Poet, Phil Levine ~ Jan. 10, 1928 – Feb. 14, 2015

 

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Phil Levine died on  Valentine’s Day.  How sad.  How dis-heartening!

I feel strongly about this wonderful poet, this Central Valley-California poet. A great man. An important writer. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his poems, and served as Poet Laureate of the United States 2011-2012.

I wanted to remember all the moments I spent Phil Levine. When I was with him, it was as if he had all the time in the world and we were old friends— even though we weren’t. I chatted with him at his poetry reading in Berkeley about the things that disturbed me about the Bay Area poetry scene. The fragmentation. He agreed. Said he was more comfortable reading in LA or New York. I had a leisurely talk with him one day, probably 20 minutes or more, while waiting for the shuttle bus at a hotel near The Dodge Poetry Fest. He wanted to know what I thought about poetry. He listened.    That’s what I mean.

He had just given an unforgettable reading of They Feed they Lion in a large tent at Dodge the year the Poetry festival met at Duke Farms in the mud— 2004. I remember how he broke-open-the-night with that poem, as I huddled in the hay bales in the cold and wet. Here’s an excerpt. Phil always took his time writing “narratives,” often more than a page or two in length.

They Feed they Lion
 
Out of burlap sacks, out of bearing butter,Out of black bean and wet slate bread,Out of the acids of rage, the candor of tar,

Out of creosote, gasoline, drive shafts, wooden dollies,

They Lion grow.

 

Out of the gray hills

Of industrial barns, out of rain, out of bus ride,

West Virginia to Kiss My Ass, out of buried aunties,

Mothers hardening like pounded stumps, out of stumps,

Out of the bones’ need to sharpen and the muscles’ to stretch,

They Lion grow.

 

Earth is eating trees, fence posts,

Gutted cars, earth is calling in her little ones,

“Come home, Come home!” From pig balls,

From the ferocity of pig driven to holiness,

From the furred ear and the full jowl come

The repose of the hung belly, from the purpose

They Lion grow. …

 

…From my car passing under the stars,

They Lion, from my children inherit,

From the oak turned to a wall, they Lion,

From they sack and they belly opened

And all that was hidden burning on the oil-stained earth

They feed they Lion and he comes.

<>

Phil Levine by artist, Jon Friedman

Phil Levine by artist, Jon Friedman

 

His poems are lean and strong. Every word is working hard. He was so unassuming in person, yet seemed not to suffer fools. I wrote to him in 2005, offering to drive to Fresno if I could study with him— to tighten up the poems I was writing for my book, Untold. He wrote me back immediately, and said he wished me well, but had no interest in taking another student. “I have a good beginning on a new book, one that I believe in, but at my age it takes a lot out of me to write decent poems.” He was 77 at the time. Six years later he was Poet Laureate.

In 2012 He read in San Francisco at the JCC. I was there. Here is the link:

http://blogs.jccsf.org/blog/2012/03/15/philip-levine-a-reading-with-the-u-s-poet-laureate/

*Richard Tillinghast shared this wonderful video on Facebook:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxJVgAJB6As

His dry sense of humor, his wonderful poems. Enjoy.

Phil, we will miss you.

 

Solomon— Three Years! 7/11/77 — 1/31/12

Hollye pics 4-03 001Three years ago today, I’d driven Shabda to the airport for a flight to India, and stopped in San Francisco to have lunch with Ammon. I bought a Hello Kitty watch while waiting for him, and remember regretting I hadn’t seen Solomon since Christmas. Solomon and his fiancé Nicole had arrived in Bangkok where he was being hosted as an Internetional DJ.

Solomon and Ryan beautiful tune!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXOOhmtDSkY

Solomon and Ryan

Solomon and Ryan

My family 2012. Our lives were about to change in deep and painful ways. Today, I am aware of the countdown to sometime late tonight, when 3 years ago, Solomon was killed in a car crash on a bridge in Bangkok. I look out my window at the Pacific ocean off the coast of Costa Rica and see two yellow-orange butterflies dancing in the trees where the Howler Monkeys were playing yesterday. IMG_0351 - Version 2I think of Matthew Dickman’s beautiful poem called “Grief.”

When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla/  you must count yourself lucky./  You must offer her what’s left/  of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish/ you must put aside / and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed,…  She has been here before/and now

 I can recognize her gait/
as she approaches the house…<>

In the poem, she takes you in her arms and talks about the dead and those, like me, who are among the living.

