British poetess Judi Sutherland about blogging


Judi Sutherland

By Judi Sutherland in Britain:

Poetry that commits to the struggle

Thursday 23rd April 2015

The Stare’s Nest poetry portal has put paid to cynics like Jeremy Paxman and their disparaging views of poets. Judi Sutherland has the story

Poets know that creative ideas sometimes emerge from a collision of disparate events. This was the case with my poetry blog/zine, The Stare’s Nest.

It had two unlikely muses: Jeremy Paxman and Nigel Farage.

The European elections of May 2014 plunged me into despair. I watched the rise of Ukip, aided by Farage’s constant appearances on TV and in print. After the results were announced, the news programmes reported that 31 million people had not bothered to vote. Presumably they didn’t think it mattered.

I was reminded of the variously-attributed aphorism that “all that it takes for evil to triumph in the world is for good men to do nothing.” And the British electorate did nothing, in droves.

A few days later, during the annual hoopla of the Forward Prizes for Poetry, Jeremy Paxman — the profoundly underqualified chair of the judges — declared that poetry has “connived with its own irrelevance,” because, according to Paxo, poets have stopped talking to the public and are only addressing each other.

I wanted to create a space for poetry that is relevant to that apparently oblivious public. Poetry that deals with social and political issues in a clear and direct way.

I remembered Andrew Motion, who taught our MA class at Royal Holloway, exhorting us to “write about the big stuff,” and that’s what I wanted to draw out from poets.

I set up a website and called it The Stare’s Nest, after a poem by WB Yeats, “stare” being an Irish term for “starling.”

Yeats, writing in 1922 about the civil war in Ireland, wrote: “We had fed our hearts on fantasies / The heart’s gone brutal from the fare / More substance in our enmities / Than in our love; O honey bees / Come build in the empty house of the Stare.”

I recognised the syndrome. In Britain today, enmities have been whipped up towards religious believers, immigrant groups, the poor, the disabled, the unemployed. The way our media operates is based on engendering hatred and setting people against each other (see Benefits Street for example), to cause the kind of sensation that sells papers and raises TV ratings.

We are encouraged to feed our hearts on fantasies and they grow brutal on this diet of fear and suspicion.

So I asked for poems about righteous anger, poems which rail against bigotry and political guile, also asked for poems which illustrate the things that really matter: the relationships and encounters, the little celebrations of what we have in common.

Tell us how it is, I asked the poets, but also tell us how it could be.

The poems started flowing in and mostly they have been of incredibly high quality. We have had contributions from Brazil to Bengal, from Tunisia to Shetland. Some well-known poets have been kind enough to contribute — I won’t list them, but you can find them in our tag cloud — and to all of them I am deeply grateful.

We have also featured new poets, sometimes giving space to their very first published work.

Some poems are polished and beautiful, while others are less sophisticated, but were included because of the passion behind the lines or because of the poet’s unique life experience.

Through all of those, I feel able to trace a still, small voice speaking of hope in the face of the many counsels of despair that we are subjected to.

These poems build our understanding of what we share: our common humanity. You can find them at www.thestaresnest.com.

I promised to publish a new poem every day from the site’s inception last July to the general election. So far we have published about 270.

We have over a hundred hits every day, plus 679 followers who have the daily poem delivered to their inbox and a respectable presence on Twitter (@thestaresnest).

After the election, I’m not sure. It’s a lot of work, at the moment I also have a full-time job and my own writing is falling by the wayside. I’m wondering whether there should be a little book — The Best of the Nest, maybe — to sell in aid of a charity that shares the site’s ethos.

If that happens, I will do my best to get a relevant copy to Jeremy Paxman.

Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, RIP


This video series from the USA is called ‘Open Veins of Latin America‘ author Eduardo Galeano on Democracy NOW! 2006.

By Len Phelan in Britain:

Eduardo Galeano, writer and journalist

Saturday 18th April 2015

September 3 1940 – April 13 2015

“Our principal enemy is not imperialism, or the bourgeoisie, or the bureaucracy. Our principal enemy is fear and we carry it inside,” one of the women who helped overthrow the Bolivian dictatorship in 1978 once told Eduardo Galeano.

