Where does inspiration lie? Everywhere!

This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

Please join me with your comments and make this a dialogue . . . and visit Susan's Poetry!

Monday, September 23, 2013

a plague of plagiarism.

  • SEPTEMBER 21, 2013   12:00AM

DAILY readers of this newspaper may have seen a story I wrote on September 13 (a Black Friday for some) about a plagiarism scandal involving Newcastle-based poet Andrew Slattery.  [The original story is here.]
The award-winning poet admitted he had been inserting lines from other poets - including famous ones such as Sylvia Plath, Charles Bukowski and Seamus Heaney - into his own work. (He also "borrowed" from prose writers, including Romanian Emil Cioran, which I mention in passing because I have such fond memories of my younger self reading On the Heights of Despair.)
Slattery said he was striving for a cento format, where the works of other writers are inserted into new poems, but I suspect this was a half-hearted defence, and certainly it was one no one was buying. Ultimately, he admitted he had done the wrong thing.
The story sparked a vigorous debate in poetry circles and the wider literary community. In a long and stimulating article on the Overland website, Justin Clemens makes many good points, including one that immediately occurred to me: how did Slattery's deception go undetected for so long? How did prize judges, often poets themselves, not spot lines from Heaney, say, in Slattery's work? " ... all the judges and editors and aesthetes ... have been left with poetic egg on their faces," Clemens writes.
Slattery was widely published, including in this newspaper. "The victims," Clemens observes, "have come from all colours of the political and aesthetic spectrums. It seems Slattery has taken in almost everybody, from internationally famous poets ... through academic specialists and journal editors and media hacks, not to mention a more general and diffuse readership."
The continuing fallout from this affair has exposed some toxic undercurrents in the Australian poetry scene. You can bet your bottom dollar the work of a lot of poets has been run through online search engines since Black Friday, being checked for plagiarism.
You can also wager with confidence that some of the people doing the checking are fellow poets. How many poets this makes nervous is something I do not know. If you missed my original story, you can find it, and also Clemens's piece, on my professional Facebook page, which I've been meaning to mention for a while. This is a public page so you don't have to be my "friend" to look at it.www.facebook.com/stephenromei

Monday, September 16, 2013

Three Minutes

Apr 25, 2013 4:49pm
The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted unanimously to honor four young Alabama girls, killed in a 1963 church bombing. Martin Luther King Jr. had called them  ”martyrs” of the civil rights movement.
The girls, all black members of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, will be posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the country’s highest civilian honors, created by an act of Congress.
Addie Mae Collins, 14; Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; and Cynthia Wesley; 14, were killed on Sept 15, 1963,  in the attack that struck the packed church on a Sunday morning. Twenty-two others were injured.
The bomb, composed of dynamite and a timer, was planted beneath the front steps of the church,  outside a basement room in which 26 children attended a Sunday school sermon.

Three Minutes

Four young ones
died yesterday
and yesterday
and yesterday

Seems like yesterday
when four girls died
and four more
and four more

Today, too, death
more died today
while praising and
singing and walking

Bombing children anywhere 
is bombing children 
here in this 
safe heart.

Copyright © 2013 S.L.Chast

Monday, September 9, 2013

Peaceable Kingdom

I was thrilled to see this, an 11-minute segment of a documentary-in-production on the Religious Society of Friends.  It's exciting because it avoids the pitfall of mythologizing.  For example, whereas it reveals Quaker involvement with abolition it does not obscure the fact that some Quakers owned slaves and were the first "targets" of Quakers who came to know that ownership of people was against the right order of God.  

I am not collecting money for this documentary which will play on PBS, but I am supporting it in every way I can.  

I am a Quaker in Philadelphia, PA, a city founded by William Penn within territory he received from the King of England.  His statue is on top of City Hall, and yet many here do not know of Penn or the Quaker faith.  

In contemporary USA there are any different flavors of Quaker stemming from the historical tradition provided in this clip.  For silent-meeting universalists like myself, the more conservative and talkative branches seem strangely fundamental next to my own experience of that of God in all people and the equality between continuous revelation and the Biblical Word.   I look forward to seeing how this documentary explains the differences as well as our common work toward a peaceable kingdom and the end of all war. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Unfinished Poem

                                     (for Amy M-K)

I wake into giving thoughts,
day already blooming for me
(if I am ready to receive
it without hesitation)

I rise into givens, catching
as much as possible with mitts
(protecting my hands, hands shielding
my heart, eyes closed, peeking)

I will, I promise daily, learn
to receive Light bare handed
(and uncover my heart, and   
worship with eyes open)

Copyright © 2013 S.L.Chast

Posted at dVerse Poets Pub OpenLinkNight Week 112.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day 2013

(My poem "Labor Day 2013" is HERE.)

The skies opened and rain, rain, RAINED.  Stopped for a minute, and now pour again.  My daily Facebook is filled with reminders of union actions that made the USA a better place to work and warnings about upcoming legislation that turns some of that around.  To me, reading the history of labor unions while watching governments dissolve them is poignant and energizing. Democracy is powerful when its people engage in it and apply their voting and veto and marching-to-be heard powers.

From Wikipedia where you can read much more:

     In the US, Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country.
     In many countries, the working classes sought to make May Day an official holiday, and their efforts largely succeeded. In the United States and Canada, however, the official holiday for workers is Labor Day in September. This day was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, who organized the first parade in New York City. After the Haymarket Massacre, US President Grover Cleveland feared that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could become an opportunity to commemorate the affair. Thus, in 1887, it was established as an official holiday in September to support the Labor Day that the Knights favored.

Today's New York Times Opinion Section, re-ran Cindy Hahamovitch's " "The Lessons of Belle Glade" originally published July 18, 2013.  A historian, Ms. Hahamovitch provides context for understanding the latest migrant worker options pending in Congress.  Read the article; it's powerful.

I wish an equally clear context was available for current legislation that feels to me like attacks on teachers and our unions.  While union reform is necessary, the union breaking and economics involved with funding education seems to be political and not related to any policy present and past.  Correct me if I am wrong.

Please help me find clear readings providing an historical context for today's impoverishment of education that ultimately affects children, families, and the future of this nation.

(My poem "Labor Day 2013" is HERE.)
(I am aware that I left weapons out of this poem,  over-
simplifying the tactics of terrorists and tyrants.  
I pray for safety in the Labor Day streets 
of the USA and elsewhere.)