Norwegian publisher recycles Trump speeches as poetry


Norwegians demonstrating against Donald Trump in Oslo in January 2017. Photo: Vidar Ruud / NTB scanpix

From The Local in Norway:

Norwegians upcycle Trump speeches into poetry collection

12 May 2017

A Norwegian publisher who has released a collection of Donald Trump’s speeches repurposed as poetry says that the new book shows a different side to the US President.

“I know words… I have the best words,” Donald Trump once said in his superlative way.

Now those words by the new US president have been pulled together as a “collection of poetry” in Norway.

Who knew? Trump the poet?

“What Trump says is closer to poetry and fiction than to reality,” said the Norwegian man who created the collection, Chris Felt.

We’re appalled that his rhetoric which seems to have little thought or preparation behind it could have won an electoral campaign,” Felt told the newspaper Aftenposten.

The book’s tongue-in-cheek title is “Make poetry great again” — a play on Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America great again“.

The content is composed strictly from speeches, interviews and other statements that the 70-year-old has given over the years.

Among the choice bits turned to poems in the book are words about his daughter that Trump said around 10 years ago.

“I have said

if Ivanka

were not my daughter,

perhaps

I would be dating her”

Felt said the words may be “terribly macho, pitiful and confusing but when the quotations have space around them I see other facets of him”.

Reading Trump‘s words as poetry Felt said he felt in them “more despair, more insecurity and perhaps an inferiority complex“.

According to the publisher Kaggen, the first print run was 2,000 copies — one of which has been sent to Trump. Now the question is whether his penchant for superlatives will make it a “bestseller”.

Former Norwegian prime minister stopped by new US entry controls: here.

Russian poet Yevtushenko dies


This video says about itself:

28 October 2011

Yevgeny Yevtushenko recites his poem “Babi Yar” with music from ShostakovichSymphony No. 13. Kurt Masur & The New York Philharmonic.

Today, Yevgeny Yevtushenko has died. He was 84 years old.

His best known poem, Babi Yar, is about the mass murder by nazis of Jews in Kyiv, capital of the then German nazi-occupied Ukrainian soviet republic.

Translation of Babi Yar:

BABI YAR

By Yevgeni Yevtushenko
Translated by Benjamin Okopnik, 10/96

No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.
I am afraid.
Today, I am as old
As the entire Jewish race itself.

I see myself an ancient Israelite.
I wander o’er the roads of ancient Egypt
And here, upon the cross, I perish, tortured
And even now, I bear the marks of nails.

It seems to me that Dreyfus is myself. *1*
The Philistines betrayed me – and now judge.
I’m in a cage. Surrounded and trapped,
I’m persecuted, spat on, slandered, and
The dainty dollies in their Brussels frills
Squeal, as they stab umbrellas at my face.

I see myself a boy in Belostok *2*
Blood spills, and runs upon the floors,
The chiefs of bar and pub rage unimpeded
And reek of vodka and of onion, half and half.

I’m thrown back by a boot, I have no strength left,
In vain I beg the rabble of pogrom,
To jeers of “Kill the Jews, and save our Russia!”
My mother’s being beaten by a clerk.

O, Russia of my heart, I know that you
Are international, by inner nature.
But often those whose hands are steeped in filth
Abused your purest name, in name of hatred.

I know the kindness of my native land.
How vile, that without the slightest quiver
The antisemites have proclaimed themselves
The “Union of the Russian People!”

It seems to me that I am Anne Frank,
Transparent, as the thinnest branch in April,
And I’m in love, and have no need of phrases,
But only that we gaze into each other’s eyes.
How little one can see, or even sense!
Leaves are forbidden, so is sky,
But much is still allowed – very gently
In darkened rooms each other to embrace.

-“They come!”

-“No, fear not – those are sounds
Of spring itself. She’s coming soon.
Quickly, your lips!”

-“They break the door!”

-“No, river ice is breaking…”

Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
The trees look sternly, as if passing judgement.
Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,
I feel my hair changing shade to gray.

And I myself, like one long soundless scream
Above the thousands of thousands interred,
I’m every old man executed here,
As I am every child murdered here.

No fiber of my body will forget this.
May “Internationale” thunder and ring *3*
When, for all time, is buried and forgotten
The last of antisemites on this earth.

There is no Jewish blood that’s blood of mine,
But, hated with a passion that’s corrosive
Am I by antisemites like a Jew.
And that is why I call myself a Russian!

