When I was diagnosed almost twelve years ago with what the medical professionals charmingly called "full-blown AIDS", this lyric from the 1994 Broadway musical Rent came straight to mind:
"Will I lose my dignity? Will someone care? Will I wake tomorrow from this nightmare?"
Lying in that hospital bed, I was frightened, confused, angry at myself for making the oh-so-human choices in my life that got me infected with HIV. All I could think of was the images I'd seen on television and movies of AIDS: horribly thin victims covered in Kaposi's sarcoma sores, being eaten away by the disease, shunned by family and friends, left alone in a sterile ward to wither away. I didn't know what the future could possibly hold for me, but my outlook was bleak.
Then a wonderful friend came to visit me, and reminded me that we weren't living in the 1980's or the 1990's. "Darling," he chided, "I think you have a bad attitude. Medical science has made fabulous strides in HIV treatments! HIV is now considered a chronic condition." He told me to simply follow my doctor's advice, and I'd be fine. Although my life completely changed with the diagnosis, I learned that HIV can indeed be managed with medication, along with making healthy choices in diet and exercise. I'm an incredibly healthy man, and I've managed to keep my viral load undetectable and my T-cell count high. It's miraculous and wonderful.
As I've lived these almost twelve years as part of the HIV community, I watch every movie and television show that involves HIV. Amazing films were created in the middle of the AIDS crisis, like An Early Frost in 1985 and 1990's Longtime Companion. Hollywood has also recently made movies like Dallas Buyers Club, the beautiful version of The Normal Heart on HBO. I watch documentaries about celebrities who died from AIDS like Rock Hudson, Freddie Mercury and Liberace. All of these stories touch me in a way that is deeply personal. They are my stories, my heritage, in a way.
But they are all tragedies. Every story in popular culture about HIV inevitably has a sad ending. There's always a dark cloud around the subject, a melancholy violin playing in the background as a character finds out the diagnosis. These stories are all historical, and necessary, but they aren't modern HIV stories.
In series television, there have only been a few shows featuring characters with HIV: "The League," "Brothers and Sisters," and most recently, HBO's "Looking." And of course, the terribly un-politically correct (but, c'mon! Totally hilarious!) episode on "South Park."
As much as I'm glad to see any depiction of HIV in movies or television, I find myself wondering, where's the modern story about HIV? Where is an HIV story being told that doesn't end in a horrible death? How come no one is writing a story where someone has HIV, and it isn't the main thing about him/her? And where, maybe, the HIV+ person is actually happy?
Society desperately needs to see a fresh image of HIV. Despite the fact that the people with HIV can live healthy, normal lives, the negative stigma around people with HIV is incredibly powerful and prevalent. People need to be reminded, like my sweet friend reminded me 12 years ago, that we're not living in the hopeless times of the 80's and 90's.
It was out of this need to see a modern HIV story that I decided to write the web series, Merce. The lead is a character who is both HIV+ and joyful, at the same time. There's not a trace of tragic violin playing when the character's health is discussed. The show is funny, seriously silly and campy -- it's a musical! -- and has a lot of heart. It's a comic HIV story, and includes the reality of what it's like to live with HIV in America today.
What is that reality? Well, Merce's life reflects my own. I'm not just surviving with HIV, I'm a man who lives a very full life. I'm healthy. I have an amazing and loving support system of family and friends. I work. I go to the gym. I have a love life. I laugh a LOT.
And I like to sing showtunes. Here's one of my favorite cheesy lines from the Jerry Herman musical, La Cage Au Folles. It sums up pretty well how I feel today:
"So hold this moment fast, and live and love as hard as you know how, and make this moment last, because the best of times is now!"
About the Possibility of New In Poetry
By Alexandru Ioan Popa
Poetry would have appeared together with human, 100,000 years ago, in the hot dust of African savanna and died on the tables of Cabaret Voltaire, in Zurich - Switzerland, by the hand of DaDa-ists. It throb a while, some tried to resuscitate it, but I, with all the winters cold in my blood, I`ve killed it. It has been said before, but I truly did it. Here`s why, here`s how:
I don`t believe in poetry anymore. Since DaDa, poetry is just a corps, artificially animated. Nothing alive, nothing new can be said anymore; everything was said. Still, many say this, no one believes it. Every contemporary poet can be nothing but mediocre. And yes, mediocrity has its mediocrities, its geniuses, its stupidities. But it is still mediocrity. Whoever likes this, it`s his business. Personally, I prefer to be the worsted poet then a mediocre one. It`s a risk that I take it without a thought. But who knows…
If DaDa-ists were using automatism in order to generate poetry, I use automatism to deform what I`ve created in a classic manner. The poet is a poet when defines itself as such. Poetry does not exist, only the good or bad will of interpretation. So, contemporary poet writes a text, however worked, however profound, however sensible, but condemned to be mediocre. I propose that when he acknowledge this, with a painful pleasure, to altered its poem through automatisms, letting the algorithms, strange of himself, to reconfigure his text, in the hope of new forms, of strange meanings.
