NEW YEAR DEAL!!!!!

Here’s a 2014 deal!!! Go to www.michaelpoage.com, buy one copy of my book, VOICE OVER, thru PayPal, and I will send a complimentary copy of my book of poems, ABUNDANCE, along with VOICE OVER. This offer is good until Feb. 1, 2014. I ask that you consider writing a review of each book on goodreads.com and help promote my writing when and where you can. Buy and read poetry. Support the arts!! Thanks.

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President Mandela

This morning the Wichita Eagle headline read:  WORLD MOURNS NELSON MANDELA.

I join in that mourning as well as the celebration of a life so committed to the long walk to freedom
and so devoid of bitterness after twenty-seven years as a political prisoner. It is important to
remember that the U.S. was the last country to take President Mandela off the “terrorist list”
in 2008, eighteen years after his release from prison.  In my opinion, this country has NO IDEA
how racist we are and how “white privilege” along with white money still rules in the U.S. just like
in apartheid South Africa.  We are all masters of denial and self-deceit. No wonder we support
the Israeli government’s racism and continued violations of international law.  No wonder we
continue to practice “targeted assassination” so often inflicting tragedy upon innocent civilians
with our increasing use of drone attacks.  We praise President Mandela with words but our
actions speak a louder and clearer story of violence and racism.  I pray that our country will
make decisions based on our hopes for justice rather than upon our fears of “terrorism” and
the loss of white power and white money.
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NO IRAN WAR

In 2001 Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, told Shimon Peres:  “Don’t worry about American pressure on Israel.  We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it” (Kol Yisrael radio, Oct. 3).  I am afraid that what has changed since 2001 is a stronger conviction by the Netanyahu government of the truth of Sharon’s statement.  The U.S. continues to fund and arm the world’s fourth largest military.  Our tax money continues to be used to support Israel’s army of occupation in the West Bank and the devastating siege of Gaza. The U.S., seemingly “owned” by Israel, is usually the only U.N. Security Council country to veto U.N. resolutions that condemn Israel’s numerous violations of the Geneva Conventions and international law. Most recently, Israel opposes the lifting of some sanctions against and dialogue with Iran.  The U.S. seems to be approaching the Iran issue with some appropriate and wise steps.  I hope those steps continue.  The U.S. needs to be freed from Israel’s “ownership.” The U.S. must not be pulled into a war with Iran.

 

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I AM BOSNIA, YOU ARE HERZEGOVINA

My first response upon hearing of Alija’s death was:  NO!!  Then, again: NO!!  Then this 68 year old man just cried.  I could not believe that I would not again be seeing Alija and his wonderful smile and hear his joyous greeting:  “MIKE!!”

 

There are few true heroes in this world, very few, but Alija Muratovic was one of those precious few.  His life, as I knew him, was lived with grace and honor, humor and generosity.  I first met him in 2006 in Tuzla as George Hough and I came to BiH to help assess some of the trauma issues and rehab. programs in the northeast, the Tuzla and Srebrenica areas.  Ever wonderful and patient, Emina, was our guide and translator and she soon introduced us to Alija.  He was an immediate friend even though we spoke different languages.  His involvement with Fenix was unique, caring, and creative.  The new center, near the Tuzla hospital, was carefully cared for from the yard, the art work (inside and outside), the home for some of the men that he cared for and worked with, to the care and support he gave the men themselves.  They all, including Alija, had gone through unimaginably tragic and horrific trauma magnified across the entire population of Bosnia.

 

Alija was “officially” the transportation person when I was around so we went to Divic, Zvornic and other locations to visit women’s cooperatives – the work of the Widows of Srebrenica.  He was always warmly welcomed so I could see I wasn’t the “only one” to be on the receiving end of his care and compassion.  Alija was a hard worker, putting in many extra hours on behalf of Fenix or of people like me – taking up his valuable time to be transported this place and that place always safely and graciously.  We would even try conversation, or hand signals, or whatever in order to communicate information about our lives, families, hopes and fears.  I really wish my son, who is now 43, could have met him – they, too, would have been instant friends.  In fact, I wish all of my children could have known him and, to me, that is the highest form of admiration I can think of for a friend of mine.  I remember in 2006 as George, Emina, Alija and myself, hopped in the van and drove northeast toward Srebrenica, stopping at several places along the way for deliveries or to visit the Potocari cemetery where we all shared more tears and grew closer together.  We drove further into the “shadows” of the town of Srebrenica having been told two things:  1)  Don’t use either Emina’s or Alija’s name out loud; and, 2) Be ready to leave quickly.  We had coffee and cokes at a café run by one of the only Muslim families to return to Srebrenica by 2006.  This was obviously a dangerous trip, not for me, but for Emina and Alija. But it was Alija’s strength, courage, and  love that carried us into and out of Srebrenica safely – he was so calm!  There was a kind of fearlessness, NOT revenge that I am so grateful to have witnessed.

