Friday, November 7, 2008
Far from the streets of San Francisco, I saw a small Congolese boy, his eyes wide with terror, his small body trembling, eyes so wide with loss and fear, he could not blink, staring into the camera of the British news gatherer while another reporter, kneeling before the barefoot boy held the child's small hand in his own. So still his hand, his young young life almost at a standstill--he had lost his parents as they all fled for their lives from the approaching gun men. His eyes looking out at us, at me, sitting in my chair, safe. Oh dear child, oh dear boy, what have we done to you, to all the children who duck or swerve or huddle--their newly lived bodies shattered by our failures. I will not forget your eyes, the trembling of your limbs, the hand without will, lost lost in an exploding world. May you find your way home, dear boy. And we must never stop seeing all of you.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
the shed at the back of the garden with Ceil's sign and the old farm window La Professora found for us and the visting parrots feasting
Professora and Cello on the St Kilda bay wall, last week
Thursday, October 9, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jeanine Oleson
THE GREATER NEW YORK SMUDGE CLEANSE
September 31, 2008 New York, NY The Greater New York Smudge Cleanse, a public
art project by Jeanine Oleson, will waft through the streets of New York City. Witness the
world’s largest sage smudge stick ritualistically cleansing evil from New York City at four
different sites in October and November. This traveling public art project applies the ancient
practice of smoking out dormant bad energies to contemporary challenges including
environmental pollution in Greenpoint and Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn; gentrification driving queer
communities out of Manhattan’s West Village; and pre-election anxiety/U.S. economic
imperialism on the steps of Federal Hall. Each event will include a procession followed by a
gathering with food and community organizations, activists, researchers and performers including
the Gowanus Dredger's Canoe Club, Newtown Creek Alliance, and a tea party at the Stonewall
Inn. Each event will last about three hours.
Sat., Oct. 11 Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 1 pm
Meet at the corner of Norman Ave. and Apollo St.
Sat., Oct. 18 Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, 1 pm
Meet at 2nd St. and Bond St.
Sat., Oct. 25 West Village, Manhattan, 1pm
Meet at Pier 45, east picnic benches
Mon., Nov. 3 Federal Hall, Manhattan, 1 pm
Meet on the front steps, 26 Wall St.
Maps and up-to-date information including rain dates will be available at the website:
Smudging is an ancient practice of cleansing space with smoke from bundled sage Oleson’s
project seeks to cleanse New York and it's residents of eco-destruction, election anxiety,
gentrification, heterosexism, U.S. imperialism, classism, racism and greed. The world's largest sage
smudge stick was built in New Mexico, where sage grows plentifully. It is 10 feet long -
"Supersized" to combat negativity in contemporary times. Before this momentous series of
events, the smudge stick was exhibited in shows at John Connelly Presents (NY) and L.A.C.E.
Jeanine Oleson is an artist whose practice incorporates interdisciplinary uses of performance,
film/video, installation, and photographic work, often collaboratively. She attended the School of
the Art institute of Chicago, Rutgers University, and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.
Oleson has exhibited at venues including: Lump Gallery, Raleigh, NC; Monya Rowe Gallery, NY;
Samson Projects, Boston; John Connelly Presents, NY; Bates College Museum of Art, ME;
Pumphouse Gallery, London; and Art in General, NY. Her work has been recently published in
Performa: New Visual Art Performance, DAP 2007, Cryptozoology: Out of Time Place Scale,
2007, and LTTR V: Positively Nasty, 2006.
For more information, contact Jeanine Oleson at 917-453-0235 or nycsmudge@gmail.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I am tired too night, but I just wanted to let you know, sublime fem, that I have received your words. Responses to my writing are rare and so I thank you for the time you took to read and write. And Lepa, you are always in my heart--your streets, the streets of Belgrade and Sarajevo, connect to my little avenue in my heart, in my sense of history.
Monday, October 6, 2008
On Sunday, October 21, Lepa writes (after the beatings of gay people in Belgrade):
I was thinking non stop about the phase we are in, at least in this region in relation to our lesbian and gay bodies, about our queer politics and non-hetero decisions and lives.
Last night the party was well organized because
1: there was more police then before
2. everyone left in groups in taxis, because we don't have cars among us here, a mostly young population so safe organizing meant
--organized returning (because they wait until we are finished to beat us up--this was the case in many towns in the last few years, after the parades, the events
So this morning woke up thinking, ok,that's what we need to do. Politicians when they go to their conferences also have police around them and enter their cars after their conferences, that's livable. It is not what we want, but that's better then broken bodies!
