Pushcart Prize Nomination

I know I haven’t been on here much lately, but it’s been a super-busy semester. One cool thing that recently happened–a Pushcart Prize nomination for my poem, “Plum Rain,” from the editors at Forage Poetry. I just want to say thank you to Michael Rush and Emma Hall over at Forage. I know the math is probably against the piece winning a prize, but it’s nice to be nominated, and I’m so grateful. Fingers crossed!

Henry Rollins Spoken Word Tour

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Yes! This October, Henry Rollins kicks off his 2016-2017 tour with 80 dates throughout the U.S. The tour starts in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, on October 6. He’ll be at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall on October 9 (right up the road here from St. Augustine) and I plan on getting a pair of tickets into my hot little hands, as this is not to be missed. I’ve been a Rollins fan since his Black Flag days, and have followed him up through the Rollins Band, and his stints as a television and film actor, and radio personality–I’ve been wanting to see him live for as long as I can remember. As stated on his website:

“On this tour, fans can expect Henry to mix timely commentary on the current state of politics with anecdotes on his latest L.A. experiences, to perspective gained from his extensive world travels. Always wanting to present fans with the best possible experience, Rollins’ live talking shows are known for their energy, wit, anger and humor. ‘Rollins is many things,’ says the Washington Post, ‘diatribist, confessor, provocateur, humorist, even motivational speaker…his is an enthusiastic and engaging chatter.’”

I can’t wait–Rollins hasn’t done a spoken word tour since 2012, which, like a dummy, I missed. C’mon, October!

 

Convention Coverage by Laurie Penny

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If you haven’t read any of Laurie Penny’s coverage of the recent conventions on medium.com, you’re missing out. This is stellar journalism, straight from the floors of Cleveland and Philly–at times scathing and hilarious, sometimes depressing, and terrifying, even, with a splash of gonzo to keep things genuine. Penny chronicles the surreal atmosphere of both conventions, and offers up her insight as a foreigner watching from the sidelines, and the results stand as testament to effective reporting. Check out these three stories from the conventions:

Bad Moon Rising

‘What women problem?’

Nobody’s safe at the RNC

You can follow Penny on medium.com. I know I’ll be keeping my eye out for more.

Image Source: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Remembering Elie Wiesel

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It’s been almost two weeks since the death of Elie Wiesel, so I’m a little slow in getting around to this (for a number of reasons), but I did want to mark the passing of this great man. My heart cracked when I heard of Wiesel’s passing–he was such a shining example of humanity: writer, activist, professor, Nobel Laureate, and yes, Holocaust survivor. It actually hurts to read the body of work he left behind, as his words travel to that soft spot deep inside, to sting, to horrify, and yet, ultimately lift. As he says in my favorite quote from his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, we have a responsibility to speak up in the face of injustice and suffering:

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.”

It would do the world some good to heed this advice on a grand scale. Our voices, joined together, can help to ease the cruelty and inhumanity surrounding us–which is a worthy pursuit; perhaps the worthiest of all.

R.I.P., Elie Wiesel. Your passing is keenly felt, and strongly mourned, and you will never be forgotten.

Read more about Elie Wiesel

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St. Augustine Gathers

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Last night I attended “St. Augustine Gathers,” a multicultural community response to the recent violence plaguing America. This event was comprised of song, reflection, and prayer at Grace United Church (I missed that part as I had to work), followed by a Peace Walk to the town plaza, where a candlelight vigil was planned.

I met up with the Peace Walk as it turned off Hypolita Street and on to St. George Street, the busy, touristy shopping lane which is closed off to cars. There were perhaps 100 marchers, give or take a few–and my mother, my friend, and I joined them for the rest of the walk to the plaza. It was a truly multicultural crowd, with people of all races, all ages, and all backgrounds. They were signing Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” and holding signs which read, “Social Justice Builds Peace,” “Spread Love, Not Hate,” “Compassion in Action,” “Work to Understand,” and “Black Lives Do Matter.” I expected this; what I did not expect was the response from the tourists up and down the street, as they flashed peace signs, clapped, joined in the singing, and joined in the walk. I had a lump in my throat the entire time.

St. Augustine police handled the event well, and blocked a road for us all to pass into the plaza, and they watched silently from the sidelines, as people gathered to light their candles, and began singing “We Shall Overcome.” We stood, mere steps from the St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument, a bronze sculpture (unveiled in 2011), which commemorates those who worked to advance civil rights in the 1960s; we stood on the very same ground as those protesters of the past. It was lovely. It was peaceful. And it was important.

I wish to thank all the community members who took time out of their lives to come down for the event. I am hopeful that gatherings such as these can and will take place all over the country, with everyone working together to call for some sorely-needed change. Thank you, City of St. Augustine, for the sensitive police presence, and the chance to express our concern.

Image Source: Lauren Tivey

Your Logical Fallacies are Showing

One thing bothering me about the “All Lives Matter” response to the Black Lives Matter movement is that it is a logical fallacy, a straw man argument. This flawed rhetoric unfairly dismisses BLM supporters in one smug little wave of the hand, and is detrimental to the necessary change the movement is seeking.

At first glance, “All Lives Matter” seems like a legitimate idea, because of course all lives matter to us; of course we want to see value placed on all lives. But what this slogan misses is the original proposition—that “black lives matter, too” (and yes, the “too” is implicit here). At the moment, it is highly arguable that they do not, as anyone with an ounce of awareness and a computer or television knows. Therefore, how can all lives matter, when black lives do not? The BLM movement is a pointed issue; the ALM response is a blanket obfuscation of said issue.