I catch glimpses of Solomon today with his wonderful smile, the way he used to touch his nose with the tip of his tongue. His slow, comfortable-with-himself walk into the kitchen when he would visit us, after laying his cell phone and keys on the place at the top of the stairway. Now my warm hug is from the purple gorilla.

 So much has happened, Solomon, in these 3 years! You have a niece named Maeve you never met. She was 4 months from birth when you left us. Now she’s going on three. Oona, your other niece, asked me about you the other day, when she saw a picture in my office. I showed her a picture of you carrying her on your shoulders on our last Christmas together. You should see the Bay Bridge! And the Golden State Warriors! Number ONE in the NBA. They are 36 wins/ 7 loses!!! You would have really loved Pharrell Williams’ Happy, and most of the stuff on his album, Girl.

Solomon as a toddler– looks like a DJ

Solomon as a toddler– looks like a DJ

The other day I drove to the East Bay and listened to your favorite music. One after the other, the songs arranged themselves from hundreds on my I-phone I just called to say I love you …..by Stevie Wonder, Celebrate by Kool & the Gang, the band you opened for opened for at the San Francisco Black + White Ball probably in 2011.<> On a painful note, your friend, Jason Rezaian, has been imprisoned in Iran since July 22. Nothing so far has gained his release. Any strings you could pull from the other side would be appreciated.

I still remember your words that came to me soon after your death. Take me with you, Mom, in all that you do. I think of that when I’m on a curvy road — your love of driving— when I play the djembe drum, and when I give a talk, like I did at the Asian Art Museum a couple weeks ago — I remember how you held the space for people to have a good time. Miss you, Baby, and love you — forever and ever!

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwOU3bnuU0k

Dreaming Robert Bly

bly3I had a vivid, delicious dream about POET, Robert Bly. I have taken classes from him and met him briefly. In the dream we were friends. We were in the car, Shabda, Robert and I, and I was crying with delight and saying, why did it take us so long to connect? He and Shabda had just sang a little, harmonizing some beautiful piece of music and it opened my heart, and woke me up, so I could remember the dream and write it down. We had been at a conference, somewhat boring, and Robert wasn’t surrounded with eager people — he and Shabda were just laughing over spiritual jokes.

RBly-photo_t479The clock said four AM. I went back to sleep and dreamed Robert into my suddenly expanded writing room… He was just smiling, as if we had all the time in the world, sitting there in a big comfortable chair that holds him in his vastness – not large size, I mean his energy body, though he is taller than I am. I remember him bending slightly as we walked together at the Dodge Poetry Fest years ago, and I asked him, “Tell me something I need to know about writing ghazals.” “Exagerate,” he replied. “Don’t say 100 birds, say a thousand or a million.”

 I had my back to him, struggling to find my favorite poetry books— the ones I felt we both liked. In the dream my books were scrambled, not where I keep them in sections. I kept mentioning authors—

Mahmoud Darwish If I Were Another, with the beautiful translation by Fady Joudah: Like a Hand Tattoo
 

…He said: We’ll walk even to the last fraction

Of life, even if the paths let us down.

We’ll fly, as a Sufi does in the words… to anywhere.

I mentioned Bly’s Ghalib translations: Lightning should Have Fallen on Ghalib. “Why would you smile so mischievously in my dream?”—Ghalib. The lightning struck ME— Tamam! I am telling him how I found a beautiful quote from Ghalib and posted it with pictures of his shrine I had just visited in India. In my haste, I forgot to mention the translator’s name. I wrote an introductory note to Michael Sells that week. He replied that he loved my translation of Ghalib…. I wrote him back excusing my oversight and knew I never heard from him again. <>   Bly looked at me and said nothing.

Where were those books? Anything by Shahid Ali. From Kazim Ali:

 
Dear Rumi
…Dear Shams-e-Tabriz, I do not mourn
You spindle me, sun-thorn to the sky.
 

Adonis: An Introduction to Arab Poetics. I put that in his hand.

Oh, Robert, soon to be 88 years on this planet, I love your words! Everyone over 60 should read Talking into the Ear of a Donkey. Words of a poem from that collection:

Frogs After Dark:
…We’ve heard the fiddlers tuning their old fiddles,
And the singer urging the low notes to come.
We’ve heard her trying to keep the dawn from breaking.
 