And I got a two pages of instructions for safety during the First Queer Festival in Sarajevo next week! They are so scared there, bomb threats have been announced, etc, etc, so we practically are not allowed to walk in Sarajevo during the festival.
You know, the first reading of any danger to lesbians I read in your butch-femme essay, I was so young then and did not imagine why it would be a danger at all--so reading those images how butches and femmes took the back streets to lesbian bars...was impressive, ah!
For my buba mara Bronx para siempre, Lepa
Sunday, October 5, 2008, 6:31 pm
Ah dear friend,
It was like this: before the Sarajevo conference, different journalists who wrote positively about the queer festival got threatening letters together with organisers--4 young lesbians who never organized anything similar. The threatening letters said that "they will not be safe in workplace, on the street nor in the family or when they are awake or in sleep" !!!
So of course, some women were too afraid and did not come to Sarajevo, from the lesbian guest list, and of course, the organizers could not sleep afterwards, but felt that maybe the "enemies" would appear through the door, the window, the chimney...no help! then, they sent us the letter to inform us about his--and I read it before going to Sarajevo, and entered myself into fear for one entire day. I knew as a counselor that his is my old fear, and that this is a passing emotion, but nevertheless it took me some time to soothe it!
Then we travelled to Sarajevo, five of us, and talked in the bus in a good mood---there was an accident on the road in the beautiful rainy
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Dear dear Joan,
I am writing to you now while waiting for T. and Z., two lesbian antifascist feminist friends, who went to the police to report today the attack by 10 neo-fascist men who at 10pm last night attacked a group of people walking back from the Fourth Queer Belgrade Festival, just around the corner from my home.
Yesterday was the opening day, and there were about a hundred of us, a big number for Belgrade and a success, there was no violence other then announced already by the neo-fascists on their websites, so we thought "ok, good"...but tonight, the second day, they waited until the last group of people had walked out from the place...and they beat up this guy, his hand is broken, and he's hurt very much, and then they beat up 4 women from the group..
T. and I were at home in the kitchen working, we were not there, when Z. phoned from the urgent medical center at 11pm last night, just 3 hours ago!
So I felt like in the warzone again, remembering anti-Milosevic actions in the nineties, the massacre-parade in Belgrade in 2001, at the moment almost I got the feeling I was in one of the stories of Nadezda Mendelstaim who was writing about the illegal anti-fascist life of hers and her friends in Russia in the times of Stalin in her book "Fear and Hope,"...
So T. and me were phoning , first Stasa from Women in Black who knows all the lawyers, etc...and others, writing the info, then I made tea and sandwiches and T. went of with Z. to the police. I am waiting now until they make report to the police and we can finish the info for the public and I can send it out.
It is 2:30 in the morning here, and I am writing to you, because in these moments of violence one remembers close friends. It all becomes to important!! all the anti-fascist work we do, the little we can make for all of us who chose to love people of the same gender, that is definitely not a choice that nationalists can bear! a non-nationcreation love!
--for lesbian desire, my anti-fascist screams tonight
--for all lesbians and gay men, for queer and other non-heterosexuals, warm songs to sooth the fear
With love, Lepa, the anti-fascist lesbian in the night shift in Belgrade, 20 of September, 2008.
Perhaps I have descended into some form of insanity--to be so soothed by my own images of the past. Another kind of intergenerational discourse--the old self with the young. The Palin affair knocked words out of me. Just when I thought a window was opening on the stifling airless room so much of American politics has become, a new national ugliness was thrust upon us. I have added my outrage to the all the swirling posts, I have signed all the petitions and as always I have been moved by the fierce intelligence that sparks throughout the cyberwaves--by the creative political endeavors of the You tube progressive generation that use all their talents in video film making to animate the absurd machinations of the Right. Now all we knew about the myth of the "free market" has proven a home grown truth--workers will bail out the super rich, too big to be allowed to fail--proving Hitler's maxim--if you tell a big enough lie often enough, it has the power of truth, a national truth. If you make enough money often enough, the rest of the nation will come to pay for it. Bush walks out of the bushes, mumbles a few words and disappears back into the bushes. He seems a broken man--he has taken a nation and a large part of the world with him.
