Monday, December 28, 2009

Iran update (12/28)

It’s been several months since my last Iran update, but since I thankfully have some brief time off during the holidays, and more importantly, Iran has been in the headlines again (for non-nuclear issue matters), I wanted to offer some brief updates and thoughts for anyone curious. As before, feel free to forward this along but please delete my name and email if you do so.

Background: A lot of the articles and reports I’ve seen on what has happened in Iran during the last two days have focused almost exclusively on the past two days (Ashura and Tasua), but there is some important background information to take into account. First off, close to three weeks ago was the 16th of Azar (or Student Day) in Iran. This was one of the public holidays that the regime normally uses to hold pro-government rallies and shore up regime support (the holiday marks the death of 3 students by the Shah’s security forces back in 1953). Like similar ones since the election the opposition used this against the regime and basically tried to co-opt their demonstrations into their own. The actual turnout at these demonstrations was again smaller than the post-election ones, and even smaller than some in the opposition had hoped and planned for, but the protests and actions of that day showed what in my opinion was a turn to the radical on the part of protestors. Their chants against the government, specifically Khamenei, crossed red lines that had not previously been crossed, and there seemed to be a palpable anger or impatience from some of the things I’d read and seen. Granted those who attended these were mostly students, who generally are more radical than other opposition members, but these people had been at previous rallies and didn’t cross these red lines beforehand.

Second, the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri set the stage further for the past two days. As you might have read Montazeri was once Khomeini’s hand-picked successor to be Supreme Leader until he publicly disagreed with the founder of the Islamic Republic, was passed over for Khamenei, fell from grace with the regime and lived under virtual house arrest for his last years. He was one of the strongest and most public critics of the regime’s actions after the elections, and on top of that, has more religious credentials than all but a handful of other ayatollahs throughout the Middle East (including Khamenei). I don’t think it’s correct to say he was the spiritual leader of the opposition, since large portions of the youth who now make up the opposition are not particularly observant Muslims, but he was still a huge figure for reformists.

The regime’s reaction to his death was, perhaps unsurprisingly, callous and short-sighted. Public statements from official news agencies and people like Khamenei offered grudging condolences, and people were prevented from attending his funeral. Security forces even attacked people during his funeral parade and mourning ceremony. Aside from the anger that this heavy-handedness produced in some people, the 7th day after Montazeri’s death—an important day (along with the 40th) in Shia Islam—fell on Ashura.

I won’t go into huge details about Ashura and Tasua, but the main point is that Ashura marks the height of the 10-day period of mourning during the month of Moharram when the 3rd Shia Imam, Hussein, was killed in a battle where he and his forces was severely overmatched against the illegitimate Yazid. He and his followers were brutally executed and martyred, and on Ashura every year (Tasua is the day before this) there are passion plays, parades, and other gatherings where people mourn the death of Hussein, a martyr who died at the hands of an illegitimate ruler. Obviously these parallels to present day Iran were not lost on the opposition.

What happened? On Ashura tens of thousands of protestors came out into the streets and once again turned a public holiday (this time a religious one) into their own. There were protests all throughout Iran, including Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Najafbad (Montazeri’s hometown), Arak, and Mashhad, among others I’m sure we’ll learn about over time. It was the largest showing for the opposition since the regime began its brutal crackdown a week after the election, and clearly showed that the opposition was down but not out. Again the regime deployed paramilitaries and thugs that used brutal force on the protestors—killing at least 8 according to the Iranian National Security Council (the real count is likely higher)—and arresting over 300 (according to the Tehran police). A nephew of Musavi’s was killed, and there were some more high-profile arrests, including Ebrahim Yazdi (who was arrested after the election and then released), the son of former reformist minister and presidential candidate (from 2005) Mostafa Moin, the head of a reformist clerical group, and two top Musavi aides.

Two important takeaways from what happened on Ashura. The first is that some members of the security forces refused to obey orders to shoot upon crowds in Tehran. There is one picture that is going around of a policeman wearing a green headband given to him by demonstrators who basically defected and joined the crowds. There’s no way to psychoanalyze people like this who refuse to attack the protestors, but my personal opinion is that aside from the sheer brutality of this, firing upon people—in the Islamic Republic—on the most important religious day of the year was too much. Of course not every policeman and security force refused to carry out these orders, and the number of dead on the day of Ashura is larger than any other day since the June election. But it is telling that there are defections like these.

Second, and most importantly, is that the protests were far more radical than before.
It is not just the chants and signs that were more radical, but the actions of the protestors themselves. They scuffled and fought back against basijis in a way they had not done before. Police vans and motorcycles were taken over and set on fire, members of the basij were bloodied and beaten by protestors themselves as they fought back and took their batons and shields from them, and a police depot was even taken over by demonstrators. The protestors pushed back against security forces in a way that had no done before, and amazingly, in numerous cases they won.

What now? Predicting what will happen in Iran is dangerously uncertain, but from what has gone on in the past week I think Iran has reached another turning point. On the opposition side, it showed it was still alive and would not bow down to repression. After smaller showings at previous holidays-turned-demonstrations—which I think was partly due to the opposition needing to regroup after massive arrests—the opposition came out in full force. It is increasingly becoming more radical and opting for tactics of civil disobedience. As has been the case before and is becoming increasingly clear (which if you’ve read my recent article you know!) is that this is going on without the major leaders. Musavi and Karrubi were nowhere to be seen. Khatami gave a speech on Tasua that was interrupted by basijis and was later seen driving through Tehran on Ashura, but aside from that no presence on the streets. The protests are grassroots-driven and as such, will be all the more difficult to stomp out.

On the regime side, its reaction to Montazeri’s death and tactics on Ashura and Tasua really show, in case there was any doubt, that they hold few things (if any) sacred in the Islamic Republic. They have ramped up their own repressive tactics—firing into crowds, beating protestors, dragging them out of hospitals, etc—and have no intention of backing down or compromising in the least. Even if it means making a few martyrs on the day of Imam Hussein’s own martyrdom, the regime thinks this is better than showing weakness and caving in to the opposition in any way.

One commentator I read said that this could be the beginning of the ‘Iranian intifada’. I hope this does not turn out to be the case, but from the events of the last two days it looks like both sides are becoming more radical, digging in their heels and gearing up for the long haul.

MLA On-Site Off-Site Poetry Reading MLA and MLA Off-Site Poetry Reading Reading MLA MLA

Tuesday, December 29, 5:15 pm
"Coming in from the Cold: Celebrating Twenty Years of the MLA Off-Site Poetry Reading"
Philadelphia Marriott
Liberty Ballroom Salon A
open to the public!

Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Penn State Univ., University Park

Speakers: Charles Bernstein, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Tisa Bryant, California Inst. of the Arts; Patrick F. Durgin, School of the Art Inst. of Chicago; Peter Gizzi, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst; Laura Moriarty, Small Press Distribution; Bob Perelman, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Rod Smith, Bridge Street Books; Rodrigo Toscano, Labor Inst.; Tyrone Williams, Xavier Univ., OH; Elizabeth Willis, Wesleyan Univ.; Timothy Pan Yu, Univ. of Toronto

Since the 1989 MLA convention, organizers in host cities have brought together ever larger groups of experimental and innovative poets for an evening marathon of poetry performance. These readings bring local poets into contact with poets from other cities and promote exchange among poets, scholars, and poet-scholars. This event will offer short readings by poets, including several who read at the first event twenty years ago and several newer poets.

Tuesday, December 29, 7pmThe Rotunda
4014 Walnut Street, Philadelphia
Click here for directions

Please join us to hear a bevy of local and visiting poets for 2009's MLA Off-Site Poetry Reading. Performances start at 7pm and will go until approximately 10pm.

The reading is free, ADA accessible, and open to the public.

(To reach the Rotunda from the Marriott Hotel, take the Market-Frankford subway line to 40th and Market or the #21 SEPTA bus to 40th and Walnut.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

عيني عينك جديد in the منتديات عيني عينك.

Mac geek, health nut, Aikidoka, graphics, DT publishing, web design dabbler, and
Mac geek, health nut, Aikidoka, graphics, DT publishing, and web
design dabbler, and
Baby Winnie The Phooph layout,
Paintball forums
and all other photographic phooph
has been found while digging a swimming pool on a private land at Soi
Kanawar village
in Phooph
enrolee fake link phooph etc
but it was bugging me
wheeeeeeere have u been? :
>>phooph, I've finally merged all these files... ;)
they are in CVS.
Great >>work Allan!
عيني عينك جديد in the منتديات عيني عينك.
but it was scary to think that the others didn't give enough of a phooph
cum-fuddyduddy-cum-phooph, my opinions may be suspect
Cat Chew at
cum-fuddyduddy-cum-phooph, my opinions may be suspect
Cat Chew at
I hear he is banned from every Casino in the state.
cum-fuddyduddy-cum-phooph, my opinions may be suspect
عيني عينك جديد in the منتديات عيني عينك.
Phooph... Done :-)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Travis Nichols in Huffpost, on Nada, Anselm, etc.