The great Uruguayan journalist and writer, who died last Monday, might have written those words as an epitaph to himself. If anyone consistently and courageously gave encouragement to those in struggle — particularly the indigenous populations of Latin America and the oppressed globally — it was Galeano.

Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, Galeano started work at 20 and in the early 1960s was a contributor and later editor of the influential weekly journal Marcha.

Following the 1973 fascist military coup Galeano was imprisoned and later forced to flee Uruguay. His seminal 1971 book Open Veins of Latin America — which catalogues the pillage of the continent by European and later US colonialism and imperialism over five centuries — was banned by the right-wing military governments in his native country, Chile and Argentina where he settled for a short time before being forced to flee again to Spain in 1976 following General Jorge Videla’s bloody coup.

The Open Veins was the book Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez gave to Barack Obama at the opening of the Summit of the Americas in 2009. US columnist Andres Oppenheimer described it as “a diatribe whose underlying theme is that Latin America’s poverty is caused by US imperialism” and, in lurid prose that must have amused Galeano, stated that Obama showed misplaced appreciation for the gift “considering that Chavez’s gesture was the equivalent of presenting Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf to an Israeli president.” The book subsequently went to number two on the Amazon best-seller list.

When exiled in Spain he wrote Memory of Fire, regarded as one of the most powerful literary indictments of colonialism in the Americas. The trilogy — Genesis, Faces and Masks and Century of the Wind — combines history, journalism and biography in an incandescent prose.

As former Uruguayan president Jose Mujica has said of his writing: “He worked a gigantic path which helped all Latin Americans understand our roots. His work did more than illuminate truths — it painted our suffering and our shared feelings.

“Galeano imbued this work with a thorough effort unearthing even native-American legends and went on to discover a kind of telluric past depicting ancestral cosmologies which lay at the heart of the history of America.” He was a “sharer of dreams, of hopes, of pain, of frustrations and a gigantic love for life.”

In 1985 Galeano returned to Montevideo and, following the victory of the Broad Front alliance in the 2004 Uruguayan elections — which ushered in the first left-wing government in Uruguayan history — backed the new administration.

The Uruguayan people had used “common sense,” he stated, because they were “tired of being cheated” by the traditional Colorado and Blanco parties.

In 2005, Galeano joined the advisory board of the pan-Latin American television station TeleSur based in Caracas, Venezuela. He was a supporter of the Bolivarian revolution and an unswerving, though unromantic, friend of Cuba. “I have never confused Cuba with paradise so why should I now confuse it with hell?” he once remarked. “I am just one among those who believe that Cuba can be loved without lying or shutting up (about it).”

“Fidel Castro is a symbol of national dignity. For us Latin Americans — who have been humiliated for over 500 hundred years — he is an endearing symbol.”

Throughout his career, Galeano was showered with academic and literary awards in the US, Scandinavia, his native Uruguay and Latin America, where he gained the prestigious Casa de las Americas prize in 1975, 1978 and 2011.

One of his last books’ Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone, typifies his extraordinary output. These short stories, some only a few paragraphs long, provide historical insights and radical perspectives on everything from the origins of fire to football — one of Galeano’s great obsessions — and along the way pays homage to communist leaders like Lenin, Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh.

In a recent interview, Galeano restated his literary mission. It was to give voice to “the nobodies: the no-ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits, dying through life, screwed every which way. Who are not, but could be. Who don’t speak languages, but dialects. Who don’t have religions, but superstitions. Who don’t create art, but handicrafts. Who don’t have culture, but folklore. Who are not human beings, but human resources. Who do not have faces, but arms. Who do not have names, but numbers. Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the crime reports of the local paper. The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them.”

Galeano never lost sight of that mission and it is why his books will endure as long as the “nobodies” exist.

Uruguayan Writer Eduardo Galeano Dies at Age 74 in Montevideo


Originally posted on JSC: Jamaicans in Solidarity with Cuba:

Source:  TeleSUR
April 13, 2015

The famed Uruguayan writer and journalist authored over 35 books, including the “Open Veins of Latin America.”

eduardo galeano 4Internationally awarded Uruguayan author and journalist Eduardo Galeano died Monday of lung cancer at age 75 in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, according to local newspaper Subrayado.

