A new adventure! And the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne, France

So the Florida State University class is over– it’s been a really lovely three year contract teaching at FSU, two of which were spent teaching this class, “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves: Writing Creatively about Romani Culture.” I want to say thank you to all my wonderful students– it’s been a pleasure working with everyone and I will always hold this time dear. And thank you to the readers outside my class– it’s so cool and unexpected that y’all would join in to the discussion and I’m so glad that you did. I’m decided to keep the blog going and continue to post about and discuss Romani arts, culture, representation, and human rights. 

I’m very excited about my next teaching adventure– I will be teaching fiction workshops as a guest professor at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne in France! The retreat has been featured in Poets and Writers and has excellent reviews. The application deadline for applications is May 15th. I went on the retreat last year as a guest and absolutely adored it– I discuss how fate aligned my teaching spot this summer in my blog. We went on excursions to Chantilly, Paris, and Picardy; swam in the Château moat; practiced yoga every morning and every evening in the gardens; ate fresh homemade French food; workshopped out work; attended lectures on writing in our private salon; took art classes and sketched on the lawn… it’s a good thing. Obviously, I would like all the delightful and talented people I know to join us on this gorgeous retreat, so think about it. Click here for more information, a sample syllabus, tuition and housing, applications, etc. 

Thanks again for a fantastic semester and a rewarding 3 years– I’ll miss you all, and I’m also happy about what’s coming up in the present. Have a great summer everyone and kushti baxt! (Best of luck!) And maybe I’ll see you in France–


Hungary’s democracy fell. What happens to women, LGBTQ, Roma, Jewish people, and other ethnic & religious minorities?

“Hungary is no longer a democracy” and the extreme right-wing Neo-Nazi Jobbik Party has more power than ever. The E.U. was formed in part to prevent these kinds of Fascist paramilitia uprisings, and yet, here we are. Benjamin Abtan writes in The New Statesman:

“The attack was clear and continuous: crippling restriction of the freedom of the press, political direction of the Central Bank, inclusion in the Constitution of Christian religious references and of the ‘social utility’ of individuals as a necessary condition for the enforcement of social rights, deletion of the word ‘Republic”‘in the same Constitution to define the country’s political system, condemnation of homosexuality, criminalisation of the homeless, attacks against women’s rights, impunity afforded to perpetrators of racist murders, the strengthening of a virulent anti-Semitism . . .

Only a few days ago, prime minister Viktor Orban officially decorated three extreme right-wing leading figures: journalist Ferenc Szaniszlo, known for his diatribes against the Jews and the Roma people, who he compares to “monkeys”; anti-Semitic archaeologist Kornel Bakav, who blames the Jews for having organized the slave trade in the Middle-Age; finally, “artist” Petras Janos, who proudly claims his proximity to the Jobbik and its paramilitary militia, responsible for several racist murders of Romani people and heiress of the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party, that organised the extermination of Jews and Gypsies during the Second World War.” 

For the rest of the article, click here

Elle Hungary‘s recent article praising Dora Duro, a Neo-Nazi party member who is anti-Semitic and anti-Rom, is a chilling reminder of how easily great tragedy begins when embraced by the media. We cannot allow history to repeat itself.

Filmmaker Laszlo Nemes writes a letter addressing the problematic article:

“Dear Sir/Madam,

This is to express my shock and condemnation regarding the cover story of Elle‘s Hungarian Edition featuring Hungarian Neonazi MP Ms. Dora Duro. The party “Jobbik” of which Ms. Duro is a member with its anti-democratic, antisemitic and anti Roma tendencies and its affiliation with the paramilitary organization called Magyar Garda (the new Hungarian SS) is a direct threat to Hungarian democracy and the safety of Hungarian Jews and the Roma population of the country.

By publishing the above mentioned story Elle is getting directly and actively involved in whitewashing a political organization whose values are against our most basic human values.

I am strongly urging you to investigate the circumstances under this story could have happened and to apologize to the Hungarian public. I am also urging you to take further action that something like this should never happen in the future.

Best regards,

Laszlo Nemes
film director”

Now, the most important thing we can do is to spread awareness. Please share Nemes’s letter and articles about the issues. Write and share letters to the media and government officials in the U.S., Hungary, and the E.U. calling for action to protect citizens targeted by the Jobbik Party. We need to let the international community know what is happening and that we will not stand for it. When you stand up for human rights, you’re a #RealGypsyWarrior.


Opre Roma! Roma, rise up.
Image source: http://www.valery-novoselsky.org

Suivant Balint, je viens d’envoyer ca a Lagardere qui publie ELLE. N’hésitez pas a me suivre

“Madame, Monsieur,

Résidant en Hongrie, j’apprends avec consternation que l’édition hongroise du Magazine ELLE, numéro d’avril 2014, a choisi de consacrer un article d’interview a la députée du parti néo-nazi hongrois “Jobbik”, Dora Duro.

