Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Receiving & Giving Peace in the anthology CARRYING THE BRANCH POETS IN SEARCH OF PEACE . . .

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Poets in Search of Peace
“We Are The Tangerines!”

       The anthology Carrying the Branch Poets in Search of Peace was published on October 1, 2017 by Glass Lyre Press; edited by Diana Frank; Lois P Jones; Ami Kaye; Rustin Larson; Gloria Mindock; and Melissa Studdard; design & layout by Steven Asmussen; and copyediting by Linda E Kim. 

       Front cover art by Tracy McQueen; back cover art “Aleppo Is My Breath Prayer” by Jason Brown, Emily Bynum, Jamie Daniel, Ainsley Fleetwood, Ruth Goring, Emily Klein, Katherine Lamb, Rebecca Larsen, and Olga Mest; Mounting by Ronald Frantz.

       Contributing poets are Kelli Russell Agodon; Kaveh Akbar; Kazim Ali; Tareq Al Jabr (not pictured); John Amen; Yehuda Amichai;

KB Ballentine; R. Steve Benson; Margo Berdeshevsky; Chana Bloch; W.E. Butts;

Thomas Centolella; Ken Chawkin; Patricia Clark; Lynn Cohen; Flavia Cosma; Rachel Landrum Crumble;

Lori Desrosiers; JP DiBlasi (not pictured); Rita Dove; Boris Dralyuk;

Stewart Florsheim; Diane Frank;
Giulio Gasperini; Ross Gay; Jennifer Givhan; Ruth Goring; Bill Graeser;

Hedy Habra; Joy Harjo; Jane Hirshfield;
Lois P Jones; Joan Naviyuk Kane; William Kemmett; Helga Kidder; Amy King;
Daniel J Langton; Susan Lewis; Lyn Lifshin; Stephen Linsteadt; Ellaraine Lockie;
Irina Mashinski; Nancy Lee Melmon; Megan Merchant;

Dorothy Shubow Nelson; Aimee Nezhukumatathil; Giuseppe Nivali;

Lin Ostler; Greogry Pardlo; David M Parsons; Nynke Passi; Pina Piccolo; Robert Pinsky; Connie Post;

Saba Syed Razvi; Suzanne Rhodenbaugh; George Jisho Robertson; Susan Rogers; William Pitt Root; Mary Kay Rummel;
Becky Dennison Sakellariou; Robert Schultz; Kalpna Singh-Chitnis; Betsy Snider; S. Stephanie; Donald Stang;

Denis Stokes (Not pictured); Paul Stokstad; Tim Suermondt; Arseny Alexandrtovich Tarkvosky; Lynne Thompson; Jon Tribble;

Pam Uschuk; Suzanne Araas Vesely; Christine Vovakes; Ocean Vuong; Loretta Diane Walker;

Helen Wickes; Martin Willitts Jr; Kathabela Wilson; Pui Ying Wong; and Paula Anne Yup.
Ami Kaye always recognized that the world was far from being peaceful, but it took the Paris Attacks of 2015 to realize that we all have to speak out and to be silent is to be complicit.  For Kaye, speaking out meant starting the project Carrying the Branch Poets In Search of Peace.   
       Each editor has his her own introduction preceding the poems that he/she specifically accepted for this book.  Kaye writes in her own introduction:  In this book readers will find an eclectic mix of styles, treatments, and topics that resound with purpose.  Each editor has painstakingly culled pieces in the hope that the diverse and powerful voices create synergy for this cause.
The poems focus on African American civil rights; immigration; refugees; Syria; the Paris Attacks of 2015; 9/11; the affects of a temperamental mother nature; religious oppression; genocide; war; families and communities forced into Exodus; the need for prayer; orphans; police brutality; and how to accomplish peace in our every day lives.
       In this specific piece I’d like to focus on the poems that offer suggestions of acts and thoughts that we as individual human beings can do or think to bring peace into our own lives, the lives of our communities, and the lives of the entire world.

