Jewish Dutch poet Jacob Israël de Haan, theatre play


This February 2017 video is the trailer of the Dutch theatre play Salaam Jeruzalem, by theatre organisation De Nieuw Amsterdam, about Jewish Dutch author Jacob Israël de Haan.

On 25 March 2017 I went to see this play in Leiden.

Jacob Israël de Haan (1881-1924) was from an Orthodox Jewish family. He broke with that religion and became a socialist journalist. In 1903, he collected money for the children of railway workers who had been sacked because they had gone on strike. He was also a gay rights pioneer, writing novels like Pijpelijntjes. He is seen as a predecessor of Amnesty International. Because of his activity, inspired by a meeting with exiled Russian anarchist Kropotkin, against human rights abuses in pre-World War I czarist Russian prisons; jointly with socialist poetess Henriette Roland Holst.

De Haan himself wrote poetry as well.

This video shows some of his 1919-1924 poems.

He had contacts in the Dutch literary avant-garde around De Nieuwe Gids magazine. And he wrote works about laws; he was a Legum Doctor.

De Haan’s experiences in czarist Russia made him aware of the evils of anti-Semitism. That contributed to De Haan’s re-conversion to Judaism. He also became a Zionist. In 1919 he emigrated to Palestine, then a British colony.

In the video at the top of this blog post, one of De Haan’s poems, written in Palestine, is recited. It is (my translation):

Unrest

Who in Amsterdam often said, “Jerusalem”
And was driven to Jerusalem,
He now says with a dreamy voice:
“Amsterdam. Amsterdam.”

As the poem shows, De Haan had become ambivalent about emigrating from Amsterdam. Zionism as practiced in Palestine turned out to be different from De Haan’s lofty ideals when he had been in Amsterdam. De Haan became an advocate of negotiating with Palestinian Arabs so that Jews and Arabs might live together peacefully.

That made him an enemy of the Zionist paramilitary organisation Haganah. On 13 June 1924, Haganah fighter Avraham Tehomi murdered De Haan, as ordered by Haganah commander Itzhak Ben-Zvi (later the second president of the state of Israel). A crowd of 5,000 people attended De Haan’s funeral in Jerusalem.

Left Zionist Moshe Beilinson reacted to the murder:

The flag of our movement must not be tarnished. Neither by the blood of the innocent, nor by the blood of the guilty. Otherwise – our movement will be bad, because blood draws other bloods. Blood always takes revenge and if you walk down this path once, you do not know where it would lead you.

A line from a De Haan poem is inscribed in the monument in Amsterdam for LGBTQ people murdered by the 1940-1945 German nazi occupiers of the Netherlands. The line is ‘Naar vriendschap zulk een mateloos verlangen’; ‘Such a boundless desire for friendship’.

A review of the play is here. Another review is here. And here.

There are five actors in the play. Two of them play Arab music. Egyptian Dutch actor Sabri Saad El Hamus plays both De Haan and, at the end, an Arab singer. Ludo van der Winkel plays the cynical antagonists of De Haan; like Arnold Aletrino (named in the play only by his pseudonym Sam from De Haan’s gay novel Pijpelijntjes), the older fellow author who betrayed Jacob Israel when Pijpelijntjes caused a scandal in homophobic public opinion. And P.L. Tak (named in the play), newspaper chief who sacked De Haan because of Pijpelijntjes.

Randy Fokke plays both De Haan’s wife and Carry van Bruggen, De Haan’s sister and also a famous Dutch author. Carry van Bruggen never got over the murder of her one year younger brother.

This English language video is about De Haan.

In the play, by Dutch playwright and director Gerardjan Rijnders, there are several allusions to happenings after the death of De Haan; including recent ones. When talking about De Haan joining the marxist Dutch Social Democratic Workers’ Party, actors say: ‘the predecessor of the Dutch PvdA labour party … or what is left of it’. In the recent 15 March 2017 Dutch elections, the PvdA went from 38 to 9 MPs because they had been junior partners in a right-wing coalition government. The play also mentions French playwright Jean Genet’s solidarity with Palestinians in the 1980s. This is followed by a xenophobic, Geert Wilders-like rant by Ludo van der Winkel.

The play includes a theory about right and left halves of the human brain, supposedly linked to the origins of religions. It is unclear what this has to do with De Haan. I think it is one of the weak sides of this interesting play about an interesting person.

