'My grandfather’s pipe tobacco fragrance, moss-green cardigan, his Yiddish lullaby
when I woke crying: three of my earliest memories in America'
Foto door Pixabay

Utopian

My neighbor’s daughter has created a city
you cannot see
ruled by a noble princess and her athletic consort
all the buildings are glass so that lies are impossible
beneath the city they have buried certain words
which can never be spoken again
chiefly the word divorce which is eaten by maggots
when it rains you hear chimes
rabbits race through its suburbs
the name of the city is one you can almost pronounce

Utopisch

De dochter van mijn buurman heeft een stad gemaakt
die je niet kunt zien
geregeerd door een nobele prinses en haar atletische gezel
alle gebouwen zijn van glas, zodat leugens onmogelijk zijn
onder de stad hebben ze bepaalde woorden begraven
die nooit meer opnieuw kunnen uitgesproken worden
vooral het woord echtscheiding dat door maden is opgegeten
als het regent hoor je klokkenspelen
konijnen rennen door de buitenwijken
de naam van de stad is er een die je bijna kunt uitspreken

Utopian” from the book The Volcano and After: Selected and New Poems 2002-2019 by Alicia Ostriker, © 2020. The University of Pittsburgh Press.

Foto door Allan Mas

Na een piepjonge fotograaf mag het tijd zijn voor een dame die met haar bijna 84 jaren aardig wat poëzie heeft geschreven. Laten we dus vooral haar eigen stem horen, zoals ze al die jaren in Amerika en ver daarbuiten is gehoord. Met één voet binnen en één voet buiten de mainstream-cultuur, Joodse maar niet praktiserend, wel verbonden. Of met haar eigen woorden:

Alicia Suskin Ostriker: During the second wave of feminism, from the 1960s through the ’70s, the most important poetry  being written in America was by women. Some of it was published by  newly-founded women’s presses, some by other small literary journals,  some even by mainstream presses. You can think of Plath, Sexton, and  Adrienne Rich, for example. But in fact, hundreds of women were writing  revolutionary work at this time. The position of having one foot inside and one foot outside mainstream culture, any culture, is maximally  productive of creativity, and that’s where women were in post ’60s  America. 

Earlier in the century the strongest writing in America was by  Jews. Jews were becoming assimilated into American culture, but were  still not quite assimilated, which is why you have that generation of  Bellow, Roth, Malamud and many others. One foot in and one foot out of  mainstream culture— it’s not a comfortable position. But the discomfort is a driver of creativity. 

Now, I feel, the most exciting poetry is  being written by people of color. For this I thank Cave Canem, an  organization that’s created a community outside of academe in which  young black poets can read each other, teach each other, and have older  black poets supporting them. Their work goes from hip hop to very formal traditional poetry, and everything in between. One foot in and one foot out of the dominant culture. College degrees, sure, and still facing racism everywhere—out of that contradiction comes torrents of  magnificent poetry. (uit interview met Daniela Gioseffi in Rain Taxi)
Foto door Olanma Etigwe-uwa
Ghazal: America

 My grandfather’s pipe tobacco fragrance, moss-green cardigan, his Yiddish lullaby
 when I woke crying: three of my earliest memories in America

 Arriving on time for the first big war, remaining for the second, sad grandpa
 who walked across Europe to get to America

 When the babies starved, when the village burned, when you were flogged
 log out, ship out, there was a dream, the green breast of America

 One thing that makes me happy about my country
 is that Allen Ginsberg could fearlessly write the comic poem “America”

 My grandfather said no President including Roosevelt would save the Jews in Europe
 I adore superhighways but money is the route of all evil in America

 Curse the mines curse the sweatshops curse the factory curse the boss
 May devils in hell torment the makers of cluster bombs in Corporate America

 When I photograph your flooding rivers and meadows and public sculpture Rockies, 
 when I walk in your filthy cities I love you so much I bless you so much America

 People people look there: Liberty the Shekhina herself
 Welcoming you like a queen, like a mother, to America