My proposal regarding poetry could seem, at a superficial view, one that resembles DaDaism, or Absurd or Conceptualism, but has nothing to do with none of those movements. It goes from the creation of a real text, written by all skills of the poet and grammatically and semantically coherent, deformed afterwards through automatisms, however brutal, until it ends up into a non-text. The poem would appear broken to the reader, altered, unreadable, but… suggested (isn't this the dream?), as the shape of a woman`s body through an opaque window glass. His mind would re-construct the reality, but without ever being able to confront it. This is the secret of un-disappointment, the triumph of ideal upon reality.
From Eliot we know that the new has to be judge in the context of tradition, so in what sense should we now interpreting the traditional quote of Robert Frost, "The poetry is what gets lost in translation"? Isn`t our proposal reveling it as being even more true than it was supposed to be? Isn`t the poetry lost in successive translations the one that the readers mind strive to reconstruct from the bizarre pieces of the abused poem? And how he would never make it, and even if he does, even less he could know it - isn`t this the proof that poetry is beyond poetry?
What brings new this procedure?* In the first place, the discovery that however broken a text would be, semantically and grammatically, the readers mind will try to fix it. The original poem, mentally reconstructed, has its own ontology; it does not belong to the poet (who has written a hall other text), neither to the reader (who has built it upon poet`s suggestions, but without the possibility of knowing the original).
Of a great pedagogical use is "The lesson about cube" of the Romanian poet Nichita Stanescu, where he talks about constructing a perfect cube, and after that, smashing with a hammer one of its corner, that everyone to look at it, wandering what a perfect cube have been if not having a broken corner . We accept it, but with a twist: the cub can be perfect only in the reader's mind, who reconstruct the broken corner. Previously, was just an ordinary cube, polished, that's right, razed, etc. (useless, of course) with bla,bla,bla.
But however ordinary a cube could be, however corrupt or bad designed, it exists and no one can denied it. Is the same with altered text, beyond any interpretations, he also exists in itself, like a broken cube, like a twisted circle, like a triangle with distorted angels. We may not like it, but how happy is the one who knows that to like because you don`t like (meaning the pleasure of unpleasant) is an inexhaustible resource of pleasure.
Killing poetry I`ve discovered that beyond poetry is poetry. In conclusion, all that remains is to play. A poetic game that anticipates a poetic reality that will be to come true. Pound said to us, about poetry, that we should make it new. I say we make it crazy. As crazy as possible. This is the motto of the age I prophesying about.
* While I was writing on my volume, I`ve checked on internet if someone have done this. I`ve searched "Poetry made with Google Translate" and I`ve discovered that there is a mister called Ari Eckols, who published online 10 poems distorted with this procedure. He split the page in four: in upper left is the original text, in lower left the poem was translated in one language and re-translated in English, in upper right in two languages and in lower right in three languages. Through the fact that he choose to publish the original text and its more and more altered versions, Eckols dose nothing more than to acknowledge that yes, the text is deformed through multiple translations, but fails to see the implications of this fact, as we presented those above. It happens that great discoverers sometimes miss what incredible applications their discoveries can have. Because the idea has come to me before knowing him, I consider that is appropriate to share together the discovery.
Breaking The Silence, a women's fiction book, journeys with the main character, Joan, as she comes to terms with her past trials and tribulations of abuse and addiction. She finds herself pregnant and on bed rest, so she writes in her journal to pass the time and to come to terms with the many losses that she has experienced. As she writes, she becomes aware of a spiritual presence that guides her and gives her understanding in how to heal.
Some Reflections about the Poem "Visit" of Zvika Szternfeld
By Laureta Petoshati
We all have had those unforgotten moments that send us back in time. One of them should be the reading for the first time the poems of a great poet as Federico Garcia Lorca. But poet Zvika Szternfeld goes deeply in time and place to understand better the work and life of Lorca. And the very memorable moment starts exactly there because due to it he was inspired for such meaningful poem dedicated to Federico Garcia Lorca. We can see it in the very first stanza when Zvika Szternfeld paid attention to native country and home of Lorca.
