An Ode to NYC: Poetry and Prose from Beirut to Brooklyn



we are very pleased to present this evening of poetry two of our poets our alums so we're especially proud and happy to have them participate and to to be a part of this production our first alum who is Muhammad who died Muhammad is a writer poet culture producer born and raised in Beirut he is the co-founder of le f da and of poets literary circle that was founded in 2011 he hosts of literary events directed writers workshops in Beirut he's been featured in numerous forums and art platforms including TEDx Bowery Poetry Club and Nuyorican poets cafe MoMA Psi and Lincoln Center very impressive his first collection of Lebanese colloquial poems of shewhart II was published in 2013 he says he's been stranded between Beirut and Brooklyn for some time now he is currently working diligently on his PhD at City University of New York which is where I first met him now Tina fish is a Levis Lebanese Palestinian poet and storyteller and she merges global experiences insights and languages into innovative rhyme she has been featured in digital publications like the seventh wave published in various anthologies most notably nowhere near a damn rainbow unsanctioned writing from the Middle East Tina currently lives and works here in New York City and were happy that she's here could be with us tonight and our third poet is our second alum awesome buzzy he earned a BA in English literature from Hawaii he's the founding member of allí esta poetry circle he's a performer in Haven for the Arts poetic license poetry pot and others he has been contributing to the poetry performance scene in Beirut since the summer of 2011 he recently relocated to New York where he's currently pursuing a master's degree at NYU he has published a poem in the literary art magazine rusted radishes and contributed to the literary travel guidebook Beirut guide for Beirut ease his interest ranged from nighttime adventures wonder what that means to poetry and literature in general performing with poetry groups in street corners local bars and sometimes theater stages and rate here at Lau this performance is the inaugural performance of Li ofte in New York City the author is a literary circle slash band of poets that was founded in Beirut in 2011 predominantly a platform for literary experimentation and performance the oft I has been a platform for interdisciplinary or artistic collaborations I usually introduced on the Aufbau with poems but I'm also trying to read in English right now so please bear with me so through its open writers workshop it was a space for young writers and poets to express and develop within a supportive community and it's unconventional events pushed the boundaries of available spaces for expression in Beirut we used to do sidewalk sessions pop-up protest poetry readings on the sidewalks bar jams or used to call bar brawls traveling wagon performances coffee shop stages and it featured an eclectic group of painters sculptors musicians and visual and installation artists throughout this time with time it grew out to become a transnational deterrent network linking young writers and culture producers in New York London Beirut and beyond the after transcended the spatial boundaries of Beirut to become a larger network of friends who share similar histories and whose trajectories away from each other still feed a collective history off a generation of Beirut is turned into international Wanderers let's put it at that so for years we've been trying to figure out ways to keep our project running and we've recently began seriously considering this kind of transnational framework feel free to address me you wanted to talk about loft or how you could support or how you could participate it's still going so without further ado let me again introduce awesome and read the description that I actually have read in front of me right here but I have two words about Awesome as a founding member awfully often as a dear friend and colleague of mine my awesome is one of the truest voices of our generation at least to me I personally call him Armageddon because he sounds like death sometimes please welcome to the stage mr. awesome I got you guys here for 15 minutes good luck alright first poem what remains in Madison my face is broken in the bar a mirror a few bottles are missing bars fill up stools are occupied and left warm my face stays in the broken mirror he talks she rambles he boasts the playlist changes the mood fluctuates my stool remains occupied the sidewalks get trashed and cleaned up the bartenders and owners leave and come back the broken remains she flirts he grins they dance happy hour is over the last call is upon us all fists fly makeup is ruined puke is flushed down the cars drive by parking leaving being emptied or filled the sirens intensify and leave the smoke remains the libations remain the night remains visible or not hidden under the early Sun the butcher's knife the feet of innocent school children the fast pace of daily hustles seen in the eyes of the anticipators the board the dreamers and my eyes I see what remains the night that belongs to us the failures the glorious victories loud indiscretions and toilets drunken escapades sober anxieties nicotine stains on lips paid and unpaid tabs drowned lovers helpless friends intoxicated text improvised rooftops unadvised joyrides whispered gatherings proclaimed house parties bruised knuckles broken glasses the gutters Owen flowing The Forgotten smiles spilled drinks the stolen kissed the first glance the lobotomizing shot egos