Saturday, May 27, 2006


The Haditha, Iraq Massacre

Where is there accountability with regard to the atrocities committed in Iraq?

It's not enough for the our president to say recently along with England's Tony Blair that mistakes were made in Iraq; even a three-year old could have told us that.

Of late, we have the atrocities committed by Marines in Haditha, Iraq, last November, yet we are only now beginning to learn about it. In short, Marines retaliated against the village after a Marine was killed. What is unacceptable about the retaliation is that Marines killed families and their children, including a three-year old girl. Eman Waleed, nine-years old, who was wounded but who survived the incident only because the dead landed over her reports that she saw Marines shoot her mother, grandfather and grandmother.

How does the USA government explain this? Granted, officials might not have been present when the Marines "lost it" but what about Abu Ghraib? And let us not forget the massacre of My Lai during the Vietnam War.

A pattern of activity seems to be present. The question should be: Who is accountable? What forces are in play that allow such activities to happen?

Once the USA seemed to be the ideal democracy that was above such rapprochements, but more and more one sees the varnish fading and exposing rotten wood.

Could it be that the USA "thinks" it's better than others but simply hides its rotten wood better than other countries that call themselves democracies? I won't even mention countries that don't purport to be above the fray.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Letter to The Washington Post re "Divisive in Any Language"

Dear Editor:

E. J. Dionne Jr. (The Washington Post, May 23, 2006, "Divisive In Any Language") hit the nail on the head.

Bottom line: How will USA citizens begin to interact with anyone who speaks Spanish and who may not speak English? Has Congress given folks (those who pushed for the recent English is the official language law ) who interpret issues to their own liking a "carte blanche" to discriminate?

How quickly folks forget that during the Great Depression Spanish-speakers who couldn't produce a birth certificate, even if born in Texas, were put on trains and shipped to Mexico.

Fortunately, we aren't at war with Spanish-speaking countries, but we mustn't forget how the Great Plains states outlawed German in public schools during WWII and how anyone speaking German was considered suspect.

As a teacher of English, I agree English is the language of our Constitution, but I fear the trauma children and the elderly might encounter as a result of this attitude that is politically driven to placate and diffuse the real problem in this country--our current administration and its affect on the lower and middle classes. It is these people who are willing to attack the weak and poor rather than confront those who are putting the real screws to their way of life. But, yes, the reality is that the USA simply can't take in the whole world.

Basically nothing has changed: attack the weaker out there in the jungle. What is troubling is that Congress might be unleashing the lions.


Robert L. Giron
Author of:
Songs for the Spirit
Metamorphosis of the Serpent God
Impressions françaises
and translator of Songs for a Single String

Editor of:
Poetic Voices Without Borders
An Interdisciplinary Introduction to Women's Studies

Gival Press:

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Kushner's " Caroline, or Change" a Must See

One doesn't always associate Tony Kushner with the South, certainly I didn't, but his growing up near New Orleans is the core of this musical (he wrote the book and lyrics) entitled Caroline, or Change, currently playing at the Studio Theatre in Washington, DC, and directed by Greg Ganakas, quite seasoned but new to Studio Theatre.

The opening number Washer / Dryer (the music is by Jeanine Tesori, an award-winning composer, also wrote Thoroughly Modern Millie) sung by Julia Nixon, in a stellar performance, echoed the dangers of being 17 feet below sea level. It's good to note that Kushner's Caroline, or Change first played at the Public's Newman Theatre in October 2003, but then New Orleans has always known it was fragile. Sadly Katrina brought all of this to a mortifying reality; even more sad if not disgusting is that the levees are still not ready and June 1st is the start of the hurricane season.

The unjustice of the pre-Civil Rights era are up in your face in this play and the character Noah Gellman (played extremely well by Max Talisman) and Caroline Thibodeaux (played by Julia Nixon) hit the issue right on in the second act. Also noteworthy is the role of Rose Stopnick Gellman played by Tia Speros and her interactions between her son and Caroline. What I found superb in this play, aside from surprised that the lyrics and music could be so jazzy--remember I thought Kushner was from New York--, is that Kushner avoids the Hollywood approach to the play. This is not a sweet play that you can leave and feel good about; it is a play that makes you reflect and think about the interplay between classes, ethnic and religious groups and that is why I believe it will survive as a great play.

