On Feminism | On St. Patrick’s Day

I Dream I’m the Death of Orpheus
by Adrienne Rich

I am walking rapidly through striations of light and dark thrown under an arcade.

I am a woman in the prime of life, with certain powers
and those powers severly limited
by authorities whose faces I rarely see.
I am a woman in the prime of life
driving her dead poet in a black Rolls-Royce
through a landscape of twilight and thorns.
A woman with a certain mission
which if obeyed to the letter will leave her intact.
A woman with nerves of a panther
a woman with contacts among Hell’s Angels
a woman feeling the fullness of her powers
at the precise moment when she must not use them
a woman sworn to lucidity
who sees through the mayhem, the smoky fires
of these underground streets
her dead poet learning to walk backward against the wind
on the wrong side of the mirror.


[from The Fact of a Doorframe: Selected Poems 1950-2001, W. W. Norton & Company, copyright © Adrienne Rich 2002]


North Hermitage Avenue – Chicago

Nikki McClure 2012 Calendar

I am not in the streets but I have been in the streets. IMF. World Bank. Philly. Boston. DC. Please watch the live feed. I will be reading poetry tonight at Beauty Bar Chicago in West Town. I will be reading “Like You” by Roque Dalton. 

Via The Guardian, this is what Chicago looks like

By Roque Dalton
(Translated by Jack Hirschman)

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-blue
landscape of January days.

And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.
I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone. 

COMO TU (1975)
Por Roque Dalton 

Yo como tú 
amo el amor, 
la vida, 
el dulce encanto de las cosas 
el paisaje celeste de los días de enero. 

También mi sangre bulle 
y río por los ojos 
que han conocido el brote de las lágrimas. 
Creo que el mundo es bello, 
que la poesía es como el pan, 
de todos. 

Y que mis venas no terminan en mí, 
sino en la sangre unánime 
de los que luchan por la vida, 
el amor, 
las cosas, 
el paisaje y el pan, 
la poesía de todos. 

For The Young Who Want To

There is a dog in my lap. My nose is cold. His nose is probably cold.

Here is a poem.


by Marge Piercy

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

Country of Cherry Blossoms

Town of Evening Calm,
Country of Cherry Blossom
Fumiyo Kouno

My connection to politics is often found through literature, maybe more precisely: the graphic novel. In the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, I at first fell prey to what I believe is a very American ideology: that this is happening elsewhere. Not because it is happening elsewhere (it is), but because the immediate human connection and understanding of the catastrophe is lost in what becomes business as usual, and because Americans don’t always do their best to portray what is actually lost, or what might possibly be needed. I don’t think I am the only one, but it is also difficult for me to separate the tragedy that occurred in Japan this week from what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

When the rise of international disaster and human need extends its way to the west, and video footage documents homes that have been swept away by flooding, I find myself searching for a way to help.

I looked at the American Red Cross’ website and wondered if five or ten dollars is worth it, or if there might be a better way to fund a school, a hospital, a town. I am considering donating blood, too, but I also wonder if there is a more direct way to support.

For me, specificity is important. It allows me to connect. While browsing Women & Children First Bookstore in Chicago, I came across a graphic novel called Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms by Japanese writer and artist, Fumiyo Kouno. I read it last evening as the wind rustled through my apartment and as the days approach what will soon become spring. The manga in this graphic novel is astounding, and the voices resonate with those of Art Spiegelman and Marjane Satrapi. When I purchased the book from the independent bookstore, I wondered if this was my way of contributing to Japan, by supporting a woman who – more so than national and international news media has been able – achieves by placing her readers on the shores of a fishing village outside of Hiroshima, with a family and a history that is traceable. This is literature at its most visceral, at its most crucial, and at its best. In the Japanese-English translation, the book is also read from right to left.

Maybe more so than the political connectedness this graphic novel allows, it is also not without its sense of humor, which pairs well with a traditional bent of what becomes the hope of resilience in the graphic novel and in good fiction. I can, and will, take myself to the American Red Cross and donate blood this week, and maybe I will donate five dollars to Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières, because I like them.

Mostly, I want to do something. I want to do something that will bring food to where it is needed and medical attention to where it is due. I want to buy more books by Japanese artists and writers because I understand, then.

I want Japan to know that it is not forgotten. I want the world to be bigger than that.

Here are some good resources that might help posit that need:

“To all the people who love this 
world—in which lies Japan in 
which lies Hiroshima.” 
Fumiyo Kouno