that rise and fall lonely walks under the moonlight stolen moments unheard music and performances depression and euphoria the annoying and pleasant the newcomers and old squatters the shared saliva and tears the sister and brother the invisible wings on their shoulders the cabin remains the citizen remains the brick remains the tales remains the hole remains the twelve remains the Li Beirut remains I remain so does the empty drink that houses the grandfather's broken ideology the hollow sounds of marching beggar kids the ashes of a dead brother sanctifying the pavements the broken wailing hearts the evaporated rain of sorrowful winters the empty lies of golden beds brought by silver tongues the echo of music muted by time the bitter nostalgia du unifying Cheers and I drink it whole no ice while they come and go while they joke and sing along while they forget the broken mirror remains and my flesh remains in it along with those whose presence broke it along with those that made it worth remembering the profit that left the lady in the East the supposed spy the undecided lover the aspiring poets the vengeful friend the cigarette thief the coke fiend the liar the ones I could not save my shadow my regrets my empty beds chairs couches stairs sidewalks kept for my sleep my children my burial and my death my broken carcass shall remain spread across a street that allowed it to live a street called Madison where D approved and denied remain where the holy and demonic remain were everything and everything else remains sorry about that okay two more poems all right this one's closer it's called becoming the Rat King mobs of individuals streams metallic waters into the entrances of Underground's each with card in hand each with payment in hand with Karen awaiting by metal poles into the white halls they're created with distractions adorned with names of destinations populated by pneumatics illuminated by spent taxes where patience is taught where time is out of hands where your feet won't take you far into the ayran fairies into the sculpted serpents we go through the rail tunnels through the planted tracks we languish under the feet of the many under the tires of raging cabs under the gardens filled with the homeless under the ascending granite man-made mountains and there the smog of my inhaling and coughing beyond the eyes of any God we are moved to any destination within our expanding city as above so below within our expanding under city where the dead are disturbed where the living are herded to waking graves the Undercity mapped out with colored schemed lines mapped out within the knowledge of the old mapped out on to the phones of the young the Undercity stacked with the notions of the weary eyed taking on shapes of personal nightmares accommodating the funeral of innocence under constant reconstruction under constant surveillance under the Khan don't hum replacing that of the old miners whistle under the domain of the Rat King the Rat King the one that snuffed out old throne cigarette the one hiding from the neon the one nursing a headache a king propelled by his people a king with all and none of the lovers the nightly observer of passengers and sleepers the daily commuter and residence holder the man with his spot on the bar the lone shark that presides over the fights the the lady not allowed into McDonald's the kid that lost a mother and rushed adventurer the well-off frat brothers singing the night away the Esquire Times post and Twitter readers and myself further and further we continue where the rats build their own neighborhoods where I am elected as their King as I go further down the tunnels as I lose the signal to the upper round as I forget the faces of former lives faces of lovers being replaced by cold marble voices of parents being replaced by the snores of sleeping drunks hands of the grandfather being replaced by the steel my thoughts by the muffled announcements further and further all of us becoming the Rat King in the world on her ground the place that I go to still echoing the resting bones resting bones that labored resting bones that constructed resting bones that ached from forgotten avenues to fill streets from the heart of Manhattan to the suburbs of Jersey and beyond towards another coast so bow down kneel and a flaming litter read the statistics of the injured and dead and hail to yourselves the surviving nightly Chiefs daily silent preachers listeners of bums observers of crack so mash payers to the messages on the walls proclaimed children of modern infrastructure us the Rat King the overseers of vermin wardens of mobile prison prisoners of momentary lighting evaders of topside traffic doomed inheritors of history's weight carried solely by the corpse of Atlas whose last breath formed the crust we penetrates whose last words were misheard and sidelined whose eyes remain open whose chest wounds reveal no heart whose position was replaced by the understanding of gravity who's killing thieved us of bedtime stories which we trample over without care in the ever-present rush to return top side along with Homeric heroes of old whose names are scribbled in the footnotes the Homeric heroes who went to and left Tartarus who seduced the guarding dogs who fought with swords and liars who would return as the benches we limbo on who failed and bestowed us the failures who remain as we remain crowned with laurels nailed to our struggling temples grounding us beneath the Sun and Moon bounding us to the mazes of our Undercity endless night with infolding cities temporary people sang preceding the coming