The writer of about 35 books, including the “Open Veins of Latin America,” which became a bestseller overnight after the late President Hugo Chavez handed the book over to his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama during the fifth Summit of the Americas in 2009, was born Sept. 3, 1940.

The confirmation of his death was also covered by Spanish daily El Pais and Europe Press.

One of the most notable authors of Latin American literature

Galeano is considered to be one of the most notable authors of Latin American literature. Among his many works are “Memories of the Fire,” “The Following Days,” and “Guatemala, an Occupied Country.”

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Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline on film


This video says about itself:

11 March 2015

Official trailer for ‘Cymbeline‘ starring Ethan Hawke, Ed Harris, Milla Jovovich, John Leguizamo, Penn Badgley and Dakota Johnson.

By David Walsh in the USA:

Cymbeline: Michael Almereyda returns to Shakespeare

11 April 2015

A decade and a half ago, Michael Almereyda, the American filmmaker, directed a modern-day version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet with Ethan Hawke in the lead role. We wrote that “Almereyda…has seen the play as the tragedy of idealistic youth caught up and destroyed by official greed and corruption.” Hawke’s Hamlet, we commented, “is not a tour de force performance, but an element of a calm, serious approach to the play.”

Almereyda (born 1959), who has had an uneven filmmaking career, perhaps not all his fault, has now returned to Shakespeare, but to one of his lesser known and less frequently performed plays, Cymbeline. The work is not a complete success, but it has an urgency and seriousness that are unusual in American movies at present, and is certainly worth viewing (it is available online).

The original play is set in ancient Britain. The British king Cymbeline (a historical figure who lived around the time of Christ, although much of the play is based on legends and literary sources, or was simply invented by Shakespeare) has stopped paying tribute to the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus. War threatens. Complicating matters, Cymbeline’s daughter Imogen has secretly married a man raised in her father’s court, Posthumus Leonatus, infuriating the monarch, who wants her to marry Cloten, the brutish son of his second (and treacherous) wife.

Posthumus is banished. In Rome, he encounters the sinister Iachimo. The latter bets Posthumus that he can seduce Imogen and bring Posthumus evidence of his triumph.

When Iachimo later pays Imogen a visit at the British court, she angrily rejects his advances. Nonetheless, he manages to produce sufficient fraudulent “proofs” of her infidelity back in Rome to convince Posthumus. In a letter, he instructs his servant, Pisanio, to kill Imogen after luring her to Milford Haven, on the west coast of Wales. However, in the course of their trip there, Pisanio shows Imogen the fateful message and urges her to carry on to the Haven dressed as a boy.

Meanwhile, Cymbeline’s other two sons, believed to be dead twenty years previously, were actually kidnapped by an unfairly disgraced nobleman, Belarius, and live a relatively idyllic existence in the Welsh mountains. Their real sister, Imogen, calling herself Fidele (“the faithful one”) now stumbles on Belarius and the two youths in their lair and is welcomed as a member of their household. Cloten, having been unceremoniously rejected by Imogen, sets out after her with bloody, sadistic revenge on his mind.

Ultimately, a battle takes place between the invading Romans and the native forces, which goes badly for the Britons until Posthumus, Belarius and the king’s two sons (although they are still ignorant of their royal birth) make a stand. Everything unravels and unfolds in a lengthy final scene, with relatively benign results. Forgiveness and reconciliation are the order of the day. In fact, it is one of Shakespeare’s few plays about “tumultuous broils” that end on a harmonious note, so much so that even King Cymbeline seems surprised: “Never was a war did cease…with such a peace.”

Almereyda has transposed the action to contemporary America. Cymbeline (Ed Harris) is the head of a motorcycle gang at odds with corrupt police, i.e., the Romans. Posthumus (Penn Badgley) is a somewhat unlikely, skateboarding member of the gang hopelessly but immaturely smitten with Imogen (Dakota Johnson, daughter of Melanie Griffith and grand-daughter of Tippi Hedren). The scheming Iachimo (Hawke) shows Posthumus apparently compromising photos of Imogen on his iPad. And so forth.

The director has retained the general outlines of the play, although the national-patriotic British element is obviously downplayed. The language is still Shakespeare’s, but Almereyda has edited it down perhaps by half and also re-arranged portions of it.