 

The same foursome (George, Emina, Alija, and I) drove over the mountains, back roads that Alija negotiated with great skill, to Sarajevo.  I mentioned how beautiful it was and also how grateful I was that Alija was driving.  Emina translated to Alija.  He said, thru Emina:  “Mike, I would carry you in my arms by foot over these mountains.”  I did not know how to respond.  So I rubbed his shoulders from the back seat.  The last day I saw Alija he was driving my wife and I to the train station in Doboj in 2010.  On the trip, the three of us were trying to gather some Bosnian and English words together for some kind of communication.  It was funny and fun.  After a short time of quiet, Alija said to me with great energy and using arm gestures and English“Mike!  I am Bosnia and you are Herzegovina!  Yes?”  “Yes,” I said, with a heavy and happy heart as we pulled into the station parking lot.  In some wonderfully strange and generous way, Alija had created a new nation!  We gave each other a strong hug as we muttered something about seeing each other again soon in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  I waved to him thru the window of the train thinking how thankful I was to know such a brave, intelligent, and gentle man.  To me, that was Alija…in a few words.  Mir!

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Dickinson and Plath

Recently I was back east (as opposed to Kansas!!) and had the opportunity to visit Amherst, MA., and spend some time at the home of Emily Dickinson.  We went on the “poetry” tour of the home (it’s the shorter one – me not being big on tours!!), the leader did a good job, and I was once again INTRODUCED to Dickinson’s poetry – through her home!  It was a wonderful “re-revelation.” I bought a small book of selected poems.  I spent a little time reading them over coffee at a small shop just up the street from her house.  I loved the line breaks, the surprises, the dashes making me focus on just one word at a time, her humor, the pacing of lines, the joy, and the sorrow.  Later that same day I found myself at Smith College where many of Sylvia Plath’s papers are archived.  I was very informally dressed and had not shaved for several days but the person I talked to at the Smith library led me to the archival librarian, introduced me as a Plath scholar from Kansas (!), very generous of her, and they both listened as I asked (never thinking I would even get this far!) if I could see any poems and/or papers from 1962-64.  In a few moments, as I was sitting at this large, very polished table, there was a box placed next to my Red Sox hat in front of me.  Inside were some papers, a few letters, the last one Plath wrote to her U.S. friends, something from Hughes after her death to a publisher…I don’t really remember the exact details – the papers I requested were then copied and sent to me at my home where they were waiting when I returned.  Whew!!  I had dipped into the life and death of Sylvia Plath, a brilliant poet who captured my imagination from my early days of writing.  Again, I was INTRODUCED to her power, her leaps, her fears, her courage, unthinkable language and her passion – in all the meanings of that loaded word.  Then, I began thinking that I would like to take these two “new” poets in my life and from my angle, read and write about 10 – 20 of each of their poems and explore the literary journey laid out before me.  I don’t want to insert the life details, only the details of their poems, selected by me and, then, I would take responsibility for embracing and wooing the words of these two amazing poets.  At least, this is what I would like to do…I will enjoy the risks and rewards.  Stay tuned….

 

 

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VOICE OVER……….free!!!!!

Remember that you can put in a request for a free copy of my most recent book of poems, VOICE OVER, by going to www.goodreads.com and go to “giveaways.”  Goodreads will pick 25 “winners” who will receive a copy of the book, signed!!  It would be great if each winner would write a review PRAISING the book!!  The deadline is Oct. 14.  I hope you get your request in and/or go to my website to see the other books of poems for sale.  Best to you, Michael.