There is some slowness in life that is right for us.
But we love to remember the way the soul leaps
Over and over into the lonely heavens.
 
 bly2

Here’s the great thing about dreams— you pull at a corner of the dream sometimes, and it opens. Writing it down gives you the sound, taste, smell of the dream— just a whiff, but in this case, that’s enough. Thank you, Robert Bly.

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Inhabiting the Poem

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Among contemporary poets, I appreciate those who are willing to be vulnerable with the spiritual power of their poetry, who are clearly writing in the service of a larger goal.       Annie Finch

Phone cord, zip-line, hairlines, nylon, flip-flops fly off, mannequins, your tits — and these are from poems in two well-respected poetry journals. My eyes glaze over after the first sips of cleverness. When there is substance, I need to say the words out loud to get the music, rather than the smart style: “pork-pie hat,” “scatter-shot,” “fleshy wrecking ball.” I can’t live inside this writing — even for a short time. Not one of the poems that used these words give me that moment of an exhaled “…oh!” like this does:

 The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers…
                                    (Saint Francis and the Sow, Galway Kinnell)
 

Although this was written over 30 years ago, before the speed and short attention span of the Age of the Internet, it is timeless and open to the reader’s reflection. With his recent death, we have lost a poet who will be well-remembered. <>

 From another poet writing today:

 …You built a tower to god out of bricks and mud      
when you should have built it with breath
 
Wings will not carry you skyward
Your own body is the only mosque you need
 
The tongue in your mouth the only rock
From which you could launch yourself into heaven
                                    (Promisekeeper, Kazim Ali)
 

Kazim is a widely published contemporary American poet and associate professor of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature at Oberlin College. I appreciate his beautiful, musical writing. <>

…May language’s language, the silence that lies
under each word, move you over and over,
turning you, wondering, back to surprise.
                        (Blessing on the Poets, Annie Finch)
 
 

 Annie has had a strong influence on my work lately. I have been in dialog with her as  I dig deeper into form in poetry. As I write poems that call up the life-rhythms of 7th century Arabia, I am pulled toward metrics. Drumming reinforces rhythmic language. Poets like Annie Finch, A.E. Stallings, and Marilyn Hacker are my green oasis in formal writing, as they have made metrical poetry not only “new,” and brilliantly hidden in its craft, but as bright and alive as sunrise in desert sand dunes.

 More from Annie: When I experience good free verse I feel as if I am a spirit larger than the poem, contemplating it; when I experience good formal verse, I feel that I am a body smaller than the poem, inhabiting it. It’s more of a rhapsodic, physical experience. I am really enjoying reveling in the complex and variegated landscape of the physical aspects of poetry these days. And in general, more and more, I consider poetic form as a powerful spiritual tool; to write in a truly difficult form provides a priceless education in humility, patience, flexibility, self-discipline, faith, and non-attachment! 1

T&M4 This from an interview with Marilyn: I like the tension that comes from the diction of ordinary speech playing against a form. When there is an internal or external form to be worked with and worked against, unexpected and illuminating things can happen in the piece of writing.2

Sometimes I feel isolated as I practice accented and unaccented syllabics, like piano scales, focused that fluency will appear. But then last spring I won honorable mention in a literary competition in the sonnet category. A journal or two is taking my formal poems. This one was in the Women and Food issue of Adana. [It is re-edited here.] The pattern is in eleven beats: Long short, long short short, long short, long short, long short = /u /uu /u /u /u (Hendecasyllabics). No substitutions.

Fibs of vision, no food— no water. Children
cried, while little ones nursed, not even drinking.
 
Blurred it, blotted it out— reflection, logic.
Nothing worked, due to raw-edged hunger, famine…
 
…Daylight rubbed all those onion eyes for water.
Twilight pushed on a shovel, served the resting place.
            (Planned Famine, Mecca around the year 617 )

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Annie and Kazim at Moe's Bookstore

Annie and Kazim at Moe’s Bookstore

For more on Formal Poetry see A Poet’s Ear: A Handbook of Meter and Form, Annie Finch U. of Michigan, 2013.

  1.  southeastreview.org/interview-annie-finch/ (also the first quote)
  2.  Interview Marilyn Hacker— Interview with Karla Hammond Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol. 5, #3, Autumn 1980.

Free Jason Rezaian Now!