Yes, Kushner borrows from his previous plays: there is The Moon character, with echoes of the Angel from Angels in America, and there is the chorus a la Supremes as in The Little Shop of Horrors, but it works. But my partner, Ken Schellenberg described it best: "It's a cross between the seriousness of Angels in America and Hairspray but with a beat you dance to."

Kushner's Caroline, or Change is one you mustn't pass up because oddly and sadly enough the issues of class, ethnicity, and religious characterization are still very much present is the post-Civil Rights era.

Monday, May 22, 2006


The After Taste of Book Expo 2006

How does one survive the business shuffle of such an enormous event as the Book Expo? Well, perhaps taking a few pain killers and muscle relaxers is a good start, though not necessarily as a result of the event, though they certainly help after being in the midst of countless glazed over folks who are searching for their treasure: the ideal printer or bookseller (from the publisher's point of view) or the ideal editor or publisher (from the author's point of view, though in truth the Book Expo is not the place to find a publisher, yet that can happen; the editor or publisher instead is present to do business) or for that God-only-knows-who-or-what that will solve one's needs, even if for a few hours.

I was amazed that the number of children's books being marketed, but this ain't cheap and I just wonder how many USA printers will simply begin to lose their clients who begin to print books in China, Hong Kong, India or the like. All those 35 to 50+ who have disposable income for their children or grandkids are making this children's market a gold mine but this won't last forever and not all those books will be bought at full price--authors and publishers beware.

The other in-your-face item were the graphic books. Certainly this will continue as Hollywood has discovered that these are the same readers who go to the cinema. Again, those 35 to 50+ who have children and want them out of their hair pass the $20 x 3 (no longer the buck--hey, what can a buck buy these days?) and so these kids are the ones with the disposable income as those twenty+ in Japan do.

The trouble with all of this is that the literary is no where to be found among these two types. It's all hype and bells and whistles and color-color-color for the visual fix kids need these days.

So what do the literary presses do? We wait and hope that somehow the wave with come back to us. We continue to do what we do because we feel it is right and we enjoy what we do but everything needs water and that water supply is simply customers who buy literary books. No small wonder, this phenomenon is not just a USA syndrome. Booksellers around the world are finding that books are not selling like they used to. The Internet and visual devices have affected this industry and authors, editors, publishers, printers, and booksellers are going to have to wait it out a bit longer to see where this roller coaster lands--yes, it's derailing and hanging on for dear life. This is even more so for the small, independent presses but even for the larger presses for in some way the small press can shift faster than the bound musclemen of New York, London or the like.

All this aside, BEA 2006 was good for the experience and thanks to collaboration I of Gival Press worked with Richard Peabody of Paycock Press--two separate and independent presses, so we were able to mix with the bound musclemen of New York.

It was quite an adventure to have authors (see below), publishers (Selector, Diana, Editorial Progreso), editors (Hyperion Books, White Crane), printers (USA, India, China), librarians (Elissa Miller of Arlington and many others from across the country), and entrepeneurs stop by to visit.

Including no less Andrew Holleran (his latest book is Grief--a truly must read book--published by Hyperion Books) stop by with Chicago-based syndicated author Gregg Shapiro whose first poetry collection will be published in a few years.

Local author C. M. Mayo El cielo de El Nido stopped by and shared her thoughts on the event.

Lawrence Schimel, stopped by though I missed him (sorry, Lawrence--I was resting), is quite a prolific writer who lives in Madrid.

I got to meet William O'Sullivan of the Washingtonian who stopped by to visit with Richard.

I finally met Terrence Mulligan who edits Minimus.

Around the corner I ran into Charles Flowers of the Lambda Literary Foundation Lambda Literary Foundation and Dan Vera of White Crane White Crane.

Bottom line: Was it worth it? Of course, but just like planting seeds, one doesn't know when the plant will grow or what it will look like. One needs to tend to it until it blooms.

Friday, May 12, 2006


How Many Have Lost the Trust?

Hoping that Americans have at least heard about the latest secret domestic surveillance program, remember all in the name of protecting Americans, I wonder how much longer we are going to allow Congress to allow our president to violate our Constitutional rights.

I want to be protected as anyone else in the USA would want to be from terrorists, etc. but the issue is how does one do that without violating our laws and without destroying our Fourth Amendment---searches without warrants.