Le parti Jobbik dont Mme Duro est porte-parole est un parti extrémiste avec des positions violemment anti-démocratiques et haineuses, antisémites, négationnistes et anti-roms. Jobbik est affilié á une section militaire dont les membres défilent en uniforme dans tout le pays: la Garde hongroise, une force d’intimidation. La Garde hongroise est la branche armée, milice paramilitaire, de Jobbik. C’est sans exagération une force de déstabilisation du pays, une menace pour les minorités Tziganes et Juives, et rappelle de bien sombres souvenirs.

Mme Duro méritait, selon ELLE Hongrie, de figurer parmi les femmes politiques a admirer, bien que le magazine se défende de tout positionnement politique – a deux semaines des élections législatives hongroises! Le portrait d’une femme exemplaire est d’autant plus scandaleux que sa vie privée ici dévoilée est partagée avec l’un des fondateurs de Jobbik, le sinistre néo-nazi en cravate Elod Novak, négationniste notoire, activiste anti-européen avec des liens avec de nombreux groupuscules de l’ultra droite hongrois et international, et organisateur du site néo nazi kurucinfo.hu, racialiste, suprématiste et négationniste.

Je voudrais vous rappeler que dans un tel cas, votre métier suppose de grandes responsabilités publiques dont vous ne pouvez moralement vous défaire.

Faire l’hagiographie de personnes qui ne respectent pas la moindre valeur de la dignité et de la personne humaines est une grave erreur et je vous appelle á tirer les conséquences de ce regrettable épisode.


Laszlo Nemes


Romani women face discrimination because of cultural stereotypes, lecturer says

Check out this article about in The Daily Texan about the ways in which “Gypsy” stereotypes in pop culture and the media, particularly representations of Romani women as promiscuous, immoral, and inhuman, fuels the Romani human rights crisis. 

“The rape of Romani women isn’t considered a crime because of this Jezebel trope [of the Roma],” Oprea said. “People see Gypsy women as ‘welfare queens,’ sexually promiscuous and irresponsible. 

The discrimination and subordination Romani women face parallel that of minority women in the U.S., Oprea said. 

“Like African-Americans and Native Americans, Roma have a long history of subordination in the hands of white supremacy,” Oprea said. “Just as the rape of black women by white slave masters was essential to the perpetuation of the system of slavery in the U.S., the rape of Romani women was essential to the system of slavery in Romania.”


For extra-credit, in 300 words or more, analyze the parallels between an example of a pop culture “Gypsy” stereotype and a Romani human rights infringement.

Some Romani Easter traditions!

Whatever y’all are up to today, I hope it’s a good day. 

“Out of concern for health, Roma eat lighter vegetarian dishes in addition to the heavy meat dishes on a feast day. Among the ursarii Roma, during Easter Fast Days, women clean the house thoroughly, whitewash walls and prepare the oven to cook traditional sponge cake. The Roma attach a specific meaning to each ritual dish: lamb to be light and pure as the lamb, fish (eaten on the first Easter Day) to be swift as the fish. Polenta is not to be prepared or eaten on the first Easter Day to preserve male and female fertility (so that one will not turn soft like polenta). In addition, the members of the family are not supposed to eat salt or perspire heavily. Such recommendations and dietary taboos rest on similitude magic, but from an external perspective, they also preserve a good state of health through a well balanced diet.

Hardelezii, also known as Tinker’s Easter, is the major feast of the Roma tinkers and is celebrated one week after the Orthodox Easter. It combines the symbol of Easter with Muslim Gurban. The main element of the ritual is slaughtering a lamb either for the recovery of a member of the family who suffers from a disease or the protection of the family from disease and misfortunes. Sometimes one lamb slaughtered for each child, for protection and well-being. Some of the rudarii Roma, similar to their tinker brethren, also celebrate the Gurban/Hardelezii, a tradition which reunites the symbol of the Easter and the Muslim feast. The rudarii hold a feast on Ascension, which consists of killing a lamb as an offering to God for reparatory healing purposes.”

To read more about Romani culture, check out the rest of the article by Romanian Romani academic Delia Grigore on The Gypsy Chronicles http://thegypsychronicles.net/romanipen/

Tips for revising your poetry

Here are a few links to get you into the revision mood! Read them over and take some good advice.

5 WAYS TO REVISE POEMS via Writer’s Digest

“Re-seeing your poem” via Blue Island Review

“Common mistakes and tips for revision” via Richmond University Writing Center

“Breaking the line: an exercise in revision in poetry” via SOPHIA

“How to Revise Poems” via Sheila Packa

Unite and Celebrate: A Band of Roma. Quail Bell Magazine supports International Roma Day

“Unite and Celebrate: A Band of Roma,” my lyric essay celebrating International Roma Day, is in Quail Bell Magazine. The essay revels in Romani culture, takes a hard look at Romani human rights infringements in the U.S. and Europe, honors Papusza and other important Romani artists, professionals, activists, and writers, and explores a little family history. 

An important part of today is education and awareness, and spreading the word does a lot to highlight the current Romani human rights crisis in the U.S. and Europe. A large part of the new wave of Romani activism is art and writing, which feels both beautiful and fitting, both for the Roma legacy of arts and the “GypsyRepresent” ethos. Thanks for reading, and thank you for sharing. Opre Roma!

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