Friday, March 2, 2012
Article that inspired this little rant: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/31/carol-ann-duffy-oxford-professory-poetry?newsfeed=true
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
I'm visiting to tell you all of a new venture I've started. You see, I don't get to travel much to give readings, etc. so I decided to give readings via webcam. Every so many days, I'm going to post a video on my Youtube channel of myself reading a single poem. It may or may not be written by myself, and may or may not include an introduction. If you're interested in watching, just type "Sabne Raznik" into the search on youtube.com. I don't require readers/viewers to subscribe, comment, like and all that stuff. It's not about playing a popularity game. It's about connecting with my readership and the joy of sharing the written word. The videos are very simple- just me reading to a webcam.
I hope you can drop by and have a look, and spread the word. Who knows, maybe someday I can figure out a way to have tiny workshops the same way? The important thing is that everyone enjoy the experience, such as it is. See you there!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
The poems therein are varied in make. There are multi-stanza poems, short meditative pieces, lyric free verse and melodic alt-forms. This is less the pastoral, ancestor-oriented work commonly associated with Appalachian literature and more the complex, interpretive and experimental lyrics of contemporary poetry as is being written throughout America and the Western world today.
The subjects are also more profound than might normally be expected. The predominate theme is that of betrayal on many levels, but mostly in the area of sexual violence and its aftermath. Also addressed is abandonment by a parent, by a lover, by nature and by life- real or perceived. The betrayal of the self is not left out of this equation. It is not a collection for the squeamish or those more comfortable with light verse and greeting card verse. These are serious pieces about thought-provoking, serious subjects.
But not all is dark. While not flinching from these indescribable experiences, the collection focuses on the ability of the human spirit to rise above such horrors: to always look for hope (a white bird always refers to hope), to refuse to remain victimised, to use these experiences to learn strength, and even to be able to open oneself up to vulnerability and relationships willingly and unfailingly loyally.
The photos peppered generously throughout the book reflect this positivism. Taken by Northern Irish photographer Jan McCullough, they are mostly clean youthful portraits with stunning emphasis on the eyes of the models. A few were taken by myself and these are credited appropriately in the acknowledgements section. The cover photo was taken by Jessica Marshallsay quite by accident, but what a lovely accident!
The end result is a visually pleasing book that reflects the message of the poems therein. It has received glowing reviews every time it has been reviewed. These reviews can be read at my website, (www.sabneraznik.com). Following Hope is available everywhere online- including Amazon.com and Ebay.com- in softcover format. It is also available in hardcover if ordered directly from the publisher at www.xlibris.com/FollowingHope.html.
My second collection is still in manuscript form and currently making the rounds in search of representation and/or a publisher. It's title is in a state of flux. "Whethering: shiir" was thrown out because similar titles have been used for poetry collections recently. Currently, its working title is "Habibi". It will continue the aims of stereotype breaking and take it to another level. The poems will be even more varied. There will be experimentation with syntax, concrete poetry, even shorter poems, my first attempt at blank verse, and my only attempt thus far at a performance piece.
These poems are love songs which remain interpretive in nature and, therefore, have multiple possible meanings. These are addressed to a lover, an unrequited love, God, and the exotic all at once. There will be a notes section which will translate phrases and words that appear throughout in a total of 11 or 12 different languages, some of them ancient. These notes will also help with references made throughout that shift all through the long and rich history of the Middle East. It will be a celebration of the beautiful, of music, photography, dance, love, loss, hope, Appalachia, and language. All of this climaxes in an eerily Irish sort of keening to full effect.
The photography of Jan McCullough will be featured once again, this time all alone. From the cover and on, every photo will be McCullough's work. These will be scattered more sparsely throughout. This time, the photos are abstracts of broken, rain-damped streets superimposed with artistic nudes.
I do not know when it will be available for sale since I am still looking for an agent and/or publisher, but I can assure you it will be worth the wait. The interpretations of my work given in this article are subjective and merely one way of perceiving it. I believe it is the perogative of the reader to apply it to their individual situations as it suits them.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
For anyone who would like to purchase my 2nd chapbook of poetry, "Care and Feeding of Nightmares" - you can email me at:
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
My mom passed away Sunday evening about 6pm. She was only 65 yo, but she had been in poor health for at least the past 6 months. We tried a few things in CCU to try and wake up her kidneys and other organs back up, but when we realized they weren't working, daddy made the decision - the right decision and mom's wishes - to turn all the machines off. She was in no pain and thankfully went peacefully.
Please keep my family in your prayers ...
Friday, April 16, 2010
The Kentucky Arts Council will celebrate Kentucky Writers' Day at 10am Friday, April 23rd in the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort.
