Archive for June 14th, 2013

by lizard

If it all works out, I may get a sequence of poems published by a small press moving out of the just simmering phase. For this project I’ve picked a grouping of 11 poems tentatively called AMERICAN DEATH WISH.

The title feels inescapable.

There is another title of poems I’m excited about. Night is Simply a Shadow is the posthumous collection of poems by Greta Wrolstad, a collection I’ve hoped would eventually come out.

From the link, Joanna Klink says this of her student:

Greta Wrolstad (1981-2005) was a poet and vital presence in the M.F.A. program at The University of Montana, where she held a teaching assistantship in English and served as poetry co-editor of CutBank. Greta was my student. She was not only tremendously talented but at-home in herself, in ways that are utterly elusive to me. I will be lucky if, in my lifetime, I can approach some of the peace that seemed to radiate from Greta at 24.

Like Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore, two poets she read exhaustively, Greta was exceptionally good at describing the natural world—in part, I suspect, because she had the patience to look at seawater and trees for a long time, without asking what she saw to be anything other than itself. Greta was a traveler. Her poems open out like vast geographies, always with a strain of quiet and sense of witness.


Maybe death as a theme feels so inescapable because death has become so casual.

The recent inquiries into the cause of death of the poet Pablo Neruda, inquiries that Neruda may have been actually poisoned by the CIA, isn’t even a blip on our collective radar. From the link:

A Chilean judge has issued an order for police to initiate a manhunt of the man prosecutors say poisoned Pablo Neruda, the poet described by literary luminary Gabriel Garcia Marquez as the “greatest poet of the 20th century in any language.”

Neruda’s death, some forty years ago at the age of 69, has always been attributed to prostate cancer, for which he was being treated at the time of his death. But Manuel Araya, the poet’s one-time chauffeur who maintains that Neruda was killed by the Pinochet regime, is the plaintiff in a case that seeks to establish the true cause of his death.

At the end of last week, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Montana’s poet laureate, Sheryl Noethe. Her incredible generosity and deep commitment to poetic advocacy makes her a fantastic steward of the honorary position.

This week’s poetry selection is from Sheryl’s debut collection, titled The Descent Of Heaven Over the Lake (New Rivers Press, 1984).



A man steps from a bar out onto the street
shaking his head and waving a gun.
His friend weaves uncertainly behind him,
holding out a hand.
The sun poisons his liquor through his head.

The body is struck like a bell and makes
no sound. Stopped ringing long ago, it seems.
“Look,” you say, “I’m beginning to leave you.”
The trees burst into flame. You try
to stay asleep.

An old woman on a boat bites into a lemon.
Your body rings and you taste her joy as
her teeth break the skin. The ferry breaks
neatly into the waves of the sea. A soldier
walks by and offers you a cigarette.
His grin breaks into your gaze.
You look past him, toward the sea,
where you’d hoped the dolphins might be.

—Sheryl Noethe

by lizard

To a cynic, it may appear that the Obama administration is playing the chemical weapons in Syria card to distract from a long two weeks of awkward disclosures exposing to the US citizenry the Orwellian reality of our overly surveilled lives. Here is the full statement:

Statement by Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes on Syrian Chemical Weapons Use

At the President’s direction, the United States Government has been closely monitoring the potential use of chemical weapons within Syria. Following the assessment made by our intelligence community in April, the President directed the intelligence community to seek credible and corroborated information to build on that assessment and establish the facts with some degree of certainty. Today, we are providing an updated version of our assessment to Congress and to the public.

The Syrian government’s refusal to grant access to the United Nations to investigate any and all credible allegations of chemical weapons use has prevented a comprehensive investigation as called for by the international community. The Assad regime could prove that its request for an investigation was not just a diversionary tactic by granting the UN fact finding mission immediate and unfettered access to conduct on-site investigations to help reveal the truth about chemical weapons use in Syria. While pushing for a UN investigation, the United States has also been working urgently with our partners and allies as well as individuals inside Syria, including the Syrian opposition, to procure, share, and evaluate information associated with reports of chemical weapons use so that we can establish the facts and determine what took place.

Following a deliberative review, our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year. Our intelligence community has high confidence in that assessment given multiple, independent streams of information. The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete. While the lethality of these attacks make up only a small portion of the catastrophic loss of life in Syria, which now stands at more than 90,000 deaths, the use of chemical weapons violates international norms and crosses clear red lines that have existed within the international community for decades. We believe that the Assad regime maintains control of these weapons. We have no reliable, corroborated reporting to indicate that the opposition in Syria has acquired or used chemical weapons.

The body of information used to make this intelligence assessment includes reporting regarding Syrian officials planning and executing regime chemical weapons attacks; reporting that includes descriptions of the time, location, and means of attack; and descriptions of physiological symptoms that are consistent with exposure to a chemical weapons agent. Some open source reports from social media outlets from Syrian opposition groups and other media sources are consistent with the information we have obtained regarding chemical weapons use and exposure. The assessment is further supported by laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin. Each positive result indicates that an individual was exposed to sarin, but it does not tell us how or where the individuals were exposed or who was responsible for the dissemination.

We are working with allies to present a credible, evidentiary case to share with the international community and the public. Since the creation of the UN fact finding mission, we have provided two briefings to Dr. Åke Sellström, the head of the mission. We will also be providing a letter to UN Secretary General Ban, calling the UN’s attention to our updated intelligence assessment and specific incidents of alleged chemical weapons use. We request that the UN mission include these incidents in its ongoing investigation and report, as appropriate, on its findings. We will present additional information and continue to update Dr. Sellström as new developments emerge.

The President has been clear that the use of chemical weapons – or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups – is a red line for the United States, as there has long been an established norm within the international community against the use of chemical weapons. Our intelligence community now has a high confidence assessment that chemical weapons have been used on a small scale by the Assad regime in Syria. The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has. Our decision making has already been guided by the April intelligence assessment and by the regime’s escalation of horrific violence against its citizens. Following on the credible evidence that the regime has used chemical weapons against the Syrian people, the President has augmented the provision of non-lethal assistance to the civilian opposition, and also authorized the expansion of our assistance to the Supreme Military Council (SMC), and we will be consulting with Congress on these matters in the coming weeks. This effort is aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the SMC, and helping to coordinate the provision of assistance by the United States and other partners and allies. Put simply, the Assad regime should know that its actions have led us to increase the scope and scale of assistance that we provide to the opposition, including direct support to the SMC. These efforts will increase going forward.

The United States and the international community have a number of other legal, financial, diplomatic, and military responses available. We are prepared for all contingencies, and we will make decisions on our own timeline. Any future action we take will be consistent with our national interest, and must advance our objectives, which include achieving a negotiated political settlement to establish an authority that can provide basic stability and administer state institutions; protecting the rights of all Syrians; securing unconventional and advanced conventional weapons; and countering terrorist activity.

To counter this line of bullshit emanating from a White House desperate to shift attention anywhere else, I suggest reading b’s latest post at Moon of Alabama.

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