The Drunk Sonnets




@ District of Columbia Arts Center
3:00PM, SUNDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2009

featuring readings by Leslie Bumstead, Tina Darragh, Jean Donnelly, Buck Downs, Cathy Eisenhower,
Heather Fuller, Dan Gutstein, P Inman, Doug Lang, K. Silem Mohammad, Chris Nealon, Mel Nichols, Phyllis Rosenzweig, & Rod Smith

Edge Books, publishing over 40 titles across the spectrum of avant-garde writing in English, has established an international reputation for publishing the finest in innovative writing, including award-winning works by Kevin Davies and Joan Retallack. Many of our titles have been reviewed in such publications as The Village Voice, The New York Times, and Publishers Weekly. Come celebrate with us!

For more information on Edge visit

Admission is $5.00.

District of Columbia Arts Center is located at 2438 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan, Washington, DC, between the Dupont Circle and Woodley Park metro stations. For directions, see the DCAC web site at


Monday, December 14th, 7:30 PM
K. Silem Mohammad, Lacey Hunter, Ken Jacobs
@ Bridge Street

Thursday, Dec 17th, 8pm
Sally Keith, Karen Anderson, Casey Smith, & Maureen Andary
Big Bear Cafe, 1st & R NW

Saturday, December 19th, 8 PM
A celebration & reading for The Narrow House
publication of the i.e. reader
Dionysus Restaurant & Lounge
8 E. Preston Street

Monday, December 07, 2009





Jennifer Scappettone, a poet, translator, and purveyor of visual stills and
prose, is the author of From Dame Quickly (Litmus Press, 2009), and of several
chapbooks. Exit 43—an archaeology of Superfund sites interrupted by an opera of
pop-ups—is in progress for Atelos Press. Excerpts of that manuscript appear in
Belladonna Elders Series #5: Poetry, Landscape, Apocalypse, featuring pop-ups
and prose by Scappettone, a lyric sequence by Etel Adnan, and an essay by Lyn
Hejinian (Belladonna, 2009); pop-up scores are now being adapted for performance
at Dance Theater Workshop and the Center for Performance Research in
collaboration with choreographer Kathy Westwater as PARK. She is an assistant
professor at the University of Chicago.

This summer Ryan Walker published a collection of poems, You Will Own It
Permanently. More recently he has been rehabbing a house in DC's Trinidad
neighborhood. He has nine closets and one skeleton.

Ryan Walker's blog, Bathybius:
Jennifer Scappettone at PennSound:

2814 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007
ph 202 965 5200

Located in Georgetown, next to the Four Seasons Hotel, five blocks from the
Foggy Bottom Metro, blue & orange lines.


Sunday, December 13th, 3 PM
Edge Books Twentieth Anniversary Reading
Leslie Bumstead, Tina Darragh, Jean Donnelly, Bu
ck Downs, Cathy Eisenhower,
Heather Fuller, Dan Gutstein, P Inman, Doug Lang, K. Silem Mohammad,
Chris Nealon, Mel Nichols, Phyllis Rosenzweig, & Rod Smith
@ DC Arts Center

Monday, December 14th, 7:30 PM
K. Silem Mohammad, Lacey Hunter, Ken Jacobs

@ Bridge Street

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

the i.e. reading series welcomes

Saturday, December 5th
8 p.m. at
120 W. North Ave.
Baltimore, MD

Friday, November 20, 2009

Michael Gizzi at Bridge Street 11/22 7 PM


7:00 PM


Michael Gizzi's latest book is New Depths of Deadpan, from Burning Deck Press. He received his BA and MFA from Brown University where he studied with Keith Waldrop. He is also the author of My Terza Rima, No Both, Interferon, Cured in the Going Bebop, Continental Harmony, and many others. Gizzi has edited Lingo magazine as well as Hard Press and, with Craig Watson, Qua Books. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

"Cross James Joyce and Jack Nicholson in a high energy construct machine and you have Michael Gizzi's poems." --Lisa Jarnot

"Razor sharp but also rich and generously compelling, Michael Gizzi's poetry lambastes as it celebrates." --John Ashbery

Unfortunately, Anselm Berrigan will not be reading due to illness.

Michael Gizzi at PennSound:

2814 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007
ph 202 965 5200

Located in Georgetown, next to the Four Seasons Hotel, five blocks from the Foggy Bottom Metro, blue & orange lines.


Sunday, November 22nd, 3 PM
Kate Greenstreet & Karen Anderson
@ DC Arts Center

Saturday, December 5th, 8 PM
M. Magnus, Les Wade, Megan McShea
LOF/t, 120 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD.

Tuesday, December 8th, 7:30 PM
Jennifer Scappettone & Ryan Walker
@ Bridge Street

Sunday, December 13th, 3 PM
Edge Books Twentieth Anniversary Reading
@ DC Arts Center

Monday, December 14th, 7:30 PM
K. Silem Mohammad, Lacey Hunter, Ken Jacobs
@ Bridge Street

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Ladies of Flarf 11/22 6:30 PM Zinc Bar

Shanna Compton

Katie Degentesh

Nada Gordon

Sharon Mesmer

Mel Nichols

Elisabeth Workman


Zinc Bar
82 West 3rd Street (btw Thompson & Sullivan)

$5 donation

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Keith Waldrop Natl Book Award!

Pictured here w/ Rosmarie Waldrop reading in the i.e. series, Baltimore, April 1, 2006. Photo by Michael Ball.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Cuneiform Press is pleased to announce the publication of Ted Berrigan, a collaboration between Bill Berkson and George Schneeman. Ted Berrigan is an homage to the poet and painter's mutual friend produced as a unique book in real-time at George's studio on St. Marks Place on March 5, 2006. The book is comprised of eight spreads where image and text fuse, bleed off the page and cross the gutter, as well as an afterword by Berkson and a note from the publisher. Handsewn, the dimensions are true to the original. Edition limited to 500 copies.

$20 plus $3.50 shipping in the United States, $10 overseas.
Make checks out to Kyle Schlesinger and post to:

Kyle Schlesinger
Cuneiform Press
UHV / Arts and Sciences
3007 N. Ben Wilson
Victoria, TX 77901-5731

Or direct PayPal to kyleschlesinger [at] gmail [dot] com

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

3 poems, "The Orin Gates Variations" in the new Critical Quarterly.

It's a special issue on the late work of Godard. Poems from Pura López-Colomé trans Forrest Gander, and Ange Mlinko also included.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Press Release

"Whether it's her take on issues like unemployment topping 10.2% or her views on flarf poetry, everyone will always wait for the Miley Moment before continuing further discussion."

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Goldsmith @ Bridge Street 11/2, 7:30 PM




Kenneth Goldsmith's writing has been called "some of the most exhaustive and beautiful collage work yet produced in poetry" by Publishers Weekly. Goldsmith is the author of ten books of poetry, founding editor of the online archive UbuWeb (, and the editor of I'll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews, which was the basis for an opera, "Trans-Warhol," that premiered in Geneva in March of 2007. An hour-long documentary on his work, "sucking on words: Kenneth Goldsmith" premiered at the British Library in 2007. Kenneth Goldsmith is the host of a weekly radio show on New York City's WFMU. He teaches writing at The University of Pennsylvania, where he is a senior editor of PennSound, an online poetry archive. He has been awarded the The Anschutz Distinguished Fellow Professorship in American Studies at Princeton University for 2009-10 and received the Qwartz Electronic Music Award in Paris in 2009. A book of critical essays, "Uncreative Writing," is forthcoming from Columbia University Press.

More about Goldsmith can be found at:

2814 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007
ph 202 965 5200

Located in Georgetown, next to the Four Seasons Hotel, five blocks from the
Foggy Bottom Metro, blue & orange lines.


The Corcoran's Visiting Artist Series presents
Monday, November 2nd, 1:30 PM
Armand Hammer Auditorium, Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design
500 17th St NW, Washington, DC


Saturday, November 7th, 8 PM
Marshall Reese with Chris Mason, John Mason & Noah Davies-Mason
LOF/t, 120 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD.

Sunday, November 22nd, 3 PM
Kate Greenstreet & Karen Anderson
@ DC Arts Center

Sunday, November 22nd, 7 PM
Anselm Berrigan & Michael Gizzi
@ Bridge Street Books

Saturday, December 5th, 8 PM
M. Magnus, Les Wade, Megan McShea
LOF/t, 120 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD.

Sunday, December 13th, 3 PM
Edge Books Twentieth Anniversary Reading
@ DC Arts Center

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Eisenhower, Jones, & Jones @ DCAC Sunday 10/18 3 PM

@ District of Columbia Arts Center
3:00PM, October 18, 2009


Cathy Eisenhower lives and works as a librarian in Washington, DC, and is the author of Language of the Dog-heads (Phylum 2001), clearing without reversal (Edge 2008), and would with and (Roof 2009). She is co-translating the selected poems of Argentine poet Diana Bellessi and has co-curated the In Your Ear Reading Series for the past several years.