 Take the fluteplayer from the mesa, take the raven from his tree
 Now that the buffalo is gone from America

 White man the blacks are snarling the yellows swarming the umber terrorists
 Are tunneling through and breathing your air of fear in America
Tim_Rollins__KOS_Second_Study_for_Amerika_VII_1987_Gold_watercolor_on_book_pages_on_linen_24x42inches_Larry_Qualls
psalm

 I am not lyric any more
 I will not play the harp
 for your pleasure

 I will not make a joyful
 noise to you, neither
 will I lament

 for I know you drink 
 lamentation, too,
 like wine

 so I dully repeat
 you hurt me
 I hate you

 I pull my eyes away from the hills
 I will not kill for you
 I will never love you again

 unless you ask me 
Amerika Divided is a piece of digital artwork by Ricardo Dominguez
psalm

Ik ben nooit lyrisch meer
Ik zal geen harp spelen
voor jouw plezier

 Ik zal geen vrolijk
 geluid voor u maken, noch
 zal ik weeklagen

 want ik weet dat u klaagzang 
 drinkt, ook,
 als wijn

 dus ik herhaal het maar
 dat je me pijn doet
 ik haat je

 Ik trek mijn ogen weg van de heuvels
 ik zal niet voor je doden
 ik zal nooit meer van je houden

 tenzij je het mij vraagt 
Amerika: GRAMMARTRON 1.0 Mark Amzerika
Exile

The downward turning touch
 the cry of time
 fire falling without sound
 plunge my hand in the wound

 children marching and dying
 all that I do is a crime
 because I do not reach
 their mouths silently crying

 my boychild reaches with his mouth
 it is easy, being a mother
 his skin is tender and soft
 kisses stitch us together

 we love as long as we may
 then come years without kisses
 when he will turn away
 not to waste breath

 when I too will fall
 embracing a pillow at night
 touching the stone of exile
 reaching my hand to death
Jade Rivera in Lima Street art in the Barranco

Ballingschap

Het naar beneden draaiend raken
de schreeuw van de tijd
vuur dat zonder geluid valt
dompel mijn hand in de wond

kinderen marcheren en sterven
alles wat ik doe is een misdaad
omdat ik niet tot bij hun monden 
kom die zwijgend huilen

mijn zoontje reikt me zijn mond
het is gemakkelijk, moeder zijn
zijn huid is teder en zacht
kussen naaien ons aan elkaar

we hebben lief zolang het kan
dan komen de jaren zonder kussen
wanneer hij zich zal afwenden
om geen adem te verspillen

wanneer ook ik zal vallen
een kussen omhelzend in de nacht
de steen der ballingschap aanrakend
mijn hand reikend naar de dood

Buscando la verdad: il murale di Jade Rivera a Santiago del Cile
In the beginning, for Alicia Suskin Ostriker, there was the word. She
began writing poetry as a child, and at 83 she is still using her words
to capture and convey life’s truths, its spirituality and sensuality, 
and the urgent calls of social justice. 
She became a literature teacher in 1965, and 52 years later she is still teaching. She also became a revered critic and commentator on Judaism. But Ostriker’s dedication to social action seems just as strong
as her academic pursuits.“In my politics I am with the prophets, feed the hungry, clothe the naked. ‘Justice, justice shalt thou seek.’ And God’s 
repeated command that we must ‘love the stranger.’”
But despite her passion for words, her concern for the downtrodden is not just talk.

Though now a resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which she said is inspiring a new stream of poems, Ostriker was a fixture in New Jerseyfor several decades. She lived in Princeton, and taught in the English 
Department at Rutgers University until her retirement in 2004. She still
has a presence across the river, serving as Distinguished Poet in 
Residence at Drew University in Madison and teaching in its 
Low-Residency Poetry MFA program.

