Syrian children behind a barbed wire fence at the Ceylanpinar refugee camp in the Sanliurfa province of Turkey. (Photo by Reuters)
At the heart of Creative Thinkers International’s operational philosophy has always been a core belief in the ability of positive creativity to help inspire nonviolent conflict resolution. This is not a romantic notion; it is a crucial alternative.
The blood-and-bone-splattering spectacles of war have come to command most news headlines in the modern world. The maniacal brutality that was 9/11 engraved in the world’s collective consciousness themes and realities intensified by perpetual chaos, terror, and death. It is a chilling prospect, and yet an observable phenomenon, that humanity at this point in history too often defines itself by how efficiently it destroys itself.
Love, it seems, is valued most when violence or disease threaten to annihilate the life that would serve as a channel for it. Men and women discover the deeper nature and beauty of their characters by exposing them to man-made insanities that threaten not only human beings, but the nonhuman forest-, ocean-, jungle-, and mountain-dwelling species that also call the Earth home. Such an inclination is not one that supports notions of sustainable communities or advances based on peace rather than war.
That very dangerous realization is an extremely important one to note. The reason is because the natural and social forces that combine to compose what some call “the human story” are developing in such a way that, like it or not, more and more people you may once have thought of as strangers or foreigners are now becoming neighbors, co-workers, classmates, bosses, employees, and in-laws. Between extreme weather events and more prolonged climate transformations, plus cross-cultural merging caused by man-made atrocities and inter-cultural interactions facilitated by advances in technology, the boundaries that once defined notions of community are dissolving as steadily as shelves of ice breaking off the Antarctic.
Cultural migrations and evolutions are not new. Some have occurred because of genocide or war, such as the almost two million refugees who have fled the pandemonium in Syria to resettle in Turkey and other neighboring countries. There is no shortage of examples of people who have escaped persecution in one nation to rebuild lives in another. There are also opposite examples: such as those African-Americans who left the American South, and natives of the Caribbean who ventured forth in the 1910s and 1920s to settle in New York and other areas of the Northeast and Midwest. It was their hunger for opportunity and adventure that launched the Harlem Renaissance.
The Talk in 2013
In 2013, a lot of talk in the United States focuses on shifting demographics. Commentators point out the increasing business and political savvy of women, the more expansive and inclusive values adopted by the Millennial Generation, Gays’ non-retreating battle for marriage equality, the increasingly diverse population of the United States, and the borderless connections made possible by social networks.
Creative Thinkers International stepped out ahead of the crowd and the curve when the community formed in September 2007. Members then and now recognized that whatever barriers had restricted practices of cooperation and communication in the past need not do so in the future. As with the tumbling of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the time had come to work around divisiveness rather than maintain monuments to hopelessness.
Whatever tomorrow does or does not bring, the artists, authors, teachers, poets, photographers, mentors, videographers, students, and creative others who comprise this online village will always be able to take some pride in knowing one particularly important thing. At a time in history when so many in the world chose to exhibit the worst of what human beings might become, they at least tried to demonstrate the very best of what human beings might become.
29 May, 2013
Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, first published by Facts On File in 2003 and through Infobase Publishing in 2010, is now available as a Kindle Edition on Amazon and that is big news for a lot of good reasons.
For one, 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance’s publication and a new edition of a new edition of a modern award-winning classic is always a good way to celebrate such occasions.
Secondly, advances in technology proved a powerful component of the Harlem Renaissance just as it has in the contemporary era. During the 1920s and 1930s, important developments took place through the growing radio and the recording industries. Those advances not only allowed African Americans to showcase and preserve the marvels of black music such as jazz, ragtime, and the blues. It gave also them a foothold in an industry that allowed many to earn a living (though just barely for some) and a few to attain wealth.
Another significant development during the period was the growth of the publishing industry in New York City and other urban locales. Without that expansion, the odds of authors such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Claude McKay, and Zora Neale Hurston becoming as well known to readers as they are today would have decreased considerably.
