Snowdrops, wars and poetry in Britain


This video says about itself:

EARLY SPRING snowdrop flower time lapse. Sir David Attenborough‘s opinion

6 June 2013

This is a clip from “RHYTHMS OF NATURE IN THE BARYCZ VALLEY” movie.

This film tells the story about nature in the Barycz River valley and enormous Milicz ponds. This area is located in the south-western part of Poland (in the middle of Europe). I and my wife made it for 2 years.

Sir David Attenborough, a world-famous BBC nature documentary film maker, after watching the film “Rhythms of Nature in the Barycz Valley” wrote:

“I have viewed Rhythms of Nature with great pleasure.

A lovely place, beautifully filmed”

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Flower respite from the slaughter

Friday 13th February 2015

Snowdrops will soon be announcing the arrival of spring but the story of their origin bears witness to a not too distant tragic past, says PETER FROST

In October of 1854, in the rolling meadows of Crimea, 600 brave British soldiers were ordered to their death by ignorant and arrogant aristocratic officers. Those officers, just like Cameron and his mostly Eton-educated Cabinet believed they were born to rule.

Tennyson summed up the destiny of the common man in his famous poem: “Theirs not to reason why,/Theirs but to do and die:/Into the valley of Death/Rode the six hundred.”

This was the notorious Charge of the Light Brigade. The following Christmas and New Year were miserable times in the British army camps of the Crimea.

Memories of the horrendous defeat and the harsh winter weather of snow and gales contrived to make this a sad posting for British soldiers missing their loved ones at home.

Then at the end of January, in a curious parallel of the flush of blood red poppies that painted the fields of Flanders in another foreign war the hills of Crimea bought forth a huge beautiful display of tiny snow white flowers.

They covered the countryside so thickly that they could have easily been confused as a fall of fresh snow. British soldiers were amazed to see the battlefields covered in little, frail snowdrops.

The flowers were, in fact the Crimean snowdrop (Galanthus plicatus).

Many of the British soldiers took the tiny bulbs home with them, some even slipped the bulbs — little bigger than a grain of wheat — into letters to their wives and sweethearts at home.

Today snowdrops, both the Crimean species and our own native and slightly larger Common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) are a familiar and very welcome part of our mid-winter countryside.

For me the delicate nodding white flowers — brave little things — piercing the frozen earth are early heralds of the arrival of spring and the end of winter.

Did you know that there are over 2,000 different types of snowdrop, or Galanthus, growing wild in our countryside and in our gardens?

There are even snowdrop clubs and snowdrop societies and the rarest and exotic varieties change hands for hundreds of pounds for a single bulb.

The heritage of those Crimean snowdrops lives on today. You find them planted on the graves of soldiers of the Crimean war.

Huge naturalised swathes of the tiny flowers are found in areas with rich military history and traditions.

So if you can, try to get out to see the snowdrops. There are locations all over Britain which offer spectacular displays of the flower and there is sure to be one within easy reach of where you live.

As you marvel at these living snowdrifts pause to remember another group of British working men sent to die in a pointless foreign war in the hills above the famous valley of death.

The British Establishment has never had much respect for its old soldiers. It doesn’t today.

Forty years after Tennyson’s famous poem, Rudyard Kipling wrote The Last of the Light Brigade.

It commemorated the last 20 survivors of the charge of the Light Brigade who visited an 80-year-old Tennyson to lobby him for not writing a sequel about the way in which England was treating its old soldiers.

Kipling felt strongly on the subject and returned to it again in his poem to draw attention to the poverty in which the real survivors were living, in the same way that he evoked The Absent Minded Beggar.

“When you’ve shouted ‘Rule Britannia,’ when you’ve sung ‘God save the Queen,’/When you’ve finished killing Kruger with your mouth,/Will you kindly drop a shilling in my little tambourine/For a gentleman in khaki ordered South?”

Recently I walked through one of London’s royal parks to see the snowdrops. By the gate I came across a homeless ex-soldier. He was begging. And you thought we were supposed to learn from history.

African American writers spied upon by FBI for decades


This video from the USa says about itself:

This is a poetry reading of Claude McKay‘s poems “If We Must Die” and “The White House.”

