Friday, March 30, 2012

(Rich Rule the Pie) Adrienne Rich Dies After A Life That Inspires for Good (Robert Bales? Not So Much And Now It's Documented)

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Now, back to our regular program.

Adrienne Rich, woman, writer, poet extraordinaire dies. There will never be her . . . like again. She was a pathforger, an image coiner, an original.

Five Poems by Adrienne Rich

March 29, 2012

Adrienne Rich, a major figure in the recent history of American poetry and a frequent contributor to The Nation, died on March 27. In addition to the 22 poems she contributed over 50 years, she also wrote essays and reviewed for the magazine; a remark in her review of John Berryman’s 77 Dream Songs could serve as self-analysis:

“[O]ne is conscious, as in few other poets, of a steely thread of strength running through the dislocation and the ruin.”

She also spoke up as a reader: in a 1993 letter to the editor, she urged the magazine to refuse “to drift toward the so-called center, a nerveless, benumbed position produced by the very financial and political interests that need to be called to account.”

In the first of ten reviews the magazine ran of her work, Cheryl Walker identified the best qualities of her work, and their likely source:

This poetry is deadly serious, but it is not, like so much of women’s poetry in the past, death-enamored. For it is the poet’s appetite, her undeniable life force, which sustains these operations.
Through the years the reviews were positive, if cantankerously so: in 1978, Donald Hall noted that “She has a gift for being herself, much the way certain film actors possess the rare and difficult genius — which looks easy — of always seeming natural.” The same year, Hayden Carruth said that The Dream of a Common Language may be a masterpiece.” A decade later, Marilyn Hacker observed that the crowds of hundreds that packed Rich’s readings may not “like, or even totally comprehend, what they hear that is new,” but almost every audience member “will carry, in memory, at least one poem of Rich’s that resonated, that made a difference in her or his life.” Lawrence Joseph summarized her project best:

For Rich, the poet inside a wrecked society must will an imagined common language to get to human love, which is for her the central subject of any personal or social order. A poetry of ideological commitment must enter the heart and mind, become as real as one’s body, as vital as life itself—that’s what makes it poetry.

—Jordan Davis, Poetry Editor

In memory of Rich's contributions to progressive politics and poetry, The Nation features below some of her poems published in the magazine in over five decades of writing.

At Willard Brook

November 18, 1961

Spirit like water
moulded by unseen stone
and sandbar, pleats and funnels
according to its own
submerged necessity —
to the indolent eye
pure wilfulness, to the stray
pine-needle boiling
in that cascade-bent pool
a random fury: Law,
if that's what's wanted, lies
asking to be read
in the dried brook-bed.

For Example
November 23, 1963

Sometimes you meet an old man
whose fist isn't clenched blue-white.
Someone like that old poet
whose grained palm once travelled
the bodies of sick children.
Back in the typed line
was room for everything: the blue
grape hyacinth patch,
the voluntary touch
of cheek on breast, the ear
alert for a changed heartbeat
and for other sounds too
that live in a typed line:
the breath of animals, stopping
and starting up of busses,
trashfires in empty lots.
Attention once given
returned again as power.
An old man's last few evenings
might be inhabited
not by a public—
fountains of applause off
auditorium benches,
tributes read at hotel banquets—
but by reverberations
the ear had long desired,
accepted and absorbed.
The late poem might be written
in a night suddenly awake
with quiet new sounds
as when a searchlight plays
against the dark bush-tangle
and birds speak in reply.

December 25, 1972

You show me the poems of some woman
my age, or younger
translated from your language
Certain words occur: enemy, oven, sorrow
enough to let me know
she's a woman of my time
with Love, our subject:
we've trained it like ivy to our walls
baked it like bread in our ovens
worn it like lead on our ankles
watched it through binoculars as if
it were a helicopter
bringing food to our famine
or the satellite
of a hostile power
I begin to see that woman
doing things: stirring rice
ironing a skirt
typing a manuscript till dawn
trying to make a call
from a phone booth
The phone rings endlessly
in a man's bedroom
she hears him telling someone else
Never mind. She'll get tired.
hears him telling her story to her sister
who becomes her enemy
and will in her own way
light her own way to sorrow
ignorant of the fact this way of grief
is shared, unnecessary
and political

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve

May 26, 2008 

Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon's eyelid
later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping
Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve
Syntax of rendition:
verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action
verb force-feeds noun
submerges the subject
noun is choking
verb disgraced goes on doing
there are adjectives up for sale
now diagram the sentence