Past Kentucky Poets laureate Jane Gentry Vance (2007-2008), Sena Jeter Naslund (2005-2006), Joe Survant (2003-2004), and Richard Taylor (1999-2000) will give readings of their work as part of the event.
A special receiption to honor all Kentucky writers will follow at 11am on the mezzanine level of the Capitol. "Five Kentucky Poets Laureate: An Anthology," "Abraham Lincoln of Kentucky" and poet laureat broadsides will be offered for sale at the reception.
Kentucky Writers' Day is officially April 24 in honor of the birth date of Kentucky native Robert Penn Warren, the first poet laureate of the United States and winner of three Pulitzer prizes.
This event is free and open to the public.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Hey guys, we have signed off on the proof of Speaking Out! Volume 2! It is bigger and definitely better that Volume 1! I hope you agree. They should ship within the next two weeks, so it is almost time to party down and sign some books! Remember, everyone who contributed to the book gets a free one. We hope you will all be on hand to sign copies.
Any suggestions for a venue for the book release party?
Saturday, March 6, 2010
But the very existence of such an ideal reveals an ignorance concerning how poetry is being practiced today and what exactly free verse (vers libre) really is. This ignorance is rather surprising when one takes into account the over-emphasis on academic degrees, professorships, and lecture posts among contemporary poets- so much so that the casual observer and beginning poet may come to think these are required for one to be a true poet.
The argument in favor of a return to form ignores two facts. One, that a large portion of contemporary poets utilise both traditional forms and free verse throughout their various oeuvres. Two, that free verse (vers libre) is itself a poetic form and, after more than a century's use, might well be considered as a traditional form in Western literature.
As for that first point, one could easily pick up the Collected volumes of any number of well known poets publishing today and see the truth of it. Many of our most beloved poets do not limit themselves either to free verse or tradional forms alone, but freely and skillfully employ anything available to them.
As for the second point, it is true that many use free verse incorrectly and lazily. Many mistakenly believe that free verse means that the poem can have no structure at all. Many poems passed off as "free verse" amount to little more than prose poems with line breaks and even stanza breaks. Some of it cannot even be loosely considered as prose poems. It would be beneficial to remind some that sentences seperated by blank spaces on the page do not make those sentences poetry. In fact, free verse is very structured and requires some skill to write in a satisfactory manner. It is a form.
Perhaps the best example of what I'm trying to clarify is the work of T. S. Eliot himself: "The Waste Land". Anyone who has taken poetry classes in any college in the U. S. has had to dissect this poem. Look closely at it again. It is written in free verse (or as Eliot himself would have called it: vers libre). But what is it that makes it liberal or liberated as a form? You will quickly see that it is not a total lack of form. In fact, it is a potpourri of forms. And that is what free verse is: it uses what is commonly refered to as the traditional forms and slips in and out of them freely. Sometimes these parts rhyme and sometimes they don't. But never is there a moment in that poem where form does not exist. One piece may be blank verse, another a variation on a sonnet. It changes. It is fluid. It is living. But it is undeniably structured.
When one realises that free verse is actually a sort of tiny collection of forms, and thereby a form in its own right, the argument that one needs to turn one's back on it as poetry in order to return to form negates itself. The sentiment that it is used up also becomes unreasonable because the problem that has brought up that sentiment is misuse (or no use at all) of free verse brought on by a collective misunderstanding of what it is. In theory and in practice, there is no limit to the variation and possible manipulations of the free verse form, just as there is no limit to the variations and possible manipulations of the sonnet (and most of the other traditional) forms. How then could it be out-of-date, undesirable to use, and time to dicard it?
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Betty and Roni
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
"Fingers" is one of the most powerful poems I've read for a long time. These same fingers claw this reader's mind and imagination long after the book has been laid aside. But this book doesn't really get laid aside; it walks the streets of Dublin with me. For this I thank you and may your special magic continue to flourish. "
One of the most common legends throughout the Middle East is "Leyla and Majnun". The title varies as names are translated, but these names mean: Leyla- Arabic for night, Majnun- Arabic for demon or mad man, specifically madly in love. Some of the details of the story can vary as well. There is some claim that the legends are based on a true story about a Bedouin poet named Qays ibn al-Mulawwah ibn Muzahim and a woman called Layla bint Mahdi ibn Sa'd, better known as Layla Al-Aamiriya. The legends are far-flung and both India and Saudi Arabia claim to have the tomb of the lovers.