Armed with a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, at the start
of her career as a teacher at Rutgers, the mother of three became a 
pioneer in the feminist critique of literature. “There was a sound in 
the air that was different from what poetry in English had ever been,” 
Ostriker told an interviewer when she retired. “I wanted to understand 
it, decipher it. It was important to me both as a poet and a critic.”
She wrote a number of barrier-breaking studies, including the 
acclaimed “Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women’s Poetry in 
America,” published in 1987. The study argued that since the 1960s, 
female poets had created a literary movement as distinct and important 
as Romanticism or Modernism. (Blue flower arts)
Martha Rosler Cleaning the drapes (1967-72)
Insomnia

But it's really fear you want to talk about
 and cannot find the words
 so you jeer at yourself

 you call yourself a coward
 you wake at 2 a.m. thinking failure,
 fool, unable to sleep, unable to sleep

 buzzing away on your mattress with two pillows
 and a quilt, they call them comforters,
 which implies that comfort can be bought

 and paid for, to help with the fear, the failure
 your two walnut chests of drawers snicker, the bookshelves mourn
 the art on the walls pities you, the man himself beside you

 asleep smelling like mushrooms and moss is a comfort
 but never enough, never, the ceiling fixture lightless
 velvet drapes hiding the window

 traffic noise like a vicious animal
 on the loose somewhere out there—
 you brag to friends you won't mind death only dying

 what a liar you are—
 all the other fears, of rejection, of physical pain,
 of losing your mind, of losing your eyes,

 they are all part of this!
 Pawprints of this! Hair snarls in your comb
 this glowing clock the single light in the room

From The Book of Seventy by Alicia Ostriker. Copyright © 2009 by Alicia Ostriker.
The Moon (A Lua) Tarsila do Amaral 1928
Slapeloosheid

Maar het is eigenlijk angst waar je over wilt praten
 en je kunt de woorden niet vinden
 dus beschimp je jezelf

 je noemt jezelf een lafaard
 je wordt wakker om 2 uur 's nachts denkend aan falen,
 dwaas, niet in staat om te slapen, niet in staat om te slapen

 zoemend op je matras met twee kussens
 en een dekbed, ze noemen ze comforters,
 wat impliceert dat comfort kan worden gekocht

 en betaald, om te helpen met de angst, het falen
 uw twee walnotenhouten ladenkastjes gniffelen, de boekenkasten treuren
 de kunst aan de muur heeft medelijden met je, de man zelf naast je

 slapend ruikend naar paddestoelen en mos is een troost
 maar nooit genoeg, nooit, het plafond armatuur lichtloos
 fluwelen gordijnen verbergen het raam

 verkeerslawaai als een gemeen dier
 loopt los ergens daarbuiten…
 je schept op tegen vrienden dat je de dood niet erg vindt, alleen sterven

 Wat een leugenaar ben je.
 alle andere angsten, van afwijzing, van fysieke pijn,
 om je verstand te verliezen, om je ogen te verliezen,

 ze maken allemaal deel uit van dit!
 Pootafdrukken van dit! Haar knarst in je kam
 deze gloeiende klok het enige licht in de kamer

 Uit Het boek van zeventig door Alicia Ostriker. Copyright © 2009 
Hayv Kahraman, Curfew, 2015, oil on linen, 185 x 244 cm, © Hayv Kahraman
I’m an insomniac. So one night I got up and sat in front of my laptop, 
which is an extension of my body, my muse, my friend, my therapist. My 
computer knows me better than I know myself and I sit in front of it 
sometimes when I can’t sleep, and it writes a poem. It wrote: So, this 
was nothing I’d been thinking about but I, or it, wrote the first stanza
of “The Blessing of the Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog.” Then I sat 
there, and my computer said, “That’s not enough for a whole poem.” Then I
wrote the tulip. I thought, “There must be something else,” and then I 
wrote the dog. But really, that poem wrote itself as: The Blessing of the Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog:
THE BLESSING OF THE OLD WOMEN, THE TULIP, AND THE DOG

To be blessed
 said the old woman
 is to live and work
 so hard
 God’s love
 washes right through you
 like milk through a cow

 To be blessed
 said the dark red tulip
 is to knock their eyes out
 with the slug of lust
 implied by
 your up-ended
 skirt

 To be blessed
 said the dog
 is to have a pinch
 of God
 inside you
 and all the other dogs
 can smell it
DE ZEGENING VAN DE OUDE VROUW, DE TULP EN DE HOND

Om gezegend te worden
 zei de oude vrouw
 is er te leven en te werken
 zo hard
 dat de liefde van God
  dwars door je heen spoelt
 als melk door een koe.