Reading done by spoken word artist Cynthia Nicole Giles.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

FBI monitored and critiqued African American writers for decades

A new book reveals the extent to which J Edgar Hoover’s bureau kept files on well-known black writers between 1919 and 1972

Newly declassified documents from the FBI reveal how the US federal agency under J Edgar Hoover monitored the activities of dozens of prominent African American writers for decades, devoting thousands of pages to detailing their activities and critiquing their work.

Academic William Maxwell first stumbled upon the extent of the surveillance when he submitted a freedom of information request for the FBI file of Claude McKay. The Jamaican-born writer was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, author of the sonnet If We Must Die, supposedly recited by Winston Churchill, and Maxwell was preparing an edition of his complete poems. When the file came through from the FBI, it stretched to 193 pages and, said Maxwell, revealed “that the bureau had closely read and aggressively chased McKay” – describing him as a “notorious negro revolutionary” – “all across the Atlantic world, and into Moscow”.

Maxwell, associate professor of English and African American studies at Washington University in St Louis, decided to investigate further, knowing that other scholars had already found files on well-known black writers such as Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. He made 106 freedom of information requests about what he describes as “noteworthy Afro-modernists” to the FBI; 51 of those writers had files, ranging from three to 1,884 pages each.

“I suspected there would be more than a few,” said Maxwell. “I knew Hoover was especially impressed and worried by the busy crossroads of black protest, leftwing politics, and literary potential. But I was surprised to learn that the FBI had read, monitored, and ‘filed’ nearly half of the nationally prominent African American authors working from 1919 (Hoover’s first year at the Bureau, and the first year of the Harlem Renaissance) to 1972 (the year of Hoover’s death and the peak of the nationalist Black Arts movement). In this, I realised, the FBI had outdone most every other major institution of US literary study, only fitfully concerned with black writing.”

Maxwell’s book about his discovery, FB Eyes: How J Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature, is out on 18 February from Princeton University Press. It argues that the FBI’s attention was fuelled by Hoover’s “personal fascination with black culture”, that “the FBI is perhaps the most dedicated and influential forgotten critic of African American literature”, and that “African American literature is characterised by a deep awareness of FBI ghostreading”.

Princeton said that while it is well known that Hoover was hostile to Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, Maxwell’s forthcoming book is the first exposé of “the extent to which the FBI monitored and influenced African American writing” between 1919 and 1972.

Taking its title from Richard Wright’s 1949 poem The FB Eye Blues, in which the Native Son novelist writes that “every place I look, Lord / I find FB eyes / I’m getting sick and tired of gover’ment spies”, the work also posits that for some authors, suspicion of the surveillance prompted creative replies.

Digital copies of 49 of the FBI files have been made available to the public online. “The collected files of the entire set of authors comprise 13,892 pages, or the rough equivalent of 46 300-page PhD theses,” Maxwell writes in the book. “FBI ghostreaders genuinely rivalled the productivity of their academic counterparts.”

The academic told the Guardian that he believes the FBI monitoring stems from the fact that “from the beginning of his tenure at the FBI … Hoover was exercised by what he saw as an emerging alliance between black literacy and black radicalism”.

“Then there’s the fact that many later African American writers were allied, at one time or another, with socialist and communist politics in the US,” he added, with Wright and WEB Du Bois both becoming Communist Party members, Hughes a “major party sympathiser”, and McKay “toasted by Trotsky and published in Russian as a significant Marxist theorist”.

The files show how the travel arrangements of black writers were closely scrutinised by the FBI, with the passport records of a long list of authors “combed for scraps of criminal behaviour and ‘derogatory information’”, writes Maxwell. Some writers were threatened by “‘stops’, instructions to advise and defer to the Bureau if a suspect tried to pass through a designated point of entry” to the US.

When McKay went to the Soviet Union, a “stop notice” instructed that the poet should be held for “appropriate attention” if he attempted to re-enter the US. In Baltimore, writes Maxwell, FBI agents “paraded their seriousness in a bulletin sent straight to Hoover, boasting of a clued-in ‘Local Police Department’ on the ‘lookout’ for one ‘Claude McKay (colored)’ (23 Mar. 1923)”.

They also reveal how, with the help of informers, the agency reviewed works such as Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man before publication.

“What did the FBI learn from these dossiers? Several things,” said Maxwell. “Where African American writers were travelling, especially during their expatriate adventures in Europe, Africa, and Latin America. What they were publishing, even while it was still in press.” In the 1950s, he said, the FBI aspired to “a foreknowledge of American publishing so deep that literary threats to the FBI’s reputation could be seen before their public appearance”.

