Since I’ve been doing a lot of readings lately, I’ve been thinking about the Poetry Reading as an antidote to the Internet. I’ve always felt ambivalent about the way that social networking sites and the Internet are used to publicize the private and to promote the self. I realize I’m in a tight spot here, as this blog entry itself is on the Internet, and may be seen by some as a means of self-promotion. I’d like to think of it, however, as an excuse to look critically at how we conduct ourselves in the world as writers and as human beings, and what role the Poetry Reading plays in all of this messiness about the public and the private.
Growing up Motown—a special section on Motown explores how artists such as Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson grew up within Motown Records, and how the company itself emerged in Detroit to become one of the most distinctive cultural industries of the twentieth century.
In the conclusion of my book Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit, I described the fanfare that surrounded the fortieth anniversary of Motown Records, which included a commemorative compact disc boxed set, an ABCTV documentary miniseries, and a special Motown halftime show at the Super Bowl. The show culminated with Martha Reeves singing her signature song, “Dancing in the Street.” As I noted, “[b]y the time the song reached one of its most famous lines, ‘Can’t forget the Motor City,’ nothing seemed more forgotten than Detroit, Michigan, Motown’s birthplace.”
The poems “War” and “Ruins” are from Adonis’s latest book, Warraq Yabi‘u Kuttub al-Nujum (Printer of the Planets’ Books). Largely composed of leisurely prose meditations interspersed with lyrical flashes, the book draws on the poet’s memories, especially his childhood in Qassabin, Syria. Adonis adroitly recaptures a child’s sense of wonder, as well as a child’s anguish and fears. The books seems also a tribute to the villagers of Qassabin, to a dignity that seems to emerge from a naturally philosophical outlook and a practical resourcefulness that compliment each other. Tender and poised, the poems never veer into nostalgia or sentimentality. Perhaps the counterweight to Qassabin are the poems from a sequence titled “Dictionary” including the two poems presented here, where the dictionary serves as a context for the poet’s memories and provides a premonition of future violence and destruction.
(photo by Shadi Enbashi | juxtapoza.com)
While I loathe the frantic search for expensive gifts in shopping malls resounding with irritating music, and while I sigh with relief when the decorations are finally taken down and the last desiccated Christmas-tree needles are hoovered up, I do not agree with Ebeneezer Scrooge that “Every idiot who goes about with Merry Christmas on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.” I love Christmas with the same awe and wholehearted sense of ritual participation that I have felt since childhood.