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.

Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize In Literature


This music video from the USA is called Bob Dylan – Masters of War – lyrics. The song is about the military industrial complex in the USA.

On the same day that Nobel Prize In Literature winner Dario Fo has died, a new prize winner…

From Reuters news agency:

2016 Nobel Prize In Literature Awarded To Bob Dylan

10/13/2016 07:02 am ET

STOCKHOLM, Oct 13 – Bob Dylan, regarded as the voice of a generation for his influential songs from the 1960s onwards, has won the Nobel Prize for Literature in a surprise decision that made him the only singer-songwriter to win the award.

The 75-year-old Dylan – who won the prize for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition” – now finds himself in the company of Winston Churchill, Thomas Mann and Rudyard Kipling as Nobel laureates.

The announcement was met with gasps in Stockholm’s stately Royal Academy hall, followed – unusually – by some laughter.

Dylan’s songs, such as “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Like a Rolling Stone” captured a spirit of rebellion, dissent and independence.

More than 50 years on, Dylan is still writing songs and is often on tour, performing his dense poetic lyrics, sung in a sometimes rasping voice that has been ridiculed by detractors.

Some lyrics have resonated for decades.

“Blowin’ in the Wind,” written in 1962, was considered one of the most eloquent folk songs of all time. “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” in which Dylan told Americans “your sons and your daughters are beyond your command,” was an anthem of the civil rights movement and Vietnam War protests.

Awarding the 8 million Swedish crown ($930,000) prize, the Swedish Academy said: “Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound.”

Swedish Academy member Per Wastberg said: “He is probably the greatest living poet.”

Asked if he thought Dylan’s Nobel lecture – traditionally given by the laureate in Stockholm later in the year – would be a concert, [he] replied: “Let’s hope so.”

Over the years, not everyone has agreed that Dylan was a poet of the first order. Novelist Norman Mailer countered: “If Dylan’s a poet, I’m a basketball player.”

Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Nobel Academy, told a news conference there was “great unity” in the panel’s decision to give Dylan the prize.

Dylan has always been an enigmatic figure. He went into seclusion for months after a motorcycle crash in 1966, leading to stories that he had cracked under the pressure of his new celebrity.

He was born into a Jewish family but in the late 1970s converted to born-again Christianity and later said he followed no organized religion. At another point in his life, Dylan took up boxing.

Dylan’s spokesman, Elliott Mintz, declined immediate comment when reached by phone, citing the early hour in Los Angeles, where it was 3 a.m. at the time of the announcement. Dylan was due to give a concert in Las Vegas on Thursday evening.

Literature was the last of this year’s Nobel prizes to be awarded. The prize is named after dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and has been awarded since 1901 for achievements in science, literature and peace in accordance with his will.

This Nobel Prize for Dylan is not that surprising, the prize being Swedish. Carl Michael Bellman, arguably Sweden’s most famous poet, was a musician as well.