Thursday, 31 May 2012

Q & A: "midlife" and beyond

Anonymous has been asking about a poem of mine, "midlife." It's a brief poem, portrait of ambivalence, with the urge toward retirement-- contentment in retirement-- disturbed by or invigorated by desire and the outward surge.

As the youthful and the aged co-exist within one self, and the tension mounts between the urge to stay safe and the urge to go forth, resolution must occur within that one being. In the space of that particular poem, the motivation of desire is enough to carry the day, imagined as a young woman carrying an old woman out of the house, out of the yard, with plenty enough energy to both do whatever it is she is feeling called to do, and to warm and carry the conservative, reluctant aspects of self.

In later poems this "reluctant" aspect becomes a bar wench, rather than a serene elder-- spitting mad about the force of life and the urge toward communion, and called upon to act as an enforcer of solitude. So in some respects, the characters have shifted places, with the serenity aspect now speaking for communion and the vigorous aspect alarmed by and actively opposed to any such risk-taking activities.

But that is down the river a bit. Steepy Mountain love poetry is a collection of courtship year poems, in a re-ignited relationship, and "midlife" shows the moment of optimism, the decision to follow the heart.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Vancouver Complaints Choir 2012

W2TV: Vancouver Complaints Choir - June 2, 2012

Vancouver Vancouver Complaints Choir.

What do you complain about when you live in paradise
Well enlighten me with some words of advise
Where do I start when there is so much to say
Like cyclists on the sidewalks going the wrong way
Our government is crazy but Toronto's is even worse
I work three jobs and still I have an empty purse

This song took to long to write and it is still too low
The altos only have one note again
and the tenors don't know their note note?

condo condo condominium
condo condo condominium
condo condo condominium
condo condo condominium


enough said.

People who butt in line at the food samples table
People who buy their clothes just for the label
Jaywalking without looking on Commercial Drive
Funding for the arts is cut but expected to survive

Vancouver Vancouver

Pedestrians cross on the don't walksign
Texting drivers cross the yellow line
Commuters block the only way out
Cycling psychos on a cycling route

Tailgaters that have room to pass
Speculators raise the price of gas
Jerky people who complain all the time
Build more prisons when there is less crime

Vancouver Vancouver Vancouver
Vancouver Complaints Choir.

~ Russell Wallace

3rd Vancouver Complaints Choir
Saturday, June 2, 2012

Vancouver New Music presents an all new Complaints Choir, with music written by Russell Wallace (arr. by Russell Wallace and Alison Jenkins) and all new complaints - from money woes, to condos, bad government and bad habits! In this hilarious community project, participants sing a litany of complaints in various outdoor locales. Featuring Alan Zisman on accordion.

The Complaints Choir started in 2005 in Birmingham, UK and has rapidly become a worldwide phenomenon. In 2009, Vancouver New Music co-ordinated a second Complaints Choir featuring music and conduction by Vede Hille. This is the third incarnation of the Complaints Choir, with all new music and complaints!

Find out more about Complaints Choirs around the world at


Sid Tan Sid Tan

Monday, 28 May 2012

A Song to Die For: Shahin Najafi of Iran + more

From Uddari Weblog:

A Song to Die For ~ Iranian Rapper Shahin Najafi: Solidarity May 26/12

‘Shahin Najafi was sentenced to death by two high level clergymen in Iran assigning one hundred thousands dollar price on his head. The Iranian Rapper sang a song in which he made fun of a religious figure. In solidarity with him, a facebook page is created and on Saturday May 26th, people around the world will come into street to protest Shahin’s death sentence and defend freedom of expression…’

Video source/YouTube:

Download Song

Facebook Page

Protest in Vancouver, Saturday May 26, Vancouver Art Gallery, 6-7pm, Event information

Visit Uddari Weblog (or Youtube) for translated lyrics of Naqi:

Published on May 18, 2012 by
CNN's Reza Sayah reports on an Iranian rapper, Shahin Najafi who is facing death threats over one of his songs. WARNING: The Following Video Contains Graphic Content. Viewer Discretion is Advised.
Uploaded by gijgah on Aug 6, 2008

Official Fan Page On Facebook 

Shahin Najafi Email
Sharr Music

Uploaded by on Jun 25, 2008
One of the most influencial and talented artist of his generation, Iran. Fereydoun Farrokhzad (Persian: فریدون فرخزاد ) (October 7, 1936 - August 6, 1992) was an Iranian singer, actor, poet, TV and radio host, writer, and political opposition figure.[1] He was the younger brother of the acclaimed Persian poet Forough Farrokhzad.