Jamey Jones is from Pensacola, Fl., where he has long been an active proponent of all things poetry. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, where he’s pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing at Long Island University. His most recent chapbooks are If You See An Ocelot, Please Remove This Letter, (brown boke press, 2007), the notebook troubled
the sleep door, (brown boke press, 2008), Blue Rain Morning, (Fell Swoop, 2009), and Twelve Windows (brown boke press, 2009). His poems have appeared in Red Herring, Mesachabe, Yawp, Fell Swoop: The All Bohemian Review, The Mundane Egg, The Emerald Coast Review, and Big Bridge, New Orleans Anthology: Sturm und Drang, as well as various other journals.

Bonnie Jones works with sound, text and performance. Born in 1977 in South Korea she was raised by dairy farmers in New Jersey, and currently resides in Baltimore, MD. In sound performances Bonnie plays the circuit boards of digital delay pedals. Her primary sound collaborators are Joe Foster in Korea (as the duet “English”) and Andy
Hayleck. She is also a member of the Performance Thanatology Research Society, an interdisciplinary performance group dedicated to the advancement of a higher histrionics brought on by imminent finalities. Bonnie has performed at the Kim Dae Hwan Museum, the Ontological-Hysteric Theater, STEIM, the ErstQuake Festival, and the
14 Karat Cabaret. She is currently an MFA candidate at the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Bard College.

Admission is $5.00.

District of Columbia Arts Center is located at 2438 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan, Washington, DC, between the Dupont Circle and Woodley Park metro stations. For directions, see the DCAC web site at


10/22 8 pm
Kareem Estefan, Danielle Evennou, TBA
@ Big Bear

10/23, 8pm
Cathy Wagner, Ric Royer & Marc Nasdor
LOF/t, 120 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD.

11/2, 7:30 pm
Kenneth Goldsmith
Bridge Street Books

11/22, 7 pm
Anselm Berrigan & Michael Gizzi
Bridge Street Books

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

National Book Award Finalists Announced


Rae Armantrout, Versed (Wesleyan University Press)
Ann Lauterbach, Or to Begin Again (Viking Penguin)
Carl Phillips, Speak Low (Farrar Straus and Giroux)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Open Interval (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Keith Waldrop, Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Evan Parker/Ned Rothenberg Tour

09.24.09 - Amherst, MA - Bezanson Recital Hall (U of Massachusetts)
09.25.09 - Washington, DC - Sonic Circuits Festival
09.26.09 - Oberlin, OH - Fairchild Chapel (Oberlin College)
09.27.09 - Chicago, IL - Claudia Cassidy Theater (Chicago Cultural Center)
09.28.09 - Detroit, MI - 2739 Edwin
09.29.09 - Buffalo, NY - Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center
09.30.09 - Montreal, QC - La Sala Rossa
10.01.09-10.16.09 - New York, NY - The Stone *

* Evan Parker in various determined combinations
Lyn Hejinian on The Berkeley Alliance

Juliana Spahr wins 20009 Hardison Prize

Nada Gordon goes to Washington

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


9/23, 8 PM
Rae Armantrout and Ron Silliman
Student Union Building II, Rooms 5, 6, 7
George Mason University, Fairfax, VA

9/26, 8 PM
Cathy Eisenhower, Reb Livingston, Chris Nealon, and Mel Nichols
Miller's Tavern, 3988 University Drive, Fairfax, VA

9/28, 8 pm
Mel Nichols & Michael Nicoloff
Poetry Project at St Mark's Church, NYC

9/29 Georgetown University
Mark McMorris
Seminar, 5:30 p.m. in ICC 462
Reading at 8:00 p.m. Copley Formal Lounge

10/2, Doors 8pm, Show 8:30pm sharp, $6
LAUREN BENDER (Balto) Video & Performance
TRISHA BAGA (NYC) Video & Performance
LOF/t, 120 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD.

10/3, 8 pm
Hoa Nguyen, Cole Swensen, Lee Ann Brown
LOF/t, 120 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD.

10/4, 7 PM
Eileen Myles & Hoa Nguyen
Bridge Street Books, DC

10/9, 7:30 pm
O.B. Hardison, Jr. Poetry Prize: Juliana Spahr
Folger Elizabethan Theatre, tckts $12
201 E Capitol St SE, DC

10/22 8 pm
Kareem Estefan, Danielle Evennou, TBA…
@ Big Bear

10/23, 8pm
Cathy Wagner, Ric Royer & Marc Nasdor
LOF/t, 120 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD.

11/2, 7:30 pm
Kenneth Goldsmith
Bridge Street Books

11/7, 8 pm
Marshall Reese with Chris Mason,
John Mason & Noah Davies-Mason
LOF/t, 120 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD.

11/22, 7 pm
Anselm Berrigan & Michael Gizzi
Bridge Street Books

12/5, 8pm
Les Wade, Megan McShea, M. Magnus
LOF/t, 120 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD.

12/13, 3 pm
Edge Books 20th Anniversary Reading

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Editorial review: "It often recalls the Salvador Dali painting that looks like a murky portrait of the artist's wife from close up, but from a few yards away reveals the clear image of Abraham Lincoln."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

We are here on Earth to do good to others. What the others are here for, I don't know. --W H Auden

The Fiji Petrel

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

American Hybrid @ Bridge Street 9/13, 7 pm


Sunday, September 13th, 7 pm



Mark McMorris is the author of Cafe at Light, The Blaze of Poui, The Black Reeds, and Moth-Wings. His book Entrepot will be available from Coffee House Press in February 2010. He teaches at Georgetown University.

Rod Smith is the author of Deed, Music or Honesty, The Good House, Protective Immediacy, and others. He edits the journal Aerial, publishes Edge Books, and manages Bridge Street Books in Washington, DC.

Cole Swensen teaches poetry in the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. Her books include Ours, Goest, Such Rich Hour, Oh, Try, and Noon. She translates poetry from French and lives part-time in Paris.

John Taggart is the author of There are Birds, Crosses: Poems 1992-1998, Standing Wave, Pastorelles, When the Saints, Loop, and several others. His Songs of Degrees: Essays on Contemporary Poetry and Poetics was published by The University of Alabama Press in 1994. He lives in south central Pennsylvania.

2814 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC

ph 202 965 5200

Bridge Street Books is located in Georgetown next to the Four Seasons Hotel, five blocks from the Foggy Bottom Metro Stop it.

Upcoming Readings:

Sunday September 20th, 3 pm
Rob Fitterman & Nada Gordon
In Your Ear @ DCAC

Sunday October 4th, 7 pm
Eileen Myles & Hoa Nguyen
@ Bridge Street Books

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Darragh/Lang i.e. 9/12, 8 pm


Saturday, September 12th, 8 p.m.
at LOF/t
120 W. North Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201


Deep eco pré, Tina Darragh’s collaboration with poet Marcella Durand, will be published this fall as an ebook by Little Red Leaves. Darragh’s essay “Blame Global Warming on Thoreau?” is included in the )((eco (lang)(uage(reader)) forthcoming from Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs. Along with Jane Sprague and Diane Ward, she participated in the belladonna Elders Series #8 (NYC, June 2009). Tina has no desire to maintain her persona as a mild-mannered librarian since Doug Lang included her in his blog on DC poets.

Doug Lang was born and raised in Wales, and has published poetry and novels in the UK. He came to DC in 1973, where he ran the Folio Reading Series in the late 1970s, and where he has taught writing at the Corcoran College of Art and Design since 1976. He was one of the poets representing DC at the recent Poetry of the 1970s conference at Orono. A collection of his selected poems, In the Works, is forthcoming from Edge Books.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


The 2nd Season of the LOS SOLOS SERIES.

Friday, 9/4/09, Doors 8pm, Show 8:30pm sharp, $6

STEPHANIE BARBER (Balto) Premiere of in the jungle
MELISA PUTZ (Philly) Dance performance

LOF/t, 120 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Terminal Humming by K. Lorraine Graham! New from Edge Books

Terminal Humming

by K. Lorraine Graham

regularly $16.00

$12 direct from Edge Books, postpaid.

