Tuesday, January 6, 2015

David Rovics: The Musical Version of Democracy Now!

Rovics tours regularly on four continents, playing for audiences large and small at cafes, pubs, universities, churches, union halls and protest rallies. He has had his music featured on Democracy Now!, the BBC, Al-Jazeera, Acik Radyo and other networks. His essays are published regularly on CounterPunch and Truthout and the 200+ songs he makes available on the web have been downloaded more than a million times.

In an interview article with the Baltimore Independent Media Center entitled “Inspiring the Troops” Through Music, Rovics said:
"...when I first started writing any songs that were any good I had already become very much involved with activism and wanting to talk about what was happening in the world. But when I first started writing songs, I wasn’t writing political songs..." 

"I say, that I’m not really hardly at all involved with the folk music scene and I don’t play for the folk music audiences so much and shows don’t get booked by the folk music presenters. Everything I’m doing pretty much in the activist scene. I find that when folk music aficionados come to my shows that they usually like it. I think I could be doing fine in the folk scene if there was enough interest there for more people to be booking shows. The interest in the kind of music I’m doing is almost entirely in the activist scene, which is fine..." 

"If you look at it – take a real cursory glance of the world around you we see that pretty much every institution out there uses music in one way or another. Every corporation uses music to sell their products. The military uses music to inspire their troops. I use music for my troops. It’s the same basic function that music is playing. You know, even from a capitalist perspective you could say it’s used to sell products and to foster – in the military for example, that people are working together – that they’re part of the same thing, that they’re sticking up for each other. That’s what we’re using music at marches and rallies. It’s to inspire the troops. And in other settings it’s to educate people about things that are happening and to talk about it in a way that hopefully might be more memorable than a speech..." 

"Yes, to communicate to people on an emotional level. And perhaps even a spiritual level and reach them in a way that people don’t often get reached by other means. And it’s just one of many means of communication, but I think it’s an important one and when we have events, whether they’re protests or educational events or whatever, the events that have music and food at them are so much different from the ones that don’t. Everyone, whether or not they’re conscious of why they come out of those events inspired and feeling like they’ve learned something and they’re going to do something with that knowledge – that’s the difference between even a really good speaker, they’re still – are not really pessimistic but good educational optimistic speaker – there’s still something missing compared to when you hear that speaker and you sing a few songs before or after – preferably after I think because then you leave on a feeling on more togetherness and optimism even when the songs are not particularly optimistic. There’s something about music that makes people feel optimistic..." 

Opinions on file sharing
David Rovics supports file sharing of his own work. "Feel free to download these songs. Use them for whatever purpose. Send them to friends, burn them, copy them, play them on the radio, on the internet, wherever. Music is the Commons. Ignore the corporate music industry shills who tell you otherwise. Downloading music is not theft, you're not hurting anyone, I promise. (And in any case, yes, this is legal, and I'm making all of these songs available myself.)" 

Rovics' album Meanwhile In Afghanistan features a track entitled Steal This MP3, in which Rovics encourages listeners to steal the very track and states "I've got words for these plutocrats who claim to represent me. Steal this MP3." The song is critical of copyright and the record industry.  (Wikipedia)

Visit David's website for more info.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal by Donna Snyder

Cover art by

Victor Hernández

Donna Snyder has carved out quite a name for herself in El Paso and far beyond.  I first met her not long after she started her Tumblewords workshop in the mid-90s.  In fact, she was still living, working and holding her workshops in Las Cruces. She was introduced to me at a meeting of the Literary Arts committee at the El Paso downtown library. We read our poetry in little casual groups, at coffee houses and at parties at her house and mine.  Her writing was so good I wondered why she wasn't published everywhere.  She simply hadn't sent it out yet.  That has been corrected.  The road is paved for the world to hear now and it is listening.
I was honored to write this blurb for her latest book:  "Death is the universal intimate stranger, replacing loved ones with a void. The void cannot be filled but art can rise from agony. Donna writes through her losses, cloaks herself in memories against the darkest nights until eventually she sees the moon brighten up the sky."

From the El Paso Times article by Ramon Renteria: 
Donna Snyder recalls how her new poetry collection, "Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal," came together just about the time she desperately needed some healing.

"I was pretty much incapacitated. Grief can pretty much incapacitate you. And it did for a while," Snyder said. "The only thing I could keep doing was writing."

Snyder spoke in a recent interview about how Chimbarazu Press, a small, independent publisher in New York City, invited her to submit some of her poems soon after her husband, El Paso artist Mario Colín, died this past October at age 54.

Her husband's death rekindled the grief that Snyder had experienced 13 years earlier when her longtime partner Jesus Guzman fell to his death at age 44. Intertwined in all that grief was the loss of her father, other relatives and friends, and one of her favorite dogs.

Snyder also was dealing with health issues and the loss of her professional identity as a lawyer.
"Being a lawyer is a huge element of my self-image," she said. "I never expected to retire early. I expected to work until I died. Not being a lawyer was upsetting to me, and my health issues were upsetting to me."

Snyder put together a manuscript of poems she had written about the men in her life; catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans; immigrants left to die in the desert; and mishaps such as the shooting death of a young goat-herder in Redford, Texas, by a U.S. Marine.