 Om gezegend te zijn
 zei de donkerrode tulp
dat is hun ogen uitslaan
 met een slok lust
 geïmpliceerd door
 je opgetrokken
 rok

 Om gezegend te zijn
 zei de hond
 is er een snuifje
 van God
 in jou
 en alle andere honden
 kunnen het ruiken
Loïs Mailou Jones, “La Baker,” 1977, acrylic and collage on canvas, Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts
Years
-for J.P.O.

I have wished you dead and myself dead,
 How could it be otherwise.
 I have broken into you like a burglar
 And you've set your dogs on me.
 You have been a hurricane to me
 And a pile of broken sticks
 A child could kick.
 I have climbed you like a monument, gasping,
 For the exercise and the view,
 And leaned over the railing at the top-
 Strong and warm, that summer wind.


Jaren
-voor J.P.O.

Ik heb jou dood gewenst en mezelf dood,
Hoe kan het ook anders.
Ik heb bij je ingebroken als een inbreker
En je hebt je honden op me losgelaten.
Je bent een orkaan voor me geweest
En een stapel gebroken stokken
Waar een kind tegenaan kan schoppen.
Ik heb je beklommen als een monument, hijgend,
Voor de oefening en het uitzicht,
En leunde over de reling aan de top…
Sterk en warm, die zomerwind.
Jo Baer, Royal Families (Curves, Points and Little Ones), 2013
“My mother was an English major who wrote poetry and read Shakespeare, 
 Browning, and Tennyson to my infant ears, so perhaps I was destined to 
 become a poet. But like many women, I was hesitant to claim such an 
 exalted vocation. When asked, ‘What do you do?’ I’d say, ‘I teach 
 English.’ But now I say, proudly, ‘I’m a poet.’ 
 “And yes, that is the center of my life.”

 Along with her growing contribution to literary commentary and 
 original poetry has come her religious analysis. It is of a piece with 
 those other aspects of her working life, on another plane and yet 
 entirely consistent with them. As she put it, she was writing midrash — 
 or commentary — before she knew there was a word for it.

 "My Judaism is the Judaism of a feminist,” she told NJJN. “At Rutgers
 University I taught a seminar entitled ‘The Bible and Feminist 
 Imagination,’ where we read large portions of the Bible alongside 
 feminist theology and commentary and midrash. And I co-taught a course 
 on the history of Jewish women. In my writing, I wrestle with the Bible,
 and with Jewish tradition, the way Jacob wrestles with the angel in 
 Genesis — to wrestle a blessing out of it.” (NJJN)
Henri Matisse Le Bonheur de Vivre 1905-1906
Matisse, Too

Matisse, Too
 Matisse, too, when the fingers ceased to work,
 Worked larger and bolder, his primary colors celebrating
 The weddings of innocence and glory, innocence and glory

 Monet when the cataracts blanketed his eyes
 Painted swirls of rage, and when his sight recovered
 Painted water lilies, Picasso claimed

 I do not seek, I find, and stuck to that story
 About himself, and made that story stick.
 Damn the fathers. We are talking about defiance.