96 pages
Cover by the author
ISBN 978-1-890331-31-5

All "this shining and this flutter [!]." Terminal Humming is a very exciting book and I love it. Eavesdropping and borrowing from diverse discourses, K. Lorraine Graham has created a complex "essay on scrounging." It is a wonderfully violent "attempt to unleash inner badness" in poems that are hot and audacious, in a girly way: "Wonder Woman boots twirl twirl." Terminal Humming is just the right amount of weird. In it, "kinks become beautiful and obvious," and "language [hums] as angry form." Read this "downwind chess urine bird bathing extravaganza" of a book! NADA GORDON

Map and start K. Lorraine Graham’s Man-cunt. Honeybucket defoliates broadcast. Too personal? She keeps it normal and lumpy. Scattered disco balls mutilated by grisly pixies. This shining and this clutter. Their cunning bodies, well stocked. She rammed her glistening ovipositor into his abdomen. Imbued doll I am not. Warning! Warning! I clash looking for just a regular body in a supergirl outfit. All soft and twisted and inexpensive and consumable with a nice bike and nice bike gear. Hottie wanting sweet inside sprawl (Female until further notice) mixing information substitutes. Automatic shredder joy rehearsing pitch incineration. Squirming again and again (editing) editing (editing) (editing) something (editing) very (editing). Edit looks stupid. Change the finish. Overcome emotion by funding. Written in a kind of stripper life often scattered communication prosthetics mutilated by beauty. You find them here. ABIGAIL CHILD

Using irony, charm, and unexpected associations, the poems of Terminal Humming challenge any sense of women's situation being normal or transparent. These ambitious and invasive poems make us attentive to the steady drone of put-downs and put-ons that form so much of our discourse. Parcels of ostensibly innocuous information reveal their condescension or malice on Graham's pages, drawing us into the contours of an everyday life that is fine, okay enough—yet threatenednonetheless. And yet the poems have the strength of their whimsy, an outraged whimsy which ever-so-casually threatens back. This is the everyday as counter-attack! STAN APPS

Monday, July 27, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Line Has Shattered: Revisiting Vancouver’s Landmark 1963 Poetry Conference

Bernice Lever * Maria Hindmarch * George Bowering * Daphne Marlatt * Robert Hogg * Michael Palmer * Jamie Reid * Judith Copithorne * Fred Wah * Clark Coolidge * Pauline Butling * Lionel Kearns

Friday August 14th
SFU Harbour Centre
515 West Hastings Street


Panel discussion: 1:00 - 3:00 pm
Readings: 7:00 - 10:00 pm

The Line Has Shattered brings together 12 original participants of the 1963 Vancouver poetry conference 46 years later for a day of discussion and readings.

Moderated and Hosted by Stephen Collis

for more information click here:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Iran update: July 16th

* Continued protests: As I mentioned in my update last week, the opposition’s plan to have a 3-day national strike, coinciding with a national religious holiday, culminated on the 10th anniversary of the 18th of Tir. Unfortunately I didn’t see very much about the strike and whether it was successful, but there was a fair amount of news about protests on the 18th of Tir. Reports said that there were around 3 or 4 thousand people out in the streets protesting, the first time in over a week street protests had resumed. Security forces were out in large numbers, and the protestors anticipated this and planned out 9 different routes for people to march to Enqelab (Revolution) Square. Ultimately the people were not successful in gathering en masse in the square, but they did show that the protests were still not going to die down, and importantly, were able to get a lot of pictures and videos of the day out to the media. From what I’ve seen and read the protests were filled with the usual death to the dictator, pro-freedom and allah-u akbar chants, but interestingly there were a few that were specifically aimed at Mojtaba Khamenei, the son of the Supreme Leader who, as I’ll discuss below, is rumored to be behind the crackdown. The protestors also encouraged people to show their support by driving around and honking their horns, as well as flashing the V-sign with their hands out of the car windows. Two other important facts about these protests: 1) they took place not just in Tehran but in other parts of the country, and 2) they were planned independently of Musavi. Musavi did support them but was not involved in the planning stages, and from what I saw, wasn’t actively promoting them on his website or facebook page. I’m nor whether he was unwilling or unable to do so, but this just goes to show yet again how these protests have become larger than just one person
* Arrests and detentions update: Earlier, Iran’s Prosecutor General said that since the election 2,500 people had been arrested, and 500 of these remained in jail to be tried in court. I don’t believe he specified the court these people would be tried in, but it will likely be the special court set up for those arrested in the post-election aftermath. In a speech one fairly high-ranking ayatollah, Ayatollah Ardabili, said many of the detainees would be released next week, but I haven’t seen any confirmation or updates on this. There are still many prominent opposition leaders and activists in jail, but the one I’d mentioned in previous emails that is still there is Saeed Hajjarian. He remains in Evin prison, and the other day his son was arrested (though subsequently released), reportedly after Hajjarian’s family refused the conditions of Saeed’s release. Additionally, there is another martyr figure, similar to Neda, that has emerged in recent weeks. His name is Sohrab Arabi, and he was only 19 and was killed from gunshot wounds to his chest, although the exact details of his death are still unclear. He disappeared after a protest on July 15th, when he was apparently shot, but was pronounced dead on July 19th by prison authorities. It’s still not known what happened to him during this four day period—whether his injuries were left untreated, causing him to die, or whether he was tortured during this time—but his mother spent weeks asking prisons and hospitals for news of her son. She finally learned that he had died 26 days after he initially disappeared, despite the fact he was pronounced dead after 4 days in custody. This story has been causing a furor in the Farsi-language media, and Musavi and his wife actually met with Sohrab Arabi’s family the other day. Similar to Neda’s story, authorities made sure Sohrab’s funeral did not turn into a cause for protest and prevented a large gathering from occurring. Finally, last week 20 people were reported to have been hanged in Evin prison. These weren’t protestors but were people in jail on capital offenses such as drug trafficking, but their hangings were likely done to send a message to those still in detention.
* Opposition Leaders update: last Friday Rafsanjani again declined to lead Friday prayers, but he will do so this week (more below). Last Monday Karrubi, Musavi, and Khatami all met together for the first time and they apparently met to talk about a coalition to deal with election complaints and arrests. The idea of forming a political party and a coalition to deal with these detentions has gained steam since then. Musavi has appointed some veteran opposition leaders to take charge of the committee dealing with arrests, and he remains committed to the idea of forming a new political party. I’m not sure exactly what this means for Khatami’s National Front, but the new one would likely absorb this, since Khatami’s party never really grew into a nation-wide organization that kept his reform movement alive. They did of course succeed in gaining seats in Parliament, but possibly due to the problems and recriminations that emerged at the end of his 2nd term as President, this was never an all-encompassing reformist party. If Musavi and others can succeed in forming such a broad coalition this will be hugely important. Reformists have been harmed by their division and factionalism—the regime thrives on divide-and-conquer tactics—so this is integral to the future of their movement. One hardline paper, Kayhan, has already started attacking the possibility of such a party, quoting a prominent member of the Principalist (pro-ahmadinejad) faction saying that such a party would not be allowed to form. However, Rafsanjani is allegedly supportive of this, and if they could attract moderate support from important power-brokers they would have a good chance of having a legal one approved (I should note, though, that they likely won’t have permission to hold mass rallies like other parties).
* Regime update: Last Tuesday Ahmadinejad gave a televised speech on IRIB where he blamed the post-election unrest on foreign powers, but took a fairly conciliatory tone (for himself) and asked for ‘unity and solidarity’. As a quick humorous aside, during the speech there was a large moth flying around him that he unsuccessfully tried to swat away. The clip was all over youtube within minutes, and a joke made the rounds that the moth had been arrested and is being held in Evin prison on charges of espionage. On a more serious note, there’s been a few stories in the past week about the Supreme Leader’s son, Mojtaba. There’s very little known about him—he’s barely ever been photographed—but he was very much a driving force in Ahmadinejad’s first election in 2005. In the first round of the 2005 election Ahmadinejad was not the preferred choice of the Supreme Leader, but according to some reports Mojtaba was able to eventually convince his father to throw his support behind Ahmadinejad, and the rest is history. Mojtaba has very strong ties to the Revolutionary Guards and is rumored to have taken control of the basij forces after the election. Some people worry that he is being groomed to be the successor to his father as Supreme Leader, but whether this is true or not I sincerely doubt this would actually happen. Mojtaba has even less religious credentials than his father, and importantly, there is no unifying, charismatic leader like Khomeini to push through a weakly qualified nominee for Supreme Leader.
* Clerical politics: one of the most fascinating but opaque area of Iranian politics is clerical politics. I’ve been trying to get information about what’s going on in Qom for several weeks now, but it seems like there’s very little written about this topic in English, and only a handful of people who specialize in this area. There have been some contrasting reports over whether the clerical establishment supports Khamenei or not. One article I saw posted on a normally very reliable website said that Qom has been on lock-down for several weeks, and that there was a sit-in by members of the Office of Islamic Guidance after they were fired for supporting Musavi. On the other hand, another person who is probably the leading expert on Shia religious politics recently wrote an article saying that the majority of the clerical establishment support Khamenei, and that the only ones that have come out in favor of the opposition are those with very little ties to the state, and whom were insiders during Khomeini’s time but have since drifted away from the state. Personally, I think it’s more likely that the clerical establishment does support Khamenei, or at least doesn’t support Musavi, if for nothing else than their quietist nature and aversion to any widespread changes. On top of this, in two decades as Supreme Leader Khamenei has done much to bring what were once independent organizations and seminaries into the state’s realm, so with these bodies now firmly entrenched within the state it’s unlikely they’re jumping at the chance to bite the hand that feeds them. With that said, there have been a few noteworthy updates with regards to clerical politics. Ayatollah Ostaadi, a conservative cleric from the Association of Seminary Teachers, gave a Friday sermon last week where he criticized another cleric (not by name) for using the state’s resources to campaign for Ahmadinejad, and also said he would stop delivering Friday sermons, allegedly for health reasons. Ostaadi is a conservative member of the clergy with ties to the state so this is noteworthy, but he’s not a Grand Ayatollah (there are about 15 in Iran, and around 1,000 ‘regular’ ayatollahs) or marja (‘source of emulation’, of which there are only around a dozen in Iran. Lastly, Ayatollah Montazeri issued a series of fatwas where he called the current Supreme Leader illegitimate. In contrast to Ostaadi, Montazeri is a Grand Ayatollah and marja, but he has been under house arrest since 1997 and out of favor with the regime for even longer, so I’m not sure how much of a following he now enjoys within Iran given that he’s been unable to give sermons or communicate much with his supporters.
* Legal updates: there are a few legal updates from the past week that are worth mentioning. First, Tehran’s interim Friday prayers leader said the majils should revise the current presidential elections law so that the events of recent weeks don’t repeat themselves. This idea first came from the current mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Qalibaf, who is a conservative rival of Ahmadinejad. We’ll see if this idea gets any traction in the majlis, but I think the problems with the election stemmed more from the spirit rather than the letter of the law. Secondly, on Sunday the Expediency Council—a body that resolves disputes between the majlis and Guardian Council—upheld a law that banned people from serving on the Guardian Council while being employed as a government official. This would mean that two hardline members of the GC would need to either resign from the GC or from their other governmental positions. Those angered by this decision said that it should apply to Rafsanjani as well, since he is the head of both the Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Council, but under current law this does not apply to the Expediency Council so Rafsanjani can keep his two positions. Finally, yesterday it was reported that Ahmadinejad will be sworn in on August 2nd, and will propose a new cabinet on August 6th. Ahmadinejad had significant problems getting his first cabinet approved by parliament—he had to settle on his 3rd choice for oil minister after the others were voted down—and during his term either 9 or 10 ministers resigned or were fired. I’d expect a lengthy battle in parliament over his new cabinet choices. (NB: some of the more important cabinet positions, like Minister of Justice and Minister of Interior are made by the Supreme Leader, not Ahmadinejad).
* What next: this Friday should be a very interesting day in Iran. Rafsanjani has finally agreed to lead Friday prayers, and both Khatami and Musavi will be in attendance. I’m unclear as to whether this is coming from Khatami and Musavi themselves or not, but the opposition is planning on attending the Friday prayers as well, so this could be the largest showing of the opposition since Khamenei’s crackdown a week after the election. I haven’t seen anything reporting on what Rafsanjani will say, but given his cautious nature I wouldn’t expect any sweeping indictments of the regime. It’s more likely he’ll call for unity, perhaps offer support of the people’s right to protest, and maybe even offer veiled criticism of a few hardliners. More than what he says, I think just having Rafsanjani giving the Friday sermon in the presence of Khatami and Musavi will show his support, however tacitly, for the opposition, and could help to solidify their support from more moderate elements within Iran.
* Just for fun: This is too good not to include. Iranian state media ran a picture this week with two pictures of Ahmadinejad next to each other where one was from when he began his first term and the other a current one. Next to each other you could see that his beard had turned white over the course of his first term, and below the picture there was a caption saying that his beard had turned white because he “worked so hard for justice.”