AMI KAYE:  “Think of how much love we could spread in the world.  Let us do this together – it is the only way we have a chance.”
In “Praise to the Earth” Lori Desrosiers encourages the reader to be grateful for every little thing in our lives no matter how small from fruit in a bowl to the coat on the chair.
         In Tareq Al Jabr’s poem “Attribute” the sparrow symbolizes the individual human being witnessing the murder of neighborhoods of people.  The bird is not able to do anything except to sing, which proves to be its greatest attribute toward peace and self-preservation.
In Connie Post’s “To A Woman Lost on the Road in Afghanistan” the speaker of the poem gives a woman prayer beads, and a prayer.

DIANE FRANK:  “In small acts of kindness, like giving food or a care package to a homeless person, we can make the planet better.”
       In Stewart Florsheim’s poem “The Best Bread in Montparneasse” the speaker of the poem finds peace within by simply admiring and meditating on the painting Le Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe by Edouard Manet.  (Below Left)
       In Christine Vovakes’s poem “Flowers Not Guns” a father, with his young son, visits a memorial site where he proclaims a victory of peace by refusing to carry arms of revenge and instead carry arms of peace in the form of flowers: lavender, rose buds and jasmine.  
           In Elaine Lockie’s poem “Blessings” the speaker of the poem encourages readers to befriend people who are different from them; to invest in authentic relationships with these individuals; and to eat among them.

LOIS P JONES:  “The plea for peace is a desire for an end of conflict not only between countries but cultures, religions, genders, races and political ideologies.”  
       In Lynne Thompson’s “Raffia” we as a people can have an appreciation for everything in our world from the animal to the plant to the insect and especially to our fellow human being.  And the best way we can begin to do this is believe and meditate on the last line of the poem:  Their breath is indistinguishable from yours.  
Joy Harjo’s poem “This Morning I Pray for My Enemies” stops the reader in his or her tracks with awe and a sense of empowerment that he or she can do something – even if it’s just a prayer for someone he or she hates.  Only then will the hate disappear and an enemy become a friend.
       In Susan Rogers’s poem “Manzanar” we learn about monk and poet Thich Nhat Hanh who gave his friend Jim two tangerines.  Jim gobbled the tangerines so fast that he was not able to appreciate the taste nor the texture nor the sight of the beautiful fruit.  Thich gives Jim another tangerine and this time Jim takes the time to savor the tangerine with all of his senses.  That tangerine is each moment of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year that we as individuals live our life.  We must never waste a single moment.  And with each single moment that we are productive in living, the memories of that productive living will sustain us when trauma and injustice come our way.

                  Years later, Jim languished in a prison cell, hope-
less, crazed with grief.  His crime:  he refused to fight.  He didn’t feel
the Vietnam War was right.  His path was peace.  Heartsick, he sent word to
Thich Nhat Hanh.  Hanh’s postcard reply asked him to see
confinement differently.  “Jim, you’re still eating your tangerine.”  Our

lives are just like tangerines, Hanh said.  “With twenty-four sections, or hours.
We need to eat them well.”   

RUSTIN LARSON:  “We can remember, but we can also release.  We can release the legacy of being the descendants of thieves and murderers.  We can also release the legacy of being the descendants of victims.”  

        In Ken Chawkin’s poem “Sanctifying Morning” the speaker of the poem experiences his own peace by having “church” in his own body, in his own home where he retreats to his meditation room and meditates mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
       The speaker of the poem in Nynke Passi’s poem “The Morphology of Compassion & Indifference” experiences contentment by taking Marcus Aurelius’s advice: “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them."

      Suzanne Araas Vesely’s “World Peace gives the readers as well as the powerless the power of thought to find peace, even amongst carnage. 
Sometimes a thought can turn around in mid-course, and everything changes.
Children of ethnic cleansing
finding lost joy.

       In St. Stephanie’s “Franz Wright asks “What do you see yourself doing in 10 minutes?” the speaker of the poem suggests one way of obtaining peace – to embrace the good memories we had as children and to recapture the childlike quality within us.

GLORIA MINDOCK:  “Change starts in your heart with everything that you do, say, and how you act.  All we can do is be a power of example and never give up striving for peace.”
     In Flavia Cosma’s “The Season of Love” the speaker of the poem encourages the readers to have tender thoughts when they reflect on their enemies.          