**************************************************

NOTES
—–1 – Alfred Dreyfus was a French officer, unfairly dismissed from service in 1894 due to trumped-up charges prompted by anti- Semitism.

2 – Belostok: the site of the first and most violent pogroms, the Russian version of KristallNacht.

3 – “Internationale”: The [original] Soviet national anthem.

Yevtushenko, born in 1932 in the small town of Zima in Siberia’s Irkutsk region, became one of the leading Soviet poets of the “thaw period” under Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. Those years were bound up with official condemnation of the “cult of personality” around Joseph Stalin and the widespread hope within the Soviet people that the country could be renewed on a socialist basis: here.

Bertolt Brecht on nazi Germany


This video is called Poem From A German War Primer: Bertolt Brecht.

By Andy Croft in Britain:

Instructive indignation

Saturday 1st April 2017

The biting satire in Bertolt Brecht’s German War Primer is a lesson from history we can’t ignore, writes Andy Croft

THE CRIMES of the Third Reich were so great, wrote Bertolt Brecht in 1945, that the nazis had even succeeded in giving war a bad name.

“I am told that the best people have begun saying/How, from a moral point of view, the Second World War/Fell below the standard of the First. The Wehrmacht/Allegedly deplores the methods by which the SS effected/The extermination of certain peoples…

“Even the bishops/Dissociate themselves from this way of waging war; in short the feeling/Prevails in every quarter that the Nazis did the Fatherland/A lamentably bad turn, and that war/While in itself natural and necessary, has, thanks to the/ Unduly uninhibited and positively inhuman/Way in which it was conducted on this occasion, been/Discredited for some time to come.”

This tragic, mocking irony sets the tone of Brecht’s extraordinary War Primer, translated and edited by John Willett, which is republished by Verso Books at the beginning of next month.

Brecht started the book in 1940 when he was living in exile in Finland. Sticking photos from newspapers and magazines into his journals, he soon found he was adding short satirical verses to the photographs.

Many of the images are propaganda photos from what Brecht called “the Bayreuth republic, featuring Hitler, Goebbels, Goering and Noske. Like John Heartfield’s AIZ photomontages, the effect is to subvert the original meaning of the images by suggesting their real context. Beneath a propaganda photo of Hitler in a trance-like oratorical ecstasy, Brecht wrote: “Like one who dreams the road ahead is steep/I know the way Fate has prescribed for us/That narrow way towards a precipice./Just follow. I can find it in my sleep.”

Because Brecht kept adding to this scrap-book until the end of the second world war, it serves as a kind of running commentary on the conflict, generals and politicians, the dead and the wounded, soldiers and civilians and the terrible destruction of European cities.

A military photograph of a German firing squad in France in 1944 appears above the following text: “And so we put him up against the wall:/A mother’s son, a man like we had been/And shot him dead. And then to show you all/What came of him we photographed the scene.”

To the photograph of a Russian woman grieving for her son, one of 7,000 Soviet civilians shot by German forces in Kerch in 1942, Brecht added: “I say all pity, woman, is a fraud/ Unless that pity turns into red rage/ Which will not rest until this ancient thorn/is drawn at last from deep in mankind’s flesh.”

First published in book form in the GDR in 1955, some of these poems were set to music by Hans Eisler, while others later turned up as part of longer poems by Brecht. None are great, but there is a greatness to the whole project in the “savage indignation” with which Brecht tried to address the brutality of WWII.

War Primer is comparable to the work of Goya, Kathe Kollwitz, Vassily Grossman or Tony Harrison, whose A Cold Coming about a dead Iraqi soldier clearly echoes Brecht’s verse here about a dead Japanese soldier.

And, although the book ends with victory in 1945, it also looks beyond the defeat of fascism in Europe.

Beneath a press shot of Hitler raging on a platform towards the end of the war, Brecht wrote: “That’s how the world was going to be run!/The other nations mastered him, except/ (In case you think the battle has been won) –/The womb is fertile still from which that crept.”

Fittingly, the final photograph is of university students in the GDR. Brecht wrote beneath the photo: “Never forget that men like you got hurt/So you might sit there, not the other lot./ And now don’t hide your head, and don’t desert/But try to learn, and try to learn for what.”

War Primer, price £12.99, is published by Verso Books on May 2

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.

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.

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!”