The most popular version of the story was written by Nizami Ganjavi (1141-1209) in the Persian tongue. In this story Majnun falls in love with Leyla at first sight but is denied marrying her. This drives him to madness and poetry becomes his salvation. His father takes him to a temple to implore the god's help for his son, but instead Majnun prays that his love will continue to grow since he knows his life is worthless without it. Eventually, he retreats to the wilderness (which reminded me of the Celtic legend of "Mad Sweeney") to live with the animals and recite poetry he had written for Leyla. His health slowly declines and he exhausts all symbolic and psychological desire. When he last meets with Leyla, he no longer wishes to live, so driven mad by denied love as he is, and dies in her arms. She then dies beside him of grief. Some versions have her dying first and his own mad grief and love driving him finally to his death afterwards.
The legend has proved to be the influence of many great Western works of literature. During the Middle Ages, thanks to travelling troubadours and the crusades, there was much cross-pollination between these different cultures. The story of Leyla and Majnun was adapted and westernised for such classic tales as "Tristan and Isolde", "Aucassin et Nicolette", "La Fou d'Elsa", and perhaps most famously "Romeo and Juliette" among others. It was also the first work ever created in the Italian musical genre in the Muslim world. It was so adapted by Uzeyir Hajibeyov. Hajibeyov's version of the story is an enormously successful synthesis between East and West, and between European classical music and Oriental culture, it is said.
One of the most defining differences between the Western adaptions and the Eastern legends concerning Majnun and Leyla is the view of love according to culture. In the West, as can be seen by refering to the adaptations and Western literature which has been influenced by the Eastern legends, true love is nearly always a consummated love. Whether that love is approved by the powers that be or not, the love-struck and typically doomed couple will usually at some point have sexual relations. Only then is the love fully realised and sympathised with. In the Eastern legends, this love is almost never consummated. In fact, the legends' driving force is dependent on that fact. This is because in Oriental tradition, particularly the Islamic, true love for a person is a pure love, one that does not require sexual intimacy. Only if the love remains pure and free of physical relations can it be the kind of love that leads one to the complete love of the divine. In Leyla and Majnun, this is what characterises Majnun's insanity- that it is a manifestation of his having reached the ultimate state of divine love and hence, in a sense, has himself become divine. Therefore, the love-mad, non-revolutionary poet is, in Oriental tradition, a divine being.
The reasons for Leyla's family's rejection of Majnun also differs from that of the Western adaptations. In "Romeo and Juliette" that rejection is based on mutual emnity between the families. In "Tristan and Isolde" it is because of social standing and because Isolde is already betrothed. In Leyla and Majnun, he is rejected because of the poetic nature of his love. In Oriental culture love is a secret thing. Marriages are even today typically arranged by families for the advancement of the family or for whatever reason. It is not to be spoken of in public or advertised, because love, although desirable, is not a requirement for those marriages and the happiness attained within them (however much the Western world believes that love is vital for happiness, many other cultures do not believe that to be so, and when both parties to the marriage agree on this belief it can be true). So when Majnun publicises his love by spouting poetry outside the walls of Leyla's house and in the streets, this offends Leyla's family and breaks this code, if you will. Since he is considered divine because of the poetic intensity of his love, he is no longer considered as a human being in that cultural environment and, as such, is not eligible for the marriage. In other words, the union would have resulted in scandal. That is why, in the Iranian and Turkic traditions, Majnun is viewed as a pure and absolute martyr to divine love, although that interpretation is not included in all Eastern versions of the legend. In the context of this brief discussion of cultural differences and interpretations, it is interesting to note that the action of the legend is set during what is called "Jahiliyah"- meaning "ignorance"- and predates Islam by one hundred years.
The legends of Leyla and Majnun still ring true for audiences today, especially youths. Western youths long for the kind of love which would be so strong as to allow either or both partners to die for each other if necessary. In the fast-paced society that exists today, it is common for people to marry multiple times and still not experience the love that Western culture insists is vital to such a relationship, and so the modern connection to the Western adaptions is a sort of nostalgic longing for true love that never dies even in death. In the Orient, arranged marriages are still more or less the norm and the possiblility of forbidden love is a real one. Therefore, Leyla and Majnun's difficulties still have a very real and immediate currency there. Also, there is the unique phenomenon created by immigration. In Southern California alone, there are nearly one million Iranians and there are many, many more of Middle Eastern origin throughout the Western world. Coming as they are from a culture where love is a private matter into one that experienced the sexual liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s and where sex is so common and open that it is even used to sell products as advertising, the effects can be devestating. There have even been cases of insanity due to the effort required to reconcile these totally different ways of thinking. For these ones, the legends of Leyla and Majnun have an altogether unique meaning of its own.