Ancient Aeschylus play and today’s refugees


This video from Scotland says about itself:

29 September 2016

Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Actors Touring Company Present

THE SUPPLIANT WOMEN

by Aeschylus, in a new version by David Greig.

1 – 15 October 2016 at The Lyceum and then touring.

The creative team talk about staging this 2500 year old play that feels more relevant than ever, working with a community chorus and combining ancient and contemporary music….

Learn more about the play here.

By Paul Foley in England:

Women begging immediate attention

Tuesday 21st March 2017

Written almost 2,500 years ago, a drama on the migrants’ plight is a play for today if ever there was one, says PAUL FOLEY

The Suppliant Women

Royal Exchange, Manchester

5/5

THIRTY-FIVE women, fists defiantly aloft, chant: “Power to women!” The lights snap off and the theatre erupts with cheers.

As endings go, they don’t come much better than this and David Greig’s scintillating adaptation of Aeschylus’s The Suppliant Women deserves that audience response.

In it, migrant women risk everything as they cross treacherous seas before washing up on Greek shores. Fleeing forced marriage, incest and rape, they seek asylum. As the women enter at the opening, suppliant batons in hand, they chant and move as in some native American ritual dance. Their fear is palpable but their pride is intact.

“To act or not to act” is the dilemma facing The King of Argos. Protecting these migrant women will lead to war but fail them and Argos will be shamed for ever. His solution is to rely on democracy and let the people decide.

On the eve of the vote, the women are reminded that as migrants they will be feared and mistrusted. They must remain meek and respectful so that the people — and we — can see the merits of their cause.

Ramin Gray’s spellbinding production for the Actors Touring Company, aided by Sasha Milavic Davies’s choreography and John Browne’s music, has 35 women — all volunteers from the local community — making the case on behalf of refugees around the world, with Gemma May superb as the ringleader corralling her sisters.

Aeschylus inverts the normal Greek dramatic tradition by putting the chorus, usually a device to drive the narrative forward, centre stage. But here it is itself the story, with the main protagonists merely on the periphery.

Moving to the rhythm of the sea, they sway back and forth like hypnotised snakes as they dance to the haunting sounds of Callum Armstrong’s Aulos pipes.

Then, suddenly, they’re whipped into a frenzy, as if an ill-wind is tossing them into a vortex of doom.

In a world where scapegoating migrants and refugees escaping poverty and war is the norm in some quarters, Aeschylus reminds us of our common humanity.

Highly recommended. Runs until April 1, box office: royalexchange.co.uk.

International poetry festival in Iraq


This video, in Spanish, is about Maurilio de Miguel from Spain reading his poem Escudo humano en Bagdad (Human shield in Baghdad) at the Al-Marbed international poetry festival in Basra, Iraq, on 24 March 2010.

By Andy Croft from Britain:

A sense of shared humanity in a war-ravaged country

Saturday 4th March 2017

ANDY CROFT reports on the annual Al-Marbed international poetry festival, held last month in Basra, Iraq

I HAVE never seen so many people at a poetry festival before – or so many Kalashnikovs.

A few weeks ago I was in the southern Iraq city of Basra with my friend, the Punjabi poet Amarjit Chandan. We were guests of the Iraqi Writers Union for the 13th annual Al-Marbed international poetry festival.

“Poetry is the Present and Future of Basra” read the banner over the stage in the main hall of the hotel where most of the readings were held.

Dedicated to the late Iraqi poet and communist Mehdi Mohammad Ali, the festival attracted almost 100 poets from Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran, Kuwait, Sudan, Iraq, Assyria, Lebanon, Syria and the Iraqi diaspora scattered across the world.

During a crowded week of readings and debates, poetry and music, food and friendship, we visited the birthplace of Basra’s most famous poet Badr Shakir al Sayyab, as well as the Basra international football stadium. There was a showing of the film Samt al-Rai (The Silence of the Shepherd), introduced by its director Raad Mushatat, and one of the festival readings took place on a river cruise on the Shat al-Arab waterway.

The British poetry world likes to think it is popular, with its prizes and awards and celebrities. But this is nothing compared to the role of poetry in Arab culture, where TV shows like Million’s Poet and Prince of Poets regularly attract more viewers than football.

Although six million Iraqis — 20 per cent of the population — cannot read or write, the idea that poetry is a publicly owned, shared and common language somehow persists across all classes.