Nikolai, Jason and Solomon in High School

Nikolai, Jason and Solomon in High School

I am heartbroken about the abduction in the middle of the night of Jason Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh, a month ago Tuesday. It seems he is a pawn in a larger political game in Iran. They were arrested, with no public statement of the charges. Where they are is anyone’s guess. Jason’s mother, Mary, has spoken to the media, asking for his release and saying he is on high blood pressure meds.      Naomi Shihab Nye writes in a poem:

How long can we stand it if it goes on and on?

It’s too long already…

No one hears the soldiers come at night

To pluck the olive tree from its cool sleep.

 

Ripping up roots. This is not a headline

In your country or mine…

Jason was part of my son Solomon’s circle of friends from Marin Academy. They graduated in the mid-nineties. Solomon became an excellent professional DJ, Jason, a successful reporter for the Washington Post. Their close friend, Nikolai Kinski became a German movie star. Not long ago Jason’s Facebook page was filled with photos of his marriage and travels with the lovely reporter, Yeganeh, his Iranian wife. Jason held dual citizenship.

Yeganeh and Jason

Yeganeh and Jason

This is from a letter Jason wrote me half a year ago:

Tamam: So great to hear from you and sorry for the slow reply. I’ve been on the road quite a lot the past month and am just settling back into life in Tehran. 

It was good to see Nikolai and introduce him to my wife, Yeganeh. We figured out we hadn’t seen each other since 2005 so it was nice to just check in about everything. With my MA friends, more than anyone else, it seems that it doesn’t matter how much time passes between encounters, we’re always on the same page. 

 I was in the states for a couple of months earlier this month and stayed with Robbie (Stauder) for a few days. Do you realize he and I have been friends since we were 6 years old? 

 Those friendships have always helped give me comfort and some direction. I think about Solomon much and laugh about experiences we had together, and always appreciate how he brought folks together. 

 I’m happy about your projects, too. I think the time may be drawing near that you could visit Iran and see Fatima’s shrine in Qum, as well as other special places of pilgrimage. Let me know when you want to start exploring that… I’m sure it would be a transformative experience. 

 Yeganeh and I are starting to plan out our next moves. We hope to have her green card by early in 2014, which means we will come spend some months, probably in Marin, probably in summer. I look forward to catching up then.

 Please give Shabda a big hug from me and one for you, too.      Jason

The media is sluggish in their reporting. I post to facebook, requesting friends to keep Jason’s abduction from vanishing , as his facebook page has. Here is recent media from the New Yorker, August 15, 2014

Why is Iran detaining Jason Rezaian? By Laura Secor

 …He had reported with whimsy, insight, and deft nuance throughout the Islamic Republic’s most restrictive years for press freedom, and, in 2012, the Post hired him as its Tehran correspondent. I was happy for him, and happy for American readers, but also worried. Dual nationals—Iranian-Americans like Jason—are extremely vulnerable in Iran. They are subject to Iranian law, which is hard enough on local journalists, and, worse, their link to the United States makes them targets of suspicion in a state preoccupied with the spectre of foreign conspiracy. The Post would raise Jason’s profile….

Together with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who writes for the Dubai-based paper the National, Jason was arrested, in his Tehran home, on July 22, 2014. They have been held for three weeks now at an undisclosed location. The sequence of events is both chilling and depressingly familiar to anyone who follows Iranian affairs. The couple has not yet been charged with any crime. On August 5th, a report in a newspaper close to the security establishment limned the likely case against them. It is both patently absurd and entirely run-of-the-mill for Iran: the paper alleges that Jason and Yeganeh are American spies feeding sensitive information to Washington, and, furthermore, that they are to blame for the viral distribution of a video of Iranians dancing on a rooftop to Pharrell Williams’s “Happy.” The young people who participated in that video were arrested and forced to recant their happiness back in May. (Jason covered the dust-up for the Post, though only after the people in the video had already been released.) A televised, coerced confession from the couple seems likely to come soon.

Be FREE, JASON and YEGANEH!!  You are in our prayers.

Jason and Solomon back in the day

Jason and Solomon back in the day

POET Kazim Ali in Napa, California

Kazim Ali

Kazim Ali

The day before his poetry reading at Napa Valley College, Kazim Ali won an Ohioana Book Award for his excellent  poetry book: Sky Ward. I went to Napa to hear him read. I am deeply affected by this man’s writing. I feel like I experience his poetry far below and above the words.