I read with interest that Qwest is the only major company that refused to comply with the request to provide access to literally millions of phone calls made by Americans. The question we should all be asking companies such as AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth is: Why did they comply to deluge private information without a warrant? Mind you, not of just one or two select individuals but millions and millions of individuals across this country. Certainly Americans should be calling their Representatives and Senators to convey their outrage.

What other secret programs has our president undertaken without legal protocol? All to protect us---yea, right. There are legal procedures in place to address such matters if individuals need to be monitored, etc.

To invoke 9/11, as President Bush so readily does as to cover everything he does, is best put as The New York Times editor states: "The attacks that day firmed the nation's resolve to protect itself against its enemies, but they did not give the president the limitless power he now claims to intrude on the private communications of the American people."

President Bush defends this policy, but how many Americans can truly believe anything he tells us given his track record?

Again I ask: How long is it going to take before all Americans (Democrats as well as Republicans) begin to question the actions taken by our president and how long is it going to take Congress to keep our Constitution from being dismantled? For years now there has been little balance of power as required by our Constitution. It's time for Congress and our Courts to speak up.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


The Golden Flame of Friendship

What do three people from Philadelphia, Sidney (as in Nebraska), and Eugene, Oregon have in common? Well, it helps if they meet each other at Montgomery College and teach in the same department.

That would be Francine Jamin, yours truly, and Sharon Mandel--from one end of the country to other with the thorn in the middle from the prairies. Today we met to have lunch and the celebrate my birthday, that would be my 39th, again.

True friendship endures like the olympic flame or possibly the golden flame of friendship; it shines and even if it is old and worn it still holds its value.

The Golden Flame

From Philadelphia to the Prairie
to Oregon all made merry,
like three peas in a pod,
we ripen like grapes in a vat,
with refinement, civility,
and that je ne sais quoi--
friendship tied and bound
then melted by the golden flame.

--Robert L. Giron


The Manifestation of Sisíism

In commemoration of my 39th (don't ask) birthday today, here is a call for a dramatic change in this beloved country of mine.

The Manifestation of Sisíism

By the dawns of the early light
by the smell of burnt oil
in the midst of selfish greed
run amuck under the cloak
of evangelical hypocrisy,
I sigh and decry the
hostility vented towards
poor Latino immigrants
trying to find a place
in the sun like those
who have come before—
legal and illegal—
I ask: Where is this
country headed?
Blame the weak; the poor;
hate the Spanish-speaker;
the Muslim; the gay;
the agnostic; the liberal,
all but those who have
set it all in motion—
who will be next?
Delusion: the drink
of money and power
blinds and deafens the
senseless stupidity
and bigotry foxed across
the land of repeat and repeat
till lies become truth.
When will this country
awaken from the stupor
of veiled infestation?
Let us say sisí,
let us create,
think, make the
Let art, literature,
music, drama, morality,
and value for humanity
drown out cries of Iraq,
senseless bombings
in Israel and palestine
Let us destroy the
meaningless of present life—
a revolt of Dada's revolt
to Sisí
like twins sprung
from the same
vile seed—to manifest
a new age
of art and life.

Copyright © 2006 by Robert L. Giron
May 10, 2006

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


The Art of Dada

By the time you read this, the Dada exhibit at the National Gallery of Art will be approaching its closing on May 14th. If you haven't seen it, get yourself down there if you happen to live in the Metropolitan Washington, DC area.

There is plenty to feast on, but the root of the movement is adeptly placed at the horrors of World War I, with all its insanity of inhumanity. From Zurich to Berlin to Hannover to Cologne to New York and finally to Paris which eventually ran its course, the viewer will not be hungry for lack of visual stimulation and background knowledge.

Yes, Dada was a revolt of its times and to get the attention of the masses dadaists had to create their own shocking manisfestations to make their point.

I don't know when the National Gallery decided to put the exhibit together but in light of country's history since 9/11 and recent blatant atrocities to our human rights in the country, it is time for a new movement in this era.

To this end, I invite you to stay tune to the call to this end in the next posting on this blog.