The Kindle story is one of the defining chapters of the digital era. In many ways, it represents the same kind of growth in publishing that the establishment of important literary houses did during the Harlem Renaissance Jazz Age. It has helped make more titles available to more readers while simultaneously increasing opportunities for more authors to publish their books. It has not––and should not––replaced the print industry but it is now an integral part of publishing overall.
The Harlem Renaissance as a whole meant forward movement in regard to the practice of democracy in the United States and astonishing social and political progress for the generations of African Americans who, with substantial cross-cultural assistance, made it happen. A Kindle Edition of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance means forward movement of different kind: for this specific book and toward the 100th Anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance.
“Sometimes the words came like ecstatic utterances, sometimes like songs whispered from another time, like actual angelic possessions, or like mental files that had been downloaded while I slept and then printed via my pen as soon as I got up.”
--from The River of Winged Dreams
I was thoroughly convinced a month ago that by the time World Book Day (April 23) rolled around I would have finished selecting material for my proposed book of quotations. That did not happen and I came close to getting frustrated over it. But I consoled myself with the thought that the next best thing to greeting readers and signing books at an event on World Book Day was working to complete a title already in progress.
My chomping-at-the-bit anxiety was also tamed by the kind of special gifts that almost always turn grown writers into overjoyed hand-clapping babies. One was a corresponding website for the book in progress, which has now been given the title Journey through the Power of the Rainbow. The reasons for the switch are noted on the site. The second reason my disquiet took a back seat to humility was an unexpected new book cover.
Yes, it more than likely was presented to encourage me to move a little faster on the job at hand. But even so, a new book cover for a forthcoming book is the kind of thing that helps give visual form and substance to something that is mostly an abstract idea until it rests in some tangible form within your hands. It also provides additional motivation to keep the flow going and serves to help validate the value of all the long hours spent in solitude to finally get the work done.
Who knows, the pages worked on so diligently during World Book Day 2013 may very well turn into the book that gets frequently signed, discussed, and placed on wish lists at World Book Day 2014.
24 April, 2013
One of the greatest triumphs of the human spirit is the ability to exercise gratitude in the face of grievous adversity. Cultivation of a sense of gratitude under any conditions is advantageous in general because it tames impulses toward delusion-inducing arrogance, soul-numbing indifference, and corruptive malice.
During this National Poetry Month 2013, I have found myself considering all the reasons I am grateful for the presence of poetry in my life and in this world. Among those reasons is the fact that there was a time, in years not so long ago, when I struggled inside a kind of “dark night of the soul”––one that in many ways appeared to reflect an eclipse of the world’s collective soul–– and it was the voices of living poets that called to me from unknown distances and took it upon themselves through their own brilliant writings to reaffirm my purpose and efforts. By doing so, they helped to re-empower the same. Their writings played no small role in motivating the labors required for me to move forward as one chapter of my life ended and another began.
It may be that poetry’s real beauty and elegance is not its finely-chiseled lines or smoothly-rounded ideological concepts at all. The crown of its significance might be––or possibly should be?––its expansive capacity to embrace with equal passion the deadliest failings and the most splendid victories that define human existence. Poetry is less a respecter of individual persons than it is a compassionate witness to the meanings of the secret language that beats inside human hearts, the music that pulses through human cries, and the divinity that shines love beyond the veils of human limitations.
Communities of Present-day Poets
Just as it was for many other contemporary authors, it was ancestral poets––such as Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, John Milton, and Henry Dumas––who first led me to recognize the poet within myself. But it was communities of present-day poets who, simply by being themselves, made some important differences when it seemed my writing pen had run completely dry. Savannah’s Receding Wave poetry troupe, The Poetry Society of Georgia, The Savannah Writers Workshop, and inspired members of online communities fed my faith in what words might accomplish and re-empowered that part of my will which lived inside my pen.
