Monday, April 26, 2010

In Case You Missed It: Thanks Charming Hostess and Ammiel Alcalay!

We had such a great night a few weeks back with Charming Hostess and Ammiel Alcalay.

Here is the introduction, written by CAConrad:
Sandy Hotchkiss's 7 Deadly Sins of Narcissism are: shamelessness, magical thinking, arrogance, envy, entitlement, exploitation, and bad boundaries. The conservative journal The American Thinker's article about Ammiel Alcalay titled "Poetry, terror and political narcissism" has by its very title violated the 2nd Deadly Sin of Narcissism "magical thinking," or, dumping their own shame onto others. A true narcissist will accuse others of narcissism, in fact will probably do so multiple times in a day without fail. Ammiel Alcalay a political narcissist? There's NO DOUBT that The American Thinker is paying close attention to the movements, thinking and writings of Alcalay. You might even say they're avid readers of his work. The accusation of his "overriding need to sympathize with Arabs..." and that in 2003 "he coordinated an anti-war New York poetry event at which he lambasted President Bush, the war in Iraq, and Israel--and implored the audience to advance pro-Arab platforms at future literary and academic events." This is narcissism? The desire for people to live in their homes without bombs and drones flying overhead and clean water and a viable, caring government is narcissistic? The American Thinker must have thought the 6th Deadly Sin of narcissism was ANTI-EXPLOITATION when it is really EXPLOITATION. Although the right to be free of tyranny might be viewed as a Freudian form of healthy narcissism; a hope for autonomy to pursue thoughts and writings which follow thoughts. In a world of disinformation, the sawed-toothed close readers of Alcalay in The American Thinker brutally misinform, "Alcalay and his type draw together extreme leftist sharks and deliberately encourage misunderstanding, misapprehension and anarchy. Is this really the kind of education that public, taxpayer-funded universities and parents should have to pay for?" Please welcome the man who played badminton with Charles Olson when he was five-years-old, and grew up to infuriate those who truly violate the 7 Deadly Sins of Narcissism, the shameless, the arrogant, the entitled, the exploitive and envious oil and war loving neo-cons, Ammiel Alcalay.

And here is a reading report by Robin Tremblay-McGaw:

9 April 2010: Friday night. Rushed from sweaty yoga to pick up daughter, bring her home, swallow food (hello family), and then arrive at Timken Hall at California College of the Arts just in time for Charming Hostess and Ammiel Alcalay. I knew nothing about Charming Hostess and had no idea what to expect. This three person ensemble blew the audience away. Charming Hostess consists of the voices of Jewlia Eisenberg (who also plays harmonium)and Cynthia Taylor, with percussion by Michael (whose last name I didn't quite get and isn't listed on their web site. Sorry Michael!) Charming Hostess performed pieces from Bosnian writer Semezdin Mehmedinović's Sarajevo Blues translated by Ammiel Alcalay and a variety of other work, including a song about gender compliance sung in the Judeo-Spanish language Ladino. They then brought the movingly discrepant girl-group sound to the song "Death is a Job." You can hear a recording of this HERE. Powerful and good stuff. Look for them this summer at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

After a short intermission, Ammiel Alcalay took the stage. Alcalay has been reading in the Bay Area for the last two weeks, with appearances at Mills College and the Poetry Center. On Friday night, Alcalay began by referencing the introduction for him that CA Conrad wrote and Samantha Giles had just read. Conrad's introduction revisited the incendiary American Thinker 2005 article, "Poetry, Terror and Political Narcissism" in which author Alyssa Lappen writes about Alcalay's work and his criticism of the U.S. and Israel, making the claim that Alacalay is pro-Palestinian and therefore, implicitly, pro-terror and a political narcissist! I think it was Conrad in his intro or either Alcalay himself who suggested that in some ways the American Thinker article represented one of the few public engagements with his work. Because Alcalay's writing is overtly political,contestatory, and wide ranging in its hybrid and multiple forms from journalism, academic criticism, poetry, prose, and translation, Alcalay feels as if his work is in a critical vacuum. People, particularly on the East Coast, according to Alcalay, see his various engagements, his multiple points of attack, as separate endeavors. Alcalay said that on the West Coast, people seem to take a more integrated approach to his body of work.

Alcalay read from several of his books, including Scrap Metal and from the warring factions. Alcalay said that "a lot of my work is a response to my work," and he advocated that writers read critically their own body of work. Alcalay's new book, Islanders, contains writing from thirty years ago. This intervention in his own work proves to be a rich and engaging strategy for re-thinking, re-visioning and re-interpreting one writer's interaction with a complicated and fraught world. Alcalay makes an example of himself, and spoke about historicizing the many versions of "I" and "self" that he is, and has been. Here's a sampling of some of his work. These pieces are from the warring factions. * indicates a page break.

Miró is in The Museum of Modern Art.

Miró is in Sarajevo.

A famous playwright is on stage at Symphony Space and over the air on NPR.

The announcer calls me twice during a break to find
out how to pronounce the name Izeta.

Izeta is Miró's wife.

They have a dog.

It is December 1st, 1993.


Certain people say we should always go back to nature.
I notice they never say we should go forward to nature.
It seems to me they are more concerned that we should
go back, than about nature. If the models we use are the
apparitions seen in a dream or the recollection of our
prehistoric past, is this less a part of the nature or realism
than a cow in a field? I think not.