A straw man fallacy occurs when an original position is misrepresented, slanted, or embellished in some way, and then criticized/attacked (we see this all the time in politics). The ALM “reasoning” is flawed because it is responding to a distorted representation of the BLM movement and its message. The best analogy I’ve seen to highlight the flaw in the ALM response is this video, “If People Applied ‘All Lives Matter’ Logic to Everyday Life,” by Chris Lam and Edgar Momplaisir, on BuzzFeed. In the first scene, a woman is holding a fundraiser for breast cancer research (because, you know, it matters), and a man angrily responds with “all cancers matter.”  Point? Missed.

I cringe every time I see an “All Lives Matter” response to BLM. I think one thing we can at least do to support our black brothers and sisters in fighting the injustices with which they are faced, is not to confuse the message. Better yet, how about we try removing our white privilege blinders, and really see the issue at hand? How about we start listening with open ears (and hearts), and join the dialogue, so we can work together to effect change? Perhaps someday in the future we will be able to legitimately spout “All Lives Matter” all we want. For now, let us stop confusing the issue as something else.

Plum Rain by Lauren Tivey

One of my poems in Forage. Many thanks to the editors! Be sure to check out all the fine work by others in this issue.

As the skies darken and spill, two students
fall in love in my English class, their eyes
flashing over verb conjugations. Lightning

jabs the city, endless water sheeting windows,
cascading down, flooding streets; for weeks,
the air a thick veil draping Asia, plump fruit

nodding in the mist. Hands are busy
under the table—his wife, her husband,
their children, other lives, no secret.

They don’t care that I know, as I string
adjectives, comparatives, superlatives
on the board, back turned. After an hour,

I watch them go, desperate for touch, for
their weekly appointment in a muggy motel,
where they’ll peel off damp clothes, join

their hot and delirious bodies to the relentless
drum of rain. And what do I care, as I turn out
lights? I walk home through another wet evening,

under dripping trees, the suspended plums shining
and ripe, close enough to pluck. A snarl of thunder

View original post 162 more words

Dancing in the Park

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Old-timers gather in the evenings after dinner,
at a square near the lotus pond, loudspeakers
spilling Classical music in the setting sun.

Couples form to begin twirling and dipping,
women in crisp skirts and heels, men in blazers,
the shy wallflowers with glittering eyes, waiting.

It’s Valentine’s Day, a first date, that awkward
high school dance, even the father-daughter
dance you shared at your first wedding

under a sparkling tent; but you never dance
anymore.  Now you watch.  Off to the side,
chattering grandmas are making deals, playing

matchmaker, trading photos of their marriageable
offspring like baseball cards, while divorced women
frown, lonely and ignored (this, a traditional city).

And you consider stepping to the sidelines, causing
a stir as the only foreign woman, a divorced one,
at that, but you don’t, and it grows dark.  Couples

are leaving hand in hand, soundmen joking over
cigarettes, packing up their equipment, as the
lotus blooms begin to wilt in the fading light.

© Lauren Tivey, 2016.

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Sea Fever

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Just stumbled across this incredible photography series called Liquid Mountains, by Dave Sandford, of the waves of Lake Erie, which got me thinking of John Masefield’s poem, “Sea Fever”. This poem, originally published in Salt-Water Ballads in 1902, was reissued in 1916 as part of Salt-Water Poems and Ballads (Macmillan), and is a masterful piece of poetic craftsmanship. Consisting of three quatrains of couplets, its superb imagery is driven home with Masefield’s delightful alliteration and rhythm. I have often covered this poem with students in my Lit class, and I still love-love-love it, so I thought I’d share. Enjoy!

Sea Fever

by John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Chinese Pastoral

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(a triptych)

i. Guangxi

Long-haired Zhuang women are singing,
clapping, stomping feet to the drumbeat
in the wooden village house, bells
of their silver headdresses, chiming.

Stopping, they raise hands in unison,
driving it up, past the corn-draped rafters,
up, into the hoary skies, their spells
cast far, to the fickle ears of harvest gods.

Their men don’t interfere, but watch
and smoke, as brown as the rice terraces
ribboning the hills, weathered,
as the dormant fields of dragonfruit.

The drum sounds again; again the women
pound the boards, their wool-wrapped legs
jumping, voices ringing over all of Guangxi,
as they conjure the planting season into being.

ii. Jiangsu

Aromatic tea fields sparkle in neat rows.
Women in straw hats bend in a ballet, spry
as the bushes they scratch around, the happy
animals of their bodies, moving in sunshine.

Beans twist up bamboo stakes, the pinch
of manure and soil baking in the nostrils,
play of tomatoes, herbs, and birdsong,
names of every plant on the tongue.

Tractors rumble by, and whistling men
with shovels, who stop to urinate
in the woods. Often, a violent burst
of afternoon clouds, rain tamping dust.

They laugh and yell at one another during tea breaks.
They work long and hard. They work long
and hard. Their young have left for the cities,
forgetting the songs, the land, but sending money.

iii. Sichuan

Before leaving for the upper pastures,
the women are tossing flour to the wind,
toasting skies with strong barley beer,
chanting prayers, singing for the crops.

Men are readying the mills, fixing carts,
slapping backs, and singing their own
kinds of songs. The mules stamp
and snort, game for their bundles.

Husbands and wives bicker, shoot
glances and mutter curses, their hands
raw with work, a cruel sun pushing them
to move fast. All day, the loads roll in.

Tomorrow, the next day, and the next;
these shining meadows of sunrise,
awaiting the songs, the caress of hands
in the soil, with all the loyalty of a lover.

© Lauren Tivey, 2016.

*This poem originally appeared in the July, 2012 issue of Hobble Creek Review.

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