On Tuesday Kazim began his craft talk at The Napa Valley Writers’ Conference with breathing practice. I loved that. Breathe and be present. “Poetry involves bodies,” he said… “bring the body into poetry.” From his poem Promisekeeper: You built a tower to god out of bricks and mud/ when you should have built it with breath… Your own body is the only mosque you need…

As he introduced The Plaint of Marah, Woman of Sodom, a poem about Lot’s Wife turning to a pillar of salt, he playfully threw out the name “Vicki Vale.” Being a Batman fan, I couldn’t resist the reference.

From Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman: “the most awkward dinner in movie history:” Bruce Wayne —AKA Batman— and Vicki Vale, (invited to the huge mansion with the longest dinner table for a meal.)

 

“How’s the soup” (Vicki shouting)
“What?” Bruce said
“I asked how the soup was,” Vicki asked, louder
“Oh, it’s good,” said Bruce
“Can you please pass the salt?” (very loud).
“Sure.” Bruce got up, picked up the salt shaker and walked to the other end of the table.
“Do you eat here every night?” Vicki asked.
“No, I don’t think we ever have,” Bruce said as he sat back down at his table.
On a more serious note, Kazim speaks of the poem in an interview: We are talking about Biblical times, and salt is like gold. It’s currency. The word “salary” comes from the Latin word for salt; it was a euphemism for what we would call a “paycheck.” She wasn’t turned into a pillar of coal or a pillar of shit. She was transformed into a pillar of one of the most valuable substances on the earth at that time. So, to me, it was obvious she wasn’t being punished. It’s not that radical of a supposition.   http://14hills.net/node/660
 

 Some lines from The Plaint of Marah, Woman of Sodom

Sundered and sinful, caught in a rain of fire
Nearly devoured, now inch by inch turning to salt…
 
Who was I before the thorn of my birth pierced me,
Before the thread of my death drew me through?…
 
Before the fire stitched me in salt to the ground, who was I?

 This kind of writing catches me, not only for the choice of words, but here is a biblical woman, her story sticky with the honey of possibilities! Where can we go with this? If I were her, how would the dramatic moment taste? She carries the sweet with the bitter. (Marah means bitter.) It’s all wound together and he lets us taste it, and adds water— couplet by couplet.

The last prophets boarded the ark for departure,
But this time amid fire, I am the water—
 
 You are ahead of me fifty-one paces,
Leaning on our daughters, hoping they’ll hold you…
 
…This time I look back to the city that’s burning,
 
And yes, in that moment, doubting believer,
I was transformed into the most precious of matter

I had recently found this meaning as I was brushing up on my Arabic. The three letter root in Arabic: MaLaHa means — to be beautiful, to salt, preserve with salt, to be witty. The meaning depends on the vowels. A “salty” woman is smart and funny and that contributes to a kind of beauty the Arabs appreciate.

You can hear him read this poem in this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0q22HDg0s4

He mentions poet, Scott Cairns, whose final stanzas of the poem: The Turning of Lot’s Wife, are given below.

                                                               …She looked
ahead briefly to the flat expanse, seeing her tall
daughters, whose strong legs and churning arms
were taking them safely to the hills; she saw,
farther ahead, the old man whom she had served
and comforted for twenty years. In the impossible
interval where she stood, Marah saw that she could
not turn her back on even one doomed child of the
city, but must turn her back instead upon the
saved.
 
OK, I appreciate thoughtful consideration of this historical interpretation. Instead of seeing Lot’s Wife as someone longing for the sinfulness of Sodom, she is more than a “wife,” she’s a woman with a first name, a woman pulled toward tragedy, as we are toward Gaza, heartbroken from the suffering of the people there, helpless to stop it. As Kazim mentioned at the beginning of his reading: …Remember the innocent people who need protection. Like Marah, we can’t turn our backs on them.
 

The last lines of  The Plaint of Marah, Woman of Sodom:

I became one with the ground in the night of great fire
Given eternal life as a priceless pillar
 
Slowly disappearing into the infinity of matter,
Not curse nor condemnation but salt into water, my endless reward—
 
 
Brenda Hillman, Annie Finch, and Kazim Ali: three of my favorite poets!

Brenda Hillman, Annie Finch, and Kazim Ali: three of my favorite poets!