 Matisse, ook

 Matisse, ook, toen de vingers ophielden met werken,
 Werkte groter en gedurfder, zijn primaire kleuren vierend
 De bruiloften van onschuld en glorie, onschuld en glorie

 Monet, toen de cataract zijn ogen verzegelde
 Schilderde wervelingen van woede, en toen zijn zicht herstelde
 Schilderde hij waterlelies, Picasso beweerde

 Ik zoek niet, ik vind, en bleef bij dat verhaal
 over hemzelf, en liet dat verhaal beklijven.
 Verdomde vaders. We hebben het over opstandigheid.
Three Men Walking, Three Brown Silhouettes

 They remember the dead who died in the resistance.
 It is in sweet tones that they speak of them.
 They shake their heads, still, after the dinner

 Walking back to the car, while an evening snow
 That has started windlessly, white from pearl-gray,
 Falls into streets that are already slushy.

 They shake their heads, as we do when there is something
 Too strange to believe,
 Or as a beast does, stunned by a blow.

 "To die in the resistance," they say, "is to fail
 To turn into slush, to escape this ugliness.
 It is at once to leap, a creamy swan,

 Upward." Three voices: oboe, piano, cello.
 The high one wishes to be pleasing, the middle
 To be practical, the deep to persevere.

 A movie theater lobby in front of them
 Throws its light on the sidewalk, like a woman
 Swiftly emptying a bucket of water:

 The flakes are falling in its yellow light.
 Then they pass a café, its light red neon,
 Then a closed pharmacy.

 —They pull sharp air
 Into their lungs, a pain that is a pleasure.
 "Try to live as if there were no God,"
 They don't say, but they mean.

 A recollection of purity, a clean
 Handkerchief each man feels in his own pocket,
 Perturbs them, slows their pace down. Now they have seen

 A yellow stain on a pile of old snow
 Between two parked cars, where a man has peed:
 The resistance. The falling flakes, falling

 On the men's hats. And now
 The snow grows heavier, falls on their stooping shoulders.
evening snow at Kambara nr 16 Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858)
Drie wandelende mannen, drie bruine silhouetten

Ze herdenken de doden die stierven in het verzet.
Het is op zoete toon dat ze over hen spreken.
Ze schudden hun hoofd, nog steeds, na het diner

Teruglopend naar de auto, terwijl een avondsneeuw
Die windstil is begonnen, wit van parelgrijs, 
In straten valt die al modderig zijn.

 Ze schudden hun hoofd, zoals wij doen als er iets
 te vreemd is om te geloven,
 Of zoals een beest doet, bedwelmd door een klap.

 "Te sterven in het verzet," zeggen ze, "is falen om
 in smeltwater te veranderen, om te ontsnappen aan deze lelijkheid.
 Het is in één keer springen, een romige zwaan,

 naar boven." Drie stemmen: hobo, piano, cello.
 De hoge wenst te behagen, de middelste
 om praktisch te zijn, de diepe om vol te houden.

 De lobby van een bioscoop voor hen
 gooit zijn licht op de stoep, zoals een vrouw
 die snel een emmer water leegt:

 De vlokken vallen in haar gele licht.
 Dan passeren ze een café, zijn lichtrode neon,
 Dan een gesloten apotheek.

 -Ze trekken scherpe lucht
 in hun longen, een pijn die een genot is.
 "Probeer te leven alsof er geen God is,"
 Ze zeggen het niet, maar ze menen het.

 Een herinnering aan zuiverheid, een schone
 Zakdoek die elke man in zijn eigen zak voelt,
 brengt hen in verwarring, vertraagt hun tempo. Nu hebben ze

 een gele vlek op een stapel oude sneeuw gezien
 tussen twee geparkeerde auto's, waar een man heeft geplast:
 De weerstand. De vallende vlokken, die vallen

 Op de hoeden van de mannen. En nu
 De sneeuw wordt zwaarder, valt op hun bukkende schouders.
Snow Scene at the Shrine of Benzaiten is a painting by Utagawa Hiroshige
Alicia Suskin Ostriker is a major American poet and critic. She is the author of numerous poetry collections, including, most recently, The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog; The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems, 1979–2011; and The Book of Seventy, winner of the National Jewish Book Award. She has received the Paterson Poetry Prize, the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award, among other honors. Ostriker teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Drew University and is currently a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.                     

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