Friday, February 9, 2024

To the Lighthouse: Magical Realism in Times of Crises

Magic realism or magical realism is a "style of literary fiction and art. It paints a realistic view of the world while also adding magical elements, often blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. Fantasy traits given to characters,... help to encompass modern political realities that can be phantasmagorical." (Wikipedia: Magic Realism)

It’s because the magic in magic realism has deep roots in the real, because it grows out of the real and illuminates it in beautiful and unexpected ways.

-- Salman Rushdie

In a war situation or where violence and injustice are prevalent, "magical realist poetry" is called upon to be something more than a thing of beauty.

-- paraphrasing  Seamus Heaney

"Magical Realist poetry" is insurrection, resurrection, and insubordination -- against amnesia of every sort, against every form of oppression, dispossession and indifference. And against the drowning noise of other words. 

-- paraphrasing Anne Michaels

There comes a time when silence is betrayal... Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about THINGS THAT MATTER.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Case I: "In a war situation"

I've been publishing about the Russian invasion of Ukraine more than thirty poems, one of which was nominated by the Tanka Society of America for the Pushcart Press Competition, 2023.

However, when I started writing poems critical of the Western coverage of the Israel-Hamas War, I've been called a propagandist poet because of my use of the headlines in FYIs at the end of my poems, which were taken from the Israeli oldest and most progressive newspaper, Haaretz (founded in 1918 with an "exposure rate of, sadly, 4.7%," the "third-largest readership" in Israel, below Israel Hayom's rate of 31% and Yedioth Ahronoth's 23.9%). 

And to my great surprise, in one case of using the most Israel-friendly Canadian government's news release concerning over civilian casualties in the FYI, my haiku below was called "propaganda"

night turned into orange day
a news host laments
the most feared word, context  

Days later, I expanded this haiku into the following haiku sequence as my response to this baseless accusation:

First Casualty

a time for peace
a time for war only...
a twist to PM's mouth

remember, remember
what Amalek did  ...
fireballs burst skyward

night turned into orange day
a news host laments
the most feared word, context

police phalanx
Never Again, Never Again
for everyone 

Genocide or not?
bounced back and forth between experts ...
peace candles flicker

(FYI: The title alludes to 

The first casualty, when war comes, is truth.

Hiram Johnson (1866-1945), a Progressive Republican senator in California)

Moreover, I received a warning notice email (after Yad Vashem, Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, made its complaint) below from X, formerly known as Twitter, owned by Elon Musk, who has been accused of antisemitism MANY times,  and most importantly, who now calls himself ‘Aspirationally Jewish’ after his "Rehabilitation Tour" to the "first and only democratic country in the Middle East, Israel, accompanied by its Prime Minister" (The New York Times, Jan. 22

Your post was detected by our systems and has had its visibility limited for violating the X rules. Specifically:

We have determined your post violated our rules against Hateful Conduct.
You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.

It was all because of my response to Yad Vashem's tweet below for International Holocaust Remembrance Day:

Remember a #Holocaust victim as we approach #HolocaustMemorialDay:

Yad Vashem's #IRemember Wall is a unique & meaningful opportunity for the public to take part in an online commemorative activity ahead of #HMD2024

I posted two Headlines from Haaretz (Jan. 10 and Jan. 22)

#Haaretz, Jan.10:"50 #Holocaust Researchers" Ask #YadVashem ( "Holocaust museum" in #Jerusalem) to Condemn Israeli Public Discourse Calling for #Genocide in #Gaza

#Haaretz, Jan.22: Yad Vashem Is "SHIRKING ITS DUTY" in the Face of Israeli Genocidal Rhetoric 


BBC News, Jan. 26: ICJ genocide hearing against Israel ruling [by 17 judges] HIGHLIGHTS:

1. 15-2 The state of Israel shall take all measures to prevent the commission of genocide to Gaza

2. 15-2 The state of Israel shall ensure that the military not commit any acts of genocide

3. 16-1 Israel shall take all measures to punish all public solicitations to genocide

4. 16-1 Israel shall take immediate and effective measures to address adverse conditions to life in the Gaza Strip

5. 15-2 Israel shall take effective measures to preserve evidence of actions impacting the Genocide convention

6. 15-2 Israel shall submit to the court a report all measures taken to follow the orders of this court within one month. 