fires temporary people held each other preceding the coming winds I lie awake anticipating we now lie still in the aftermath three women whom I loved are preserved on the walls in the alleys where suicide as a mercy their eyes are raised their gaze engraved and the memories of all who are gone all greenery is gone all breathers have disappeared bricks blocks granite metal the mausoleum meant for my eyes the inheritance for a world where my whisper reaches no ears nor escapes my mouth no aloud laughter nor solemn cries and Subway carts no mountain climbers to invade rooftop festivities no carpenters to construct the library housing and complete knowledge no lone Rover to drive with speed across vacant highways dedicated to the habitual sacrifice of rodents the cabs have rusted away along with the coming passengers Billy's songs are played no more the moon is alone without the kiss to celebrate its presence without the howl to mark courageous forgotten acts a submarine lies all hollowed out on a tip of a hill the roading away nothing is left to breathe in any perfume or the products of exhaust pipes nothing is left to hear the still ringing echoes of a world gone dark blessed by endless nights for no soul to sleep in no mind to dream it away no hands to clutch it no feet to stumble across it endless night of my childhood dreams endless night of the preachers warnings Eradicator of all who worshipped your refuge and shunned it mother of all violent acts friend and Keeper of Secrets for both lovers and killers you have buried us in your embrace for no sole survivor should exist no singular face should encompass a whole civilization no heart should experience the weight of the stillness no sentient should have the misfortune to comprehend the combined corpses of all ages decomposing and scorched forests festering and uninhabited cities streets hanging from the lips of broken statues dangling with dangling with no air to blow them away no fire to finish the job no being should strive to find the remnants of a world under the cloak of my endless nights [Applause] [Applause] now where'd you go where'd you don't like failfish banal Hoshi Hoshi like it lassoed Fairuz West dismiss off a ruse unless so too icky wash washi hockey MODOK missed mmm bus map suitable Musab very back metal table MSL curb Faraday I'm at her about me a little back pick a pretty I met her through a quick observed a mirage a brave muta Ali what the hell would a Jared mother Jared mention how Lux Moomin walk I met Rashida heartily sir 7-eleven landok Arak Mossman as a bureau veritas uno an Asha balagia do a connoisseur they are tele conic Mudman a Lhasa we fed much deserved a dollar ah Hui was at Mohammed am Mac Brazel that me clear a GUI for who mentally are we why 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Raja toodle-oo 3 be safe women roof and mohr-coulomb and ricotta mean Sharon L oo oo 3 pull Nana Tata Castellano sir voila ma soeur nos Runa bill motya hey Tom Boonen will ruin our whole Munna beneficent I saw rotten halal muta bottom and orphan halal muted DD al l must not ethereal ma lam Nahuatl Lissa la mia Tina Arena know her well my first encounter with Pina was me as part of a seated audience in one of her performances in Beirut that really soon transformed into a standing ovation and I welcome her with much gratitude today to the numerous stages we've shared between Beirut in Brooklyn and New York thank you wow you said there were two Lau alumni you're right they are – I'm from AUB but I spent so much time a good background that you might as well give me my degree thank you I appreciate okay it's nice to meet you everyone and thanks for being here you know it's really hard to get around places these days right especially if you're flying a lot of us fly you know what's going on at the borders and why not with United and basically you know there are just some basic basic rules when it comes to flying right now so this poems called flight 101 dum-dum-dum ladies and gentlemen we welcome you aboard to take flight and soar into a melting pot of degradation where we file you by nation and take elation in your degrees you're angry please will reach deaf ears and no amount of tears can move our system so kindly shut sit back and listen the seatbelt is fastened such in order to crush against dignity the overhead max oxygen mask will drop if engines stop and we need to crash keep in mind the freshest air always comes last lifeboats offer the final cruise until red sharks Blues on booze on your blood and turn cellphones off because they could flood our system yeah we're not done so kindly shut up and listen the ability to lunch is an epitome simply a costly accessory hold your gut and allow us to grade some more we implore you to understand because we do not in this system you'll find no heart simply a list of policies with no end and no start all lights will be turned off for the duration of the flight tough the enlightened can switch the overhead lamp if you can reach as far as that 10 counter turbulence is a must for those who do not trust in us must be shaken and rattled after all eliminate the fight by eliminating the battle we hope you enjoy this flight and know you'll soar again soon from noon to noon we move in unison frequent fliers of this system [Applause] all right I actually really felt like I wanted to read one from mind there are some old outdated maybe once but I also wanted to give you the option so I guess in a way do you want a a poem about bata woods do you want to go back to Beirut or do you want a love poem start with hum it