From Donna's newest book, Poemas Ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal
"I Am the sound of the Sea"

Bio from Red Fez:
Donna Snyder's first full-time job was waiting tables on Route 66. She grew up surrounded by cotton fields her daddy didn't own, in a stucco shotgun shack beside US Hwy 83 in the Texas Panhandle. She worked as a waitress in a jazz cafe in Fort Worth, a blues bar in Austin, and a diner in Houston. Her Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal was released from Chimbarazu Press September 2014. NeoPoiesis Press will publish her poetry collection, Three Sides of the Same Moon, in 2015. Her chap, IAm South, published by VirgoGray Press in 2010, will be reissued as a book in late Fall of 2014. She has read her work in Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, and Texas. She founded the Tumblewords Project in 1995, and continues to coordinate its free weekly workshops, occasional publications, and frequent performance events in El Paso, Texas. She contributes regularly to VEXT Magazine and Return to Mago.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

CHIRON Review, # 97

   This 152 page book is issue #97 of Chiron Review.  It contains poems and short stories from 68 literary artists.  Many of us have appeared in publications together over the past 30 years.  So, it's like a party under the covers.  We're so happy to see new work from Robert Cooperman, Rochelle Lynn Holt, Catfish McDaris, Gerald Locklin, Eckhard Gerdes, Charles Harper Webb, Mark Weber and so many others. This book is a treat I dip into from time to time and yes, I found a favorite poem and I will share it with you.

 Sing at Unnatural Hours in the Presence of Artificial Light

There are times I have to remind myself

that a bridge is a way to travel over water

not a diving board for suicides.  That airports

aren't just places for departures, but places

for arrivals, and hospitals aren't only

where we go to die, but where we're born.

I'd like to think not a single bomb

was dropped on anyone today, not a single

person was diagnosed with cancer.

Somewhere someone misses you.

A friend remembers something

you once said.  Someone somewhere

thinks you're beautiful.  A man holds

a guitar in his hands.  A couple dances behind

the living room couch mouthing words

they've longed to share with each other.

At this hour only astronomers

and insomniacs find natural,

as the blazing red lights of an ambulance

flicker fear past the window,

I have to remind myself:

it doesn't always mean somebody's

dying in there, sometimes it means

somebody's being saved.

    Clint Margrave

This issue is dedicated to Robert Peters, a talented poet and writer, who so many of us knew and whose work we respected, and still do.   I close this article with a clip from his bio on Wikipedia:

Billy Collins, a former student of Peters and now a noted poet in his own right, once described Peters' poetry: "[…] modifies poetic language and breaks new artistic ground. By combining playful rhymes with painfully serious matter, he has returned new tonal possibilities to poetry. By fully exploiting the metaphor of the body, […] he has provided a fresh code for the expression of feeling ..."

Poet and author of Iron John, Robert Bly, wrote about Peters' American Poetry Bakeoff book of criticism as "not maternal ... insights are set down simply, unornamented, as if intended to glance off, and yet I think they are important, and belong to the center ... He deserves numerous readers, particularly among young poets dissatisfied with the celebrities who keep writing the same poem over and over again ... [His] essay on Robert Creeley is superb; the best essay on his work I know."

He has been published by both large and small presses, including W.W. Norton, Wayne State University Press, Crossing Press, New Rivers Press, Cherry Valley Editions, Unicorn Press, GLB Publishing, Paragon House, Chiron Review Press and University of Wisconsin Press. In the fall of 2001, the 40th volume of his Familial Love and Other Misfortunes was published by Red Hen Press. Peters has served as a contributing editor for The American Book Review, Contact II and Paintbrush.

R.I.P.  Robert Peters 
October 20, 1924 – June 13, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

Window on Pike Place by Martin F. Sorensen

  • File Size: 823 KB
  • Print Length: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Sand Hill Review Press; 1 edition (July 31, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Rachel McAlister saves Joshua Todaro’s life on an Afghanistan battlefield. Back home in Seattle, he asks her to marry him. But someone murders Joshua in his Pike Place apartment and frames Rachel. On trial, she holds on to the only two things in the world that she can trust: her love for Joshua, and the battlefield bullet he gave her. She has to hope she can figure out who set her up before it’s too late.

We follow Rachel as she is arrested and framed for the murder of her fiancee Joshua, whose life she saved when they were both in Afghanistan. She is promptly thrown in jail and forced to use her wits prove her own innocence. Her attorney Meredith and other friends strive to help her do this, but who exactly is Rachel's ally, and who is really her enemy, is something the writer keeps us guessing about until the shocking finale at an isolated mountain cabin.

The twists and turns of this Seattle-set page-turner will keep you up all night, unable to put it down. You can almost smell the gritty streets, feel the roiling crowds around downtown Seattle and Pike Place, and hear the wailing of sirens in the distance. If you like your Maltese Falcons, your Hitchcock films and your urban crime murder-mysteries, this is the perfect pick for your next read.

About the author....

Marty Sorensen has been the publisher of literary anthologies for over 15 years and he has started many a writer on their way to success. Always in the wings and never in the spotlight, Sorensen has finally allowed the
release of one of his best stories,
Window on Pike Place.

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