I keep thinking of the single mother, the other single mother, who is filmed getting up at four in the morning, taking her child to a neighbor's home so she can go off to one of her three jobs to keep her family in shelter. No one comes to bail her out, too small her life is judged, too small her loves are judged, too small her dreams are judged. Katrinas over and over again. America went Rovian and the ruling classes counted on our obedience. Security, security, security, fear, fear, fear, profits, profits, profits--enough is never enough, too much for too few is how to run a country--keep the rest worrying or even better, dying on too many battlefields. We did not take to the streets when Bush stole the first election--what will we do now? How to best serve an imperfect democracy? The Palin affair and the crises on Wall Street, the language of war our government's only way to speak about security-- what will we do? The Palin affair--a woman, a small time politician, drafted to make McClain look young--a woman, drafted to appeal to other women who feel left out of the national narrative, a small time politician who sees some daylight ahead of her, a small time politician, Palin, who stumbles across the national stage in a big time moment--I will not be in my country of birth for this election--I await my absentee ballet in the mail--but that night when we would all sit around the TV together, my old New York friends, my Arizona friends, I will be sitting with you, with breaths too deep for how deep we could fall or how high we could climb.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Joan at three, holding her left hand in the secret way to ward of violence and in her right, a blue linoleum, red spotted pony who would stay with her
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
I want to thank every one who has written me to tell me of the typing error that made linking to petition site impossible. I know you are there. I will take up writing again--but first I want to commemorate the passing of Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian poet who wrote of exile and yearning for place, for a return to his heart-known land. I did not know of this poet before his death; La Professora and I went with Alex to a viewing of two excellent films, "The Land Speaks Arabic," and "The East Jerusalem Story," sponsored by Women for Palestine and Australians for Palestine and there Sonya, a tireless repesentative of Women for Palestine, called our attention to the death of the poet with a short film she had made in his honor, so for the first time I heard his words. I have come to realize that we must know each other's poets, that it is easy to dehumanize a people when their beloved poets are hidden behind our walls of cultural certainty. How little I know of Palestinian culture, I realized, of Arabic culture generally. I have heard the war cries from both sides; now is the time for the poets.
Darwish was born in a Palestinian village destroyed and "cleansed" by the Israeli army.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Scarred by that early betrayal of conflicting desires, I was never tempted again until in my 68th year, when I accompanied La Professora into a home furnishing emporium here in Melbourne so she could pick out book shelves and desks for our study back at 4 Fitzgibbon. She has all the money now, my American teacher's pension fastly losing spending power and doctors' bills taking the rest, so I am a mere bystander as La Professora so kindly upgrades our home. As she bent over blueprints with a nice young man, I wandered about the place, wanting to take a closer look at the paperback books it was using for display purposes only to show off its various wood particle shelving. I was enjoying seeing old friend detective writers when I came across a yellow and blue book with the words, Courage Classics, on its side--I raised my eyes to look closer and there it was, "Collected Poems of Emily Dickenson." For display purposes only. How could I leave that poet, so far from her New England home, so needing of human touch, so rich in her interrupted lines, as mere book shelf dressing. As La Professora negotiated a hefty fee, I simply took Emily, holding her in my arms, and left the store. She now sits next between May Swenson and Auden. It all made perfect sense to me.
And then the other night, La Professora decided she wanted to go to a home renovating workshop in St Kilda. We arrived early on a dark cold night and took our seats in the waiting area where tea and coffee were being served, which my darling scorned in favour of a glass of house red, and platefuls of cookies that were too delicious to resist. I asked the waitress if they could be purchased and she said no, so before we left the lounge, I did something I had learned from Ms Hampton, a dear friend who always made the most of what was available, I simply wrapped a handful of the contraband in a napkin and slipped it into my bag. Once inside the lecture hall, I dozed a little as the speaker talked about large sums of money and property, property. On the way out, I noticed a jarful of blue plastic ballpoint pens; one quick grab and a handful went into the bag. I was beginning to see a connection here--anytime large sums of money are being discussed, I immediately avail myself of what ever is free, or at least, under valued.
