On Saturday I was on “Viewpoints” with Todd van der Heyden on Montreal’s CJAD 800 AM talking about First Nations Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike and my new Guernica Magazine article on William Coleman, a hunger striking prisoner in Connecticut, “The Longest Hunger Strike.”
You can listen here:
And at the CJAD blog.
Here’s a clip:
From Europe to East Asia, hunger-striking has been used for centuries to demand rights, most often by those who have little other way, beyond sacrifice of their own body, to protest. Before Ireland became Christian, self-starvation was known as Troscadh, a non-violent way to shame wrongdoers. In India the protester traditionally sat on the front step of the person who owed them money or had offended them. A Google alert reminds me daily that active hunger strikes are occurring around the world: a First Nations chief seeking rights for the indigenous in Canada; political prisoners in Turkey; Iranian and Afghan refugees in Berlin, Germany; indigenous prisoners in Santiago, Chile.
Let me not miss this chance to celebrate Bishop’s achievements in this her centenary year. I can think of no better way than by revisiting, and thinking for a moment about, what makes her poetry so great. There are not quite one hundred finished poems that represent her work; these seem to me more than enough to read and reread for a lifetime of instruction, heartbreak, and delight. The first poem on the first page of her first book–which can be seen by readers of the new Poems in the same appropriate place–is called “The Map.” It’s first stanza reads:
Land lies in water; it is shadowed green.
Shadows, or are they shallows, at its edges
showing the line of long sea-weeded ledges
where weeds hang to the simple blue from green.
Or does the land lean down to lift the sea from under,
drawing it unperturbed around itself?
Along the fine tan sandy shelf
is the land tugging at the sea from under?
–from April Bernard’s review of three new books, collections of Bishop’s poems, prose and letters, from The New York Book Review, March 24, 2011
I’ve had just a riff of a song in my head for the past two weeks and I did everything I knew to find out what it was. ”Heartbreak, loneliness….” I searched the web, I asked friends. I dug out my old cassette tapes. Nothing. I knew that the song was from the years, way back, when I lived with Cameron on Santa Clara Street in Ventura, getting schooled on the cool. Black hair dye, crinoline skirts, poetry readings before they were slams, thrift scavenging, lemon yogurt, surf boards, diners: my late twenties. We were listening to a lot of music, watching a lot of movies, smoking a lot of weed and living good, for the most part. Not even extensive reminiscing brought the song back for me. I had to go to the source. Here’s my email communication with Cam (I’ve added links):
Me: A question only you can answer. Santa Clara days: what’s the song that has the background refrain, “Heartbreak, Loneliness…” and it goes on? It’s been in my head for weeks now and I can’t find it or remember it fully.
Cam: The “heart break… loneliness” refrain was from the intro to a Screaming Jay Hawkins song “Constipation Blues“. If you heard my tape loop manipulation version it most likely had a backing looped intro musical track from Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk.” I think it was sped up about twice normal speed on an old Tascam Porta-studio 1. I don’t really remember the motivation behind that combination of sounds but it did seem to have humorous effect. I think I faded the vocal portion in and out and panned it so the heart breaks and lonlinesses would change from left to right while the doot-doot-doo-doo..doot-doo-doo just rambled around like a train in circle. Kind of dizzying and ridiculous ultimately.
Dizzying and ridiculous enough to transport me and keep me for weeks.