On the re-publication his 2002 book of poetry, “from the warring factions,” Ammiel Alcalay transformed the James Gallery into a multi-media global poem. After showing a video clip of a 1998 reading with Semezzin, whose book of poems Sarajevo Blues, Ammiel had translated, he told us about some of the relationships, intentions, surprises, and concerns he had around the time of moving from material gathered over many years to publishing “from the warring factions.”
Around and behind Ammiel, he had posted flyers, magazines, notes, faxes, photographs, gathered in the midst of the Bosnian Wars of the 1990s, not only there but everywhere he and his friends and colleagues challenged its meaning with acts of poetry.
Having offered this image making, Ammiel read from the book, sharing this, “Poets clear eye on the world around him, and obligation to put it into words”. The poems he read created a “line of defense against propaganda” about the “horrors of war” to the grounded material human connections among people not only in late 20th century wars, wars Ammiel experienced in poetry, but also across many more places and times and self-consciously this activist poet figuring out “who I was in this”.
Reading examples of this from prior books, Ammiel mentioned challenges to readers and other writers “What does that day mean to you, how do you place yourself Nero, Shelly, Sadam, Miro’, Rome together?”
It was a joy to hear Ammiel read, such as “Old Bridge” from Book 1 of “from the warring factions”:
Miro’ is in “the Museum of Modern Art”
Miro is in Sarajevo.
A famous playwright is on state at Symphony space and over the air on NPR.
The announcer calls me twice during a break to find out how the pronounce the name Izeta.
Izeta is Miro’s wife.
They have a dog.
It is December 1st 1993.
Migration – from here to the big wherever- because the world was watching
Ammiel challenged us to let “the language take you somewhere that you can’t really predict”.