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Human Rights Day 2009: Poetry by Candlelight

December 7, 2009

It’s tough keeping up with all my blogs.  I have a hard time doing it so I’ve no doubt everyone else who’s interested in them must feel the same way.  Many of you might not know that I’ve started a fourth blog that has the uninspiring title: Holiday Decorations.  While some feel it’s my best blog yet, I, like all parents, love all my “children” equally, though this has the position, like the Pope, of being “first among equals”.  It was the idea of commenting on all the different holiday displays that lead me to blogging.  Check it out.  Doing it is almost more fun than one person should be allowed to have–legally.

But onto what I really want to talk about which is art and its relevance in the “real” world.  This coming Tuesday night, December 8, 2009, at 8 pm, a group of people, poets mostly, will gather in Columbus Park in Stamford to mark Human Rights Day.  It is being billed as: Poetry by Candlelight Human Rights Day 2009.

My friend, the poet and educator, Ralph Nazareth, who organized the event writes the following:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the most translated document in history, starts with the momentous words, “All humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Sixty years later, this declaration is observed mainly in the breach. Imperialist designs, corporate greed, nationalist and religious fanaticism fuel poverty, hunger, terror, torture, murder and rape.

Raise your voices—against oppression, for human decency.

PoemAlley will lead area writers in this resistance reading. Come with a passion for justice and fire in the belly.

Please spread the news.

Please spread the news”.  So that’s what I’m doing.  But….  But…I wonder…what is the poet’s voice worth against so many bombs, so much hate and greed and self interest and sheer exhaustion from the effort made in trying to be heard?  Does it matter?  Are we…are poets…relevant?  I want to give a resounding “YES!” but hesitate.  Didn’t Gandhi, though not a poet, but one man, make a difference?  Didn’t he change the course of history?  Yes, and there’s Martin Luther King, Jr. and countless others, including, more recently: Mr. Mandela.  So why do I continue to hesitate?  Why do I have such grave doubts in the “voice of the people”, the “voice of the poet”?

The Many Faces of Josh Harris

Maybe I hesitate because I’ve witnessed such over indulgence in the obsession displayed by so many artists.  The “my art above all else” attitude is so destructive, so arrogant, so full of greed and self interest (am I repeating myself?).  The best example of exposing this obsessiveness that I’ve seen lately is the masterful movie, a true gem of storytelling: “We Live in Public”.  I saw it months ago and it’s haunted me ever since.  Ondi Timoner, the film’s director/producer is a master storyteller and here she has two great stories to tell.  The first story is the rise and fall and rise and fall of Josh Harris one of the early and true creative geniuses of the internet.  Since his story coincides with the rise of the internet Ms. Timoner documents that as well.  Brilliant.  What angers me about Mr. Harris is how once his genius turns dark he doesn’t do anything to stop it from dragging all those around him down.

As I said I saw it months ago and it’s haunted me ever since but, strangely, I haven’t been able to write about it.  Too many connections.  Too many tree roots to stumble over if I’d launch into the deep forest of my own artistic obsessions.  My own obsessions–period.  Too many questions about the meaning and use of art.  Hell, of life.  I’ll stop here today but I’ll be re-visiting this theme over and over and over again.  It’s too close to the bone right now.

So–three things: First, do come and raise your voice in support of Human Rights, this Tuesday night at 8 PM at Columbus Park (in front of Curley’s Diner, 62 West Park Place, Stamford, CT–where, if the weather is inclement we will convene), in Stamford, CT.  Second, visit my newest blog: Holiday Decorations (Hell–visit ALL my blogs: Besides this one and the Holiday one, there’s also my goofy blog: “Things We Need (to Make it Thru the Day)” and “Just So…”, my photo blog).  Finally, it is criminal that “We Live in Public” was not listed (along with “It Might Get Loud”) for Academy Award consideration; it might have made it easier to see if it had; but it is out there but, as with “It Might Get Loud”, you need to track it down.

And finally…really…I saw two very interesting, bordering on “Great”, films in the past three days.  First, I saw the French movie: Il y a longtemps que je t’aime (I’ve Loved You so Long) directed by Philippe Claudel and starring Kristin Scott Thomas.  Though there are some huge plot holes in the film, her performance is wonderful.  And speaking of wonderful performances, the ones that director So Yong Kim gets out of then 7 year-old, Hee-yeon Kim, and 5 year-old, Song-hee Kim in Treeless Mountain are nothing less than brilliant.  I watched this on DVD and it is worth watching two extras contained on it–the two little girls sitting in a park in Turkey talking to the director two years after the movie’s filming and the Q&A at New York’s Film Forum.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 20, 2009 4:25 pm



    Regarding the relevance of poetry, you hesitate. Well, I choke on it—time and again. That’s how fragile it seems to me, this life of words. Auden said “…poetry makes nothing happen…”

    Yet, that magician of language made the damaging pronouncement in his great elegy for Yeats, and those of us who might not have known Yeats or Ireland or winter or heroic action or the mythic imagination won’t have to look for any of them outside Auden’s own poem! That’s how much the poem contains or has the power to evoke and fix once and for all, make real.

    I’d leave Gandhi and King and Mandela aside for a minute. Great leaders who changed history, their actions spoke a thousand words. The question is whether one word is as good as a thousand actions. And—here I not only hesitate but well nigh tremble to to think of the possibilities.

    Ecce homo! All right, two words!

    What might Homer’s first word spoken into the descending night have wrought in the hearts of the listeners hungry to know themselves and their infernal and heroic past, as yet unspoken, their minds and hearts yearning to see the future forever un-shaped until sounded in song?!


    As the great William Carlos Willaims says:

    It is difficult
    to get the news from poems
    yet men die miserably every day
    for lack
    of what is found there.

    • billbuschel permalink*
      December 20, 2009 9:12 pm

      Thanks Ralph. Your words mean a great deal to me.


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