The gratitude I feel toward all of them remains profound. I am especially humbled to acknowledge those who not only provided commentaries on my works in progress but who allowed me to share notes on theirs. Moreover, some actually dedicated poems to my efforts and by doing so lent wisdom and strength from their journey that added a major boost to mine. Listed below are poems which were either dedicated to my efforts, which are always ongoing, or written in response to them, and for which I once more thank the authors for blessing my literary labors with the artistry and genius of their own. It is possible there are other poems which I am unaware of and I thank those poets as well. The list is alphabetical by title followed by author and post/publication date:
Blessings of Literary Fellowship
With lasting gratitude,
- Aberjhani by Eileen T. Waldron (March 11, 2006)
- After Aberjhani by Kate Burnside (Nov 11, 2005)
- Archetype of a Soulsinger by Mari D’India (July 8, 2005)
- Illuminat’d Paths by Karla “Stormspinner” Dorman (July 8, 2006)
- Most Talented with a God Given Talent for Weaving Words of Heartfelt Wonder by Grange Lady Haig Rutan (March 20, 2012)
- Onyx of Savannah by Andre Emmanuel Bendavi ben-YEHU (Oct 23, 2005)
- Royalty by Patricia Andres (circa 1995)
- Savannah Moss by Jerry Pat Bolton (Feb 16, 2008)
- Stranded by Danny C. Sillada (Sept 2010 Occasion of 3rd Anniversary of CTI)
- The Ambassador of Helicon by André Emmanuel Bendavi ben-YEHU (Jan 31, 2008)
- The Gift by Karla Stormspinner Dorman (July 6, 2008)
- The Poet Emerson Wanted to Meet by Andre Emmanuel Bendavi ben-YEHU (Jan 25, 2010)
- The Wild Stallion by Glynn Miles (circa 1997)
- The Young Poet and the Painter --by Carol Phelan Aebby (Jan 9, 2013)
- This Mother’s Son in Starlight by Nordette Adams (Feb 8, 2006)
- When God Doesn’t Make Sense (prose) by Karen Lynn Vidra (Sept 2, 2006)
“A vision of humanity as a unified force for peace had come alive in the form of millions of living breathing souls and an ideal of international democracy had been realized on a small but unprecedented scale. History was not only made––history was tremendously honored.” – from The American Poet Who Went Home Again (Aberjhani)
During this Easter Holy Week 2013, I find myself thinking about the challenges that Peace faces in our world and wonder why humanity seems to insist more on its destruction than its empowerment. From the recent murder of a 13-month-old baby in Brunswick, Georgia (allegedly by a 15-year-old boy), to the nearly two dozen wars (plus two dozen more conflicts of a similar nature) currently devouring human sanity from sunrise to sunrise, the suicidal lust for the annihilation of life on every scale is scarier than any vampire flick around.
Is there anything more obscene than a non-stop hunger for, and ceaseless indulgence in, the real-world violence that piles up human corpses and mutilates human souls? The answer may be a matter of cultural guerrilla decontextualization. The conscious practice of Peace has been removed from its context as one of the qualifications for nations wishing to be define themselves as civilized and been re-branded as an anomaly indicating defeatist passivity, cowardice, or weakness. The violence of war has come to represent patriotism, heroism, strength, and glory.
We saw on the weekend of February 15, 2003, that it is as possible to wage peace as it is to wage war. For some odd reason, however, while the media frequently reminds people of the anniversaries of wars and other man-made atrocities, commemorations of that worldwide event are so thoroughly ignored that even many who participated in it might doubt it actually happened. The announcement of the Global March for Peace and Unity scheduled to coincide with the United Nations’ International Day of Peace September 21, 2013, served as a reminder that what happened in 2003 was both real and significant. The essay “February 15, 2003: The History that Peace Made,” published in The American Poet Who Went Home Again, was written as the event unfolded to honor the strength and courage demonstrated by those who challenged the presumption that war with Iraq was the only useful response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The following short excerpt is shared to acknowledge the legacies of Peace and advocate for its unwavering defense:
(from section V.)
The estimated 8 million people who demanded of the world, from February 14 to February 16, that peace be given a chance were a lot more difficult to ignore than other events leading up to the historical occasion and every major television network provided extended coverage of the worldwide phenomenon. That the world community had spoken so voluminously and unambiguously through so many made it easy to believe that the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines moving toward Baghdad would soon receive orders to execute an about face. It appeared the most indisputably intelligent and democratic course of action available. Only it never happened. History, under the guidance of those clamoring for war, took the road so often traveled in the past.
(CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO)
Statements from the White House regarding the overwhelming strength of the peace movement were at best patronizing; and at worst, patronizing. They acknowledged that the right to assembly––guaranteed by the Bill of Rights in the United States and in many other countries by their constitutions and bills of human rights––was a wonderful, and perhaps amusing, thing to behold. It was pointed out that such an activity was not guaranteed in Iraq and could result in imprisonment or death for those attempting to exercise it. And it was further made clear that such demonstrations, despite the good intentions behind them, were erroneous insofar as their political applications and implications were concerned. The message that came through more than any other was that millions of children had successfully thrown their tantrums and should now be put quietly to bed. Democracy as practiced in the United States during the early part of 2003 had become, apparently, much more a matter of bending and disregarding the will of the people than representing or expressing it.
If the bodies and souls of 8 million people were not sufficient to sway national policy on war against Iraq, what, then, was the meaning of such a massive uprising? Was it truly a matter of nothing more than overgrown misinformed juveniles venting fear and frustration as implied by White House officials? Could it have been part of a terrorist counter-tactic to weaken the United States’ war plans? Or was the international character of the movement an indication of a new form of global democracy evolving out of the fellowship established between like-minded individuals over the Internet?
It may be that the best answer to the meaning of February 14-16, 2003, was offered by the former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, Dr. Robert Muller, later chancellor emeritus of the University of Peace in Costa Rico. Addressing an assembly a month after the massive demonstrations in San Francisco, Dr. Muller observed of the millions marching all over earth that, “This is what waging peace looks like. No matter what happens, history will record that this is a new era, and the twenty-first century has been initiated with the world in a global dialogue looking deeply, profoundly and responsibly as a global community at the legitimacy of the actions of a nation that is desperate to go to war. Through these global peace-waging efforts, the leaders of that nation are being engaged in further dialogue, forcing them to rethink, and allowing all nations to participate in the serious and horrific decision to go to war or not.”
He may have added that these gallant warriors of nonviolence were doing something their countrymen who controlled the popular media had clearly refused to do: they were making peace visible. And by accomplishing that, despite the roar of death and destruction well underway, they succeeded, for a time, in making peace real.
“A poem is not so much a thought, as it is a mind: talk with it, and it will talk back.”
--Howard Nemerov (1920-1921) from Reflexions on Poetry and Poetics
The approach of World Poetry Day and National Poetry Month always inspires me to celebrate the different ways literary culture has enriched and empowered both the global community and my individual being. I wasn’t sure at first how I was going to celebrate this year on the personal level. Then, in the midst of honoring a new year’s resolution to become better organized, I came across my text for Portrait of a Poet: The Noble Night of Joy, an address delivered October 19, 1995, to open the Poetry Society of Georgia’s 1995-1996 literary season. Rediscovering and reading it was an eye opener––even for me–– when seeing how candidly I spoke about early influences on my poetry.
The program was an exceptional one only partly because it allowed me the honor of delivering a presentation before one of the oldest literary organizations in Georgia. It was also special because as author and actress Dufflyn Lammers pointed out in her article about it, the event was a multimedia one that also featured original music (composed for one of my song lyrics) by the extremely talented Adam Traum and art by Luther E. Vann. In addition to the introduction below, the program included a recital of some 7 poems with introductions providing background information on each. The poems, minus the individual commentaries, are listed following the Portrait of a Poet: Noble Night of Joy introduction with links to some of the ones currently posted on the Internet.
(continues after photo with text of presentation)
Logo for PEN International World Association of Writers
The PEN American Center turned all of 90 years old in 2012 and recently decided to give itself a very useful digital face lift With such cases like that of the Qatari poet Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega still rocking international headlines, the PEN American Center’s mission in conjunction with PEN international ––to defend the right to freedom of expression and promote the values of literature and literacy––has never been more valuable than right now.
