Friday, September 23, 2011


Those who debate the pros and cons of capital punishment ought to be familiar with Albert Camus’ essay “Reflections on the Guillotine” (1957), in which he argues, following De Sade, that licensing a government to commit premeditated murder is a grievous misuse of power. Maybe today this argument would be lost on Americans who relish the vigor with which our government has executed in battle tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis and other declared foes of American imperialism, and at a time when our military is committed to long-term lethal action around the world.
But Camus’ rejection of CapPun still bears on our moral selves, even after we have substituted for the brutal guillotine the sterile injection of lethal agents to kill a convict. The late Troy Davis is just the latest of a long line of death-row inmates whose legal efforts failed to save his life despite serious questions about his guilt or innocence. As Camus points out, it’s better to sentence a murderer to life at hard labor than to kill him in the event that evidence of innocence later emerges.
The U.S. is the only western-style democracy that still uses CapPun, France having joined the rest of death penalty-free Europe by abolishing it 1981. The Old Testament call for vengeance continues to motivate a majority of citizens in such states as Georgia, where Davis died on Sept. 21st, and Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry has signed off on more executions than any other governor in history.  Only 13 states have banned CapPun. The old argument that it deters murder has neither statistical support, as Camus argued about 50 years ago, nor suasive value in a nation where murder continues to be a daily occurrence and many survivors demand a life for a life.
I personally feel disgust at the way the wheels of so-called justice, sanctioned at the highest level by the Supreme Court, inexorably produce justification for the state’s administrative will to commit premeditated murder in claustral chambers where sanitized technicians of death operate like corrupt doctors in surgical garb, latex gloves, and masks, wielding hypodermic needles to snuff out the life of another human being, whether the most heinous murderer or the possibly innocent, like Troy Davis.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Book

Cervena Barva Press Announces a New Book
"After Shakespeare: Selected Sonnets"
by George Held
George Held is a teacher, translator, writer, and poet whose work has appeared in such places as The Philadelphia Inquirer, Confrontation, Notre Dame Review, New York Quarterly, and Rattle, as well as on NPR and in two dozen anthologies. A five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, he has published a book, ten chapbooks, and two e-books of poetry and edited Touched by Eros, an anthology of erotic verse. He holds a B.A. from Brown, an M.A. from University of Hawaii, and a Ph.D. from Rutgers, taught at Queens College for 37 years, was a Fulbright lecturer in Czechoslovakia (1973-76), and serves on the executive board of The South Fork Natural History Museum, Bridgehampton, NY. He lives in Greenwich Village, with his wife, Cheryl.

George Held's new collection of sonnets, After Shakespeare, is, at every turn, funny, surprising, and sharply observed. In poem after poem, Held follows Ezra Pound's injunction and "makes it new." Whether they are about Edmund Spenser on the E-train, painter Alice Neel or the Kennedy family, Held's poems delight with their music, and at the same time offer a deep wisdom. I love the way Held reinvents poetic tradition here and the way these poems, as he writes in "Discord," bring "joy beyond harmonic motion."
—Nicole Cooley
Beginning with his cheeky title (a chronological placement rather than a stylistic description) there is much to enjoy and admire in this new collection of sonnets from George Held. It is as though the awareness of his own belatedness is liberating to the poet, allowing him to explore all manner of interesting topics in a variety of sonnet forms and styles. Anyone interested in the vitality and accomplishment of the contemporary sonnet will want George Held's After Shakespeare.
—Charles Martin
To Hope
You're the thing with feathers, flying skyward
To inspire us when we lack the divine
Afflatus, lifting our spirits, like prime
Vintage or even swill like Thunderbird.
You're what springs eternal in the human
Breast, though eternity remains unproved,
Just hyperbole to cheer an unloved
One or fodder for some preacher's sermon.
But skeptical as we may be, inured
To loss of jobs and sinking stock prices,
Unfaithful friends and false mistresses,
Past the point where pride can still be injured,
Ears still prick up to your springtime twitter,
Unhibernating souls long in winter.
$15.00 | ISBN: 978-0-9831041-9-3 | 71 Pages

After Shakespeare: Selected Sonnets
Send check or money order payable to:
Cervena Barva Press
P.O. Box 440357,
W. Somerville, MA 02144-3222

Send me______copies of "After Shakespeare: Selected Sonnets "
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