Two Poems in Able Muse Review

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Two of my poems, “In the Louvre” and “Portrait of Her Hands,” (the latter being a sonnet which happened to be all one sentence) have been published in the latest Able Muse Review (Winter 2016). This is a very prestigious place to be, a gorgeous print literary magazine that includes fiction, essays, interviews, and art, as well as poetry. Huge thanks to editor Alex Pepple for such a spectacular venue featuring, but not limited to, formal poetry as well as other genres. The photography collection in this issue is breathtaking, featuring cloud forms and skyscapes among other subjects. It is an honor to be included in it.

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Filed under Formal Poetry, Poetry, Publications, Siham Karami poems

Read My Review, “Poetically Incorrect,” of Jessy Randall’s Book 

Is this the world’s first poetry book review with comics? OK, maybe not, but it seemed appropriate and even irresistible to try my hand at comics as review for a book that includes poetry comics. Look for Howard Bloom going for the buzzkill button. Jessy Randall’s new book, Suicide Hotline Hold Music, is the inspiring subject of the review, which includes samples of her comics too. Of course. And yes, the review also includes writing.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Poetry, Poetry Books

Warsan Shire’s “Home” Speaks to Refugee Crisis

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Kenyan-born Somali poet Warsan Shire, whose star I hope will keep rising, expresses in powerful words the complex and gut-wrenching situation of refugees, especially from wars and outrageous oppression. She is a rare voice with such impact. In this time of atrocity, as the world watches Aleppo being annihilated by the brutal Assad regime, we need her voice in all its raw force. This is poetry for sheer survival.

Home
By Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home2
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

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Filed under Human Rights, Poems and War, Poetry, women poets

Two Poems Published in the Turnip Truck(s) “Animals” Issue

Two of my poems, “Elephant Dreams” and “Ladykiller,” have been published in the “Animals” issue of The Turnip Truck(s), a print venue linked here. The site has a store where this and other issues can be purchased. An eclectic and thoroughly enjoyable issue which I’m thrilled to be a part of; the subject leads naturally to the humorous, but some of the nonfiction selections and artwork are simply classy. 

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Filed under Poetry, Publications, Siham Karami poems

Poem in New Verse News: After the Catastrophe

My poem “After the Catastrophe,” written in response to the election of Donald Trump, was published last Tuesday in the New Verse News, the site for current news-related poetry and political commentary. The editor selected a haunting and beautiful picture to go with it.

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Filed under Poetry, Publications, Siham Karami poems, Siham Karami poetry

Remembering Leonard Cohen

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Even though he was 82 years old, Leonard Cohen’s death feels untimely. A life filled with amazing songs, of which some, at this moment in history, are particularly meaningful. His lyrics “made grown men cry,” not to mention countless women. Those who say song lyrics are not poetry—even though Cohen actually started out as a poet and novelist, not a songwriter—will find a strong rebuttal in the body of his work, of which the two below are powerfully relevant to the catastrophic and shocking election of Donald Trump. His own words are a lasting tribute to Leonard Cohen’s genius.

Democracy

It’s coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It’s coming from the feel
that this ain’t exactly real,
or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It’s coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don’t pretend to understand at all.
It’s coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It’s coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin’
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

It’s coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It’s here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it’s here they got the spiritual thirst.
It’s here the family’s broken
and it’s here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It’s coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we’ll be making love again.
We’ll be going down so deep
the river’s going to weep,
and the mountain’s going to shout Amen!
It’s coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on …

I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can’t stand the scene.
And I’m neither left or right
I’m just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I’m junk but I’m still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Anthem

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be
Yeah the wars they will
Be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
Bought and sold
And bought again
The dove is never free

Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in

We asked for signs
The signs were sent
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
Of every government
Signs for all to see

I can’t run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
A thundercloud
And they’re going to hear from me

(Ring, ring, ring, ring)
Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in

You can add up the parts
You won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
But like a refugee

(Ring, ring, ring, ring)
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
Ring the bells that still can ring (ring the bells that still can ring)
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
That’s how the light gets in
That’s how the light gets in

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Filed under Lyrics and Poetry, Music, Poetry, Remembering Poets

Ghazal “Hello Aleppo” on New Verse News

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In response to the tragedy of Aleppo, Syria, my ghazal “Hello, Aleppo” is up today on New Verse News. Thanks to editor James Penha who does such excellent work at NVN!

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Filed under Middle East poetry, Poems and War, Poetry, Poetry in forms, Publications, Siham Karami poetry

Two Best of the Net Nominations!!

Two outstanding publications which have published work of mine, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily and Sukoon Magazine, have each nominated a poem of mine for Best of the Net. I’m completely overwhelmed and honored by this, both wonderful venues I regularly read for their fantastic work.

Autumn Sky, a must-read for me every morning, nominated “The Year of the Dragon,” a ghazal, for which I am so grateful to editor Christine Klocek-Lim. Sukoon, an Arab-themed magazine with high-quality, moving work including such luminaries as Naomi Shihab Nye and Zeina Hashem-Beck, nominated “The Word for Dawn.” From Cloud 9, my huge gratitude to editor Rewa Zeinati. Thrilled and grateful, yes!! Cheers to all the winners from both venues: what an honor to be among them.

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Filed under Middle East poetry, Poetry, Publications, Siham Karami poems

A Word From Seamus Heaney

In this tumultuous election season, we need a word from the wise Seamus Heaney to get some perspective on all the insanity. And what better place than “From the Republic of Conscience?”

From the Republic of Conscience 

by Seamus Heaney
At immigration, the clerk was an old man

who produced a wallet from his homespun coat

and showed me a photograph of my grandfather.
The woman in customs asked me to declare

the words of our traditional cures and charms

to heal dumbness and avert the evil eye.
No porters. No interpreter. No taxi.

You carried your own burden and very soon

your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared.
Fog is a dreaded omen there but lightning

spells universal good and parents hang

swaddled infants in trees during thunderstorms.
Salt is their precious mineral. And seashells

are held to the ear during births and funerals.

The base of all inks and pigments is seawater.
Their sacred symbol is a stylized boat.

The sail is an ear, the mast a sloping pen,

the hull a mouth-shape, the keel an open eye.
At their inauguration, public leaders

must swear to uphold unwritten law and weep

to atone for their presumption to hold office –
and to affirm their faith that all life sprang

from salt in tears which the sky-god wept

after he dreamt his solitude was endless.
I came back from that frugal republic

with my two arms the one length, the customs

woman having insisted my allowance was myself.
The old man rose and gazed into my face

and said that was official recognition

that I was now a dual citizen.
He therefore desired me when I got home

to consider myself a representative

and to speak on their behalf in my own tongue.
Their embassies, he said, were everywhere

but operated independently

and no ambassador would ever be relieved.

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Review in Singapore Poetry

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My review of And the Walls Come Crumbling Down by Tania De Rozario, published by Math Paper Press, is up on Singapore Poetry, the premier poetry website in Singapore. Its founder and editor, Jee Leong Koh, is a fine poet in his own right, and has initiated an exchange of reviews and books between Singapore and the United States (where he now lives in New York). It’s a fascinating idea and a quick look at the site will tell you the high quality of literature coming out of Singapore.

De Rozario’s book is a fictionalized memoir, written in a style that reveals her skill as a poet and quite memorable. I learned much from her about the consequences of Singapore’s social experiment, and also about the struggles of the LGBT community there, one that illuminates the struggle for freedom and love for all humans. Please check it out!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Human Rights, Poetry Books, Publications, women poets