Category Archives: Poetry

Music Is Powerful

“I say I survived for a reason: to tell my story. I believe that…Music is powerful. It is the only thing that can speak into your mind, your heart and your soul without your permission.”
– Emmanuel Jal

The Second Sudanese Civil War from 1983 to 2005 was one of the longest and bloodiest civil wars on record, yet it barely registered in Western media. The war resulted in the deaths of roughly two million people and the repeated displacement of over four million others in southern Sudan alone, constituting one of history’s largest refugee crises. Among the atrocities committed during the war were slavery, rapes, mutilations, mass killings, and the forced enlistment of children as soldiers by all sides.

Emmanuel Jal was one such child soldier. Born in what is now South Sudan, Jal was a young child when the civil war broke out. After his father joined the rebel army (SPLA) and his mother was killed by loyalist soldiers, Jal joined the thousands of Sudanese children travelling to Ethiopia, hoping to escape the conflict and find education and opportunity. Along the way, however, many of the children, Jal included, were forcibly recruited by the SPLA and taken to military training camps where they were taught to kill, in Jal’s words, “mercilessly and efficiently.”

For the next several years Jal and his comrades fought with the SPLA, first in Ethiopia and then back in Sudan, until the fighting and deprivations became unbearable. Jal and some of his friends ran away, and for three months they were constantly on the move, stealing food and dodging roving patrols. Eventually Jal met a British aid worker who adopted him and smuggled him to Kenya, where he attended school. It was in the slums of Nairobi that Jal became a community activist. He also discovered hip-hop and the power of the spoken word; singing and rapping became a form of therapy to ease the pain of his experiences, and his life’s course was set. Over time Jal developed a unique form of hip-hop, seemingly conventional in form but layered with African beats and sung/chanted over African-inspired choruses.

Unlike many of his American counterparts, Jal sees hip-hop as a powerful vehicle to lobby for social justice and political change in a positive manner, rather than as a method of pursuing street credibility. His raps and spoken word pieces emphasize unity and common humanity as motivators for young people and weapons in the fight against the scourges of ethnic and religious divisions, such as those that plague his homeland. This hopeful outlook, combined with his many humanitarian activities, dovetails neatly with the goals of UC San Diego’s Eleanor Roosevelt College, and marks Jal as a suitably inspirational figure to help celebrate the College’s 30th Anniversary.

His dynamic performance is by turns thought-provoking and uplifting, at times almost somber, but also leavened with humor and, yes, with fun. As Jal himself puts it, “Life without fun is no life at all,” a remarkable perspective from one who has suffered much but has refused to give in to bitterness or cynicism.

Watch From War Child to Global Citizen with Emmanuel Jal.

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New Programs from UCLA’s Distinguished Scholars

8232The biannual Faculty Research Lecture at UCLA presents the work of the university’s most distinguished scholars. Its purpose is to recognize their superb achievements, and give the campus and the greater community an opportunity to gain a new perspective on scholarly achievements and the viewpoints of the faculty honored.

Enjoy these new programs from UCLA:

8232Dead Man Talking: Lenin’s Body and Russian Politics
“Arch Getty explores details surrounding Lenin’s body which has been on public display since shortly after his death in 1924.”

8232Jorge Luis Borges on War
“Efrain Kristal explores the significance of war in the writings of Jorge Luis Borges who introduced the Spanish-speaking world to German expressionist poetry and later observed the rise of Nazism.”

8232Oncogene, Metabolism of Development, Cancer and the Little Fruit Fly That Could
“The amazing advances made in mapping the human genome don’t alter one longstanding fact: when it comes to unlocking the scientific secrets of life, fruit flies rule.”

The first UCLA Faculty Research Lecture was presented in 1925. In 1986, the program was expanded to two lectures each year: one from the natural sciences or engineering, the other from humanities, social disciplines or creative arts.

The Faculty Research Lectures have spanned the scope of new knowledge created at UCLA, including the functions of the brain, the evolution of the earth and nature, innovations in the exploration of literature and the arts, global security, landmarks in archaeological discovery, discoveries in the molecular realm, the core of our galaxy, fundamental constructs of human morality, and the Supreme Court and constitutional law.

Browse more programs from UCLA’s Faculty Research Lectures.

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Lunch Poems: Student Reading

In keeping with its history of showcasing the current landscape of poetry, Lunch Poems showcases the work of UC Berkeley’s students.

Poets taking the podium include winners of the following prizes: Academy of American Poets, Cook, Rosenberg, and Yang. Several students were also nominated to read by UC Berkeley creative writing faculty, Lunch Poems volunteers, and student publications’ representatives.

Watch “Lunch Poems: Student Readings” and it might just inspire you to write some poetry of your own!

See what other poetry programs are available on UCTV or, check out the Writers Series.

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Lunch Poems: Cathy Park Hong

Cathy Park Hong is a Korean-American writer raised in Los Angeles, who is now an associate professor at Sarah Lawrence College.

Her first book, “Translating Mo’um” was published in 2002 and won a Pushcart Prize that same year. Her second book is called “Dance Dance Revolution” and with that Hong won the Barnard Women Poets Prize. Her third book of poems was published last year and is titled “Engine Empire.”

Hong’s poetry is known for using “code-switching,” which means using the combination of words from different languages, including slang, mixed together within a story or poem.

Listen to this episode of Lunch Poems, as Hong reads one of her poems aloud at UC Berkeley.

Click here for more videos on Poetry, or check out our series on Writers.

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Poetry Spring Fling with Billy Collins and More

No foolin’…. April is National Poetry Month and we’re headlining our celebration with a delightful presentation featuring American poet Billy Collins, who reads a selection of humorous poems and discusses the craft of writing with host Dean Nelson and an appreciate audience at the keynote event of the 2013 Writer’s Symposium by the Sea.

You can watch the complete program, “An Evening with Billy Collins,” or enjoy the excerpted readings we’ve made available.

You can also browse our astounding archive of programs from past Writer’s Symposium events, going all the way back to 2000 with guests such as Otis Chandler, former publisher of the LA Times, and best-selling author George Plimpton. There’s even a remarkable conversation with legendary author Ray Bradbury!

If you’re hungry for more poetry, make sure to browse our complete poetry library, loaded with established and emerging writers from around the world.

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