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Norman MacAfee
Norman MacAfee’s The Gospel According to RFK: Why It Matters Now (Basic Books, 2008) documents Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign with major excerpts from RFK's visionary speeches. MacAfee’s other books include One Class: Selected Poems 1965-2008 (Harbor Mountain Press, 2008), The Coming of Fascism to America, A New Requiem, and The Death of the Forest, opera to music of Charles Ives. MacAfee co-translated a volume of the poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini, two volumes of the letters of Jean-Paul Sartre, Witness to My Life and Quiet Moments in a War, and Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. MacAfee lives in Manhattan.

One Class: Selected Poems 1965-2008 is now available from SPD, Harbor Mountain Press.

“Like history where dates are midnight assignations, like sexual encounters that bristle with political implications, One Class presents a unified social theory of life and art, love and politics and aesthetics, that is fearless and human. When Salman Rushdie forked over his 5 bucks to buy MacAfee’s chapbook ‘The Coming of Fascism to America’ at the Bowery Poetry Club, I saw in his face the same look I get when I read this work—it’s real, it’s unwavering, it’s art in the classical sense that gets dirty as life is in this Horrific Triumph of Capitalism. Somehow MacAfee tells the truth and doesn’t leave you hopeless. Somehow MacAfee gets it right.” —Bob Holman

Entries by Norman MacAfee

Let the World Speak!

(0) Comments | Posted January 26, 2015 | 12:19 PM

There are 6,000 languages in the world, and half are endangered. Those 3,000 will be gone by the end of this century if we don't do something. What are we going to do? That is the situation outlined in a new PBS documentary, Language Matters with Bob Holman, by David...

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'It's an Exciting Time to Be Alive'

(0) Comments | Posted December 23, 2013 | 10:28 AM

I heard a soprano almost sing those words in the spring of 2008.

We had all been through, since Bush v. Gore, the worst presidency in history. We did not know who would come after: Barack Obama or John McCain. The choice was stark.

The soprano voice rang...

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Kids, Make It New! Patrice Chéreau (1944-2013)

(1) Comments | Posted October 8, 2013 | 2:01 PM

Patrice Chéreau, the French theater director, was barely 32 when he began remaking, rethinking, reimagining Richard Wagner's music drama, Der Ring des Nibelungen, at the Festival House in Bayreuth, Germany.

It was 1976, the 100th anniversary of the premiere of The Ring. The scandal is legendary. I have...

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"Aren't You Ashamed?": William Bolcom's Angry Song on Senators' Defeat of Gun Safety Legislation

(2) Comments | Posted April 22, 2013 | 11:05 AM

The opera librettist Mark Campbell emailed me on April 20 to spread the word about a new song, William Bolcom's "Aren't You Ashamed?"

Bolcom wrote it on April 18.

The previous day, 45 senators defeated a series of modest proposals to curb the kind of gun violence that...

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Hugo Chávez and Victor Hugo

(1) Comments | Posted March 8, 2013 | 8:55 AM

Hugo Chávez was an invaluable instrument in the hands of hundreds of millions of people in Latin America gaining control of their lives.

He continued the tradition of Latin American liberation. It is a noble tradition, a world treasure, that started with Simón Bolívar, Hugo's heroic role model. It...

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Victor Hugo and Abraham Lincoln

(2) Comments | Posted January 29, 2013 | 10:48 AM

In this film awards season, two works embody enduring pinnacles of idealism.

I have a horse in this race, I confess. In 1986, I translated with Lee Fahnestock, the Signet Classics edition of Les Miserables. Published in 1987 for the opening of the musical on Broadway, it is the official...

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Pasolini at 90 at MoMA

(0) Comments | Posted December 13, 2012 | 4:32 PM

Pier Paolo Pasolini was assassinated in 1975 at age 53. He was the Socratic conscience of Italy. His tombstone is a stake through the heart of his country. He wrote dozens of books, poetry, novels, plays, screenplays, political commentary and cultural criticism.

And then there are the 20 or...