As much as I’m enjoying its swagging new style, the upgrade came with a price to which I, and other authors who maintained blogs on the site, now have to adapt. My primary reason for joining PEN American Center last year was to participate in and contribute to the legacy of literary camaraderie first established by C A. Dawson Scott and John Galsworthy––and then later sustained by such luminous literati as H.G. Wells, Willa Cather, Richard Wright, Arthur Miller, Mario Vargas Llosa, Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison, and many others.
But I also joined to provide an online home for two important series launched last year: Paradigm Dancing and Guerilla Decontextualization. Housing the series at PEN American Center is no longer possible. Most of the articles from the series are still available as part of my Examiner column but I will have to decide on a new home custom-designed for them outside that location. To those who have been visiting the page on PEN to check them out: please accept my apologies for the unexpected interruption.
Both series to some extent addressed the volatile dynamics that characterized the U.S presidential race last year but both also extend quite a bit beyond the realm of politics. The Guerrilla Decontextualization sequence in particular is one that proposes a framework in which to examine cultural trends that appear to be as deadly as they are popular. Paradigm Dancing looks at how deftly we do or do not negotiate the inevitable transitions molding our 21st century lives–– so very much the way sculptors mold clay or the way genetics and wombs mold flesh. As many know already, there is a website designed to document the Guerrilla Decontextualization project so it may very well provide the new digs for the mutually complementary series.
Although the PEN American Center profile no longer hosts an individual blog, it does allow for an RSS feed that will publish headlines and/or excerpts from a blog posted elsewhere. I will probably experiment with a couple of feeds before settling on one. Or maybe even two. Consider it part of the necessary adjustments that come with working out the bugs and glitches after any major website upgrade.
Image Credit: Bright Skylark Literary Productions
“Now come the whispers
bearing bouquets of moonbeams
and sunlight tremblings.”
--Aberjhani (from The River of Winged Dreams)
List of Stops on an Internet Tour
of The River of Winged Dreams
There is some justification to recent criticism that I possibly have not shown The River of Winged Dreams as much attention as I should since its publication in 2010. I certainly do not refute the affirmation that it is a book worthy of its growing audience. Therefore, the above quote, from the poem “Angel of Valentine Days and Nights,” is presented not only in celebration of one of the year’s more fun holidays but in honor of a book which in a few months will turn 3 years young.
Obviously one big reason I haven’t campaigned for wider distribution or other considerations regarding the title is because of ongoing work focused on literary projects which have not reached the stage of maturity that The River of Winged Dreams has. Editing the first two volumes of the Savannah Civil War Book Series, putting together a major collection of essays, contributing to an important website, and completing a hopefully ideologically substantive play are not the kinds of things most mortal writers can do effectively while tweeting with one hand and polishing up aspiring classics with the other.
Though in all honesty I felt River was representing itself fairly well with the popularity of its quotations page on Goodreads. But yes, I know, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do a bit more to spruce up the page on Facebook or clean up other areas that still have the old cover for The Bridge of Silver Wings where the new one for The River of Winged Dreams should be. But an author has to prioritize and that’s what I do––even when it comes to which projects I shamelessly ask the Tech Angels to assist me with.
The very excellent news here, however, is that the book has been finding its way out into the world and making friends with all kinds of audiences through commentators, translations, visual art interpretations, and good old-fashioned classically passionate readers. For that and much more: thank you all very much!
Mega-diva Beyonce sings the American national anthem as President Barack Obama looks on during Inauguration Day 2013. (Photo Credit: Reuters)
“Hope drowned in shadows
emerges fiercely splendid––
--Aberjhani, from The River of Winged Dreams
One of the political jabs with which critics of Barack Obama used to attack him during his first run for the U.S. presidency was that his proposed platform was more rhetorical poetry than political substance. That charge has been largely reversed at this 2013 beginning of his hard-won second term.
The cry now––mostly from those frequently described as extremist conservatives, Tea Partiers, and the “New Plutocrats”–– is that the poet in President Obama has allowed power to exert its corruptive influence. It has, they charge, caused him to imagine that he is “a king” in a country where monarchy is not the law of the land. The supposed evidence is his successful passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and proposals submitted to Congress just last week to help end the loss of American lives due to gun violence.