Beltway Poetry Quarterly Addresses the War via Poetry

Here's the latest from Beltway Poetry Quarterly, read on and then click on the site:

Beltway Poetry Quarterly, the region's premiere on-line poetry journal, announces The Wartime Issue, an anthology of poems by 46 authors from the Mid-Atlantic region, writing in response to the ongoing presence of the American military in Iraq. The issue can be read for free on-line at: Beltway Poetry Quarterly.
In her Introduction to the issue, Guest Editor Sarah Browning writes: "When the politicians are compliant and the press is distracted by the next sparkly thing, the poets continue to believe, to speak out, and to say no to fear." 
Poets in the issue are all ages, races, and ethnicities. They are gay and straight, and represent a wide variety of religious faiths. Some have many books of poetry to their name and for some, this is their first publication. The poets also take a diversity of approaches to the war in Iraq, telling the story of the war's impact on individuals, families, and communities at home, on members of the Armed Services, and on the people of Iraq. 

Browning's introduction explains: "The poems here tell stories – of loss and of connection despite the anguish. 'A part of us vanishes each day,' writes Adam Chiles in 'Tucson Elegy.' 'We suffer another missed touch,' Venus Thrash tells us in her poem, 'Ritual.' The poems won't let us forget. When the war is, as Reginald Dwayne Betts's 'A Conversation' says, 'tucked into the back pages of the paper,' the poems remind us of the atrocities our own sisters and brothers are committing in our name. Linda Pastan asks what we are capable of. The poems answer, in sorrow: almost anything."
And yet, the poets are also hopeful. Browning writes, "Even in [the poets'] despair and their outrage, they call us, as Melissa Tuckey does in her poem, 'Forsythia Winter,' to 'go ahead, open your hand.'"

Contributors to The Wartime Issue:

Luis Alberto Ambroggio * Suzanna Banwell * Virginia E. Bell * Rose Marie Berger * Reginald Dwayne Betts * Linda Blaskey * Jody Bolz * Kyndall Brown * Grace Cavalieri * Adam Chiles * Kyle Dargan * Joanne Rocky Delaplaine * Zein Al-Amine * Yael Flusberg * Sunil Freeman * Parris Garnier * David Gewanter * Piotr Gwiazda * Leah Harris * Melanie Henderson * Esther Iverem * Reuben Jackson * W. Luther Jett * Fred Joiner * Christi Kramer * Joe Lapp * Mike Maggio * Judith McCombs * E. Ethelbert Miller * Carlos Parada * Linda Pastan * Marie Pavlicek-Wehrli * William Rutkowski * Ann Ryan * M.A. Schaffner * Johnna Schmidt * Jennifer Steele * Jeneva Stone * Venus Thrash * Lori Tsang * Melissa Tuckey * Bill Vander Clute * Rosemary Winslow * Ellen Wise * Marcella Wolfe * Ernie Wormwood *

About Guest Editor Sarah Browning: Sarah Browning is co-editor of D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology and coordinates the group of the same name. She is the recipient of an individual artist fellowship from the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities and the People Before Profits Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Sycamore Review, The Literary Review, and Shenandoah. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and son.
About Beltway Poetry Quarterly: Since January 2000, Beltway Poetry Quarterly has published poetry by authors who live or work in the capital of the United States. Beltway strives to showcase the richness and diversity of Washington area authors in every issue, with poets from different backgrounds, races, ethnicities, ages, and sexual orientations represented. It has included Pulitzer Prize winners and those who have never previously published. The journal publishes academic, spoken word, and experimental authors--and also those poets whose work defies categorization.

Read Beltway Poetry Quarterly at Beltway Poetry Quarterly 

Monday, May 08, 2006


A Reaction to "Waving the Star-Spanglish Banner"

Dear Editor and Ariel Adorfman,

I found "Waving the Star-Spanglish Banner" (The Washington Post, Outlook, May 7, 2006) on target with some exceptions.

Mr. Adorfman forgot to mention that the first established European language in what is now the USA was Spanish not English and that in both North and South American millions of native Americans have taken on Spanish as their native language in place of their indigenous languages. For many in this tradition to take on a third language is simply a bit much, especially for the elderly. The native Americans have had to put up with centuries of indignation from the Spanish (and Portuguese in Brazil) and now they and their mixed descendants are having to go through the same experience with English-speaking types who believe they are right and anyone who is not like them is beneath them.

In addition, the Spanish kingdom was in place in the Greater Southwest centuries before the English-speaking "immigrants" entered the area. Do not forget that the descendants of these native Americans and Spanish and Mexicans are still among USA citizens and many of us still speak Spanish as well as English. We shall not forget who we are.

