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Split This Rock: Women Suffering Violence

On Day 2 of the fourth biennial Split This Rock Poetry Festival, the Dresser got a late start, taking time out to honor retired physicist birder Philip S. Brody (May 13, 1930-March 24, 2014). His poet wife Doris Brody brought Mary Oliver's poem "White Owl Flies into and out of the Field" to the memorial service among other moments of charm and beauty. So this is how the Dresser entered the difficult subject matter of

Women and War/Women and Peace II
Samiya Bashir, Lisa Suhair Majaj, Kim Jensen

Two members of the panel--Melanie Graham and Robin Coste Lewis--came by proxy since one fell ill and the other made early delivery of her new baby. This is the second time this panel has been offered. The first time was in 2012.

KJensen.jpgKim Jensen as moderator opened the panel with an audience participation exercise. Everyone was asked to write on a slip of paper what their biggest fear was concerning their writing. Then she said ball up the paper and throw it to someone in the room. So in a large crowded room of mostly women, balls of paper were thrown around the room in uncharacteristic glee or giddy nervousness. Then volunteers were asked to read what was on the paper in their possession. The Dresser got this, "I fear not being respected and understood in the context of being a bisexual woman and poet." Many of the comments were seen as self-censorship, cultural policing, and "not know who is out there waiting for you."

This was segue into stories from Samiya Bashir and Lisa Suhair Majaj. Both are offspring of one American parent but the other parent was from a country in turmoil--Somalia (Bashir) and Palestine (Majaj). Kim Jensen is married to a Palestinian.

Here is a poem from Majaj who was exiled in Lebanon and how she left suddenly:


Lisa Suhair Majaj

Always knew it would come back
to haunt me. It was war, time was short,

the truck was leaving, and with it my hope
of safe passage from that besieged city.

She was in another place, phone lines
down, no time to search her out.

I had to flee. And so I did. I knew
the spool of time would never

rewind, that there would be no
going back; that with that leaving,

I would lose my chance to find her
before the bombs exploded-

her home destroyed, her brother burned,
her eyes torn to darkness.

Where is she now? Would she
remember me if I found her?

And if I kissed her cheeks three times,
Lebanese style, and called her habibti,

hayati, would she speak to me,
smile? Or would she turn away,

her life so changed, her griefs so far from mine
that there would be no point in saying, even, goodbye?

Bashir.jpgHere is a poem excerpt on female circumcision by Samiya Bashir.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 10.48.57 PM.png

Melanie Graham's poem "Many Happy Returns! An After-War Realities and Reunifications Guide" was the most shocking. Done in two columns the poem uses the government language in one column while a running list of domestic murders by returning warriors are documented in the offsetting second column. Graham who was not present at the seminar is studying violence against women in Florida. Here is an excerpt

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 10.55.48 PM.png

In a different kind of violence done to women of other cultures, a surprising situation occasionally arises when a woman speaks out about how she is treated within her religion and/or culture and then people eager to help trample the complaining woman's culture. It's a double bind that becomes a silencing mechanism. Women in Moslem families have had this kind of confusing experience.

The Dresser asked about how do you deal with difficult poems with hard-to-process situations and perhaps the only answer was to write poems in response.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 28, 2014 11:03 PM.

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