We ended the night with a chicken soup and stuffed cabbage dinner at the Scheherazade Cafe on Eckland Street, now for those among you who do not know the realm of the bay side of Melbourne, I will tell you that once Eckland street was the eating, talking place of many European Jews who had fled to Melbourne and this cafe so sadly soon to close was a favorite gathering spot, so think a mix of the Lower East Side and Coney Island. Alix was waiting for us and we caught up as we delighted in the specials and potato salad. Slices of dark pumpernickel caught my eye. Not easy to find in our part of town. As we payed the bill and prepared to leave, I used the old napkin trick again and departed with several slices of this so homey bread in my bag. For one instant I was back in the 60s in the old Ratner's on Second Avenue where I and my other student friends would pretend we were going to have a meal we could not really afford and sit just long enough to kidnap a few of the bagels that garnished every table. Bread in the bag, poetry in the bag, cookies in the bag and finally those blue pens. How can I explain this relapse into antisocial behaviour? Riding back across town, the palm trees of St Kilda growing more distant, La Professora who had seen it all, said "Joan, what have I turned you into?" I looked out at the still foreign landscape, a 68 year old petty thief, my contraband warm across my lap.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
With a cover photograph by Tee Corrine, the Hebrew translation of my selected works: Literal translation of the Hebrew: "Forbidden Regions: Lust, Body and Stories of Resistance"
Official English title: "Restricted Countries and Fragile Bodies: Selected Writings of Joan Nestle
Publisher: Pardes Publishers, 30 Massada St., POB 45885, Haifa, israel 31458
Don't you hate it when you accept an invitation to a wedding or a bar mitzvah, and then remember that you have tickets for something that same night?...
Well, after my wife and I purchased tickets to this evening's screening at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, we realized that we had also accepted an invitation to a bar/bat mitzvah celebration. You know, family friends from the U. S. on a bar/bat mitzvah tour...So my wife, who is native Israeli, went to the Cintematheque, and I, the native American, went to the Bar/Bat Mitvah event.
Geographically, we were ten minutes walking-distance from each other. Psychologically we were in different worlds.
I was in the world or country that I shall call 'Jisrael'--Jewish Israel. Jisrael is a country that exists in the consciousness of Jews living outside of Israel, and those Anglos who come to live here. It is the Israel of the English-speaking subculture in Jerusalem, Raanana, Beit Shemesh...In Jisrael, Hebrew is spoken, if at all, with an Amercan accent. Most of the inhabitants of Jisrael nowadays are orthodox. In Jisrael, nobody is surprised when the bar and bat mitzvah from
America give speeches celebrating their heroes, King David and Gloda Meir. Everybody expects them to profess their love for Israel and Eretz Israel, and their father to speak with that American religious-zionist twinge of guilt for living in Suburban Maryland and not here.....
Most importantly, in Jisrael the only Arabs are street cleaners, construction workers or terrorists. They aren't doctors, lawyers, teachers or professionals. They aren't the people you socialize with. My wife, ten minutes away, was in the county of Israel. She was quite literally sitting in Gehenna, since the Jerusalem Cinematheque is in the valley identified by archaeologists as Gei Ben Himmon, the Gehenna of the New Testament... but emotionally she was sitting in another Gehenna, because she was watching ten short films on Jerusalem, sponsored by the Jerusalem NGO, Ir Amin.
While I was singing Hava Nagila and Oseh Shalom Bimromav, my wife was seeing films about four Palestinian brothers who support their families by selling chewing gum to Jewish motorists at intersections. She saw a short film about Sai al-Haradin, who wakes at the crack of dawn each day to embark upon a journey of several hours to get to al-Quds university in Abu Dis--a ten minute walk away from his refugee camp. Or a documentary by a Palestinian film student about how an Arab cab driver took into his home a Jewish woman with her family after they had been evicted from their flat.
The most powerful film was about the hideous 'creatures' that for years have terrorized Palestinians, destroying their homes, building walls around and through their lands and making life miserable for them. Last week, for the first time, the same creatures turned against the Jews. I refer, of course, to the Caterpillar bulldozers.
The films were not, on the whole, heavy-handed or propogandistic. There were no films about Israeli soldiers beating up Palestinian civilians or about suicide bombers or about Shin Bet infiltrators. The emphasis was on how normal people abnormal lives in the shrinking Gehenna that is Palestinian Jerusalem.
What would the Jews from Jisrael had felt had they attended the film screening? Some would have been deeply affected and deeply perplexed. Others would have pointed fingers at the Palestinians and would absolve the Israeli Jews of responsibility. But moat would have great difficulty recognizing Israel because of the Jisrael they had created.
What room was there for hope? Only this--the Jerusalem movie theater was filled with Jews and Palestinians, speaking to each other, relating to each other, talking about their experiences. My wife could not remember ever attending any event in Israel where Palestinians and Israeli Jews mingled freely, on the same footing. It gave her some hope for Israel.