From Qantara:

''We Will Continue with Our Work''

Iran's grand ayatollah has issued what many have interpreted to be a fatwa against the rapper Shahin Najafi, who has lived in Germany for the past seven years. In this interview with Shahram Ahadi, Najafi gives his take on the situation.

Shahin Najafi is an Iranian rapper who has lived in Germany since 2005. His songs are known to be critical of socio-political developments in his home country. His latest song, "Naghi", which was named after the tenth imam in Shia Islam, has caused a stir in Iran. The lyrics call on him in a sarcastic and almost obscene way to come back to life and end the catastrophic status quo in Iran. Iran's 92-year-old Grand Ayatollah Safi Golpaygani said: "If the song contains any insults or indecency towards Imam Naghi, then it is blasphemy, and God knows what to do." The Iranian press interpreted the statement as a fatwa against Najafi. But a theologian in Tehran on Thursday, 10 May, put the comment into context: "The grand ayatollah has not issued a fatwa. He was answering a question about the defamation of a Shia saint ... "

Mr. Najafi, your latest song, "Naghi", has caused an uproar. Is it really about the tenth Shia imam?

Shahin Najafi: No. For me it is more of an excuse to talk about completely different things. I criticise Iranian society in the song. It seems as though people are just concentrating on the word "imam".

One of my earlier songs was about the twelfth Shia imam who is supposed to come back and redeem the world. So my new song is, in a way, a continuation of the other one; the narrator is disappointed in the twelfth imam so he asks the tenth imam to save society. But as I say, the story with Naghi was just a pretext.

More of the interview:

Uploaded by on Feb 24, 2009
اینکار متاسفانه توسط گروه 2012 بعد از جدایی شاهین از این گروه بدون اجازه ایشون و با تغییر نام برای پخش به صدای امریکا ارسال شده بود
IN ENGLISH:متن آهنگ به انگلیسی around us [our hood] 
follow link for translated lyrics

video source:

Originally I intended to simply reprint the Uddari Weblog call-out for global and local action, with a few additional samples of work. Delayed in my intent, I found myself exploring the story, and the predecessors of this artist-activist, focussing in on one whom he admired. The final dystopian sorrow-drenched work is not a comfortable place to end, but it is the reason for the works, the motivation behind happier-sounding songs that call upon all~ the living and the saints~ to make changes for the better in this world

The worst of everything is not the everything of everything, and so
let us conclude on a reflective note, with a quiet poem

As we began with the visual blending a place of worship, a nourishing breast, and a rainbow flag, let the final word go to a woman poet

The sister of Fereydoun was the poet Forough Farrokhzad

Forugh Farrokhzād
  (Persian: فروغ فرخزاد‎) (b. January 5, 1935, Tehran, Iran — February 13, 1967)[1] was an Iranian poet and film director. Forugh Farrokhzad is arguably one of Iran's most influential female poets of the twentieth century. She was a controversial modernist poet and an iconoclast.[2]

The Gift 
I am speaking to you 
from the edge of darkness
and about the depths of night
I reach out to you
from the thick layers of absolute shade

If you are coming to visit me
Then, bring me a torch
and put up for me
a little window

I will then watch
the noisy crowd of the happy lane

By: Forough Farrokhzad
Translation: Maryam Dilmaghani, August 2006, Montreal

The poem Hadyeh is from the anthology Tavallody Digar (Rebirth
 source of poem & for more of Forough's poetry in english :

to learn more about this poet/bio source:
  Shahin Najafi Music ~his website:

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

E. Pauline Johnson ~ (re) Articulating Her Legacy

Janet Rogers has undertaken a project of research at the National Museum of the American Indian, and is ready to make her report:

E. Pauline Johnson
(re) Articulating Her Legacy Thursday May 24th 2012, 7-9 pm Native Education College, 285 East 5th Avenue,Vancouver

  Russell Wallace, Native Education College Cultural Director
  Keevin Lewis, National Museum of the American Indian)
  Janet Rogers, Artists Leadership Fellowship participant

  Joanne Arnott, Pauline poem, Original poem
  Garry Thomas Morse, Pauline poem, Original story
  Russell Wallace, Pauline poem, Original work
  Janet Rogers, Pauline poem, Original poem

Audio/video media work inspired by the research and by Pauline

Janet Rogers (Mohawk/Tuscarora from the Six Nations Indian reserve in Ontario), a writer who lives in British Columbia, will research the writings and cultural material of E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake, 1861–1913). During the late 19th and early 20th century, Miss Johnson, a Mohawk/English poet from Six Nations, turned her poems into stage presentations. Janet's proposed community project is to provide a presentation of poetry readings and video projections of Miss Johnson's objects in Vancouver, where Johnson spent the last years of her life. Source

Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast are pleased to co-present this evening of business & pleasure, with Victoria's new Poet Laureate, Janet Marie Rogers.