As it turned out, the very quality for which Mr. Obama was ridiculed––his profound eloquence in print as well as in person–– has become one of his greatest strengths. It has also by extension become one of America’s greatest strengths. Again, as it turned out, his poetry was filled with a great deal of substance capable of steering the United States through its greatest economic devastation since the Great Depression, restoring the country’s status as a leader in world affairs, excelling when necessary in the role of commander in chief, and exhibiting extraordinary compassion for those battered by disaster. Poetry, it seems, had helped provide him with uncommon communication skills and an empathetic manner that has allowed him to simultaneously lead, steer, and guide.
Leadership and Followership
His achievements of course have not been solo events. Teams of very devoted individuals and the American people themselves have made the different manifestations of political visions possible in an extremely volatile––some might say antagonistic––climate. The poem below, Midnight Flight of the Poetry Angels, was written during the presidential campaign of 2008 as much to honor those whose followership have since made Mr. Obama’s presidency possible as it was to honor the man himself. It is presented here, in acknowledgment of the 57th inauguration, as it was when shared three months before he first won the office, with an introductory quote from Dreams from My Father:
Midnight Flight of the Poetry Angels
(by Aberjhani from The River of Winged Dreams)
“It was a savage scene, and we stayed there for a long time, watching life feed on itself, the silence interrupted only by the crack of bone or the rush of wind, or the hard thump of a vulture’s wings as it strained to lift itself into the current, until it finally found the higher air and those long and graceful wings became motionless and still like the rest.”
––Barack Obama, from Dreams from My Father
What once was blood streaks
your face with indigo tears
and lush midnight tunes.
Holding silver hands,
you compose a Tao of art
that heals broken wings.
Lips glow violet,
open to reveal tongues bright
with pearl metaphors.
A speckled halo
handcuffs the world’s best liars
to soft dark passions.
Music’s sweet labors
give birth to a springtime rush
of sighs rippling dreams.
Out of your mouth rhymes
blossom like warm paradigms
already in flight.
Golden, your songs,
and noble; spinning stars on
their axis of love.
On faith’s battered back
calm eyes etch prayers that cool
a nation’s hot rage.
Inside these scarred hearts
genius flows incandescent
waves of truth made real.
Hope drowned in shadows
emerges fiercely splendid––
(from The River of Winged Dreams)
co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
and ELEMENTAL The Power of Illuminated Love
Recently the following quote from the poem A Poet Is a Clinton D. Powell, also known as “A Poem for a Poet,” has been making the rounds on the Internet: “A poet is a verb that blossoms light.”
The poem was written to commemorate my friend Clinton’s inspired life and early death on January 2, 2011. That others have been gleaning some small inspiration and motivation from the phrase seems appropriate enough. He would have liked that because although he was not particularly prolific as a poet, he was an extraordinary champion of the art and those who practiced it. There were few venues in Savannah, Georgia, where he did not turn up for open mics or other poetry showcases (including classrooms on every educational level) to lend his support.
There is at least one art graphic that I’m aware of with the quote on it already but that one uses an image of me in support of National Poetry Month. I don’t have a problem with that but I also wanted something more illustrative of the words’ original purpose. As so often happens when confronted by such an aesthetic dilemma, those more accomplished than myself in the field of visual arts offered valuable guidance and kindly walked me through the creation of a set of Andy-Warhol-like constructions in which the basic image is repeated several times with color and contrast variations. (Continues below)
After narrowing the choices for a final graphic down to 3, I was supposed to choose 1. However, I l liked the final 3 so much that I decided to stick with the Andy Warhol template and make National Poetry Month and World Poetry Day posters (for use later this year) out of all 3. Hence: the floral trinity presented in this blog on this second anniversary of Clinton’s death. I think the theater director in him would have liked it this way as well.
Among of the pronouncements Clinton once made in regard to poetry was: “I want to be able to touch every part of our community with poetry.” Maybe this bouquet of light upon light will help him do exactly that.