Truly, this classical Eastern legend deserves close scrutiny by those from both sides of the world, as it has had a profound effect on both.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Remove my voice box ,
go ahead press mute.
I'll mime my way around all of their stupidity.
Turn down the volume,
no subtitles or captions,
I'll mouth the solutions to our problems with my lips,
and never a sound to interrupt,
and Silence will overwhelm.
Go ahead-press mute on me,
turn off my voice and expect me lame.
in the quiet you will find.
my voice is.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
This was inspired by the movie "Jodhaa Akbar" and a dream I had:
Coloured glass ornaments
Darkened orange veil
Tripping bell anklets
One step to freedom
She's afraid to take it
Painted hands to wall
Painted feet touch floor
I'm having trouble titling this one. I tried "Dead" but it seemed to give away too much. I tried "Children" but that had the same problem, so current working title:
Ululation breaks parched
Throat, skin, earth
Sandstorm enwraps bony
Words into the skin, blood
Inked names of
Sorrows, sorrows lost on
Numbed and rubbed free
Did any of you watch last year's "Superstars of Dance" with Micheal Flatley as host? This poem was inspired by the solo South African dancer Mamela Nyamza and her performance as a dying swan or crane (link to youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AswRJtS9_eg&feature=related)- you may remember her:
She sinks into dirt
Dirt sky she imagines
Giving out under its withheld
Of hope. Soft, wet, white,
Crisp, soap-sparkle of
Snow she's never seen
Kissing the bare
Glassed into ocean
Water still as steel-stone.
She feels like she
Is tearing open
With pain- like ripping apart
Garments- stepping free
In a white tu-tu,
Dancing the horizon:
A crane's jerking
Movements- broken lips-
Across snowed-on ocean,
Dirt-covered folded origami
Bird in palm encased,
Dug from earth-deep death,
Star of Africa.
This next one was a meditation on the events of my life over 2009:
Carcass of wingless
Black bird of prey,
Bleached white inside:
If you should find a seed within it,
Throw it down to us
To pick at,
Misunderstand and squander.
This is a favorite subject of mine:
She picks at her bedlah
Checks her nails
Listens for the zaghareets
Which are her cue
Nervous, her heart beats with the drums
While she practices some of the
More difficult moves of her
Routine- just before
The curtain rises and the lights come on
"I dance for you, habibi"
One more that I wrote tonight while thinking of someone:
n. 1. sunshine in the heart 2. swaying hip shimis back to front, first the left then the right 3. cascading cresendo of beads, coins, and fabric created by bedlah while executing said move and which radiates outward 4. the state of being on your mind
It's been a dry season as you can see. I consider only one or two of these as half-way publishable. Please tell me what you think. :)
Monday, November 16, 2009
Old Fort Park
By Bobbi Rightmyer
The trees are naked, bare
standing tall and straight.
Leaves litter the ground
like a patch worn carpet
or old rag rug
covering the still green grass
with crumples of brown.
Birds are chirping
calling out a joyful tune,
singing with happiness at the glorious day.
Squirrels are scampering
unafraid of the few lingering cars,
scavenging for food,
thick, bushy tails riding high in the air.
A car backfires on some not far street
and all is quiet as the world goes on pause,
but after a few still seconds the chorus begins,
and the wildlife sounds can be heard again.
Sunshine straining through thick, gray clouds,
warmth on my face from the hazy glare,
with a cool breeze dancing across my skin,
causing a gentle sway to the trees.
The shrubbery and hedges are still holding onto
leaves and fruit galore,
It’s that time of year again,
the rapidly approaching winter
when all life’s chores come in a fast succession,
preparing for the long, dark days
of winter yet to come.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Poetry Ireland Review has been among my favorite literary journals for some years now. In volume # 93, Rita Kelly penned an essay called "Eavan Boland: A Voice of Courage in Our Time". In it, and as a side point almost, she touched on the cultural changes that the Emerald Isle is currently undergoing. This bit of meditation resonated with me in a way Kelly likely did not intend. Why? Because my native Appalachia is also facing cultural changes.
Whereas Ireland's changes are more blatant as Kelly describes them, the urbanization of Appalachia is of a different sort- being more internal within the people themselves rather than literal. But the results are similar.
Ireland is now a major destination for refugees and immigrants from many nations. No longer is it merely a vacation stop for tourists or a place from which its people reluctantly flee. Since the 1970s it has slowly built up itself into a self-aware, fully functioning nation within the EU and since the 1990s in particular it has enjoyed a bit of an economic boom. (This is not a political essay. I am simply attempting to draw a more accurate picture of modern Ireland in the mind, versus the now out-dated one of popular imagination as portrayed in- for example- Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt.) There are any number of cultures coexisting there today and a true babble of languages are spoken. Particularly is this true on the east coast. The rural agricultural way of life is being forsaken for the urban industrial as the population increasingly moves into the cities.
