"I am a voice of the revolution because the United States gave me a stage and gave me the opportunity."
Syrian-American activist Amal Kassir uses slam poetry to fuel her cause.
"Someone is dying aline in the night.
The hospital hums like a consciousness.”
"One bright morning in a restaurant in Chicago
as I waited for my eggs and toast,
I opened the Tribune only to discover
that I was the same age as Cheerios.
Indeed, I was a few months older than Cheerios
for today, the newspaper announced,
was the seventieth birthday of Cheerios
whereas mine had occurred earlier in the year.
Already I could hear them whispering
behind my stooped and threadbare back,
Why that dude’s older than Cheerios
the way they used to say
Why, that’s as old as the hills,
only the hills are much older than Cheerios
or any American breakfast cereal,
and more noble and enduring are the hills,
I surmised as a bar of sunlight illuminated my orange juice.”
"Leap! Howl! Fly! Run! Freedom feels so good. Snuffing out freedom feels so good. Power will be triumphant forever, will be passed down from generation to generation forever."
Those are the words poet Liao Yiwu was arrested for saying in response to the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square.
They are simply Life’s sobbings
Dark prison cells opening and shutting
The dry cough of two caving in lungs
The sound of earth coming down to bury dreams
The exhumation sound of hoes bringing up memories
The chattering of teeth in cold and misery
The aimless contractions of an empty stomach
The hopeless beat of a dying heart
Impotence’s voice in the midst of collapsing earth
All the sounds of a life not deserving half its name
Or even the name of death:
No verses are they!"
— “My Verses” from the late Vietnamese Poet Nguyen Chi Thien
"I’m not sure anybody’s imagination has gotten that balance quite right, but Elizabeth Bishop, looking at the mystery of the Brazilian landscape, catches the splendor of that landscape and the mystery that drew the first invaders in toward a sexual or imperial conquest that the invaders never quite attained.
First, Bishop describes the fabric of the Brazilian forest, a dense tapestry.
Every square inch filling in with foliage-
big leaves, little leaves, and giant leaves,
blue, blue green and olive,
with occasional lighter veins and edges,
or a satin under leaf turned over;
in silver-gray relief,
and flowers too, like giant water lilies
up in the air— up rather in the leaves— purple, yellow, two yellows, pink,
rust red, and greenish white;
solid but airy, fresh as if just finished
and taken off the frame.
That’s the fresh woven fabric that the European cannot quite attain, though they invaded. The ending of Bishop’s poem evokes the paradox of Portuguese soldiers glinting like little nail heads lost and transformed, even as they seem to conquer. The hemisphere, Bishop seems to say, eludes our attempts to know it.
in creaking armor, they came and found it all,
not unfamiliar: n
o lover’s walks, no bowers,
no cherries to be picked, no late music,
but corresponding, nevertheless,
to an old dream of wealth and luxury
already out of style when they left home-
wealth, plus a brand new pleasure.
Directly after Mass, humming perhaps
’L’Homme arme or some such tune,
they ripped away into the hanging fabric,
each out to catch an Indian for himself-
those maddening little women who kept calling,
calling to each other, (or had the birds waked up?)
And retreated, always retreating behind it.”
Little man, I said, keep the wolf
from my door: one more night,
one more wretched night and day.
The wolf said wait and the season
was packing its bags, but it would
not leave and it would never leave.
— Joseph Campana is a poet, critic and scholar of Renaissance literature. He is the author of two collections of poetry, “The Book of Faces” (Graywolf, 2005) and "Natural Selections," which won the 2011 Iowa Poetry Prize.