The bureau also considered “whether certain African Americans should be allowed government jobs and White House visits, in the cases of the most fortunate”, and “what the leading minds of black America were thinking, and would be thinking”.

But, he added, “the files also show that some FBI spy-critics couldn’t help from learning that they liked reading the stuff, for simple aesthetic reasons”.

Mongolian emperors and Chinese art history


This video says about itself:

Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, reading with text

9 February 2013

Kubla Khan (pron.: /ˌkʊblə ˈkɑːn/) is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, completed in 1797 and published in 1816. According to Coleridge‘s Preface to Kubla Khan, the poem was composed one night after he experienced an opium influenced dream after reading a work describing Xanadu, the summer palace of the Mongol ruler and Emperor of China Kublai Khan. Upon waking, he set about writing lines of poetry that came to him from the dream until he was interrupted by a person from Porlock. The poem could not be completed according to its original 200–300 line plan as the interruption caused him to forget the lines. He left it unpublished and kept it for private readings for his friends until 1816 when, on the prompting by George Gordon Byron, it was published.

Some of Coleridge’s contemporaries denounced the poem and questioned his story about its origin. It was not until years later that critics began to openly admire the poem. Most modern critics now view Kubla Khan as one of Coleridge’s three great poems, with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Christabel. The poem is considered one of the most famous examples of Romanticism in English poetry. A copy of the manuscript is a permanent exhibit at the British Museum in London.

Apart from Coleridge’s poetic imagination, and descriptions by Marco Polo, there is more to say about Khubilai Khan and other Mongolian rulers of medieval China.

From the International Institute for Asian Studies in the Netherlands:

Khubilai Khan’s legacy: Inner Asian Influence on Chinese art

Date & time

19 February 2015, 14.30 – 16.30 hrs

Venue

Auditorium, Rijksmuseum
Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam

The programme

14.30 – 15.00 Reception with coffee & tea in the foyer at the Auditorium
15.00 – 15.10 Welcome & Introduction
15.10 – 16.00 Lecture by Professor Morris Rossabi
16.00 – 16.30 Q&A

The lecture

This slide-illustrated presentation challenges the conventional wisdom that portrays the thirteenth-century Mongolians as merely destroyers, killers, rapists, and plunderers. Although the lecture does not minimize the massacres and destruction wrought by the Mongolians, it also reveals their contributions to the arts and culture in China. Khubilai Khan, in particular, supported several of the most prominent Chinese painters, recruited Muslim weavers to add new motifs in Chinese textiles, appointed Mongolians to supervise the spectacular porcelain industry, and commissioned Tibetan and Nepalese painters and artisans to produce portraits of the Imperial family and to construct remarkable buildings in Dadu (or Beijing). Marco Polo, whose book introduced Khubilai to the West, was himself dazzled by the extraordinary art and culture he encountered in Mongol-ruled China.

To be sure, the Mongolians were not the artists and craftsmen, but they acted as sponsors, patrons, and consumers of the arts, thereby performing an invaluable service. Women, especially Khubilai’s wife and great granddaughter, were avid supporters of Chinese art.

The speaker

Morris Rossabi is a historian of China and Inner Asia who conducted his initial research on traditional Chinese foreign relations and on the peoples along China’s borders. He wrote a biography of Khubilai Khan, which has been translated in many languages, including Korean and Russian, and helped to organize exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. He was commissioned to write three chapters for the Cambridge History of China. After serving as a Consultant for the Soros Foundation, he wrote the book Modern Mongolia. The author of numerous articles and speeches, he travels repeatedly to Central Asia and Mongolia, where he teaches courses on Mongolian and East Asian history.

Registration

Entrance and registration are free of charge. Please register via: h.m.van.der.minne@iias.nl

Contact

For enquiries about the lecture, please contact Ms Heleen van der Minne: h.m.van.der.minne@iias.nl.

Neo-nazi vandalism in Mauthausen concentration camp


This music video from Greece says about itself:

Mikis Theodorakis Songs of Songs (Mauthausen)

The poet Iacovos Kambanellis was a prisoner in Mauthausen during World War II. At the beginning of the sixties, he wrote his memories of this time under the title of “Mauthausen”. In 1965, he also wrote four poems on the subject and he gave Mikis the opportunity to set them to music. Mikis did this with much pleasure, firstly because he liked the poetry of the texts, and secondly because he was locked up during the Nazi occupation in Italian and German prisons, but mainly because this composition gives us the chance to remind the younger generation of history, that history that must never be forgotten.