up particularly because you've probably spent so much time there right and I'm sure everyone has this kind of image of HMDA this memory of it but you've got your red and I've got mine to begin with ipod infiltrated signals as my feet beat up Jean d'Arc Street and sweet smells from so credit creep through alleyways and the dark when it's hot and sweat intermingles with green eyes and up high on their balconies foreigners and locals exchange ciggies and they speak of bullet infested cavities of a bullet infested cavities of late-night reveries of pouring more wine of asses so fine of what's mine theirs and ours and they'll go on for hours and hours while floors below cabs intermingle escalating traffic grime and the heart of our city comes to life what's yours is yours but what's yours is mine because every time my soul slams on these cobbled lines arrives playing in the back of my head now it disproved fact if you step on that crack you just might break your mother's back but my mother's just fine because every time I trudged up those deep broad streets I know she's under the covers fast asleep and only the alleys know my schedule of the week Abu Nazir on bliss he waits for me no pacing back and forth this relationship steady my cuppa coffee always ready but then bounce back up to cafe Yunus will Europe he'll meet your starving struggling artist sometimes even a little too artsy for me intellectualizing more theories on how life must be assured the fact is his my one response yo man why don't you put your daddy's money where your mouth is and take it to the streets for lunch hit our Broadway Boulevard our hard concrete floors our stores and stores and look at that more stores our Gucci whores and american-made our German Fodor Filipina paid our French speaking Iraqi feeling Iranian breeding Palestinian sleeping on the floor and yeah we've got more we've got a Vera Moda on four different corners we've got Vera madhai straight from Italian borders we've got people and people with money to spend and we've got twice as much people holding out their hands for a land a sow at least for a minutia from Lainie maybe a what a Tiana seed for the pretty young lady we've got brand perfumes we've got next event tickets perhaps I can satisfy you with some Syrian branch Chiclets beyond this I hear the calls of young men about ten of them sticks and chalk flying lying around she tans dangling off their lips sips of a maza that goes straight to the hips let's bet on this I said that thing's never changed that we always stay this way and we play our game but of course they win so MOCA makes room too Jack and Jones in and our eyes grow wide as this all starts to settle in in our mouse quickly welcomed the taste of evolution yeah that's the third world revolution and that was only the beginning you know coming up and things get scary yeah happy birthday and you know it's it's sometimes scary things on the outside are fun but there are scary things that happen on the inside that aren't so fun right when you need to talk to yourself and when you need to talk to yourself honestly and and people go through things and this poem is just generally about that so it's called peekaboo in all directness I've lost my voice enveloped by this irrational fear of picking up the pen thinking twice about every line as the world shifts and life materializes before our eyes we sometimes find it harder to say the things worth saying to ourselves calm that beating heart let it rest this life is Tim Ulis just ask you're disappointed teenager or backdoor rebel your biker all bruised and blue or the guy who lies to you at a habit or the girl who'll spread her legs just to make sure beds stay warm or the gross grosser whole stock brought in fruit to meet the bills or people who kill for oil for drugs were fun disappointed every last one of them and how do we fight back by puffing on our bongs by disconnecting to our palms by blasting the music on some stereo systems surround sound or 3d vision we spray paint on walls or we fall prey to whims we bet on winning three hands straight or decide we just know our fate and some of us will sit and wait for anything to happen a shatter to break apart to give birth to some black hole that'll suck it all up and spit out something anything again anything we can reshape or begin but after chaos well but after chaos comes even more chaos and with loss comes anger mounted building and enraged like raised pitchforks chasing town monsters oh the horror some of us can't bear to see it won't believe it or would try to bargain it away and not to feel the earth shake from aftershock it's too difficult to soak change up let's not tear down what was functioning fine just so we can live another lie I'm fine with mine where it rests inside a mask so well displayed that even I believe it some days why change the question that lingers on the page stumped by this fear of jumping out of comfort zones paralyzed by the thought that home isn't really where your heart is but rather the space your spirit needs to breathe and with that word change the realisation of responsibility this burden it makes this weight that we can't wait to throw off to another day maybe another time maybe could you keep your voice down lady I just after this last drink baby and I swear I'll get back to you but our world it moves too fast asks too much doesn't know when to stop drunk on its own axis either get off your asses or be swept by the tide because there's nowhere you can run and hide no matter how hard you're try you're gonna have to listen to what you already