It is very difficult for the poet to picture a world so different from his own imagination. In his brain he has painted a mental picture with Federico Garcia Lorca's birth home. But everything in reality is different. Is nothing special but beautiful just the way it was, because got an internal sense of sanctity like the humble Christ's birth. This impressive connotation is quite prominent and shows the adoration of author for the great poet Federico Garcia Lorca who was seen as a Christ. This is because the poet Zvika Szternfeld knows everything about the martyr poet even his long name Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca.
In other stanza we have a metaphorical background with exceptional colors of sun "which was rolling like a coin" and continues with expansive conceptual metaphors because waves of light has the significant of political movements, in one of which was involved even Lorca. Waves as well are metaphoric symbol of a Mediterranean landscape as Granada, the city where was born and grew up Lorca.
The third stanza looks like a surrealist painting with vivid colors and inside of it there are real things. There are the bulls of Spain, "that were goring the skies" where is Lorca who got killed and stained with his blood the sky of Spain. We have again a phantasmagoric metaphorical background which is based on "Gypsy Ballads" written by Lorca.
The last stanza increases the sensitivity and boldness of the poet Zvika Szternfeld in the face of Lorca while is saying to him "I lied to you", but within simplicity are presented great philosophical messages. Zvika Szternfeld says in metaphorical way "I collect suns", but in reality the sunlight cannot be collected. By this conceptual metaphor he means the other light which is emitted and reflected by poets and people as Lorca who try to make the world better place. The sun is precious indeed. The sun is the light and according to Albert Einstein everything is relative, only light is absolute. The light that is transmitted by these verses makes the poem named Visit absolutely amazing with a synthetic art and universal message. Poets are the light of humanity. They may get old but never die because is the light of their poetry that makes them immortal.
(To Federico Garcia Lorca)
By Zvika Szternfeld
Other than an internal sense of sanctity
and the childhood bed in which you moved,
your house is
on the back threshold
I kicked a sun which was rolling like a coin.
Such a sun
would get you at the most
canned waves expired long ago.
As I drew away
I passed in time
bull horns that were goring the skies.
A gypsy girl grew old in me,
dancing and enchanting.
I lied to you.
The sun is precious.
I collect suns,
for the days when I shall need
to warm arthritis stricken joints.
Chapter one: The beginning
By Dan Boylan
Early evening, early spring, 1877; Hotel Metropolitan, West Moscow
Captain Laski peered along the ill-lit corridor. He glared, sneered, at the threadbare carpet, sniffed at the odour of unwashed bodies, stale vodka and the reek of cheap tobacco, then stiffened and strode purposefully forward. He glanced in the semi darkness at the door numbers, then stopped outside No 23 and gently tapped on the door.
"Come!" an authoritative voice commanded.
He stepped nimbly into the room. The light here was also dim, a pair of candles burned on the mantle shelf and illuminated the silhouette of a darkened figure who sat behind a desk. He stood in front of it and said, "I'm Hugo Laski, I understand that you wish to purchase a quantity of timber."
"No Captain, that was simply an excuse to get you here. What I want from you is something very different!"
Laski stood quite still and remained silent, though his danger zone senses had moved to red alert.
"Sit down Captain," the stranger said, "I may be able to do you a great service."
He remained standing, "What do you want?" he demanded curtly.
"I want you to take a party of 'down and outs', misfits and loosers far into the northern forests for a year. I want you to set up a small community, then cut several hundred tons of timber and float it downstream next spring!"
"Good bye!" announced the visitor and he turned towards the door.
"Good bye, and, oh, you should go out through the back door, Nikita Netchev's cut-throats are lurking in the tavern across the street because you haven't paid your gambling debts!"
"What?" he asked incredulously.
"Netchev has paid two Siberian roughnecks to collect the fifteen hundred roubles that you owe him, or they are to slit your throat. My men saw them arrive on this afternoon's ferry, they checked into room ten, just below us. Tread softly!"
"Who are you? Where did you get this… this shit… and what do you want from me?"
"I am Alexei, it's not my real name but it'll do. I've already told you what I want. I've had you… and several others, under surveillance for two months. I have built up quite a profile and I know a great deal about you. I know that you have not slept in the marital bed for two years. I know about your gambling debts, I also know that you also owe money to… now, let's see," and he flicked open a small note book, "eight hundred and forty roubles that you owe Solly Weitzman which you gave to Elga, the Swedish whore and he now wants back, plus interest… I also know that you have siphoned off five hundred from old Rabinski at the timber yard… and I know that he, suspects you too. I also know about your pregnant mistress Katerina and I know that your pretty wife Irena may soon know too!" He paused briefly for effect, then continued, "Solly wrote a letter to your father-in-law informing him of Elga, I intercepted it but I can't intercept them all. Your good luck streak has started to run out, it's time for you to make some decisions and your options are few."