Happy Birthday Solomon!

BMW i8 

Dearest Solomon,

I saw this BMW i8 in the airport in Frankfort last week. I could just see you driving it! YES! So I am giving it to you as a birthday present to drive through the clouds with either DJ AM or Michael Jackson after a heavenly concert. We can all picture you doing that.

I miss you. I wish you could come over after a bike ride and swim in the pool, then barbeque some burgers with onions for us. After, you would curl up on the couch with Nicole, after spending a half-hour with dad in the office on computer-tec things and all of us would settle into a sweet groove.

Oona gaining speed!

Oona gaining speed!

Oona. I wish you knew each other. You would appreciate her giddy physicality, and take her wake-boarding in a few years. Maeve would make you smile and smile —as she does everyone. You would chat with Arrow Solomon. You’d play with Mila Sol and Varun Solomon. All the next generation who carry your name. Pharrell Williams would be up there on your mix —Happy and …up all night to get lucky. I love those songs because of you. 

                                                                                                                                               

Maeve, now two years old

Maeve, now two years old

Miss you, baby! Hope you have fun driving the newest, playing the latest, climbing the highest, and boarding on down. I feel you in my heart, and in my hands when I play the djembe.

Love you.

Fawzia Koofi changing Afghanistan

 

afghanistan_map I just read a heart-warming, inspiring book.  I have a confession to write. After I completed The Favored Daughter, One Woman’s Fight to Lead Afghanistan into the Future, by Fawzia Koofi — I checked the internet to be sure she was still alive. True, I did. The book was published in 2012. Was she still allowed to be Afganistan’s first female parliament speaker after two years? Multiple assignation attempts. What a woman! She is on fire with her cause. She is magnetic. Speaks English very well.               Fawzia Koofi is running for President of Afghanistan in 2014.

Fawzia's book This is a well-written book. It flows well, is gripping in the narrative, and between the chapters are letters to her two daughters, with wisdom like this: Never turn anyone away from your door because you never know when the day will come that it is you who will need to throw yourself t the mercy of another’s door.

She was born in Koof, in the rural North, Badakhsan, in 1975. As 19th child, she had to face discrimination and injustice, loss of her parents. War. She was the only girl in the family who went to school. She spent time between the north and Kabul. First came the Solviet Union, and when they left in 1989, the Talaban began to darken Kabul with it’s restrictions and terror, especially for women.  Since 9/11 prompted more changes, Fazia writes:  there were “…social changes in past 11 years, not measurable or reported by the media… During Taliban period, life was difficult; to see a doctor or walk on the street —difficult. Now my daughters go to a good school in Kabul. “Since the fall of Taliban regime, there has been huge progress!”

 “Afghani woman’s life is full of struggle. I represent hope for my country.”

Fawzia was on the Jon Stewart show. He said, “Your life has remained in peril on a daily basis.” She replied, “If you become stronger politically or socially, you find more opponents… (yet) I see myself as part of the agency of change in Afghanistan.”

“Afghanistan is a country of relationship and value. That is the face of Afghanistan I would like to demonstrate to the world!”

Fawzia_Koofi_MP,_Afghanistan_-_Chatham_House_2012

“When you see the love of people… the needs, that keeps me always moving when I see the needs of my people.”

http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/p7c657/fawzia-koofi

and Arthur Kade (a clearer tape)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S91ej-RBgvA

Fawzia, may you have a long, safe and happy life!

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Honoring poet Mirza Ghalib

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Yesterday we went to Mirza Ghalib‘s resting place. It is located in Nizamuddin neighborhood in Delhi, not far from Hazrat Inayat Khan’s dargha. Today was his URS celebration, which we attended in 2007. So in honor of the great Urdu poet and master of the ghazal, here is a poem by him:

Let the ascetics sing of the garden of Paradise –

We who dwell in the true ecstasy can forget their vase-tamed bouquet.


 
In our hall of mirrors, the map of the one Face appears

As the sun’s splendor would spangle a world made of dew.


 
Hidden in this image is also its end,

As peasants’ lives harbor revolt and unthreshed corn sparks with fire.


 
Hidden in my silence are a thousand abandoned longings:

My words the darkened oil lamp on a stranger’s unspeaking grave.