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Iran update: Tuesday, July 7th

* Opposition update: late last week three of the major opposition leaders, Musavi, Karrubi, and Khatami, issued long and strongly-worded statements saying they would still not accept the results of the election. Musavi’s and Karrubi’s were fairly similar to their previous ones—reiterating their disavowal of the election results, calling cautiously to continue opposition—but Khatami’s was uncharacteristically strong for the former president. As I’ve said before, the knock against him was that he lacked the political will to confront regime hardliners during his presidency. Compared to his usual demeanor he was somewhat outspoken during the post-election unrest, but his most recent statement was a notable departure from his usual mild manner. He even used a bit of rhetorical jujitsu against the regime and its constant labeling of the opposition as a Western-backed attempt at ‘velvet revolution’, stating that the electoral fraud "has been a velvet revolution against the people and against the republicanism of the system." Musavi also released on his website a 24-page opus detailing evidence of electoral fraud, which ran the gamut of members of the Guardian Council campaigning for Ahmadinejad, millions of extra ballots being printed, campaign workers being harassed, and incidents of money and other services services being exchanged for votes, among other complaints. Yesterday Musavi appeared in public for the first time in almost three weeks, though not at any political rally or gathering. There was a small gathering, about 200 people, at an art gallery of the Iranian Academy of Iran (which Musavi heads), and according to a few journalists present he again reiterated that he did not accept the results of the election. He didn’t, though, call for further protests and said that the opposition should work within the confines of the law.
* Rafsanjani and regime insiders: first, some bad news for the opposition. Larijani, who as I’ve detailed in previous emails, has been a rival of Ahmadinejad during the past 4 years and earlier didn’t show up at an Ahmadinejad victory part (along with dozens of other MPs), officially congratulated Ahmadinejad on his electoral victory. I’m not sure what the status is of the parliamentary committee Larijani had called to investigate the attacks on the Tehran University dormitories immediately after the election, but even if these are still ongoing Larijani recognizing Ahmadinejad is a symbolic blow to the opposition. On the other hand, Rafsanjani is moving closer to the opposition. Last Friday he again declined to give Friday prayers—the second time in a row he had declined this—and met with families of those detained during protests. During these meetings he made slightly less moderate, but still cautious, statements, basically saying that the Iranian people are not satisfied with the election, and this must be remedied for the sake of stability and security. Interestingly, just over a day after this Rafsanjani’s political party spoke out directly against the election, calling it ‘unacceptable.’ One portion of the statement they issued said: "We declare that the result is unacceptable due to the unhealthy voting process, massive electoral fraud and the siding of the majority of the Guardian Council with a specific candidate." For the opposition this is coming a week or two too late, but is still huge news given that this party is firmly in the center of the Iranian political spectrum.
* Another clerical group for the opposition? Many of you may have seen a front-page article in the NYT on Sunday about ‘the most important clerical group in Iran’ issuing a statement criticizing the election. There is some confusion about this article, though, mainly stemming from the difficulty in translating the names of these clerical groups. The NYT article cites a statement made by the “Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qom,” which if translated this way, is very close to the name of one of the most prominent, and by no means reformist, clerical groups. A few people whose Persian is infinitely better than mine, though, read the original statement and said that translation is not correct. Most likely it comes from another clerical group with a similar name “The Society of Scholars and Teacher’s of Qom’s Hawza”, which is in fact reformist-leaning and is not ‘the most important clerical group in Qom.’ (As a side note, the problems with these groups and translating their names are completely understandable. Many of the names don’t translate well into English, and their names after overlap. For example, there are two with the phrase “combative clerics” in them, one of which is moderate and the other reformist). Regardless, even this clerical group had remained silent until now, and the few clerics and clerical groups that are speaking out have been doing so in favor of the opposition. As a note of caution, though, I’d be careful when reading any stories talking about clerical groups. There are over 200,000 clerics in Iran that are known for their quarreling and factionalism, so some clerical groups are bound to deviate from the official line. There are certainly some that are more prominent than others and whose possible criticism of the election would be significant given their close proximity to the state, but keep in mind the heterogeneity of the religious establishment when reading about clerical politics.
* Regime update: on the regime side of things, various people and groups have been calling for harsher treatment of Musavi and other opposition leaders. The student wing of the basij said that Musavi should be charged with acting against national security (an offense that would warrant 10 years in prison). An important aid to Khamenei, Hossein Shariatmadari, said that Musavi and Khatami should be tried, and the hardline Kayhan newspaper, of which Shariatmadari is editor, said that Musavi’s actions were ‘treasonous.’ Although the groundwork for arresting Musavi and others is being laid by hardline clerics, newspapers and MPs, Khamenei has stopped short of acting on this. In a recent speech where he blasted Western interference in Iran, he urged patience and caution in dealing with Musavi, saying something along the lines of ‘our friends should not be treated like our enemies just because they make a mistake’. With Musavi’s recent statement emphasizing opposition ‘within the legal mandate’ Khamenei will likely not risk provoking more protests by arresting or trying Musavi. This could all change if Musavi escalates the opposition again and calls for protests, or perhaps takes bold steps such as trying to join a gathering or protest, but he seems to be planning for the long run, as evidenced by desire made last week in one of his statements to form a political party to continue the opposition.
* Arrests and detentions: news is now starting to seep out about harsh treatment and torture of people inside Iran’s prisons. For the most part people have unable to contact their families—groups of mothers and wives have been assembling outside the infamous Evin prison to ask about their sons and husbands—but the reports that have come out are quite gruesome. People have been subjected to psychological pressure like sleep deprivation, sensory techniques and mock executions, and physical torture like being hung upside down and whipped, having nails pulled out, and other tactics that have unfortunately become commonplace inside Iran’s prison facilities. I read a few stories reporting that six people had been executed several days ago, but I haven’t seen that confirmed yet in any Western or state-run press. There are still some prominent opposition leaders in prison, such as Saeed Hajarian, who as I said in an earlier emails, was left partially paralyzed after a failed assassination attempt against him in the 90s. Iran’s national police chief said 1032 people had been arrested, but a human rights NGOs thinks the number of current detainees is around 2,000. There have also been further televised ‘confessions’ where people say they were influenced by Western media like the BBC or Radio Farda, or were agents of the exile group MeK. I should also note that in the face of mounting eyewitness accounts and picture/video proof of violence on the part of Iranian security forces, the regime blamed this on vigilantes who stole uniforms and disguised themselves as members of the basij. In other words, the basiji in those pictures and videos weren’t real basij. Lastly, one regime member (I forget who) said that they were working with Interpol for a warrant to arrest the doctor who tried to help save Neda. (He has since fled to England and spoke out against what he saw there, including the circumstances around Neda’s shooting). A spokesman with Interpol, though, said they had received no such request from Iran and were not at all involved in arresting the doctor.
* What’s next? The next three days are an official religious holiday, and the opposition, similar to what it did last Sunday with the gathering at the mosque in northern Tehran, is trying to piggy-back on top of this holiday and turn legally permitted gatherings into their own. The opposition, Musavi included, also asked people to go on strike during these three days to show their support for the opposition. This is a rather clever move on their part, since the way this holiday is observed is mainly by people staying home and using the time for silent prayer or meditation. This way people can ‘strike’ without subjecting themselves to the response of the regime. On top of this, the regime has for years (with limited success) urged people to honor this holiday through silent prayer and other such actions, so in emphasizing this the opposition can further claim it is not anti-Islam or anti-regime. On the other hand, the choice of the strike on a day when everything is supposed to be closed raises the question “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around…..?” For their part, the opposition also said people can take more visible part in the strike by shunning commercial centers and even withdrawing money from banks. Given the nature of the holiday it would be difficult for the opposition to claim victory if everyone is at home, but this is a good way to continue to get people involved through ways other than street protests, especially given wave of repression the regime unleashed on the protestors after Khamenei’s Friday sermon.
* Two final notes about the three day holiday. State media announced the closure of government offices and other such services because of high levels of ‘air pollution’ in Iran. This sounded extremely suspect at first, but right now in Tehran the air is filled with dust from extremely strong winds coming from the West of the country. Somehow the sand from the deserts of Iraq and Saudi Arabia have made it over the mountains that surround most of Iran and is now blowing around the plateau on which most of Iran sits. Given the odd weather conditions in Tehran, it will be even harder for the opposition to claim a successful strike. Lastly, the final day of this three day holiday is the 18th of the month of Tir. I’ve mentioned this in previous emails, but this day marks the anniversary of the regime’s brutal repression of the student movement back in 1999. At the time the five-day protests leading up to the 19th of tir (July 9th) were the largest in Iran since the revolution, and hundreds, if not thousands, of students were arrested after security forces raided and attacked students in their dormitories. This Thursday will be the 10 year anniversary of these protests, and the security forces will be present in even greater numbers than other years. In fact, the regime seems to already be gearing up for them. After several days of SMS service being restored, it’s back down again, and I suspect will be—as well as internet service—in the coming few days.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