The role of the artist has always been that of image maker.
Different times require different images.

Today, when our aspirations have been reduced to a desperate
attempt to escape from evil, and times are out of joint,
our obsessive, subterranean and pictographic images are
the expression of the neurosis which is reality. To my mind
certain so-called abstraction is not abstraction at all,
on the contrary, it is the realism of our time.


Adolph Gottlieb


no pyramids dot the skyline

in the seats of power of

this crumbling empire


the ghosts of industry eat
this old half city bridge
of nevermore again
eat Glamoć and
eat these years
(pg s 3-7)

suddenly like shapes of living stone clothed in the light of
dreams I tore the veil the shrouds which wrap the world
the frost of death the flood of tyranny a paradise of flowers
within which the poor heart loves to keep the earnings
of its toil a common home stains of inevitable crime
pride build upon oblivion to rule the ages that survive
our remains violence and wrong an unreturning stream
the grief of many graves snow and rain on lifeless things
this is not faith or law opinion more frail or life poisoned
in its wells that delights in ruin as endless armies wind
in sad procession the earth springs like an eagle even
as the winds of autumn scatter gold in the dying flame
we learned to steep the bread of slavery in tears of woe
these faded eyes have survived a ruin wide and deep
which can no longer borrow from chance or change
what will come within the homeless future that gold
should lose its power and thrones their glory that love
which none may bind be free to fill the world like light
whose will has power when all beside is gone faint accents
far and lost to sense of outward things some word which
none here can gather yet the world has seen a type of peace
some sweet and moving scene returning to feed on us
as worms devour those years come and gone like the ship
which bears me in this the winter of the world (89).

Alcalay's bio from the Small Press Traffic blog here:

Poet, essayist, translator, and editor, Ammiel Alcalay returns to San Francisco to read from his new book --and first published novel-- ISLANDERS (City Lights Books, 2010) and to talk with the audience about the concerns of his work as writer, educator, and literary activist.

Born and raised in Boston, is a first-generation American, son of Sephardic Jews who emigrated from Serbia to the US after the second World War, Alcalay teaches at Queens College, New York, and at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he directs Lost & Found: the CUNY Poetics Document Initiative.

He is the author of *After Jews and Arabs: Remaking Levantine Culture* (U. Minnesota), and *Memories of Our Future: Selected Essays: 1982-1999* (City Lights). He is also the editor and translator of *Keys to the Garden*, an anthology of new Israeli writing, Semezdin Mehmedinovic's *Sarajevo Blues* and *Nine Alexandrias*, and *Outcast* by Shimon Ballas (all published by City Lights).

About Charming Hostess, again, courtesy of Small Press Traffic:

Charming Hostess is a whirl of eerie harmony, hot rhythm and radical braininess. Our music explores the intersection of text and the sounding body-- complex ideas expressed physically, based on voice and vocal percussion, handclaps and heartbeats, sex-breath and silence. Explore their awesomeness at their website.

Poetry is a Reading of the World: Ammiel Alcalay, Part Two

Ammiel Alcalay: Part Two

Excerpts from Alcalay's "Local Politics: The Background as Foreward" from his book Memories of Our Future: Selected Essays 1982-1999 publshed by City Lights Books:

" experience in presenting unknown or marginalized literatures has taught me that an extremely wide net needs to be cast in order to create the conditions through which such work can find a productive space in Amercian culture, a place where poets and writers can get to it and begin relating to distinctly new forms, idioms, sensibilities and experiences as part of their own vocabulary. Casting such a net has meant turning into a kind of full-service bureau through which I could both help create the conditions for reception of works and then carry those works over in a variety of ways. Within these different roles, my work has spanned a range of cultural, political, and historical concerns. As someone barely born here (in larger historical/chronological terms), much of my work has involved the process of both finding and losing my "self" within the gaps I find in American discourse, gaps primarily having to do with either the lack or the suppression of any tangible global political and historical space or consciousness, however these end up getting defined.

Part of the difficulty of working through such a situation is that I feel as if I have embarked upon an enormous journey only to come back to where I started from: in my case, a distinctly American language and American idiom, only to wonder what happened along the way........

Two crucial geographical areas and states of mind on this map have been the Middle East and the Balkans; involvement in these areas has meant confronting deep pockets of resistance to change of any kind, in both expected and unexpected places.....

Poetry, and language perceived or filtered through the sensibility of poetry's value, still resists the marketplace, no matter how hard some may try. As Jack Spicer wrote: 'A poet is a time mechanic not an embalmer....Objects, words must be lead across time not preserved against it...' The connection between words and world, as well as the consequences of such connections, is something we must never lose sight of; as Adonis, one of this century's greatest poets has written:'The writing of poetry is a reading of the world and the things in it, a reading of things charged with words, and of words tied to things....Language, viewed from this perspective, is not a tool for communicating a detached meaning. It is meaning itself because it is thought. Indeed, it precedes thought and is succeeded by knowledge....Poetry, according to this definition, is more than a means or a tool, like a technology; it is, rather, like language itself, an innate quality. It is not a stage in the history of human consciousness but a constituent of this consciousness' (xii-xv).

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