Ghalib, the road of change is before you always:

The only line stitching this world’s scattered parts. (trans. Daud Rahbar)
 
 
Ghalib

Mirza Ghalib was born in Agra December 17, 1797, and  died in Delhi on February 15, 1869. He was a very liberal mystic who believed that the search for God within liberated the seeker from the narrowly Orthodox Islam, encouraging the devotee to look beyond the letter of the law to its essence. His Sufi views and mysticism is greatly reflected in his poems and ghazals. As he once stated: 

“The object of my worship lies beyond perception’s reach; 
For men who see, the Ka’aba is a compass, nothing more.”

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Ghalib believed that if God laid within and could be reached less by ritual than by love, then he was as accessible to Hindus as to Muslims.

He once wrote in a letter to a friend: 

“In paradise it is true that I shall drink at dawn the pure wine mentioned in the Qu’ran, but where in paradise are the long walks with intoxicated friends in the night, or the drunken crowds shouting merrily? Where shall I find there the intoxication of Monsoon clouds? Where there is no autumn, how can spring exist? If the beautiful houris are always there, where will be the sadness of separation and the joy of union? Where shall we find there a girl who flees away when we would kiss her?” 


Info on Ghalib ~  http://www.poemhunter.com/mirza-ghalib/biography/

Peacock in the courtyard of Ghalib! photo by Shabda

Peacock in the courtyard of Ghalib! photo by Shabda

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SOLOMON 7/11/77-1/31/12 and “Get Lucky”

lucky 1

Last night we watched the Grammys. I remember watching them with Solomon and Nicole, probably in 2009. He gave a running commentary of who was good, and I still follow it, the tunes in the Grammy-nominee category. Many people my age think of Grandparents when they hear the word Grammy. But I got early training. So when GET LUCKY came on with Pharrell Williams, Daft Punk and wow— Stevie Wonder!! I joined Staples Center attendees who were – several thousand of them – on their feet dancing with a kind of slow joy that held the room; joy that shone on the faces of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Beyonce, Keith Urban, Katy Perry, Jay-Z, and Yoko Ono and more.  Beautiful moment.  See for yourself. Watch it here!

Like the legend of the Phoenix
All ends with beginnings
What keeps the planets spinning
The force from the beginning
 
We’ve come too far

Pharrell +Stevie "Get Lucky"

Pharrell +Stevie
“Get Lucky”

To give up who we are
So let’s raise the bar
And our cups to the stars
 
She’s up all night to the sun
I’m up all night to get some
She’s up all night for good fun
I’m up all night to get lucky
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 I got some cough-and-sneeze bug a couple weeks ago and it has taken forever to clear out, so, since I leave for New Delhi, India tomorrow morning (Feb. 28), I paid a quick visit to my Ear-doctor to get the OK to go.

 As I got close to the office, I turned on the radio to see what the message the universe was offering for this journey and there it was: GET LUCKY blasting out. Timing like that has a name on it. SOLOMON.  I burst into tears and cried and sobbed: Not from sadness, but from utter joy to feel him so present in the serendipity of how he knew those best songs before anyone, and this was his gift. Have a good trip, Mom….

        ( Get Lucky… more verses)
The present has no ribbon
Your gift keeps on giving
What is this I’m feeling
If you want to leave I’m with it
 
We’ve come too far

Solomon DJ'ing the Black 'n White Ball, SF.

Solomon DJ’ing the Black ‘n White Ball, SF.

To give up who we are
So let’s raise the bar
And our cups to the stars
 
 
Like the legend of the Phoenix
All ends with beginnings
What keeps the planets spinning
The force from the beginning
 
We’ve come too far
To give up who we are
So let’s raise the bar
And our cups to the stars
 
She’s up all night to the sun
I’m up all night to get some
She’s up all night for good fun
I’m up all night to get lucky
 
 

I’m so lucky to have had Solomon Kahn in my life for 34 years. The anniversary of the end of the second year of his passing, January 31, 2012 is almost here. Those of you who love him, I’ll be with you!

Solomon, you still get me dancing! Feeling the happiness in being alive. I return to the place where we spent the first 4 months together — you, a stowaway in my womb — to Mother India. I got Lucky.

Solomon in India in the 90's

Solomon in India in the 90’s

The little three-year-old girl (green circle), Shahana Ali Khan, is an adult singer and will be singing a Raga Concert for us in New Delhi next week. She is the daughter of Usted Mashkoor Ali Khan seated next to her and her mother.  The music goes on….

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