And Haaretz, Jan. 28: Israeli ICJ Judge Aharon Barak Is the Last Liberal Fig Leaf Masking Israel's Anti-liberal Reality,

Aharon Barak supported the World Court's majority position in two of the provisional measures: one instructing Israel to allow essential services and humanitarian aid to the residents of the Gaza Strip and one instructing it to take all available measures to prevent and punish incitement to genocide)

When confronted with this Relentless Character Assassination, I always keep Seamus Heaney's challenging question and last message in my heart:

...The attraction of working for the wretched of the earth was deep, moral and compelling. So what was the private lyric poet to do? Was he or she to just keep to the lyric matter of the self and beauty or was there a bigger obligation?...

Just a few minutes before Seamus Heaney  died, he sent a message, in Latin, to his wife Marie. It said simply: "Noli Timere – Don't be afraid."

However, the most frustrating thing is that in the "interest of peace," the poetry forum, where I've workshopped my poems since its first day, changed its rules to limit what kind of FYI and joshi (prefatory note as a poetic device) regarding the TRUTH about the Israel-Hamas War one, i.e. "I," could use 

I wrote the following/first Magical Realist Haibun as a Protest Poem:

Poetry Lies Its Way to the Truth

I am alongside Georgia O'Keeffe on a homemade wooden ladder, suspended from the blood moon. In the orange-tinged sky, she whispers in my ear, "Nothing is less real than realism. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things."

Staring at the smoky ruins from high above the missile ranges, I compose the following haiku:

white sand beach
miles north of a refugee camp

a Gazan's first and last
appearance on TV
bombed-out hospital

death count debate
a peace vigil stretches
into foggy night

peace protest banned again ...
my haiku blocked for life

Case II: "where violence and injustice are prevalent"

In this year of elections (4 billion people will cast a vote in over 60 countries), the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol not only finds the country in "what arguably ranks among the highest stakes political, legal and constitutional junctures in America's history," but also exerts its far-reaching influence in the November elections as well as at international level.

Game Show 2024, XXXV

After/math of the Real and the Magically Real

after shouted questions
in glaring light
to the clicking of cameras
Biden asks, what's the question?

goose-stepping phalanxes
of Trump, Trump-lites and Trump wannabes
on the campaign trail
USA! USA! their mouths open, close
devouring each other

FYI: The second tanka is the first one written in the style of magical realism.

Noli Timere – Don't be afraid! 

Keep writing your Magically Real Poetry in service of TRUTH


Added: Game Show 2024, XXXVI
a sequel to the first tanka of After/math of the Real and the Magically Real

amid the rapid
give-and-take with reporters
the President
muddles up wars, forgets names
and calls out someone, long dead

Added: Against the Drowning Noise of Other Words, XX: "hospital raid"
first haiku written in the style of magical realism

hospital raid ...
a dead man watches his blood flow
into his children's blood

FYI: CNN, Feb.16: Five patients die at Nasser hospital after Israeli raid cuts off power and leads to ‘deeply alarming’ scenes

1 comment:

  1. "The New York Times," April 21, 2014: "Magic in Service of Truth," an essay written by Salman Rushdie, accessed at

    The trouble with the term “magic realism,” el realismo mágico, is that when people say or hear it they are really hearing or saying only half of it, “magic,” without paying attention to the other half, “realism.” But if magic realism were just magic, it wouldn’t matter. It would be mere whimsy — writing in which, because anything can happen, nothing has effect. It’s because the magic in magic realism has deep roots in the real, because it grows out of the real and illuminates it in beautiful and unexpected ways, that it works. Consider this famous passage from “One Hundred Years of Solitude”:

    “As soon as José Arcadio closed the bedroom door the sound of a pistol shot echoed through the house. A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs . . . and came out in the kitchen, where Úrsula was getting ready to crack 36 eggs to make bread.

    “ ‘Holy Mother of God!’ Úrsula shouted.”

    Something utterly fantastic is happening here. A dead man’s blood acquires a purpose, almost a life of its own, and moves methodically through the streets of Macondo until it comes to rest at his mother’s feet. The blood’s behavior is “impossible,” yet the passage reads as truthful, the journey of the blood like the journey of the news of his death from the room where he shot himself to his mother’s kitchen, and its arrival at the feet of the matriarch Úrsula Iguarán reads as high tragedy: A mother learns that her son is dead. José Arcadio’s lifeblood can and must go on living until it can bring Úrsula the sad news. The real, by the addition of the magical, actually gains in dramatic and emotional force. It becomes more real, not less.