Alicia Partnoy/YouTube

Poet and “Genocide” Survivor, Alicia Partnoy Speaking at Gonzaga

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by Kimberly Burnham

2016 02 22 Alicia Partnoy Poet Speaking in Spokane at Gonzaga UniversityWhen I heard Alicia Partnoy was coming to speak at Gonzaga (Feb. 29), I started to think about my responsibility…


In the face of terrible abuses

what can I do

my responsibility is …

hearing, not only listening

feeling, not only watching

doing, not only crying


Sometimes a poem or a song

stays with me

words of the one witness

survivor of tragedy



I feel and remember

looking for ways

to stop abuse

still I wonder

at the impact of living

in a world without voices


So many women and men

killed before I was able

to feel their spirit

too many people


along with a part of my heart


What is our responsibility in the face of another person’s tragedy? What do we each lose when someone is “disappeared?” In her 2002 album, “And Still We Sing: The Outspoken Collection” Holly Near sings about women who were “disappeared” in Chile and other places in Latin America. She starts the song “Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida” with a few of the names of women who have disappeared under military dictatorships.


“Michelle Peña Herrera

Nalvia Rosa Mena Alvarado

Cecilia Castro Salvadores

Ida Amelia Almarza


Clara Elena Cantero

Elisa Del Carmen Escobar

Eliana Maria Espinosa

Rosa Elena Morales


Part of a movement of socially conscious singers, Holly Near and even earlier Ronnie Gilbert of the Weavers used music and words to inspire people around the world to confront abuses, to see tragedy, and do something.

The poet, Alicia Partnoy, who will be speaking in Spokane next week is one of the women who was “disappeared” in Argentina. According to assistant professor Rebecca Marquis in Gonzaga University’s Modern Language department, “From 1976 to 1983, Argentina’s military dictatorship waged a “dirty war” against its own citizens. Thousands of people were “disappeared,” tortured in concentration camps, and eventually killed without their families knowing what happened to them. Alicia Partnoy was one of the few survivors and has written about her experiences in prose and poetry.”

In a public lecture on Monday, February 29, 7:00 pm in Gonzaga University’s Hemmingson Ballroom-Pamplona, Partnoy will speak on “Testimony and Activism: Writing for Social Justice.” What is the role of literature in social justice?  How can writing about experiences of injustice create change?

Answering these questions, “Partnoy will read from her work and discuss the ways her writing has helped achieve justice in Argentina after the state-sponsored terrorism perpetrated in the 70’s. She will share poetry written by other survivors of human rights abuses, to empower them through the dissemination of their words. Come hear how you, as writer or reader, can make a difference in our world,” encouraged Rebecca Marquis, who organized the event, which will be followed by a book signing of “The Little School and Flowering Fires/ Fuegos Florales” and a dessert social.

Speaking of her time imprisoned and isolated at the “Little School” and the significance of bread, Partnoy said, “When tedium mixes with hunger, and four claws of anxiety pierce the pits of our stomachs, eating a piece of bread, very slowly, fiber by fiber, is our great relief. When we feel our isolation growing, the world we seek vanishing in the shadows, to give a brother some bread is a reminder that true values are still alive. To be given some bread is to receive a comforting hug.”

The chapter on bread starts with a quote from Mario Beneditti, A Latin American’s Lord’s Prayer “. .. Give us this day our daily bread, the one that, yesterday, you took away from us.”

Here is one of Partnoy’s poems from her publisher, Settlement House 


To Summarize

(Reflection in the light and warmth of Gonzalez Tuñón and of the mother of a Sandinista martyr)


All of us practice
a more or less generous way
of turning ourselves into the center of the world.

In the air we draw
arrows that say:
me, me, look at me,
love me, me,
look for me.

I live. I give. I remember.

Sometimes, not too often,
maybe a mother fallen, away from her children
or a compañero knocked out of
an unfinished revolution,
will rip apart the watermelon of his chest
right in front of us
and reveal to us
that explosion of tiny black seeds:
Watch them, those people, love them,
look for them.

They live, they give, they remember.
They are the numberless center
at the center of myself that is not me.

If, in spite of that,
we continue to practice
a more or less generous way
of turning ourselves into the center of the world,
so much for us.

About Kimberly Burnham

Author of "Awakenings: Peace Dictionary, Language and the Mind, A Daily Brain Health Program" Kimberly Burnham, PhD (Integrative Medicine) investigates the relationship between memory, language, caring and pattern recognition to create a daily brain health exercise program enabling people to achieve better neurological health, mood, and quality of life. She is on a mission to create more peace and understanding in the world by collecting and writing about the nuanced meaning of “Peace” in 4,000 different languages and is looking for funding to complete the project. Known as The Nerve Whisperer, Kimberly uses words (books, presentations, and poetry), health coaching, guided visualization, and hands-on therapies (CranioSacral therapy, acupressure, Matrix Energetics, Reiki, and Integrative Manual Therapy) to help people heal from nervous system and autoimmune conditions. She also focuses on vision issues like macular degeneration and supports people looking for eye exercises to improve driving and reading skills as well as athletic visual speed. An award-winning poet, Kimberly grew up overseas. The child of an international businessman and an artist, she learned Spanish in Colombia; French in Belgium; then Japanese in Tokyo and has studied both Italian and Hebrew as an adult. The author of “My Book: Self-Publishing, a Guided Journal”, she can be reached for health coaching, publishing help, bible study zoom presentations or talking about peace at NerveWhisperer@gmail.com or http://www.NerveWhisperer.Solutions.

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  1. I am looking forward to this event tomorrow! Please come show your support for social justice and the humanities!

  2. Check out this new Lord of Ring !

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