On this shore, Appalachia is being similarly challenged by an urbanization of the mind. On one hand many long-standing truths remain. For instance, it is still a longed-for homeland from which many go in a sort of involuntary exile into decidedly Appalachian neighborhoods in such city centers as Cincinnati, Cleveland, Canton, Detroit, and Chicago. It is still a very economically oppressed area by national standards. For the most part, outsiders in Appalachia still tend to be migrant workers. (In recent years many of these workers have been Mexican or Latino and thus one occasionally hears Spanish spoken here or there.) These workers rarely stay. Appalachians have never really developed a sense of who they are in the greater throng of humanity and they prefer to be left alone to their ways and thinking. One often hears the saying "If you leave me alone, I'll leave you alone", which basically means one is free to live the way one wants, provided one extends that courtesy to others. These things have been more or less the same for generations.
On the other hand, however, there are great- albeit subtle- upheavals in the familiar order of things. To be Appalachian does not mean exactly the same as it did a generation ago. The system of roads is improving every year and this is opening up previously isolated areas of the mountains little by little. As a result, Appalachians travel in greater numbers and more often than ever before. The educational institutions are now, in some cases, rivaling the best in the country. There is greater exposure to the outside world due to television, radio, and especially the internet. At this point in time, second and even third generations are benefiting from these innovations. There is ongoing research into several theories regarding the origins of the Appalachian people and newly discovered facts are painting a very different picture than the country at large and popular media have supposed. Consequently, there is a growing awareness of a unique identity among them. All of these are positive changes, yes. But changes nonetheless. Many are losing interest in the hard working rural aesthetics that once defined the region in favor of a more mainstream technological lifestyle. (As a reminder: this is not a political essay.)
Subsequently both Ireland and Appalachia are currently undergoing a time of change, of a great shift in world views. This has quite naturally created a measure of mass anxiety not experienced before. There is instability and a weakening of old systems of belief as the cultures morph to fit entirely new sets of circumstances. These new environments challenge their native poets. The question for their respective regional poetries is: how to express one-selves when the old modes of expression- the old words (by which I mean the old poetic traditions and unfortunately perhaps even the old languages unique to each place)- no longer apply and/or are no longer sufficient?
Was this not the defining question of "Modern" poetry? (For the purposes of this essay, "Modern" poetry is defined as that work produced at the end of the "Romantic" period up until the eruption of World War II. In other words, from about the 1890s until about 1940.) During this time there was a similar upheaval in cultures, ways of thinking, and dismantling of long-established systems of belief on a world wide scale. It was a time of questioning, of attempts to rebalance intellectually and in every other way imaginable. This general mood affected the poetry being written as much as any other sphere of the human experience of the time. Uncertainty and experimentation is stamped across the work of every poet whose career spanned some or all of those years.
In some ways, Ireland and Appalachia experienced this shift of core values with the rest of the world. But in just as many ways they seem to have been couched against it. The forces that cushioned these areas from the worst of the quaking that so utterly and permanently changed the intellectual and cultural landscape of the rest of the world are unique to each place and are not important in this essay. What is clear is that these forces have finally eroded or been removed. In some very important ways, Ireland and Appalachia are playing catch-up.
Their native poets are beginning to grapple with the implications of this catch-up. They are being faced with the challenge of inventing new modes of expression that can be sufficient to their changed circumstances and cultures. In this sense, it could be that Ireland and Appalachia are just now entering in on a "Modern" phase. It is certain that experimentation must be undertaken. Very "Modernist" questions are now being asked of these poets. They must find their own unique ways, indigenous to each area, to answer these questions. A "New Modern" or "Regionally Modern" poetry? Perhaps.
Who will be brave enough to attempt to answer?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Arts Festival Poetry Contest
2. High School Students
3. Middle School Students
(This includes ALL Home School Students)
Entrants may submit up to 4 poems
Any length is ok but the subject must be “Art”
Entry fees are:
$1.00 for one poem
$3.00 for four poems
DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS
October 12th, 2009
Winner will receive 5 copies of a chapbook of their poetry up to 20 pages. Entrants will be able to read some of their work at The Writer’s Café booth at the festival.
Entries and fees should be sent to The Arts Council of Mercer County, 235 Ashley Camp Rd. Harrodsburg, KY. 40330. Any questions should be sent to Tony Sexton at firstname.lastname@example.org