New Author pages for Lang, Szymaszek, Darragh, & Elrick at Penn Sound.

Iran Update: Wednesday, July 1st

As always, feel free to send or post this, but please omit my name and email.

> By now you’ve probably all seen the two most important developments since last Friday—Rafsanjani finally speaking in public and the Guardian Council officially endorsing the election results—but I still want to include some other, less-reported updates from the past few days, and of course to talk about the major two events.
> * Rafsanjani speaks: after close to two weeks of silence and endless speculation and rumors about what he was doing in Qom, Rafsanjani finally appeared and made his first public remarks. Speaking to parliament Rafsanjani gave muted praise for Khamenei’s decision to grant the Guardian Council a five day extension, and also stated that he hoped the GC would carefully study the complaints of irregularities brought to them. On the other hand, he repeated the usual regime canard that the events after the election were the work of foreign conspiracies aimed at dividing the people. Specifically, he said “The recent events were a complex plot by suspicious elements that wanted to create a gap between people and the establishment and was aimed at people to lose their confidence in the establishment,” and somewhat cryptically, “whenever people have entered the scene such plots have been neutralized.” I’ve read a few pieces saying that he caved to Khamenei, but I don’t believe this to be the case. He praised a decision by the Supreme Leader and not the Supreme Leader himself, and the decision of course was one of (limited) concession to the opposition. Those that were hoping for a full-blown critique of Khamenei were surely disappointed, but this was never going to happen in the first case. Rafsanjani has been one of the most powerful men in the Islamic Republic for its three decades of existence, and he has maintained his stature through careful and calculating alliances, not by publicly confronting people in such positions as the Supreme Leader. He’s been charged as being an opportunist—indeed, he is only recently an ally, and barely one at that, to reformists—and it would be naïve to think he would make such a bold and risky move as to come out publicly against Khamenei. We may never know what he was doing in Qom—or if he was even there—but if he was in fact trying to rally clerical support to get the Assembly of Experts to replace Khamenei as Supreme Leader, his speech to parliament shows that he clearly failed in this. He would only have come down on the side of the opposition if he was sure that would be the winning side. I hope my previous emails didn’t give the sense that an impending clerical coup was on the horizon, but until we know more about what happened in Qom during these two weeks it’s hard to tell how close, if at all, such an event may have been.
> * Guardian Council approves election: in a much less surprising move, the other day the Guardian council officially approved the results of the election. I’m not sure what the purpose of that five day extension was other than to bide time and hope to outlast popular momentum, as even on Sunday spokesman said to state tv “We have had no fraud in any presidential election and this one was the cleanest election we have had.” On Friday they proposed establishing a special commission of six people of their choosing, plus representatives from the losing candidates, for a recount of 10% of the ballots, possibly to be broadcast live on TV, but Karrubi and Musavi both rejected this. In the end the GC went ahead with without the opposition participating and conducted a recount of 10% of votes coming from all of Tehran’s 22 electoral districts, as well as other outlying provinces. The one surprise that did come from this was that the recount found that Ahmadinejad’s vote was actually slightly higher that Musavi’s. Finally, I can’t vouch for the veracity of this since my Persian is not very good, but people are now pointing to pictures of ballots—taken during the recount—published on Iranian state media showing “Ahmadinejad” written with the same handwriting on various ballots. Rezaiis spokesman actually complained about this as well, but I’m skeptical that the election rigging took place at this level of voting rather than at the counting and reporting level. Perhaps these ballots were created afterwards for the 10% ‘random’ recount, but again, my Persian isn’t good enough to match handwriting.
> * Small Protests: in the past several days protests continued to wane, but there were a few notable ones that are worth mentioning. Voice of America reported that on Friday around 13,000 people met at Behesht-e Zahra cemetery (the largest cemetery in Iran) to grieve, but they were quickly dispersed. As I said before, many of the large protests that led up to the revolution of 1979 started off as mournings or funeral processions, so the regime is determined not to let these repeat themselves. Sunday was a holiday in Iran, commemorating the deaths of around 72 (I believe) people who died in a bombing in the early days of the revolution (among those killed was a very high-ranking cleric, Ayatollah Beheshti). Ceremonies and events were planned to remember this day, and protestors cleverly tried to take advantage of pre-existing legal rallies and turn them into their own. They planned on meeting at a mosque in the north of Tehran where a ceremony was being legally held, and according to the reports I saw there were about 3,000 people there, many of them in green and holding their fingers in a “V.” Musavi was prevented from attending but spoke to the crowd through a cell phone held up to a loudspeaker, but his wife, Karrubi, and both Rafsanjani’s daughter and wife were there, as well as several other prominent reformists. They succeeded in marching for 10 minutes down a large street in Tehran but were eventually dispersed by riot police and basijis. If you’d like to see a video from inside the mosque when people were gathering before starting their march you can see it here: Finally, people planned to form a human chain on Tuesday but this was quickly broken up. I’m sure there were other gatherings and incidents with security forces, but these are some of the major ones I read about. Security forces were out in droves once the GC made their announcement to prevent any sort of gathering from taking places, and I expect this type of tactic to continue whenever the regime makes a decision that might spark a protest. Also, I should say that that the Iranian calendar is filled with holidays like the one this past Sunday, and I expect the opposition to continue to use these to try to hold further events. It’s clear permits for demonstrations will not be approved, so the opposition will have to use and try to co-opt pre-existing ones.
> * The arrested: with much of the media basically writing off Iran’s protests and putting them below issues such as the nuclear program, it’s worrying that the fate of all those arrested will now go unnoticed. I suspect it will take even longer to figure out just how many people have been arrested in these two weeks, but one French human rights NGO is reporting that the number could be as high as 3,000. Thankfully all but one of those arrested a few days ago from Musavi’s campaign headquarters/newspaper have been arrested, but many more remain in prison. I’d written before that members of parliament and the security forces had made public statements that Musavi should be found criminally liable for the violence, that those arrested should be punished severely, and other such sentiments, and it looks like the regime is planning to deal with those it has or will arrest brutally. For example, on Friday the hardline cleric Ahmed Khatami (not to be confused with the reformist president Khatami) gave the Friday sermon at Tehran University and said "I want the judiciary to punish leading rioters firmly and without showing any mercy to teach everyone a lesson." Khatami isn’t a particularly high-profile cleric—in fact, in the past several days more high-ranking clerics like Grand Ayatollah Shirazi, Grand Ayatollah Zanjani, and Ayatollah Ardebili urged leniency with protestors—but Khatami is a member of the Assembly of Experts, and went as far as to say that some of the protestors could be tried for mohareb crimes, or crimes against God, which is punishable by execution. The intelligence minister said that those who have been arrested are divided into three camps: 1) those caught up in the atmosphere of protests who have already been released, 2) those who took part in and organized these protests, who will be released in due time, and 3) anti-revolutionary forces, who they have no plans yet to release. I’m still trying to find out more information on the special court they have established to deal with such detainees, but apparently they have appointed Saeed Mortazavi to be the lead prosecutor for these. Mortazavi is known as the ‘butcher of the press’ for the dozens of newspapers he shut down in the 90s when Khatami first came to power. More worrying is the treatment and threats imprisoned journalists underwent during that time, which some people say came from Mortazavi himself.

