Headline June 01, 2018/ ''' *THESE TROUBLED LANDS* '''


NO ORANGES FOR NOW!.............

You great heroes - Merium, Rabo, Haleema, Saima, Dee, Zainab, Seher, Emaan, Shahbano, Aqsa,  Juniper, Zilli, Dantini, Lakshmi, Armeen, Anne, Paras, Sorat. The ground is still seeded with  Bombs''. 

IN  ''BARBARIAN IN THE GARDEN''  the poet Zbigniew Herbert's collection of essays published in the 1980s, Herbert, Fresh out of  Cold War Poland, travels around Europe, mediating on food, art and the relationship of culture to torture or violence.

He'll savior Orvieto wine or truffles on village patios before delving into the historic burning of a  medieval sect known as the Cathars or the slaughter of bulls commemorated at Lascaux.

As Herbert travels across Europe, his essays move in constellation, asking : How do moments of deep culture relate to moments of deep human violence?

How does the history of art relate to the history of torture?

These are complex questions. No one would expect a poet to answer straightforwardly. In a world that would like simple answers, Herbert evades simplicity.

The ingredients of Herbert's essays rose up for me again as I read Tom Sleigh's linked and intertwined new books - one of memoir and reportage ; ''The Land between Two Rivers''. and one of Poems :  ''House of Fact, House of Ruin''.

Like Herbert, Sleigh is a deliberate traveler in the troubled world. Rather than unearth the deep cruelties of European history, Sleigh leaves the confusion of 21st century America to visit some of the world's hot zones :

Kurdistan, Mogadishu, rural Lebanon, Nairobi.

Some time he is conducting poetry workshops; sometimes he's dealing with cultural attaches or  smooth-tongued diplomats; sometimes he's face to face with refugees in camps.

At all times, his mission is also to be present with his own body, with others and with the notebook  whose contents he will eventually weave into essays and poems that feed one another, sometimes cannibalizing one another line for line, joke for joke.

In Herbert's title, there was a sly pun : Herbert the Pole, was the barbarian ; Europe was the garden.

Sleigh's garden is Qana, the Lebanese town where  Jesus is said to have turned water into wine, now the site of two particularly devastating Israeli bombings; and also Baghdad, in the Tigris-Euphrates valley, cradle of civilization, now the violence -ridden capital of Iraq.

In writing from parts of the world that are all too often refracted in what Sleigh calls ''crisis chatter'' or ''disaster porn,''  he wants to investigate what it means to be present among others who are more often than not perched on some precarious verge.

Yet as Sleigh makes clear, he's also uncomfortable with what might be called ''the poetry of witness''  or with any overweening formulation of ''speaking for the voiceless''.

When called upon to explain what he's trying to do. Sleigh, who has spent much of his adult life too sick to travel in this way, or to practice the craft of journalism he so admires, talks about wanting to learn from the ''negative capability'' of journalism.

By this he means getting close enough to complex thing to suspend any agenda except for detail, observation, texture, note-taking.

Obviously, Sleigh cannot help having a vantage, a prejudice, a body, but he also wants to follow both his watching mind and his language where they lead.

Like Heerbert, Sleigh often explores the hair-trigger balance culture and chaos. Like Herbert, who began an essay on Human brutality by savoring truffles, Sleigh often lingers over food as the base form of pleasure and culture we create and sustain human peace.

Sleigh revels in the moment in Jordan when a skilled Syrian refugee finds a new life as the baker of honeyed bird's-nest pastry called kenafeh. He's drawn to the moment when a formerly listless child in Mogadishu perks up and begins ''playing with a shiny wrapper of a nutritional biscuit he'd just eaten'' and -

The moment in the relative calm of Kurdistan when he and a friend ''stood in line with everyone else helping themselves to the abundance of local cheeses, baklava and other honeyed pastries.''

In Sleigh's hands, these moments of ongoingness mix something of the daily with something of the miraculous.

As he points out - even people threatened with drought and starvation - have to get on with their lives.'' Yet he also notes that when they can't, as at a field  outside Qana where oranges cannot be harvested because the ground is still seeded with bombs.

With respectful dedication to the Leaders, Students, Professors and Teachers of the world and author of Book Review : Tess Taylor .  See Ya all ''register'' on !WOW! - the World Students Society, for every subject in the world and-

Twitter-!E-WOW! - the Ecosystem 2011.

'''Witness - Writing'''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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