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No attack on Syria

The Syrian crisis gives the United States a great opportunity.  Instead of

continuing to use Israel as our model for foreign policy in the Middle East

which led to two horrible wars and has bloody consequences every hour

of every day, lets show the world what HUMANITARIAN help really looks
like.  If we REALLY want to help Syria, lets provide (maybe even unilaterally!),
food, shelter, protection, medicine, and schooling to the two million Syrian
refugees, half of whom are children.  Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq are in dire
need of the basics of human existence in order to cope with the refugees.
Syria is finally, after two and a half years and 120,000 deaths, on the
international stage.  NOW is the time for an unprecedented humanitarian
“Marshall Plan” to provide life, not death, to citizens of an amazingly rich
and ancient culture.  More bombs is an idea that lacks creativity and compassion.
More bombs would be stupid and is NOT in the national interest of the U.S., no
matter what Rep. Pompeo says.  He is wrong.  Sec. of State Kerry calls those of
us opposed to an attack on Syria “armchair isolationists.”  He is wrong.  Seventy
percent of this nation wants NO ATTACK on Syria.  But we are a generous and
giving people.  So lets stop being the leading arms dealer in the world and take on
the really peaceful step of providing humanitarian aid to those literally dying for lack
of the basics.  Jimmy Carter said:  “We can’t be both the world’s leading champion of
peace and the world’s leading supplier of arms.” Lets help make a livable world
instead of aiding and abetting its criminal destruction.
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ON RESUMING “NEGOTIATIONS…”

ON RESUMING “NEGOTIATIONS…”

 For many reasons I have wondered/questioned the legitimacy
of resumed talks and one reason is the appointment of Martin Indyk as lead “negotiator” from the U.S.
It seems to me that “everything” is NOT on the table, like return to ’67 (if not ’48) borders, removal of
settlements, stop the Prawer Plan (which really has been going on since the early 1950’s),
recognition of at least 7,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, at least 700 of them children, end the
occupation, end nightly and daily F-16 harassment flights over the West Bank, end the blockade,
starvation and devastation of the Gaza Strip.  Just some thoughts……esp. with elections coming
soon in Israel…..
Salaam, Mike
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Inspired by blog from poet Mark Doty

Mark – I read your words with gratitude. Also what you say reminds me of what I often do with writing classes and workshops, especially with younger and/or beginning writers. When I was operating a sheep ranch in Montana years ago I was sixty miles from the nearest Vet. so I had to do most of my own “doctoring” of the animals. At first my main challenge was to get the ewes penned and then try to catch the one(s)that needed a vaccination,etc. It was really frustrating as the sheep seemed to know exactly what I was up to. It soon dawned on me that I had to develop a “sneaky” strategy…so I started looking at the ewe I did NOT want, gradually getting closer to the one I really wanted without looking at her. When I was within reach I grabbed the UNSUSPECTING ewe…the “sneaky” strategy worked…I stared at the unwanted ewe and got the one I saw out of the corner of my eye. I often work this way with my own poetry. I find that it takes some alertness and often provides surprise.
Just a thought inspired by your thoughts. You are a great poet, thanks for your work. Michael Poage (www.michaelpoage.com)
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god won’t overlook us

Over the years I have resisted writing “about” my poems – giving anything I believed would present some undeserved insight, or a short cut, to a full reading of the poems.  I have been on guard for many years perhaps protecting myself more than the poems.  Tonight, as I write this preface, I do so knowing that the poems will stand or fall on their own depending, in part, upon who is reading them and, in part, upon the voices emerging from the poems themselves.  Even at 55 years old and with three previous books of poems published I have only recently, in the past three or four years, begun to accept myself as a writer.  Why?  Talk to my therapist, she is good.  So good she won’t tell you a damn thing!

So I will write a few words about what the poems in god won’t overlook us mean to me.  It all really centers on that title.  First of all, it was a gift, what William Stafford might have called a “bonus of the world.”  That is, I overheard the phrase from someone’s conversation, or a friend wrote it down in a note to me and didn’t mind me stealing it, or one of my kids sensing fear or innocence, or both, uttered something almost theological as we adults often do in our hasty prayers of petition in tight places.  The poems are not prayers, they are gifts—received and returned.  They are beautiful, sensual, sad, sexual, joyful, silly, horrible, dying to be heard and daring to be challenged.  The poems mean, literally, the world to me because that is where they come from—my world, your world, the world around and inside.  But I do not own them.  Never have, never will.

Secondly, the small “g” in place of a capital “G” in “God” is intended to give myself, and hopefully others, permission to meet the holy on my own terms.  The poems move in and around the world and the spirit or, as I would rather say, the spirit of the world.  god is a part of that world/spirit but not as revenge or reward—more like revolution.  Writing is a revolutionary act no matter what your politics. I know I am not the first one to say this but I do believe it.  And I believe that god is in solidarity with the word, the gift, the passion, the art, the revolt signaled by the poem.  Go ahead.  Move out into the deep waters…god will not overlook us.

–  February 13, 2001—late evening, Wichita, Kansas

 

 

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