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July 2 Bookworks: Commiting Poetry in Times of War with Bill Nevins and Friends

Commiting Poetry in Times of War with Bill Nevins and Friends
Bookworks, July 2
By Beatlick Pamela Hirst

Left: Bill Nevins and Amanda Sutton discuss the lineup at Bookworks


Tribute Poem:
Dover Base

He fell in Afghanistan
Sometime the day before

The Major couldn't find my house
And it was a stormy night in Albuquerque
Sp we talked by cell phone instead
No dress uniforms at my door

It was a clean shot
Straight through the heart

The Major was a father himself he said
I could hear his kid behind the phone

I could see my son reaching up to his dad

The Major called  back
The Government could fly me, The Major said
To the Dignified Transfer
At Dover Base
I asked where that was
The Major said the though it might be in Indiana
But he wasn't sure exactly where

I looked it up on Google and found
It is in Dover, Delaware

I don't know where he is
I know
He is  beautiful there

Bill Nevins
Bookworks, July 2

“Committing Poetry in Times of War,” with Bill Nevins and Friends was a theme that packed the bookstore on Rio Grande.
Violence of war around the world perpetrated by America, violence on  women around the world perpetrated through the guise of religion, violence on local citizens perpetrated by Albuqeruque police officers: all these were themes at Bookworks Bookstore July 2.

One of the main features of the program was a screening of “Commiting Poetry in Times of War,” a documentary about Bill Nevins and his dismissal as a teacher and poetry slam team coach in Rio Rancho High School in 2003. After his slam team openly criticized the government for going to war, this raised the hackles of a military recruiter on campus. This Brigadier General insisted the students could not raise controversial issues. There was a lot of footage of the students protesting at the school resisting the effort to squelch their opinions and voices about war.

Mary Oishi was the first poet up following Bill Nevins tribute poem to his son. “When you hear people like Dick Cheney and other war hawks, remember how much Bill has given,” she said. Oishi’s poem carried the theme “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”


She criticized those who will marched for “pro life” and then supported a war of “shock and awe.” She related specifics of the post effects of “good wars.” Recalling the Bush administrations as “Father and son filthy in oil and fascism, making sure no one else can get in their two cents worth.”


“We feed ourselves to a greedy monster [war] and hardly comprehend what’s really going on in America.”

Current Rio Rancho teacher Katrina Guarascio sadly confirms there is still much pressure and strife for teachers who may fail to be politically correct while trying to encourage students to write and speak out as poets. She has created the non-profit Rio Rancho Youth Poetry to support the Storm Slam Team from her school. “Young poets need their voice. They have power in their words.”


She read from her book, “September.”
"I told September you are coming,” she begins, encouraging students who will show up for the first day of school in September. She confirms to students that they will be welcomed and well received, eagerly awaited, as they pursue their education.

Poetry war horse Larry Goodel read “Counter Balance.”
“We have left our mark over the blood of history. Somewhere in the universe our struggles are benefiting other societies.” It is the “waiting rift,” our “song that cannot be denied,” he said.

Zach Kluckman, host of poetry slams at Winnings Coffeehouse, expanded the war theme to the new political war against women. He addressed the recent Supreme Court decision allowing Hobby Lobby to withhold birth control in their medical coverage for employees and female genital mutilation. “Do not forget your mother, the architect of your first dream.”


“Are you gonna wait until it is your own mother trampled in the street before you speak out,” Kluckman asked.

Albuquerque’s popular new Poet Laureate Jessica Helen Lopez always brings a lot to the table and she didn’t disappoint. “On the Eve of My Abortion” was a heart rendering work which juxtaposed her past experience with a moment looking on her teenage daughter of today.


With a captivating notion of “the stigmata of femininity” Lopez recalled her conflicted soul during that time in her life. “I am two bodies, it is raining inside of me.”
She wrote her poems in order to bear the fruit she had denied her body while “blood ran like ice through my veins,” she said.


John Roche read his poem:


BAGHDAD BOOGALOO


If it ain't broke, don't fix it

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

If it ain't broke, don't fix it


You break it, you bought it

You break it, you bought it

You break it, you bought it

You break it, you bought it


Jus' a little glue will do

Jus' a little glue will do

Jus' a little glue will do you

Jus' a little glue will do


Superglue that Sumerian figurine

Superglue that pipeline

Superglue that armor plating to the Humvees

Superglue that power plant

Superglue the Coalition of the Willing

Superglue the Shias to the Sunnis to the Kurds

Superglue their government


You think you're quite the handyman, don't you?