> I know I usually have more bullet points and themes in my updates, but news, and even reliable twitter updates, have been lacking in the past few days. What I’ve said above is mostly what happened in the last few days, but I’d like to write out separately what I think the implications of all of this is. Not just the implications of the last 4 days, but the last two weeks. I’ve tried to include these in each email, but with Rafsanjani’s public remarks, the GC’s decision, and the regime’s brutal quashing of protests, it now seems apparent Ahmadinejad will serve a second term as president. As I’ll write tomorrow I do not see this as the end but rather the beginning of a longer and more gradual process. Something like Musavi’s arrest could yet spark a huge event, but with most of the major questions decided it’s more important to focus on “what now?” rather than “what happened?” With that said, if you have any questions about anything feel free to shoot me an email.

Monday, June 29, 2009


WHEN: June 30, 7PM
WHO: You will be shocked. 25 poets* and The Village Zendo, mezzo John Kelly, dancer Christine Elmo and five cohorts and a to-be-revealed number of kids from PS 4 & The Poetry Club directed by Christine Hou with a consult from Julie Patton and finally a life drawing group from Brooklyn known as F>A>R>T>S (Friends of the Fine Arts).

You are encouraged to dress in your hot weather finery, and wander across the Audbon Plaza (where Audbon’s House once stood) and marvel at the power of silent art as it mingles its forces with the city. Afterwards, cool drinks & talk.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Iran Update (Thursday, June 25th)

* Protest and strike update: unfortunately there’s less and less news out of Iran, and today I couldn’t find very much written about sizes or planned protests or strikes. Until a few days ago, today was supposed to be a national day of mourning, but after some confusion this has been postponed to an undetermined time next week. I saw some plans to hold demonstrations in public squares in Iran earlier today, but so far haven’t read any stories about it or seen any pictures or videos. However, given the spontaneous nature of most of the protests in the last few days I wouldn’t be surprised if there were smaller demonstrations and clashes with security forces today. In fact, there was some good footage of yesterday’s protests that emerged only today, so perhaps there will more of that from today’s events later on. Sadly the footage showed that the regime’s crackdown is becoming even more intense, and these types of tactics are surely discouraging people from coming into the streets. Regarding the national strike, I wrote yesterday that it didn’t seem to have much success in Tehran—largely because the word isn’t getting out with communication restrictions, and isn’t emanating from opposition leaders—but there were some pictures that I saw that purportedly showed a Shiraz bazaar on strike. There are plans tomorrow for people in Iran and worldwide to release green balloons into the air, but given that it’s Friday and time for the regime’s weekly sermons, I wouldn’t expect any large protests.
* Opposition leaders update: Musavi still hasn’t been seen in a week, but today he issued a strongly-worded statement again decrying the election results and saying people should continue their peaceful protests. For a sense of the tone of his letter, here’s one particularly pointed portion: “There is strong syndicated electoral mafia in Iran that has interfered and changed the results of the elections. We must locate the cancerous leadership of this syndicate and destroy it.” A semi-official hardline newspaper (unfortunately their English service has been down for several days), reported that Musavi and Rafsanjani met with members of parliament, but the article gave no details of the meeting other than that they discussed “election and current development.” Still no word from Rafsanjani, though, or any confirmed reports about where he is and what he’s doing. It may not be correct to put this under the ‘opposition leaders update’ heading, but 105 of the 290 members of parliament didn’t attend a dinner held by Ahmadinejad to celebrate his electoral victory. Among these was Ali Larijani, who is now being attacked and threatened with impeachment by some pro-Ahmadinejad MPs. Additionally, I said yesterday that nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi said she would defend Neda’s family in court. Well, today she was under attack by some female lawyers and academics who wrote to the Judiciary saying that her legal permit should be revoked. This isn’t anything new for Shirin Ebadi—her office has been closed down, members arrested, etc—so I wouldn’t expect this to deter her from her work. In a bit of good news, there are reports that all but 4 of the university professors who were arrested the other day have been released.
* Neda: the doctor who was trying to save her life made it to the UK successfully and sat down for a long interview with the BBC. If you’d like to read it or listen to the whole thing you can find it here: Iran’s ambassador to Mexico was interviewed by CNN and claimed that the CIA could be behind her killing. Yet another example of the regime blaming protests and violence on foreign powers and ‘terrorists.’
* Legal Update: the spokesman of the Guardian Council said on state TV that there were no major irregularities in the election, and that they will publish their final official report at the end of the 5-day extension. It’s still strange that the GC was given the 5-day extension in the first place given that there’s very little chance that they wouldn’t endorse the results, but again the regime may have been trying to bide time and encourage Musavi to continue to express his grievances through legal channels while hoping the street protests would die down. There are new rumors, though, that a compromise is being sought whereby Musavi and Ahmadinejad would have a run-off election. I haven’t seen any details of this and remain skeptical, but it would be somewhat of a face-saving compromise, since the GC could say that it found irregularities in X amounts of votes (it’s already admitted to 3 million), which, when subtracted from the initial total, would reduce Ahmadinejad’s percentage to below 50%. According to the rumor that’s what Rafsanjani is now pressing for with members of the Assembly of Experts in Qom, but they don’t have any direct influence on the GC—they’d need to pressure Khamenei directly about this, who would then pressure the GC about this compromise.
* Distract and Awe: Two quick items that give a good indication about how the regime is dealing with the recent events in the media. I’ve mentioned before that they’ve both downplayed the events and blamed them on foreigner powers or terrorists, but they’re also trying to keep people distracted through entertainment. The government doesn’t allow many Western films to play on state TV, but starting today one station has begun a Lord of the Rings marathon that aired at peak times during the day when people might go out to protest. I don’t want to attach too much importance to this, since obviously this doesn’t have much of an affect on the people who have been out there every day, but it they are probably trying to distract people on the fence or just keep people inside so groups and gatherings don’t accidentally form. Also, I failed to mention this before, but a few days ago Iran started military exercises in the Persian Gulf, and are also claiming to have tested some new missiles. This is being carried on state TV where they say the state is demonstrating its power and will not back down in the face of foreign meddling.
* Women: I’m mad at myself for waiting so long to write about this, but to be honest, after reading so much about Iran and studying it for so long, I just took for granted that women would of course be on the frontlines of the protests, just as they have been for years. Still, it’s amazing that in the face of such brutal tactics employed by security forces against protestors, women are still in the streets taking part in and leading these protests. There was a great story from one of the protestors who talked about a scuffle they had with a group a basijis a few days ago, and when things escalated the group protesting started running away. He looked back and saw several women standing firm in their place, yelling at the basijis. Given what happened to Neda, women are just as at risk as men are during these protests. I could write about this for much longer, but I cannot underscore how untrue the stereotypes of repressed, passive Iranian women are. They make up around 60% of the university population, and are among the most active members of civil society and NGOs throughout Iran. The 1,000,000 signatures campaign they launched a few years ago—they’re trying to get a million signatures from people to present to the government to overturn gender discriminatory laws—is probably the most well-organized and widespread civil society initiative in all of Iran. Members of this campaign have been harassed and imprisoned, yet they have refused to be intimidated and have carried on their work, so it’s no surprise they’re on the front lines of the current protests.
* Finally, a must read by BBC correspondent who was in Iran for over a week before the elections where he talks about befriending a few Revolutionary Guards, among other things:
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Iran update Wed 6/24