As for Jisrael--well, I lost hope for that 'imagined country' a long time ago."
When Australian Jews here say to me in a whisper, "you know, you really should not say anything about Isrsael--you don't live there," I say, yes, as an American Jew I do live there--in so many symbolic and political ways. I thank the man who wrote these words, the woman who forwarded them to my and you for listening; now to my bed.
Monday, July 14, 2008
E-mail, from Alex Nissen, Monday, July 14, 2008, 5:59
Well I guess it's time to write just a short note on my trip to Israel, mainly because I think it's important for people to know the truth. This trip has been full of meeting people who Israel would define as the enemy. Something I don't really care about. It has also had a profound effect
on the way I see things and as a result of my experience this time I have changed. I often hear many stories about how badly Israeli soldiers behave so this time like so many times before I went to a demonstration in a small Palestinian village called Nil and of course met many Palestinians who wanted to tell me their story.
The demonstration was against the confiscation of their land to build a wall right through the middle of the village. Before we started the demonstration, we all sat down and were warned about what would happen and what we should do in case of injury. Instructions were move in either groups or 2 or 3 people so if someone gets wounded they are not alone. Carry and onion or alcohol against the tear gas. Look up to see where they are shooting the sound grenades and tear gas so you don't get hit in the head. If tear gas explodes next to you, don't panic, look where the wind is blowing and move in the opposite direction. There were many more instructions that I won't go into now.
So with all this information, off I went with everyone else and a strong feeling that things had changed and that this was not going to be in any way a safe demonstration. I knew from the stories of other people what to expect but I had to witness was going on. There is power in witnessing what happens.
So as we reach the hill, we see the soldiers standing in small groups spread out on the hill top opposite us. And then without any warning, they started to shoot at us, first sound grenades, then tear gas. I watched in horror as they stated shooting and remembered to look up at where things were landing. Tear gas sends smoke clouds so you know to run in a different direction. 3 people were wounded, a Palestinian man got hit in the head by a tear gas.
I looked at the soldiers form a distance and watched them aim at us just standing there doing nothing, and I could not believe what was going on. People scattered in different directions. I tried to talk to the soldiers from a distance as I couldn't get close to them, but really it was a waste of time and energy.
As we began to leave, they fired 6 tear gas canisters in our direction. I looked up and saw that they landed a distance from where I was was and then did not see any smoke. As we were leaving a heavy cloud of gas came over us, there was no warning, there was no smoke, the Palestinian man told me to start running up the hill, but I could not run, I could not breath, my eyes, mouth and face were on fire. I was trying not to move fast because I did not want to breath in the poison gas...my mouth was full of gas and I kept trying to spit out the disgusting taste--it's hard to move when you are struggling to breath.
We eventually got out and I have to say that with great sadness I left behind Palestinian people who do not have the luxury of escaping this violence perpetrated by the Israeli army...every week it's the same story, innocent people abused by stupid politics.
I don't know how I got home, but I do know that what I witnessed and felt has changed me forever.
Alex Nissen, Women in Black"
Gas! in the nose, in the mouth. How powerless I feel here. Only these words for now. Let me tall you about Alex--shorter then me, about five feet tall, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, Hebrew speaker, who spent many years in Haifa and helped begin Women in Black there. Alex with her sometimes purple hair always believes she can charm hard men into reasonable human beings like the security man hired by the Jewish community here who took our names and address at one of the Women in Black vigils, she stands in front of huge burly men and gets them to smile, to see a human being instead of an enemy. Alex who always has hope that all people really want is to live in peace. Soon I will hold Alex in my arms and find out what has shifted in her heart--but this is what is happening behind every wall, behind every policed difference, bodies are broken and our own visions of human warmth are turned to stone. The anonymity of it all--that is what the police, the soldiers, the governments count on, tell me one name of one Iraqi citizen killed in the war in our name, tell me one name of one Palestinian in an Israeli prison for ten years, one Palestinian fallen in the dust of her own town, her own home. Americans hardly know the names of our own children lying in the dust--we are not even allowed to see their coffins. I ask anyone who reads this journal, please tell Alex's story, tell your friends, your organizations--at least let us bear witness and let us call for a movement where thousands of Jews and others take to the streets demanding the end to military brutality behind closed doors, behind stone walls, behind ignorance and fear, behind dictated hatreds. Feminists, queers, progressives, civil rights activists, my old lovers, new friends--please pay attention.