Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Inanna, Satyagraha and The Cuillin
I've been busy marking and preparing upcoming classes, so I'm a bit behind in keeping up with my web life. Today, however, despite my schedule, I must tell you about a gift that I received a couple of weeks ago that reminded me of how blessed I am. Imagine my glee when I looked in my mailbox one morning and found a poetry book! For this blessing I wish to thank my blog-friend and poet, Patricia Frisella, who sent me The Other Side of Sorrow: Poets Speak Out about Conflict, War, and Peace (2006), an anthology that she edited alongside associate editor Cicely Buckley.
Of course, what does one do when coming upon a new book? One cracks it open immediately and sinks into words. The first poem that caught my eye was one by Dunya Mikhail, as she is a poet who I discuss in the classes I teach. Her poem is called "Inanna."
Inanna's symbol is an eight-pointed star or a rosette, a fact which I told you about more than once.
Inanna is the Great Mother God from Sumerian times, whose Babylonian counterpart is Ishtar. The hymns to Inanna by Enheduanna, the first poet of literature, the first poet ever to have their name recorded down as author (inscribed on cuneiform), I also discuss in class, so I found the poem by Mikhail fascinating for its mix of the ancient (powerful female) past and the contemporary destruction of Iraq by the US and its allies.
Patricia Frisella's poem Satyagraha, the title of which refers to Ghandian non-violence, is the second last poem in the book, found just after Suheir Hammad's What I Will and just before Sorley Maclean's The Cuillin. The Cuillin's placement in the book allows the resonance of the title to remain with the reader. As Rebecca Rule explains "MacLean – a Scot born in 1911 – spent a lifetime addressing injustice, in particular the Clearances foisted on the Gaels. The anthology’s title is drawn from his poem, 'The Cuillin'”.
I will leave you with Patricia's poem, whose imagery speaks of the beauty and the evil that coexist in our beautiful awesome sensate senseless world/existence.
Satyagraha by Patricia Frisella
I will capture snowflakes with a horse's black eyelash
while your bombs scream into mud.
I will pick sun-warmed buttercups and strawberries
while rivers of warning flood your villages.
I will wear violet scarves and dance by moonlight
while your empires collapse, weighed down by gold.
I will eat apples and plums while your hunger
consumes you. I will know you with my eyes shut.
I will know that you sleep open-eyed, a saber
beneath your pillow. When you become ash
and brittle bone, I will be the wind whistling
through your skull and singing your name.