Monday, June 22, 2009


Or At Least Like Zurito

be as Manuel
in Hemingway's The Undefeated

"Few men realize that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings. The courage, the composure, the confidence; the emotions and principles; every great and every insignificant thought belongs not to the individual but to the crowd; to the crowd that believes blindly in the irresistible force of its institutions and of its morals, in the power of its police and of its opinion."

---Joseph Conrad.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Law In New Jersey

Recently here in south Jersey a state trooper (NJ State Police Officer) was acquitted in a jury trial after he ran a stop sign at 70-75 mph at night on a small New Jersey backroad in pursuit of an alleged speeder, and without his flashing lights or siren on. He rammed into a minivan killing two teenage girls (driver and passenger) age 19 and 17. The jury, acting on what the judge had noted constitutes a criminal act under these circumstances (as, apparently, it does in many other States as well), voted unanimously for acquittal, because a police officer in pusuit should not engage a siren or flashing lights until the gap between the speeder and the officer in pursuit is being closed. He claimed not to have seen the stop sign. The state trooper had to pay several hundred dollars in fines and court costs, and his attorney is now asking that he receives all of his back pay for two years prior to the trial after his suspension, and also that he be reinstated as a state policeman.

There was a civil suit settled out of court compensating the family in the amount of 2 million from State police funds paid by taxpayers.

The local papers reported the daily presence of contingents of state police officers present in the courtroom during the trial, but no news sources speculated as to whether this phalanx had any effect on prosecutor, judge, or jury.

(addendum, June 19th: Just in case anyone doubts that NJ is, covertly, a police state, Trooper Higbee has been reinstated at full pay - $67,000 a year, and will undergo firearms proficiency testing before being re-posted.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kamala Das

I first came across her work in the "Poetry of India" special issue (#10, 1968) of Allen De Loach's INTREPID. This particular issue was guest edited by Carl Weissner.

There are 2 hyperlinks on Silliman's Blog (June 12th) to pieces written of her: A respectful N.Y. Times obituary by Margalit Fox (June 9th), and a warm personal tribute by Pritish Nandy, whose poetry also appeared in INTREPID (#10). Kamala Das has several YouTube videos, and there is a sensitive essay @ (June 13th), in their "obituaries" section. She converted to Islam at age 65 in 1999 and took the name of Kamala Suraiya.

Born in Kerala to a Nayar family, she wrote initially in Malayalan. Here are 2 excerpts from early poems written in English by her in that issue.

from "Convicts"

There was a time when our lusts were
Like milticoloured flags of no
Particular country. We lay
On bed, glassy-eyed, fatigued, just
The toys dead children leave behind,
And we asked each other, what is
The use, what is the bloody use?

from "The Descendants"

We have lain in every weather, nailed, no, not
To crosses, but to soft beds and against
Softer forms, while the heaving, lurching
Tender hours passed in a half-dusk, half-dawn and
Half-dream, half-real trance. We were the yielders,
Yielding ourselves to everything. It is
Not for us to scrape the walls of wombs for
Memories, not for us even to
Question death, but as child to mother's arms
We shall give ourselves to the fire or to
The hungry earth to be slowly eaten,
Devoured. None will step off his cross
Or show his wounds to us, no god lost in
Silence shall begin to speak, no lost love
Claim us, no, we are not going to be
Ever redeemed, or made new.

And in that same issue there are some early poems by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. Mehrotra was the third of the three candidates for the (now tainted) Oxford Professorship, and he says that he will keep his name in the running. The Oxford electors there could do far worse than offer the position to Mehrotra, who was certainly one of the wild ones as a young man, and they thus could avoid yet another faux election.

Friday, June 5, 2009

3 in 1

For obvious reasons, I don't like the title of those two Tarantino films. 40 years ago, also in Bangkok, poet and long-time Trappist monk Thomas Merton, was found dead in his room - via supposedly accidental electrocution - just before he was about to deliver to a Buddhist assembly a talk about the Vietnam War, which he opposed.

Initially led by a hyperlink on a May 31 post by Angela Veronica Wong on her "smart stuff" blog, I can now join the growing chorus of praise for Suheir Hammad's poetry.

Although somewhat boringly written, but definitively researched, W.J. McCormack's BLOOD KINDRED, does what no full-length biography of W.B. Yeats had done peviously. Only Indian scholar V.K.N. Menon, in a text favorably reviewed by Orwell over 60 years ago, dared to delve below and retrieve the sinister black box of his politics and prejudices. For example, Yeats had accepted the Third Reich's Goethe-Plakette (1934) from Nazi Oberburgermeister Krebs, and he was a supporter of the 1930's Nuremberg race laws, and during the Spanish Civil War describes democracy as "muck in the yard." In other letters and documents and drafts for poems, McCormack uncovers writings like a reference to a "Negro girl who lived near Sligo" Yeats noting "she is among those our civilization must reject" (p. 266). McCormack, Chief Librarian, Edward Worth Library, Dublin, and formerly Professor of Literary History and Head of Department, Goldsmiths' College, U. of London, discusses Yeats specifically in relation to Ireland and Irish politics, including the IRA, and concludes: "He gave comfort to democracy's enemies, to decency's enemies, to the enemies of art and culture." "Et Tu, Willy...? Modernism and Fascism" is the title of a brief piece I am writing.