At some of the evening readings, there must have been 1,000 people — men and women, young and old. One of the most striking performances was by a six-year-old boy reciting, entirely from memory, a 10-minute-long poem comparing Iraq to a beautiful woman.

Although Amarjit and I did not know the literal meaning of many of the poems, we were able to concentrate on the richness of their different cadences and rhythms.

Thanks to our hard-working translators we were also introduced to the work of some fascinating poets, including Iraqi poets Abdulkareem Kasid and Chawki Abdelamir, Hani al-Selwy from Yemen, Mojtaba Al Tatan from Bahrain, Sabah Kasim, Najah Ibrahim, and Souzan Ibrahim from Syria, and Al Wathiq Younis from Sudan.

But, of course, the festival was taking place in a deadly context. Iraq is still at war. The billboards by the side of the roads don’t advertise consumer goods but the faces of young men killed fighting Isis. Each night I was woken by the sound of gunfire to mark the repatriation of local boys killed fighting in Mosul. A notice outside the new shopping centre in Times Square solemnly reminds shoppers: “No smoking. No weapons.”

With a heavily armed security presence at most of the readings, it was hardly surprising that the festival was a serious-minded affair. There were no stand-up poets, comics or performance poets. Instead most of the poets recited long poems, usually about the suffering and grief of the Iraqi people.

An old man read a poem about the death of his son, killed fighting in Fallujah. One poet compared Iraqi children to a forest of young trees cut down before they are full grown. Another observed that every Iraqi child grows up with an older brother called Death.

There was a poem about a local teacher injured by an Isis car bomb. Although she managed to crawl out of the car, her clothes were on fire — which meant that her modesty before God was threatened — so she climbed back into the burning car to die.

Another poet described the poor of the world as the fuel that keeps the fires of war burning. The prayers of the religious, he said, do not belong to God, only the tears of a mother grieving for her dead child.

It is more important than ever that we understand as much as we can about our neighbours on this small planet.

Despite the commercial, ideological, cultural and political pressures to emphasise our uniqueness and our separateness, the differences between us are not very great.

The Al-Marbed poetry festival is a brave and important reminder that poetry is one of the ways in which we can enjoy and explore those differences and at the same time assert our shared humanity.

Henry David Thoreau, United States environmentalist author bicentenary


Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an essayist, poet, philosopher, opponent of slavery, naturalist, and historian from the USA.

This video from the USA says about him:

31 May 2009

Henry David Thoreau sought the simple life in 1845 when he moved to the woods outside Boston to live on Walden Pond. We visit the remains of his home. …

In wildness is the preservation of the world,” wrote Henry David Thoreau in 1851 at a time when he was one of the few thinking about environmental conservation. Six years previous he had embarked on a now-famous experiment in simple living. He’d gone to the woods outside Boston to live in a 150-square-foot cabin to avoid living “what was not life”. …

He spent two years, two months and two days in his cabin at Walden Pond and in 1854, he published his reflections on life in the woods in the book Walden. The book is credited with helping to inspire environmental awareness. …

Due to his detailed observations of the natural world during his days at Walden, his work is now being used to help modern scientists study climate change.

When he died in 1862, the industrial revolution was just beginning to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. His recordings of when and where plants flowered in the area are now being studied to show patterns of climate change.

Conservation biologists reported in 2008 – based on Thoreau’s research- that common species are flowering 7 days earlier than they did during his day and 27% of the species he studied have disappeared (another 36% are endangered).

Henry David Thoreau did not only inspire environmentalism in the USA, but also in many other counties. This morning, Dutch Vroege Vogels radio said that without Thoreau, famous Naardermeer nature reserve would now be a landfill.

Thoreau was also a big influence on literature, both in the USA and elsewhere. Walden, the name of Thoreau’s cabin and book, became the name for the Walden utopian socialist community in the Gooi region as well; founded by Dutch poet Frederik van Eeden.

From the site of The Thoreau Society in the USA:

Thoreau Bicentennial Gathering: Celebrating the Life, Works, and Legacy of Henry David Thoreau

The Thoreau Society Annual Gathering & Bicentennial Celebration of
Thoreau’s Life, Works, and Legacy

July 11-16, 2017
Concord, Massachusetts

Be it life or death, we crave only reality.
Henry D. Thoreau

Miffy the rabbit artist Dick Bruna, RIP


This video says about itself:

Farmer John • Miffy Classics

17 February 2017

Farmer John is plantings seeds. The hungry birds are eating all his seeds. He is angry and makes a scarecrow to scare them of. After a while the seeds turn into beautiful blue flowers. He also makes a birdhouse. Now he can enjoy his flowers and the birds eating the seeds he gives them.

