Monday, 22 June 2009


they mourn the voice of Iran
but I heard only silence broken
by anguished screams embracing you
as final pumps pushed red horror
from nose and mouth

Neda, unrushed and acquiescing
you seemed to accept your fate
until your eyes revolting
shot upwards to stare
in terminal complaint

You were courageous and beautiful to the end.

Neda Soltani ( Persian: ندا سلطانی ; born 1982, died 20 June 2009; age 26–27)

calling from here: Tokyo Station: Maronouchi Exit '03

calling from here: Tokyo Station: Maronouchi Exit '03

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Thanks to Roxanne Ivey for the poem left as a comment in the previous post.


For every secret sealed in flame,
Each grief engraved without a name,
I'll summon tender truths from shame,
With tears my talisman.

I'll shred the shroud of disbelief
And scatter ashes of relief,
Then weave these words into a wreath
No season can upbraid.

I'll lift the earth into the sky
So fallen stars again will rise;
Your suffering is my battle cry--
You did not die alone.

Friday, 19 June 2009

The dirt and dust of poetic insult

"The nation's huge river would not leave any opportunity
for the expression of dirt and dust"

In a nation where poetry is a venerable and much-loved form of expression, it was no suprise that the defensive Ahmadinejad would produce a stanza of note. But the bitter poet then let his guard slip by accusing his opponents of "officially recognising thieves, homosexuals and scumbags" in exchange for their vote. Poetry evaporates, ephemeral in the mind of a bigot.

Iranians chose to ignore Ahmadinejad's baser insults to appropriate instead his poetic slur, "dirt and dust." The label has returned as a slogan to haunt the errant poet-bigot. It is now the rallying cry of protesters, who wear and chant the term with a potent mix of anger and pride. "Dirt and dust is you who are the enemy of Iran" is one chant heard on the streets, and the reformist newspaper Etemad-e Melli carried a picture of a huge banner carried by protesters:


The supreme leader is due to address the nation at Friday prayers this morning. As a man renowned for his love of poetry, it will be fascinating to see how he responds to this epic poetic struggle.

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Thursday, 18 June 2009

Good Iranians and bad Iranians? It's not that simple Ali.

In an earlier blog, I noted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's branding of protesters as "tension seekers". Well, new day, new label. They are now tension-seeking "vandals". Indeed the wise leader tells us that vandalizing public property is not even related to the presidential election:
"Such acts and vandalism and some crimes that were committed are not related to the candidates' supporters but to disturbers of peace and all should stand against them."
These are the 'bad' Iranians, and (unspoken) 'good' Iranians are urged to "stand against them" - code for what exactly?Now compare the Ayatollah's description of those charged with supervising the elections, not quite so black and white this time:
"Those in charge of supervising the elections are always trustworthy people, but this should not prevent an investigation into possible problems and clarifying the truth."
Forgive me, but isn't it disingenuous to suggest their possible failings are little more than natural consequences of their trustworthiness? Where did the cold, hard religious certainty of the earlier pronouncement disappear to in this description? But he has spoken, and therefore - he hopes - it shall be so.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Sarah Palin and the evolution of thought

Modification of Image:Huxley - Mans Place in N...Image via Wikipedia

You've probably heard about the David Letterman / Sarah Palin fued. Long story short, Palin produced this utterence in response to Letterman's apology for a joke made about her daughter:

"Of course it's accepted on behalf of all young women, like my daughters, who hope men who 'joke' about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve."

Here's my problem. It doesn't matter how often I read this statement, it just doesn't work; the word 'evolve' disrupts my attempts to take meaning every time. Perhaps knowing Palin has been labelled a creationist by many (read: dismisses the theory of evolution), the liitle voice in my head that reads for me simply won't accept her intended meaning. Context gets in the way again (quite apart from the fact it's poorly constructed).

Ayatollah's gift of the gab

As reported in today's Guardian newspaper and other media, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last night dismissed protests as the work of "tension seekers". He has produced a pretty nifty and memorable phrase here, no mean feat in the age of the media soundbite. If he was seeking attention, it worked. But what was he signalling with this labelling; will things deteriorate to the point where a religious edict will materialise?

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Trolls and trolling - not reasonless writing

Trolling means something different these days. It used to mean circulating and moving around, often in a fishing context. That sense of movement may still resonate, but trolling has now become the occupation of trolls. Take these definitions from a popular forum's rules:
Trolls are people who for no reason want to disrupt a forum topic by constantly posting out of context posts, derogatory comments, throwing insults, making personal attacks and deliberately inciting a negative response from other members. This is called trolling in public forums and won't be tolerated here.
Fair enough. What site administrator wouldn't want to curtail such negative behaviour? But let's look at that rule again:
Trolls are people who for no reason want to...
This is of course a nonsense. How can a writer be construed as lacking in reason, especially one actively attempting to incite a negative response (the key word being action)? Unreasonable comments may abound, but I've yet to find a reasonless writer.

Wrighting: sometimes anonymous, always autonomous

We traipse across blogs and forums in search of meaning - or perhaps to hide from things more meaningful. Whatever our individual reasons, the exponential rise of so-called social networking sites and the blogosphere points to a seemingly inexhaustible drive to communicate - even when we have locked ourselves in rooms to avoid communicating with those closest to us!

Nothing new then, I hear you say.

But what do these user-generated, content-driven sites tell us specifically about this desire to communicate? More than anything, it seems to me they demonstrate our need to be in control of our own communications. We not only want to be heard, but we want to be heard on our terms. It is not what we write about that matters most, but rather our right to write in ways of our choosing that drives most Tweeters, Facebookers and Bloggers.

There is much more to say about this, but I reserve the write (sic) for later, at a time and in a style of my choosing. Thanks for reading - I would welcome your thoughts.

Monday, 15 June 2009


An artist - the only one I know personally - once asked where my fascination for language derived. At the same time as grasping for a credible answer, it struck me that only one who privileges an alternative mode of expression would have thrown such a curveball at a first meeting. A few years on, I'm still grasping.

In the spirit of that encounter, I present Norah McGuiness' oil on canvas, The harvesters, as an alternative introductory post. It speaks to the title of this virgin blog, although I'm at a loss to produce a critical comment on the subject. Does this constitute first post failure? Probably.