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Many Dreams: Or Persistence

(1) Comments | Posted November 20, 2012 | 9:57 AM

To celebrate both the reelection of President Obama and the release of restored versions of the great filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini's Trilogy of Life, I offer a poem, "Many Dreams: Or Persistence," written in 2008-9, around the the time of the election and inauguration of Barack Obama. The poem was...

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The Public Intellectual in a Corporatized and Privatized Society

(5) Comments | Posted April 25, 2011 | 4:10 PM

The PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, held annually in New York, is particularly good this year. I am attending a number of sessions, and the first will be "The Public Intellectual" on Monday, April 25.

I want to put down some thoughts on the subject beforehand.

What is...

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About Chris Hondros

(6) Comments | Posted April 22, 2011 | 6:13 PM

It is beyond dispute that the unrelenting television coverage of the war in Vietnam shortened that war. Americans grew repelled by the carnage.

The Bushes learned, and so they kept the media at a distance for the 1991 Gulf war and the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. When journalists wanted...

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For Earth Day 2011

(1) Comments | Posted April 22, 2011 | 3:46 PM

The following poem, in English and an ancient version of the Algonquin language, is taken from various scenes in my opera The Death of the Forest. The opera is about King Philip's War of 1675-76, the bloodiest war proportionally in our history, which raged across Rhode Island and Massachusetts. It...

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Thinking About War and Peace

(2) Comments | Posted April 13, 2011 | 6:31 PM

I recently attended a reception honoring immigrant writers and scientists sponsored by the Vilcek Foundation. It was held on the 36th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel with stupendous views of Central Park. A good time was had by all.

A fellow guest, a literary translator and book critic, was...

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Fame and Death in April

(0) Comments | Posted April 8, 2011 | 5:39 AM

If you go to The New York Times' obituary page, you will see the list of deaths of famous people who died in any given month and were written about in the paper since it was founded 160 years ago. Every month has fascinating people, but this month is a...

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What Began in Hiroshima Must End in Fukushima

(9) Comments | Posted April 5, 2011 | 4:51 AM

It was a bad idea all around for most of the human race. When Albert Einstein learned of the bombing of Hiroshima and the dawn of the Nuclear Age, he said, "We are not ready for it." By "We" he meant the human race.

Have we become ready since then?...

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We're Giving Our Money Away

(0) Comments | Posted August 5, 2010 | 1:15 PM

In 1976, I was crossing Astor Place in Manhattan with an Italian documentary filmmaker, Luciano Martinengo. We were translating the poems of the Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, who had been murdered the year before. Luciano was describing a movie that I would not see until a decade later.

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Zero Destruction

(0) Comments | Posted November 23, 2009 | 1:25 PM

It is exactly a year since my last post here. I got what I wanted: Bush out, Obama in.

Now, a new concept: Zero Destruction.

Last year, our neighborhood in New York City was fighting a plan to tear down half a city block of buildings from the 1920s...

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Tao and Dow

(0) Comments | Posted November 22, 2008 | 10:32 AM

What is the ancient Taoist story of the old Chinese farmer? He got old because he did not get too happy about good weather, or too sad about bad. Such equanimity prepared him for when his son died.

I am so not into the stock market.

My maternal grandfather,...

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(1) Comments | Posted November 4, 2008 | 3:14 PM

More than any other presidents the two Bushes have used war to stay popular. It is so high school. And yet their profound cruelty has not put them behind bars. The son is so bad that the idiot father seems a genius.

How to portray them in art? The anti-Nazi...

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Landslide Needed

(3) Comments | Posted October 6, 2008 | 3:50 PM

We do not know.

Four weeks from now, we will vote. Young people and African Americans will vote in far greater numbers than ever. Registration is off the charts.

A friend says that her African-American election district keeps running out of voter registration forms, and prospective voters are...

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Virtual Obama, Virtual JFK

(3) Comments | Posted September 24, 2008 | 10:59 AM

We are in that damn car always driving in Dallas past the depository. We care about these minutes because we know the world completely changed after them.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was a different critter than John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Kennedy had been in war, seen action, nearly been killed, was a...

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