Down on the ranch jus' choppin' wood

Choppin' wood all day

Choppin' wood down on the ranch

Jus' choppin'

All day

Jus' choppin'


You can't fix it and you can't leave it

You can't fix it and you can't leave it

You can't fix it and you can't leave it

You can't fix it and you can't leave it

You can't you can't you can't you can't

Your cant your cant your cant your cant


Jus' more Baghdad Boogaloo

A whole lot more Boogaloo

Jus' more and more Baghdad Boogaloo

Next time it's Tehran Tooraloo

You can see John perform this poem on youtube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HzkT8EbN7c


The reading was also attended by Nora Anaya, who has lost two family members to violence of the Albuquerque Police Department. Her arm was still in a sling following the physical violence inflicted upon her by the APD during a demonstration against such violence recently held in downtown Albuquerque.
She was armed with posters and information regarding Desert Spirits of New Mexico, a Project Book designed to document officer involved murders and other murders where a lack of investigation or concerns over a coverup has been raised. The publication is an accounting of those who have lost their lives to Law Enforcement Officers in New Mexico. It is written from the standpoint of family members, eyewitnesses, and/or accounts that do not fit initial police reports or the single story told in mainstream media that often dehumanizes victims of police violence, according to Anaya.
Family members and those wishing to collect stories are welcome to contribute in a few different ways. Those who have lost family members ot police violence or those who wish to speak out are encourage to contact: DesertSpirits@BurqueMedia.com.

Suzy Crandall’s poem held the universal message that reflected well many of the emotions of those present:
Deadly Euphemisms

 

Someone took a picture of her crushed

against the chain link fence, trapped,

nowhere to go but out—

Someone took a picture of her

crushed, dozens of people

stacked behind her

nowhere to go but out,

no way through that fence—

someone took a picture of her crushed,

suffocating against the chain link, trapped,

the light dying in her eyes.

 

A soccer game.

She’d gone with nothing

more in her mind but fun

and laughter, joy.  A young woman,

her whole life ahead of her.

And this was an accident,

a confluence of events it is possible,

that no one person could have helped.

 

Times of joy are not for death

but sometimes death comes anyway,

uninvited in drones to Afghan weddings, remotely piloted by soldiers in Fort Huachuca, AZ,

remotely piloted by soldiers with joysticks

who never see the aftermath of what they have done, who never have to wipe

the blood from their faces or

look into the eyes of the children.

 

Others know very well what they do and

civilian deaths are renamed “accidents,”

“errors of war,” “collateral damage,” by those,

who really mean to say, but don’t mean to say

the truth, that the enemy IS civilian,

that the enemy is only part-time guerrilla fighters,

the rest of the time they are farmers,

fathers, mothers, sons, daughters,

indistinguishable from civilians, why?

 

Because they are civilians fighting for their country, their freedom, we kill them in their homes, their mosques, at their weddings with as many

friends and relatives as it takes to get a promotion,

a pension, as it takes to climb that next rung
up the corporate ladder




But this is not true of our young soldiers,

they know they are trapped in a war of acquisition,

a war for resources and access to territory,

new imperial ‘crusades,’ run by imperial presidents,

led by imperial generals and politicians

who speak of ‘terrorists’ and ‘al Qaeda,’ the ‘Taliban,’

words that mean nothing to the families

sheltering their part-time resistance fighters,

their part-time fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.

 

Our young soldiers know they are seen as ‘alien’

in this land of tribes and families whose

eternal resistance would match their own

if the circumstances were reversed.  

And while most of our soldiers start out as shiny

hopeful new pennies some become tarnished

and lose control, and others, so many others kill themselves, rather than live with the memories

of so many killed.

 

But we kill on, killing as many as it takes

to assuage our false sense of injury,

an injury that we imagine came from nowhere,

an injury we brought upon ourselves and

avenge a million fold in two separate countries.

We label their homes “hideouts,” their trade caravans

“guerrilla smugglers,” their family gatherings “terrorist meetings,” because we have not won hearts and minds,

 

We are imperial conquerors scapegoating

an innocent and poor people

for a self-inflicted wound buried in a false flag,

but really it’s just for their stuff, their resources,

their gold, their silver, their land based logistical capacity, but imperial conquerors cannot win love through death, imperial conquerors can only win hatred and resistance, and they will not, they will not--

 

Afghan families will not stop fighting, they will not

stop fighting, they will never stop fighting,

they will always be civilians fighting

yet again to keep Afghanistan

their own.

 

By Susy Crandall 4/12/2012 With credits to James Petras and his article Afghanistan: Why Civilians are Killed      http://petras.lahaine.org/?p=1863


 

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