To explore NMAI online collections,

To download Flint and Feather by E. Pauline Johnson - Tekahionwake,

~ all welcome ~

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

influences: ball toss

Baluch Persian Rug ~ Khayyam's Poetry

Rhubayait of Omar Khayyam: Fitzgerald translation


The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Here or There as strikes the Player goes;
And He that toss'd you down into the Field,
He knows about it all--HE knows--HE knows!


Halfling Spring, a poem called "Delving"


i am like a ball pitched
by a bored god

pulled from a ragged
pocket, and tossed

i find myself travelling
with purpose, at speed

unerring and true
i am aimed at you

(c) Joanne Arnott

The tent-maker is one of those unifying forces, the ongoing responses to his works in manifold fields bring much beauty to the world in an ongoing way. 

The only French folk song that I learned from my family, that my grandmother translated for me, was about rolling one's ball along, and finding all forms of adventure and trouble.

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám 

 رباعیات عمر خیام

from Shahriar Shahriari's blog

A friend told me that he carried this book on his travels, in his youth, and I liked to imagine that: I mentioned it to my son, who responded that this was the book he chose to accompany him on his most recent journey. 

Persian lit in english: a few links

Image: "Baluch rugs are tribal hand-woven rugs made in the southern part of Iran by nomadic Baluch tribes.... The Baluch people are very kind and simple and weave these rugs mainly to express themselves and follow an ancient Persian tradition, which dates back thousands of years. Colors of Baluch rugs are usually predominantly a rich burgundy with some very dark navy blue and accents of ivory. They frequently have either an overall pattern, or a prayer rug design. Any Baluch Persian rug is one of a kind and has absolutely no duplicates anywhere in the world." 

 Lovely online Rubáiyát source:

Shahriar Shahriari's Rubáiyát site, 

Poetry is not the only way that humans have for synthesizing reality & tidying up the world; also see, 

Monday, 21 May 2012

books + boats: cultural continuity under inclement conditions

Abu Fayez, one of Gaza's last boat builders

Gaza's Ark ~ Building Hope

The Canadian Boat to Gaza, in cooperation with international initiatives in the US, Australia and other countries, is launching a new initiative to challenge the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza, the only Mediterranean port closed to shipping.

This new initiative: Gaza’s Ark, will build a boat in Gaza, using existing resources. A crew of internationals and Palestinians will sail it out of Gaza carrying Palestinian products to fulfill trade deals with international buyers.

Gaza's Ark will be constructed in Gaza by Palestinian hands and expertise, with international assistance.

Gaza's Ark will help revitalize the dwindling ship building industry in Gaza and help ensure the transmission of this disappearing expertise (another effect of the blockade) to the younger generations.

Through Gaza's Ark and trade deals secured between Palestinian producers in Gaza and international businesses and NGOs a channel will be established to export Palestinian products from Gaza that are available despite the blockade.

Gaza's Ark will also provide training to Gaza's sailors in the use of up-to-date electronic sailing equipment and techniques which they have been denied for years as a result of the blockade.

Although it will help in a very limited manner to alleviate Gaza’s unemployment crisis by paying wages to the boat builders and providing business opportunities to traders, Gaza's Ark is not an aid project. It is a peaceful action against the blockade which Israel unilaterally and unreasonably imposes on Gaza.

Gaza’s Ark also stands in solidarity with the Palestinian fishery in Gaza whose ability to operate in territorial waters and to derive a livelihood is threatened by the same Israeli blockade which our campaign is challenging.

Gaza’s Ark challenges the blockade by building hope on the ground in Gaza, and affirms our confidence that the Palestinians of Gaza can rebuild their economy through outbound trade that threatens no-one’s security.

With your support, the work on Gaza's Ark will start this summer. You will be able to follow its progress with regular updates on the web (, on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GazaArk).
You can reach us by email at

Gaza’s Boat-Building Tradition Dying Under Siege

GAZA CITY, Aug 1, 2011 (IPS) By Eva Bartlett- “My father was a boat-builder and I learned from him, worked on boats all my life. Now there’s no work at all.” Abu Fayez Bakr, 64, is one of two boat-builders in the Gaza Strip, the last of a dying trade, despite Palestinians’ penchant for the sea and its bounty.

