January 29, 2014 |
There is a knife in this story. And by the time you get to the end, someone is going to use it. Tipping you off to the knife is a dramatic lesson taken from Anton Chekhov, one of Russia's great playwrights and short story writers. Russia has a history full of indelible writers of fiction: Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Nikolai Gogol, just to name a few. Poets haven't made as big an impression on English-language readers, but from Alexander Pushkin's time to the present, poetry has been a big part of the literary discussion in Russia.
January 9, 2014 |
Amiri Baraka died Thursday after weeks of failing health, a family spokeperson confirmed. He was 79. A playwright, poet, critic and activist, Baraka was one of the most prominent and controversial African American voices in the world of American letters. He was born Everett LeRoi Jones on Oct. 7, 1934, in Newark, N.J. A gifted student, he graduated from high school two years early and went to college at New York University and Howard University. After serving in the Air Force for more than two years, Baraka -- then Jones -- was dishonorably discharged for reading communist texts.
December 27, 2013 |
Baghdad is a city that looms large in the American imagination. In 2003, at the start of the last Iraq war, it was occupied by U.S. troops. In the years that followed, thousands of U.S. citizens (soldiers, contractors, officials and journalists) passed through Baghdad. My own memories of the city are of its heat and light and the brokenness of its buildings and the kindness of its people. I lived there in 2003, briefly, as a reporter. The ongoing war and the constant fear of being swept up in the conflict that was destroying the city kept us Americans from exploring in it. The legendary Baghdad, that center and crossroads of Mesopotamian cultures, the city of "One Thousand and One Nights," remained unknown to us. The poems in "Baghdad: The City in Verse," an ambitious and enlightening anthology of poetry written in and about that city, date from the first decades after its founding in the 8th century, up to the war that drove Saddam Hussein from power.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
December 20, 2013 |
The winter solstice may mark the longest night of the year, but for Iranians, it's also known as Shab-e Yalda , a celebration with ancient ties that commemorates the triumph of Mithra, the Sun God, over darkness. Feasting on fresh fruits from the summer season and reciting works by 14th century Persian poet Hafez, Iranians all around the world stay up to mark the start of winter. "It's not an official holiday in Iran, but similar to many other ancient traditions, it has become a significant cultural celebration observed by all Iranians," said Bita Milanian, executive director of Farhang Foundation, a nonprofit that celebrates Iranian art and culture in Southern California.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
November 23, 2013 |
With her dark skin and "unconkable kinky hair," Wanda Coleman found growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s often felt like torture. "The stultifying intellectual loneliness of my 1950s and '60s upbringing was dictated by my looks," she wrote years later. "Boys gawked at me, and girls tittered behind my back. Black teachers shook their heads in pity, and White teachers stared in amusement or in wonder. " Books became her precious refuge but were hard to come by because the libraries, she noted, "discouraged Negro readers.
October 28, 2013 |
Twenty or so years ago, Lou Reed - who died Sunday of liver failure at 71 - published a book called “Beyond Thought and Expression: Selected Lyrics” that casts in stark relief the promise and the pretension of thinking about rock lyrics as poetry. Reed, of course, always considered himself in such terms, tracing a lineage to the story writer and poet Delmore Schwartz , who had been his teacher at Syracuse University, creating with the Velvet Underground (and later, in solo efforts such as “Berlin,” “Street Hassle,” “New York” and “Songs for Drella” )