Donald Trump, a Scottish poem


This video from Scotland says about itself:

A Scot’s Lament fur her American Fellows (Oan their election of a tangerine gabshite walloper)

29 January 2017

Scathing Trump poem – winner of New Zealand poetry competition

Lorna Wallace (Kilmarnock, Scotland) hopes “President Donald Trump” reads her poem in Burns style.

By Lorna Wallace in Scotland (in Scots language):

A Scot’s Lament fur her American Fellows (Oan their election of a tangerine gabshite walloper)

America, aw whit ye dain?!
How could ye choose a clueless wain
Ti lead yir country? Who wid trust
A man sae vile?!
A racist, sexist eedjit
Wi a shite hairstyle?

Yet lo, ye votit (michty me!)
Ti hawn’ this walloper the key
Ti pow’r supreme, ti stert his hateful,
Cruel regime
.
A cling ti hope that this is aw
Jist wan bad dream.

But naw, the nightmare has come true,
A curse upon rid, white an’ blue,
An’ those who cast oot Bernie
Must feel sitch regret
Fur thinkin’ Mrs. Clinton
Was a safer bet
.

So noo we wait ti see unfold
Division an’ intolerance, cold;
A pois’nous bigotry untold
Since Hitler’s rule

As the free world’s hopes an’ dreams
Lie with this fool.

Alas, complainin’ wullnae change
The fact this diddy has free range
Ti ride roughshod ow’r human beings
That fall outside
The cretinous ideals borne of
His ugly pride.

Awch USA, we feel yir woes
An’ pour oor wee herts oot ti those
Who ken this oarange gabshite isnae
Who they chose,
But jist sit tight; Trump’s cluelessness
Will time expose.

Fur sittin’ there beside Obama
Efter the election drama,
Trump looked like reality
Had finally hit:
Aboot the role of president
He knew Jack shit.

Poutin’, glaikit through this farce,
His mooth wis pursed up like an arse,
His Tangoed coupon glowin’ like
A skelped backside.
Despite all his bravado
Trump looked keen ti hide.

Let’s therefur no despair an’ greet,
Or see this outcome as defeat.
Let’s wait an’ watch this bampot
Flap his hawns an’ squirm
When presidential pressures
Crush him like a worm.

Hawd oan ti values you hold dear,
Don’t let this numpty bring yi fear,
His chants of hatred don’t speak fur
The human race.
Love will endure despite this
Oarange-faced disgrace.

So USA, in ma conclusion,
Know we Scots feel your confusion:
We are also chained ti those
Not of oor choosin
’.
Stand firm fur unity will break
Through Trump’s delusion.

This poem won the Robert Burns Poetry Competition in New Zealand.

Lorna Wallace is 24 years old and currently work in her mum’s fabric and wool shop. She studied English with Journalism and Creative Writing at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, and in her third year (at the beginning of 2014) she decided to set up a poetry blog to go along with her coursework.

Lorna has always loved Robert Burns’ work and can’t think of anything more expressive and heartfelt than the Scots dialect. For her, it conveys a warmth and honesty unlike any other.

In January 2014 Lorna wrote her first ever Burns inspired poem, ‘Tae A Selfie’, which went viral on Facebook and Twitter overnight and was published in the small poetry magazine, ‘Poetry Scotland’. Excerpts were also published in The Times. Since then it’s also been published in the poetry anthology, ‘Funny Ha-Ha: Funny Peculiar’ by Bloodaxe Books.

Lorna’s interest in Burns stems from learning about him in primary school and falling in love with the dialect and rhythm of his writing. She also thought it would be fun to imagine the things he’d write about if he were alive today (cue her poems about selfies, social media, student living and politics).

On Tuesday and Wednesday, protests continued across the US against the policies of the twelve-day-old administration of Donald Trump … The demonstration in Washington surrounded the Supreme Court building. In New York, protesters marched on Trump Tower, where 11 were arrested, including Gwen Carr, mother of the late Eric Garner, who was murdered by New York City police in 2014 for selling individual cigarettes on the street: here.

Screen Actors Guild award winners, artists, athletes and others protest US travel ban: here.

Immigration Ban Separates Breastfeeding 11-Month-Old From Mother For Hours At Airport: here.

CIA’s New Deputy Director Is A Veteran Spy Who Oversaw Black Sites Where Detainees Were Tortured. Her selection for the role may mean Trump is ready to move back to harsh treatment of detainees: here.