Laski stared transfixed at the mystery man for several silent seconds, his emotions racing between anger, fear, self-pity and the merest whiff of a lifeline. Somewhere, his built-in sense of self-preservation told him that his tormentor, this arrogant upstart, could also be his salvation. He hesitated momentarily, then, in a moment of abandonment, he threw himself at his mercy.
"No doubt you hold a solution!" he said without candour or sarcasm.
"Indeed I do!" he replied without any emotion.
"And that is?"
"You get killed off, I smuggle you away, give you another identity and then you lead my miserable band of hopeless cases into the northern forest."
"Are there any…………incentives for me?"
"Oh indeed, many! You get the chance to rule over your small kingdom with absolute authority, no nagging boss, wife or in-laws. Also I will give you a young widow with two sons, blonde hair and big tits, who looks a bit like 'Elga the whore'. She will act as your housemaid and bedmate… oh, and if you're any good… you get a fat bonus next spring!"
Laski shook his head and frowned. "My father-in-law would hunt me down to the four corners of the earth… then hack me into a thousand pieces!"
"Not if you're dead and he has seen you laid in your coffin and lowered it into the ground!"
"That doesn't help me much does it?"
"It does if it weren't your body!"
He shook his head again, "You're going too fast for me my friend, much too fast."
The stranger pushed back his chair and poured a slug of vodka.
"Ok," said Alexei, "I get a body, same shape and size as yours from the sanatorium where they are dying at the rate of twenty a day. An undertaker dyes the hair and beard same as yours. We disfigure the face beyond recognition by making it look as if a pile of timber has fallen on it. Dress it in your clothes, arrange a log fall in the timber yard, pour pigs or cows blood over the head… and smuggle you out, alive and in new clothes, to the ferry port… and the start of your new life. You change your appearance and go down the river to Irbrtsk, collect your citizens, supplies, horse and wagon and head off into the woods. How's that sound?"
Laski stared at him in an amazed silence."You can't find any holes in it can you?"
"I'm just amazed at you bloody audacity!" he admitted.
He held up his hand, "You've two minutes to make up your mind. I've arranged to see someone else in half an hour, he's not as, er, suitable as you and I'd have to substitute the blonde widow for two teenage boys… but the result would be much the same! I want two years from you, then I replace you, you get enough money to flee the country and go to France or America."
They stared at each other for what seemed an age; a brittle silence was punctuated only by the singing of a drunken resident and a wailing child along the corridor. Laski took a deep breath, bit his lip, and looked the stranger squarely in the face and muttered and soft and hesitant, "Yes!"
"Go about your life as if nothing has happened. I will take care of everything. You do not have to take any measures. You must trust me and believe what I say. I need you to supervise this project."
"Just one thing," asked Laski, "what am I supposed to do with this band of misfits?"
He paused, rather impatiently, then said, "An engineer in Germany has invented a steam driven saw mill, it will convert a tree into square timbers in 10 minutes, the residue wood stokes the furnace. It can rip a tree trunk into floor boards in 15 minutes, which would take two men with a hand saw all day to do. It can also plane, rebate, mitre, drill and joint. It can convert ten logs into a house, ready for assembly in two hours. I have purchased two such machines; they will be here by autumn. I need a steady supply of spruce, pine and softwood, you will be the supplier. I will provide a map of where you should go and full details and enough cash to set up a logging camp. No more questions. I will give you all the information you need later. Go now, tell no one, I will send for you!"
To be continued in his upcoming book
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by James Lawless
Peeling Oranges tells the story of how Derek Foley, while sifting through his late father's diaries and his mother's correspondence with an IRA man, discovers that Patrick Foley, a diplomat in Franco's Spain, was not really his father. Derek's mother, who is ailing, is unwilling to discuss the past, forcing her son on a quest that will plunge him into the early history of Irish diplomacy, taking him to Spain and later to Northern Ireland, until he discovers who his real father was—with tragic consequences. Peeling Oranges is a novel full of personal and political intrigue, fraught with ideology, as it intersects the histories of two emergent nations—Ireland and Spain. It is also a beautiful and lyrically written love story of childhood sweethearts—the apolitical Derek and the passionate nationalist, Sinéad Ní Shúilleabháin.