MELISSA STUDDARD:  “Poetic language, nestled deep within the tissue of the body; can disrupt the patterns and unexamined choices that preserve harmful structures and belief systems, lifting the blinders and revealing that which it has been instilled in us to overlook.”
       In Kelli Russell Agodon’s “Altered Landscape” it is the individual who has the power to see what he or she wishes to see – the cannon or the moon.
In Ocean Vuong’s poem “Untitled (Blue, Green, & Brown):  oil on canvas: Mark Rothko:1952” the speaker of the poem writes about  9/11 and the famous Mark Rothko painting.  The speaker of the poem tells of how his greatest achievement was to walk across Brooklyn on Tuesday September 11, 2001 without showing fear despite feeling fear.  Throughout the poem he is trying to express exactly what he experienced but there doesn’t seem to be the right vocabulary to describe his experience; or could it be he is having this poetic conversation within himself and therefore said nothing to another person and regrets his silence?  Twice in the poem he says:  There is so much I want to tell you.  Who is the you in this poem?  Is it the painting?  Is it the speaker of the poem?  Is it the speaker of the poem talking to the poet?  Or does it even matter?     
          There are numerous lessons to be learned from this anthology but the top two are:  we must love the enemy within and without ourselves; and we must transcribe our experiences down, rather on paper or canvas – only then will the next generation receive their rightful inheritance – their own branch of peace.

Kelli Russell Agodon

Kaveh Akbar

Kazim Ali

John Amen

Yehuda Amichai

Steven Asmussen

KB Ballentine

R. Steve Benson

Margo Berdeshevsky

Chana Bloch

Jason Brown

W.E. Butts

Thomas Centolella

Ken Chawkin

Patricia Clark

Lynn Cohen

Flavia Cosma

Rachel Landrum Crumble

Jamie Daniel

Lori Desrosiers

Rita Dove

Boris Dralyuk

Ainsley Fleetwood

Stewart Florsheim

Glass Lyre Press

Diane Frank

Ronald Frantz

Giulio Gasperini

Ross Gay

Jennifer Givhan

Ruth Goring

Bill Graeser

Hedy Habra

Joy Harjo

Jane Hirshfield

Lois P Jones

Joan Naviyuk Kane

Ami Kaye

William Kemmett

Helga Kidder

Linda E Kim. 

Amy King

Emily Klein

Katherine Lamb

Daniel J Langton

Rebecca Larsen

Rustin Larson

Susan Lewis

Lyn Lifshin

Stephen Linsteadt

Ellaraine Lockie

Irina Mashinski

Tracy McQueen

Nancy Lee Melmon

Megan Merchant

Olga Mest

Gloria Mindock

 Dorothy Shubow Nelson

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Giuseppe Nibali

Lin Ostler

Gregory Pardlo

David M Parsons

Nynke Passi

Pina Piccolo

Robert Pinsky

Connie Post

Saba Syed Razvi

Suzanne Rhodenbaugh

George Jisho Robertson

Susan Rogers

William Pitt Root

Mary Kay Rummel

Becky Dennison Sakellariou

Robert Schultz

Kalpna Singh-Chitnis

Betsy Snider

S. Stephanie

Donald Stang

Paul Stokstad

Melissa Studdard

Tim Suermondt

Arseny Alexandrtovich Tarkvosky

Lynne Thompson 

Jon Tribble

Pam Uschuk

Suzanne Araas Vesely

Christine Vovakes

Ocean Vuong

Loretta Diane Walker

Helen Wickes

Martin Willitts Jr

Kathabela Wilson

Pui Ying Wong

Paula Anne Yup


  1. Chris, we are all indebted to you for the time, energy and heart you have spent writing, curating,and organizing this feature. It was a complete surprise, and I know of very few people who would work on something of such magnitude unsolicited! Thanks so much for being a partner in peace and spreading the word, and may this project find its way to countless hearts! Ami Kaye

    1. Dear Ami

      Your words made my day! Lift my spirits! Thanks for your word and for you do for poetry and humanity.


  2. INDEED!!! Clearly a labor of love!!! Thank you, Chris, from all of us poets in Fairfield, Iowa!!!

    Ken Chawkin

    The only way to post this comment was as Anonymous.

    1. Dear Ken

      Thanks back to you and keep on writing that poetry.