Like all such modernizing attempts perhaps, this Cymbeline has its ups and downs. The greatest strengths of the film, as they were of Almereyda’s Hamlet, are its simplicity and directness. The filmmaker does without special effects, bombast or much effort to explain his choices. The film simply begins near a baseball diamond at night, with Imogen’s lines to Posthumus from Act I, Scene II, or a slightly amended version of them: “Look here, love; / This diamond was my mother’s: take it, heart; / But keep it till you woo another wife, / When Imogen is dead,” and proceeds from there.

The scene between Iachimo and Imogen in which he attempts to seduce her, by slandering Posthumus, and then changes tack, pretending that his effort was merely a test of her loyalty to her husband, is well done. Johnson is not always up the challenge, but her sincerity in playing Imogen—one of Shakespeare’s great female characters—wins one over, here and in other sequences. She is effective and moving when she tells Iachimo early on in the scene: “You do seem to know / Something of me, or what concerns me: pray you, — / Since doubting things go ill often hurts more / Than to be sure they do; for certainties / Either are past remedies, or, timely knowing, / The remedy then born—discover to me / What both you spur and stop.”

Milla Jovovich, who has generally been stuck in stupid films, is a revelation as the scheming queen, a would-be Lady Macbeth. Her version of Bob Dylan’s “Dark Eyes” is also memorable. Delroy Lindo as Belarius stands out, as do Vondie Curtis-Hall, as Caius Lucius, the leader of the Romans, Peter Gerety as the doctor, and Kevin Corrigan, in a small part, as the hangman. The others are generally adequate or better.

Almereyda told an interviewer: “I’m very grateful to actors who will work for low budgets because that shows true commitment. So everyone who was involved in this movie was working because they wanted to collaborate with William Shakespeare.”

The imagery is relatively creative and thoughtful, the score is disturbing, melancholy. This is a film without a wide range of emotions, they remain mostly on the somber side, but those explored are seriously explored. The overall mood is one of sympathy for the young, the marginalized, the rebellious.

And one has Shakespeare, which is an advantage. There are beautiful and powerful lines in the play that Almereyda has kept. Imogen, in agony over her separation from Posthumus, laments: “O, that husband! / My supreme crown of grief!” Iachimo, perhaps laying the basis for his eventual change of heart, tells Imogen that “the Gods have made you unlike all others,” and after sneaking into her bedroom at night and snatching compromising images of her while she sleeps, exclaims to himself and about himself, “Though this a heavenly angel, hell is here.” When Imogen imagines that the decapitated Cloten is her beloved Posthumus, she cries: “O Posthumus! alas, / Where is thy head? where’s that? / … And left this [her own] head on.” And in the final moments, when a happy Posthumus lifts Imogen off her feet and holds her in mid-air, he tells her lovingly: “Hang there like a fruit, my soul, / Till the tree die!” And Cymbeline, finally: “Pardon’s the word to all.”

Almereyda has limited himself to relatively elementary ideas about the play’s content. He told an interviewer that the movie is “about a family and broken trust. It’s a kind of a blighted love story, and almost every man in the story has some imbalanced relationship with a woman. And that intrigued me. It seemed, in some ways, a very modern set of relationships.”

Nonetheless, as noted above, his imagery suggests something more critical about the wider, contemporary world, and more threatening, in the spirit of the play itself. Harold C. Goddard, in his well-known The Meaning of Shakespeare (1951), writes that while “Shakespeare was no Jacobin,” the play paints a picture of “The Power of the English throne wedded to Corruption, who is slowly poisoning it.”

Goddard, writing of the queen’s vicious son, observes: “Nor does Cloten stand alone. He is merely the dark consummate flower of a nobility and court society that is rotten to the core. The Queen is villainous, the King pusillanimous, the British lords cowardly and panicky in battle.” Shakespeare’s Cymbeline provided an intensity that the director had sufficient intellectual wherewithal and integrity to have absorbed and passed along to his audience.

“Here’s what we do know: This is the 399th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and his outsize importance to Western culture looms as large as ever. Christopher Marlowe would be lime-green with envy over the popularity of his one-time rival’s plays; there are entire theater troupes devoted to performing Shakespeare, and the finest actors jockey to commit their portrayals of Hamlet and Lady Macbeth to film. Oh, and then there are the remixes.” (Read more here)