know and guess what happens when you figure that out you grow and I really wanted to write something new particularly for tonight I did yeah and I did kind of come up with something but I need your help when I point at you all you gotta say is tomorrow or when I make the gesture cuz I'm not actually gonna point I'll do it tomorrow I'll meet the day with a smile on my face I'll remember all the things I forgot yesterday I won't let anything stand in my way because I said I'll make sure I begin with the right start I won't let things in front of me get too hard even if I have to drive there no distance is too far it's too important to put off til if I swore I'd do it then I've taken my first steps hey action is easier than a life of regret which is I which I know is bound to happen if I let things pile up – yeah I'll handle every detail with care I'm sorry I forgot really I swear there were just a million other things piling up back there but my heart is in the right place and I'll prove it when I face oh is yesterday's tomorrow the tomorrow of today what difference does it make when they meet midnight anyway and here I was thinking I had all day but look at that it's already really you're the top thing in my mind I've been meaning to show you I just haven't had the time I know it's hard to believe me but I swear I'm not feeding you empty lines would it be fine if I got to back to you sometime I meant to get back to you but look at that I got distracted I had nothing to do with it it's just freaking circumstances I swear my attention is yours and nothing will be retracted or tomorrow or after tomorrow next week and a month maybe sometime this year my intentions are genuine and truly sincere just let me prove it now finally your arabic love poem I like it because my partner this is called whispering an original tongue if if whatever Lola wants Lola gets well I guess she wasn't betting on this one you did tongue in and found the crown to my queen the secret to dreams left hidden and locked beneath jars of dirty underwear and stinky socks I grew hot with the thought that you could read my mind and like what all women want could find the time now please and yes please again I found myself whispering and original tongue ballads of AHA and across the Bosporus Peninsula and into my Arabian Gulf my lips locked to Kara Fatah and Dan and on this lyrical conundrum come undone this melting pot of bilingual tongue you may have won the battle but not the war because I don't open doors to just anyone but I feel better when I have you near me when you sees me with sukoon suspended in early morning late-night spoons in bed lyrical verses of Shahrazad they lingering in my head as legs spread beneath me and bodies take form of Arabic calligraphy that leave me begging for Kira and M LA and gob because baby you can fallen Alma fall be here and this rule will last infinitely this is an eMeter I ain't no beggar I only get to my knees for my lovers I'll let that image hover in your mind until thighs are appeased with your grasp inside there's no grammatical rule you can hide from and if there is I'll find it and bind it to my multicultural dictionary and carry it with me from west to east over sno-cat valleys and sun-scorched deserts of the Middle East I'll drag my tired feet around every corner of the globe until all the tongues of the world I hold because no matter how the word changes it still feels the same just like how when you're gone pain is pain part of what Lee after does also is advocate for colleagues and writers who are not doing so well themselves among those people is I should've fired the Palestinian poet who was recently sentenced to capital punishment in Saudi Arabia that was reduced into like eight years of jail and some 800 lashes or something wacko like that but we've worked on publishing his collection of poems in English it was translated we were coordinating the publication and a colleague of ours also a member of the F da fara translated another book of his and they're both on display over there my personal copies but like feel free to look at them if you want and he's among so many people he's one example of so many poets in the Arab world or outside who were suffering from government and censorship and power and to them we pledged an oath always be true to ourselves in what we stand for and to always stare that gun in the face and in the stare that gone through the barrel and say whatever we want to say as truly as possible so we always mentioned those people when we go on stage this is just another time sorry so many people so many people and and against I yield against the our lovely regimes against everybody and not essentially political people just people who are just writing anyway that said so the same person who translated our shops book actually has worked with me on translating the excerpts from this following piece it's right there on the table feel free to grab a copy there's also the English translation that was published in La Casita by Lincoln Center there's also a couple of copies over there the stacks small ad litem it's a dedication for Miriam Homewood who's a very very dear friend of mine brilliant poet playwright and journalist who recently passed away so late latin Isabeau Medina p.m. zaboo's Medina p.m. bus – Elam shift Alomar American condemns all hell I'm hell with manure shifted Rimowa and authority no destiny bizarre me chef adjey metal bar what anime I'm tougher auto fan and be duel ahem let me see fit sofrito says I to know where we work 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