“My sons learned a little about boat repairs, but not actual building. They were young when I had regular building work, but now that they are older the work has dried up.”

In Gaza’s simple harbour, Bakr sits beside a hefty boat he built nearly a decade ago, one of his last projects. ... “It was damaged in the last Israeli war on Gaza. We’re repairing it now,” he explains.

(Image source) Read more:

~ Uploaded by on Sep 26, 2011
Gaza was home to a strong shipbuilding industry before Israel imposed its land and sea blockade on the territory. But with fishermen prevented from sailing beyond three nautical miles, there is no longer any demand for large boats. In a bid to stay afloat, a donor-funded project is teaching fishermen how to repair and build small boats using fibre glass. Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston reports from Gaza.


The Great Book Robbery - Witness - Al Jazeera English

A film by Benny Brunner

When the Arab-Israeli war raged in 1948, librarians from Israel’s National Library followed soldiers as they entered Palestinian homes in towns and villages. Their mission was to collect as many valuable books and manuscripts as possible. They are said to have gathered over 30,000 books from Jerusalem and another 30,000 from Haifa and Jaffa.

Officially it was a 'cultural rescue operation' but for Palestinians it was 'cultural theft'.
It was only in 2008 when an Israeli PhD student stumbled across documents in the national archive that the full extent of the 'collection' policy was revealed.

Using eyewitness accounts, this film tries to understand why thousands of books appropriated from Palestinian homes still languish in the Israeli National Library vaults and why they have not been returned to their rightful owners. Was it cultural preservation or robbery?

For more information + to read about the project's aims:

Sunday, 20 May 2012

man-woman: these are the rules

Fiona Lam "Aquarium"

seahorse migrations

falling in love with our stories as
they rise from their deep rooted places

called forth by
any little question
a chance encounter

an imagined look upon an imagined face, and
all remembered glimpses
of past times

drifting upward now—
quick & quick—
seeking the air
in droves

here the golden one
here the hungry one
here the singing one
this one, afraid

each tail has slipped it’s mooring as
sunlight calls through whispering water
urgent for redemption

craving the air &
all good things
that may happen there

deep plants remain and growing
seahorses ever hopeful

rise & rise
rise & rise
rise & rise

(c) Joanne Arnott

In the topsy-turvey world of relationships, there is no hope to establish the consistent up, the bonnified down. In Fiona Lam's "Aquarium," the pregnant one is abandoned while the slender is free-- yet among seahorses, the female passes her eggs to the male, and so, in the moment of the poem, who is who? A complex inversion of the mammal story and that of the humans told/outside the glass and looking in.

In my poem, "seahorse migrations," i sought to illustrate the function of memory and the urgent though often unconscious way that the human animal seeks healing, through relatedness, through storytelling.                    

Fiona Lam, "Aquarium" © 2009 by Fiona Tinwei Lam |
Poem published in The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2010 (Toronto: Tightrope Books, 2010) |, Originally published in The New Quarterly in 2009. Animation by: Chelsea Ker & John Oman |
Sound Design: Tinjun Niu, Poem read by Fiona Tinwei Lam, recorded by Shona Lam;
Music: Raphael Choi. I was unable to resize this, to see the "i," the full "we" it's best to watch it on youtube (or vimeo)

My poem included in forthcoming collection...

Seahorse Mating Dance, Uploaded by on 28 Mar 2010
Filmed at Seahorse Aquariums in Dublin. Shortly after putting away the camera the female started laying eggs into the male's pouch - typical! Three types of seahorse appear in the video and if you look carefully you will see a baby seahorse floating through the water. Music Royalty free from: Kevin MacLeod (

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Borges + Galeano: love the wind


Window on Memory (II)
A refuge?
            A belly?
            A shelter to hide you when you’re drowning in the rain, or shivering in the cold, or spinning in the wind?
            Do we have a splendid past ahead of us?
            For navigators who love the wind, memory is a port of departure.

Eduardo Galeano, Walking Words

The Church says: The body is a sin.
Science says: The body is a machine.
Advertising says: The body is a business.
The body says: I am a fiesta.

Eduardo Galeano, Walking Words

More on Galeano & more "Windows"


Review of Walking Words here:

to learn more about Jose Francisco Borges
(source for top two images)
Jose Francisco Borges
(source for second last image below) 

Jose's recent show in NY

from Tesoro

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Musqueam village site C̓ əsnaʔəm