Fortunately, by the second and certainly by the third generation, English replaces or will replace whatever language parents or grandparents might have originally
spoken, so English-speaking Americans need not worry.

Robert L. Giron

Robert L. Giron
Author of:
Songs for the Spirit
Metamorphosis of the Serpent God
Impressions françaises

and (translator of) Songs for a Single String

Editor of:
Poetic Voices Without Borders
An Interdisciplinary Introduction to Women's Studies
Gival Press:

Friday, May 05, 2006


Cinco de Mayo--Who Celebrates?

In light of recent immigrant rallies and anti-immigrant sentiments, it will be interesting how this holiday which is mostly celebrated in the USA rather than in Mexico, where the actual event took place, will fare.

Though our president was pictured in the Washington Post with a mariachi band, how will he kiss up to his Mexican-born sister-in-law and her American/Mexican children, especially the one who gave stump speeches for uncle during the last presidential campaign?

Most know that on this day in Puebla, Mexico the underdog Mexican forces defeated a more established French army which eventually led to the execution of Maximilian the Emperor of Mexico from 1864-1867, as appointed by the French.

The Spanish/Mexican fear of the French has a history that predates Cortes's conquest of Mexico in 1515, mostly due to Spanish-French cousin rivalry due to marriages between the kingdoms. In short, the Spanish feared that the French would eventually enter their claimed territory which is now the USA. The French, of course, entered the continent via Quebec and New Orleans, but the Spanish feared the French would take northern New Spain (now the Greater Southwest) and then southern New Spain (now Mexico); that is why the Spanish established Sante Fe as its northern post in 1610. On the European continent, in the early 1800s, Napoleon invaded Spain and installed his brother on the throne. What is interested is that Napoleon then gave French New Orleans to the Spanish to rule (i.e. the Louisiana territories, centered in New Orleans)--to get it straight New Orleans was first Indian territory, then French, then Spanish but under French rule, then French, and finally sold to the USA by way of President Jefferson). I'll get to all this changing of hands in a few minutes.

So back to Mexico which in 1864 fell into the hands of the French without the Spanish kingdom to help support it. The fear of the French taking Spanish territory(which became Mexican territory in 1810) finally became reality.

The irony of all of this that many Mexicans actually have French ancestry as a result of Maximilian's period of rule or via the expulsion of the Spanish and French from New Orleans as a result of the Louisiana Purchase.

I mention is because those of us who are a melange of cultural backgrounds do what is what one does in order to survive: one takes on loyalty to the power in place, unless it is obvious that the power in place can be toppled. This leads me to the point of ethnicity versus nationality: one's passport/legal status versus what one's cultural or bloodline is, though these days it is difficult to find individuals who do not have some different cultural or ethnic line via a great-great grandfather or mother--one need only search several generations back before one is likely to discover a cross-over in the bloodline or cultural identity.

For many Texans like myself, let's search backwards:
Indian territories--with various native tribes; Spanish territory--with possible Spanish ethnicities as well as possible Moorish or Jewish bloodlines; Mexican territory--with the introduction of Anglo, Irish, Germanic (Bavarian, etc.) groups who were to agree to abandon the enslavement of Africans (illegal in Mexico at this time), were to agree to convert to Catholicism, and who often married into Spanish/Mexican families to acquire land; Texas Republic--with the introduction of various other European groups; and then finally the USA. How does one survive all of these transitions and changes of political power? Quite simple: You go with the flow.

So back to Cinco de Mayo, how do I celebrate?

I can celebrate with a Mexican beer in hand and still say "c'est la vie" and ask for cole slaw with my spicy fajitas to cool the hot tongue.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Bob Dylan and Neil Young

Bob Dylan's XM Radio program began yesterday and will run every Wednesday at 10 am. Take a chance at it and you will be filled with lots of options to follow up on. Yesterday's focus was on the weather and so there were songs by various singers on the theme of rain, sun, wind, etc. Dylan mixes the songs with bits of history; for example, "Just Walking in the Rain" was by a parolee. He paid homage to the rich influence and legacy of black singers from the 1940s to Jimi Hendrix.

Walk down memory lane and catch a tune you might have heard of years ago or perhaps never but don't be surprised if you have hints of the influence from another age in the music of today. Alas, we all borrow from each other and make it different.

Also take a look at Neil Young's website and dip into his latest album "Living with War"

Neil Young

Or simply listen:

Living with War

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