June 8, 2009

Call me Sebastian, arrows sticking all over
The map of my battlefields. Marathon.
Wounded Knee. Vicksburg. Jericho.
Battle of the Overpass.
Victories turned inside out
But no surrender
Cemeteries of remorse
The beaten champion sobbing
Ghosts move in to shield his tears
No one writes lyric on a battlefield
On a map stuck with arrows
But I think I can do it if I just lurk
In my tent pretending to
Refeather my arrows
I'll be right there! I yell
When they come with their crossbows and white phosphorus
To recruit me
Crouching over my drafts
lest they find me out
and shoot me
Press your cheek against my medals, listen through them to my heart
Doctor, can you see me if I'm naked?
Spent longer in this place than in the war
No one comes but rarely and I don't know what for
Went to that desert as many did before
Farewell and believing and hope not to die
Hope not to die and what was the life
Did we think was awaiting after
Lay down your stethoscope back off on your skills
Doctor can you see me when I'm naked?
I'll tell you about the mermaid
Sheds swimmable tail Gets legs for dancing
Sings like the sea with a choked throat
Knives straight up her spine
Lancing every step
There is a price
There is a price
For every gift
And all advice

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As we read through the essays on the pathetic, indefensible Mr. Bales now overwhelming the internets, the meaning of his life and its intersection with the grisly history of U.S. foreign policy since at least Henry Kissinger, becomes starkly evident.

Yeah, Bales Was Such A Rogue . . .

March 29, 2012


Now flick over to Danger Room where you can read the story of the former Army lieutenant and the serving Army sergeant who thought they were going to work as assassination contractors for the Mexican Zetas gang, but were the subjects part of a DEA sting op.
Then there's the ones who say they go to Afghanistan to do fucked up things they can't do at home. Yeah, Bales was utterly unique...

This morning I was talking with Marcy Wheeler on Twitter about the Bales case. She, like me, thinks the received version doesn't quite pass the smell test. I reminded her of the murders of three pregnant women during a 2010 night raid. The US military had at first claimed that the women were stabbed to death by the Taliban but after some great investigative reporting by Jerome Starkey admitted that special forces soldiers had been responsible.

Further investigation by Afghan authorities found that a cover-up that had been mounted - that the soldiers involved had dug bullets out of the bodies of the women to hide the true nature of their deaths. No-one was ever prosecuted and despite the military's amazing about-face, follow-up American media reporting was anemic to say the least.

Marcy thinks something similiar happened in Panjwai - but that because such an atrocity would put a serious spanner in the works of the status of forces agreement with Karzai the Obama administration hopes to conclude in the next month, a really serious cover-up is being mounted.

I suspect the night of the murders started with a night raid launched in retaliation for the IED strike earlier in the week, during which at least two men considered to be legitimate targets were killed. But that along with those “legitimate” deaths – perhaps because the male head of family targets were not home during the raid (both Mohammed Wazir and Syed Jaan were out of the village during the attack) – a bunch of women and kids got killed as well.

Such an explanation would explain many of the seeming discrepancies in the story. It would account for the claims that at least 12 men were involved in the raid, used walkie talkies, and had helicopters. It would account for the stories that in a few cases, just one male was killed and women and children were left, as would happen in a night raid “properly” conducted. It would also explain why Bales made two trips off the base – perhaps the first time as part of the raid, and the second time to try to cover up, by burning, the illegal victims that resulted.

And it would explain both why Afghans made assertive requests about SOFA and why DOD is being so touchy right now. The US can’t really stay in Afghanistan if it can’t conduct night raids; otherwise, the local knowledge of Afghans would more than negate the advantage of our superior technology. Yet, this incident happened just after Karzai had already accelerated the prison transfer and was pushing back on night raids.
It is bad enough that an American solider is alleged to have gone a rampage killing 17 civilians. But if he did so as part of a night raid, it will give Afghans precisely the justification they need to prohibit any more night raids.
Marcy's theory fits better with Afghan reports of multiple attackers and with oddities in the US account - like the two miles and apparently a trip back to base between the killings in the two villages, like no-one on the base hearing the gunfire and screaming at 3am from the second village which was only 200 yards away - than the preferred US military account.

In 2011 Iraq told the US that it could not sign a SOFA agreement that allowed US troops immunity under local law, that it was a severe imposition on Iraqi sovereignty that the people would never accept after so many years of atrocities. The Obama administration had to do an about face on its plans for staying in Iraq and the US took a massive hit to its perceived invulnerability to accountability worldwide. Now, Afghans are hesitant to sign such an agreement over the exact same thing.

Have another invaded nation tell the U.S. to sling it's hook, that those it liberated would prefer civil war to continued U.S. occupation? In an election year? On Obama's watch?

Better to mount a cover-up with a single rogue patsy to blame.

Update Gaius Publius at AmericaBlog has a useful roundup of the state of the mainstream media on Bales and the massacre, as well as noting some new "green on blue" attacks that seem to be as a result of it.

Nothing like getting some real reporting for a change, is it?

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