Picture: Liberated prisoners in the Mauthausen concentration camp near Linz, Austria, give a rousing welcome to Cavalrymen of the 11th Armored Division. The banner across the wall was made by Spanish Loyalist prisoners. It says “The Spanish Antifascists greet the Liberating Forces”. The text is written in English and Russian as well. 6 may 1945.

From the Jewish Telegraph Agency:

Swastikas, ‘Hitler’ written on Mauthausen walls

February 2, 2015 11:52am

Four swastikas and “Hitler” were found on the former Mauthausen concentration camp.

The graffiti was written with a felt pen and carved onto walls at the former camp, the Upper Austria State Police said Monday in a statement, according to Austrian news reports. An investigation was launched into the incident at Mauthausen, which is now a memorial and museum.

The graffiti, about a half-inch high, was discovered in the former laundry and in the bunker area after visitors complained to a memorial employee on Sunday, according to the Austria Press Agency.

It is not known when the vandalism took place, though police reportedly suspect that it occurred the day before the discovery during public visiting hours.

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s hummingbird poems


This video is called Documentary on the Secrets of Hummingbirds.

From Hummingbird-guide.com:

This is the Pablo Neruda hummingbird poem.

The famous poet Pablo Neruda wrote this beautiful poem……….

Ode to the Hummingbird

The hummingbird
in flight
is a water-spark,
an incandescent drip
of American
fire,
the jungle’s
flaming resume,
a heavenly,
precise
rainbow:
the hummingbird is
an arc,
a golden
thread,
a green
bonfire!

Oh
tiny
living
lightning,
when
you hover
in the air,
you are
a body of pollen,
a feather
or hot coal,
I ask you:
What is your substance?
Perhaps during the blind age
of the Deluge,
within fertility’s
mud,
when the rose
crystallized
in an anthracite fist,
and metals matriculated
each one in
a secret gallery
perhaps then
from a wounded reptile
some fragment rolled
,
a golden atom,
the last cosmic scale,
a drop of terrestrial fire
took flight,
suspending your splendor,
your iridescent,
swift sapphire.

You doze
on a nut,
fit into a diminutive blossom;
you are an arrow,
a pattern,
a coat-of-arms,
honey’s vibrato, pollen’s ray;
you are so stouthearted–
the falcon
with his black plumage
does not daunt you:
you pirouette,
a light within the light,
air within the air.
Wrapped in your wings,
you penetrate the sheath
of a quivering flower,
not fearing
that her nuptial honey
may take off your head!

From scarlet to dusty gold,
to yellow flames,
to the rare
ashen emerald,
to the orange and black velvet
of our girdle gilded by sunflowers,
to the sketch
like
amber thorns,
your Epiphany,
little supreme being,
you are a miracle,
shimmering
from torrid California
to Patagonia‘s whistling,
bitter wind.
You are a sun-seed,
plumed
fire,
a miniature
flag
in flight,
a petal of silenced nations,
a syllable
of buried blood,
a feather
of an ancient heart,
submerged

The Spanish language original of this poem is here.

The Spanish text of another hummingbird poem by Neruda is here.

This video shows that poem, Picaflor II.

This video, in Spanish, is about these Neruda poems:

1.El vuelo (Pablo Neruda) *recita Pablo Neruda
2.El tordo (Pablo Neruda – Ángel Parra) – 3:52
3.El picaflor [El colibrí] (Pablo Neruda – Ángel Parra) – 6:36
4.El pidén (Pablo Neruda – Ángel Parra) – 8:37
5.La golondrina (Pablo Neruda – Ángel Parra) -10:22
6.El cóndor (Pablo Neruda – Ángel Parra) – 12:47
7.El poeta se despide de los pájaros (Pablo Neruda) *recita Pablo Neruda – 15:47

A Robert Frost Hummingbird Poem: here.

More hummingbird poems from the USA: here.

African American poet Langston Hughes’ 113th birthday


This video says about itself:

Langston Hughes‘ 113th Birthday Google Doodle

31 January 2015

Animated Google Doodle celebrating Langston Hughes, and his poem “I Dream A World“.

Music – Typewriter – The Boston Typewriter Orchestra

Piano – Adam Ever-Hadani