From the Daily Mirror in Britain:

Dick Bruna dead: Creator of cartoon rabbit Miffy dies in his sleep after selling 80 million books

Bruna began his career as an illustrator of covers for books including Ian Fleming‘s James Bond series and the Inspector Maigret thrillers of Georges Simenon

By Thomas Escrit

14:07, 17 FEB 2017

Dick Bruna, the children’s author and artist who created the cartoon white rabbit Miffy, has died aged 89.

Bruna, who sold more than 80 million Miffy books, died in his sleep last night in his hometown of Utrecht, his publisher said in a statement.

Bruna created the character to entertain his infant son after seeing a rabbit in the dunes while on a seaside holiday.

He went on to relate the giant-eared, orange-pullovered bunny’s adventures in dozens of books sold worldwide.

Born in 1929 into a family of publishers, Bruna began his career as an illustrator of covers for books including Ian Fleming’s James Bond series and the Inspector Maigret thrillers of Georges Simenon.

Miffy, known as Nijntje in Dutch, was his best known creation, enjoying great popularity in Asia and adorning lunchboxes the world over.

New crab species gets Harry Potter name


This video says about itself:

1 February 2017

A new species of crab has been named after two characters from JK Rowling‘s “Harry Potter” stories, according to a new study in “ZooKeys”.

From Science News:

Coral reef crab named after Harry Potter characters

16 years after its discovery, the crustacean is labeled a new species

By Helen Thompson

7:00am, February 13, 2017

Deep beneath coral rubble in reefs off the coast of Guam, there lives a pale, black-eyed crab whose true taxonomic character has long been unknown.

In 2001, amateur researcher Harry Conley discovered the translucent crab burrowing among reef rocks. Eventually, two specimens — each several millimeters long — came to the lab of biologist Peter Ng at the National University of Singapore. Now, Ng and colleague Jose Mendoza have identified the quirky crustacean as a new species and bestowed on it the moniker Harryplax severus, the researchers report January 23 in ZooKeys.

The genus name honors two Harrys: Conley, who died in 2002 and had a reputation for finding otherworldly ocean critters, and Harry Potter, the titular character in J.K. Rowling’s popular books. Mendoza, a Potter fan, suggested the species designation severus — a reference to the books’ notoriously uptight and misjudged Severus Snape, whose true nature remains elusive until the series’ end.

H. severus belongs to a group of crabs first found in shadowy caves on Christmas Island. With small beady eyes, well-developed antennae, washed-out coloration and long legs, the crabs are suited to the dimly lit nooks and crannies of Guam’s rubble beds — a place where Snape, a prickly potions master who worked in a dungeon, might feel right at home.

A new species of mangrove-climbing micro-crab from Hong Kong, Haberma tingkok, has recently been discovered, described and named: here.

Donald Trump, Attila the Stockbroker poems


This satiric video says about itself:

Belgium welcomes Trump in his own words

2 February 2017

After the Netherlands’ video, Belgium wanted to present itself to Donald Trump as well, so here we go.

Watch other European countries’ videos here.

These three poems by English poet Attila the Stockbroker are about United States President Donald Trump:

A TALE OF THREE BUSHES

Thatcher met Bush senior.
Blair met Bush no-hoper.
But May has drawn the short straw.
She just met Bush groper.

A MAN OF HIS WORD

As the last Trump
exploded from the febrile rectum
of the loathsome demagogue
enveloping all before him
in a stinking fog of bigotry and hatred
he turned to the cameras
and spoke.
‘My fellow Americans:
During my election campaign
I made you some promises.
I am following through
on those promises.
Here are three of them.
I promised to build a wall.
To ban Muslims.
To end free healthcare.
I am keeping those promises.
I repeat:
I am following through.
All over America.’

THERESA THE APPEASER

Theresa The Appeaser
Met the lady garden squeezer
Her brain was in the freezer
She treated him like Caesar
He’s a really nasty geezer
So tell Queen Liz, if he sees her,
“Grab his knob with a tweezer
And revoke his sodding visa!”