under the so- called jobless economic recovery. [read the entire article here]

Art for a Change highlights Siquieros’ L.A. Mural “America Tropical”

[Mark Vallen, Los Angeles artist, has maintained a site and written and painted work connected with the revolutionary transformation of society.  His most recent article reports on and responds to the long hidden “America Tropical,”  a mural commissioned by Los Angeles political leaders, dedicated in 1932, and, within months of its dedication, whitewashed by those same leaders.  This censored treasure has been the object of a conservation and restoration movement since it was rediscovered by the Chicano movement of the 1960’s.  It appears that finally the efforts will come to fruition, and Vallen discusses the importance of its restoration and the attendant irony as well.  Visit his site to see all the graphics and to read some of his other writing.  —  Lew Rosenbaum]

Siqueiros: América Tropical Press Conference

Siqueiros: América Tropical – Event program for the March 31, 2010 presentation on the status of the Siqueiros Mural and Interpretive Center.Siqueiros: América Tropical – Event program for the March 31, 2010 presentation on the status of the Siqueiros Mural and Interpretive Center.

The Mexican Muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros completed his second Los Angeles mural, América Tropical, in 1932. Created on the rooftop of the Italian Hall building located on the city’s historic Olvera Street, the mural was formally presented to the public in an official unveiling that took place on the evening of October 9, 1932. Within six months the portion of the mural visible from the street was whitewashed by conservative city authorities because of the artwork’s political message – a searing attack on U.S. imperialism. Inside of a year the authorities obliterated the entire mural with whitewash. América Tropical has remained hidden from public view for the last 77 years – but that is about to change.

By invitation I attended the March 31, 2010, event at the Los Angeles Central Library’s Taper Auditorium, heralding the progress of the future David Alfaro Siqueiros América Tropical Mural And Interpretive Center. Sponsored by Amigos de Siqueiros . . .[ read more here]