* Waning but continued protests: a protest was planned for today at 4 PM in a public square near the parliament, but there was some confusion heading into this as to whether it was sponsored by Musavi and whether he would appear there. As evidence of just how difficult it has been for Musavi to communicate effectively with the opposition since Khamenei’s Friday sermon, his website may have been hacked into and for a short time issued a statement telling people not to show up. Regardless, a few thousand—the numbers are almost impossible to verify now—showed up and were quickly attacked and dispersed by basijis and plain-clothes officers. From the reports and statements I have read the violence here was quite bad, with one person possibly being killed, and many others beaten with batons and arrested. One Iranian managed to speak to CNN about what has happened in rallies like today, which you can listen to here: Yesterday I wrote that there was some planning for a national strike, but that did not materialize today, partly because is has not been officially called for by people like Musavi or Montazeri. Instead, there are calls for public mourning that could act as de facto national strikes by figures such as these, or statements like ‘if I am arrested, the nation should strike,’ but still no explicit calls to escalate things to this level. I’m not sure if this is because they are still hoping for some sort of compromise or legal settlement, or because they lack the political will to move things to the next level, but what is clear is that since the crackdown after Khamenei’s Friday sermon Iran has been, in the words of Musavi’s wife, under ‘martial law’ and large protests and demonstrations have been prevented. The calls for a national day of mourning for those killed so far during these protests has also been postponed to next week, but like in previous days I expect people will independently organize the same types of smaller demonstrations they have been. With that said, the chants of ‘Allah-u akbar’ are still going on every night—some people say they get louder with each day—and it’s unclear what will happen in the Iranian streets once security forces are pulled back (their presence now is simply unsustainable for a long period of time).
* Opposition leaders update: the regime’s strategy of weakening Musavi’s power by depriving him of his top advisors and leaders continued today when his main legal advisor was arrested, as well as around 70 university professors who had been meeting with or connected to Musavi. On top of this, a newspaper and campaign headquarters aligned with him was raided last night and most of its staff arrested. Musavi himself remains under de facto house arrest and is only able to issue short, period statements on his website. Karrubi, though, issued another statement decrying the election results where he called the government ‘illegitimate.’ Although he fared much worse than Musavi in this election, Karrubi has actually been more outspoken recently, though this could be because the regime doesn’t see him as large as a threat and is allowing him more leeway. The 4th loser of the presidential election, Rezaii, officially dropped his complaints about the election today. I wouldn’t take this as that large a blow to the opposition, since Rezaii was always the conservative alternative to Ahmadinejad anyway, and only very accidentally in the opposition, but it was an advantage for the opposition to have someone like him tentatively allied with them, however loosely it was. Lastly, there were two more people who spoke up in support of the opposition today that are worth mentioning. The first is Abdullah Noori, a reformist cleric and former ministry of the interior in Khatami’s administration, who issued a statement in support of the protestors’ rights to demonstrate peacefully. The second, the current mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Qalibaf, is a moderate conservative who people were speculating would be the conservative alternative to Ahmadinejad in this election—he has been critical and a rival of Ahmadinejad for several years now—who didn’t necessarily speak out against the election results but did say that permits should be issued for protests and demonstrations so violence would be avoided. I haven’t seen anything aside from unconfirmed rumors of Rafsanjani and his possible statement on Friday, but it’s likely he’s still in Qom working behind the scenes.
* Khamenei digs in: today Khamenei spoke to the parliament and reiterated his hard-line stance against the protestors, saying that “The security of the nation and the will of the faithful people of the Islamic Republic will not bend under pressure.” I imagine he will echo similar sentiments in his Friday sermon. It’s important to note here that Khamenei and other powerful members of the regime have personal experience managing and dealing with social unrest, not just during the existence of the Islamic Republic but dating back to the days of the Shah. They were themselves active in the protests and movement that brought down the Shah, and learned first-hand the lessons of how to manage such things. They saw how the Shah’s gradual compromise and weakening stance in dealing with the movement against him ultimately led to his downfall, and they are not going to repeat it. I know that I’m as guilty as anyone else of speculating that Khamenei might have entertained some sort of regime-saving compromise by ‘throwing Ahmadinejad under the bus,’ but it’s becoming increasingly clear that he’s just going to stick with the hard-line tactics and dig his heels in. If some sort of compromise or bargain with the opposition comes—and the possibility of this is becoming slimmer and slimmer—I don’t see it coming from him but from elsewhere, like the Assembly of Experts. On another note, the types of statements about Musavi on state TV I mentioned yesterday gained ground in the parliament. The head of the parliament’s judicial committee raised the possibility of legal action against Musavi and said that he could be held criminally responsible for the violence and damage that has come out of the recent unrest.
* Neda: state TV is claiming that Neda’s murder was staged to make the regime look bad, and was the work of the MeK/MKO. Sadly, her family no longer lives at their old home and apparently have been forced to move out of Tehran. The doctor who was trying to save her in the video has also fled from Iran, and sent an email to a friend that was posted on the web giving his flight information and saying that if he is not at the London airport at the scheduled arrival time ‘something has happened’. On a more encouraging note, Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Prize winning human rights lawyer said that she would represent Neda’s family in court.
* International reaction: by now most people have probably seen Obama’s recent statements on Iran where he issued his harshest denunciation yet of the recent violence in Iran. Ban Ki-Moon also issued a statement where he expressed worries about the level of violence, which I know many activists inside Iran were hoping for, as this type of high-ranking, international statement (especially not one from America, which can be twisted to the regime’s liking) helps their cause. Obviously I wouldn’t expect the GA or UNSC to issue any sort of statements about the violence, but Moon’s is a good start. I should also not that Iran expelled 2 British diplomats and are reportedly now contemplating downgrading their ties with the UK. State TV is continuing to blame the BBC (and Voice of America) for instigating protests, and has even aired ‘confessions’ by Iranians who claim they were inspired to do so from these media sources. Lastly, the US had made the unprecedented step of inviting Iranian diplomats in foreign countries to July 4th celebrations, but that has now been rescinded (although no Iranian diplomats had actually taken the US up on this offer).
* What’s next: with media and access in Iran so restricted and people like Musavi kept virtually incommunicado it’s difficult to make any predictions about where the protests are headed. My update today may have seemed more pessimistic than previous days, but that’s largely because the regime has succeeded in silencing leaders like Musavi without any drastic, protest-provoking action like arresting him, as well as the security forces brutal tactics in suppressing and preventing any large gathering from happening. Although Musavi was in a sense always playing ‘catch up’ (which he even acknowledged) to the opposition and was never a driving leader of this, without a clear leader or figurehead, however accidental, to rally around, call for demonstrations and speak at large rallies, it’s extremely difficult for this movement to maintain momentum. Still, it’s a testament to the opposition that they continue to function on their own without clear central leadership and are still going into the streets despite the regime’s brutality. With that said, given the regime’s success in preventing further massive demonstrations with the heavy security presence, I think the next step for the opposition on the streets would need to be a national strike or large-scale civil disobedience. In order for this to happen, though, people like Musavi, Khatami, Karrubi, or Montazeri will need to explicitly call for one. We’ll see what happens in the next few days and how the regime treats Musavi—for example, if they make good on the threats floated around that he could be arrested—but for now they seem content to pressure him by taking out his support system and stall for time, hoping the opposition will lose momentum. What’s missing from this analysis, though, is Rafsanjani. Some Iranians friends who I’ve spoken to are very skeptical about the success he will have with the Assembly of Experts and despite his leading role within this body, still view the assembly as a Khamenei proxy. I still think it’s telling that they haven’t issued any collective statement thus far, and that Rafsanjani is still mysterious working behind the scenes, but it would be an unprecedented move for them to actually remove the Supreme Leader. Regardless, as one commentator who knows much more about Iran than me has said, this will be a marathon, not a sprint.
* Lastly, I wanted to direct your attention to two fascinating pieces. The first is a really interesting interview with pro-Ahmadinejad cleric. Read the whole thing, but he really expressed the sentiment given by state TV, and interestingly hasn’t heard about some news like Larijani’s criticism of the GC and statement by Montazeri. I link to this not to point out the laughable opinions of one side, but really to show the kind of obstacles and ideas the opposition has to take into account: Second is an account of a 17-year old’s arrest and torture during the recent unrest, and there are quite graphic pictures that accompany this story. The tactics he describes are consistent with accounts from political prisoners and activists I’ve read or heard of from their experiences in prison before the election protests, so this is unfortunately common practice: