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Only the Sea Keeps

On December 26, 2004, a 9.2-magnitude earthquake roused the ocean floor off Sumatra, creating a series of giant waves that killed nearly a quarter million people. This is what we know of the tsunami disaster, spoken in the international language of numbers.

But, as Judith R. Robinson (CGS ’80) explains, to reach a deeper understanding of what the world lost that day, another language is necessary, one that is as universal as the language of numbers—poetry.
Earlier this year, Robinson and two other Pittsburgh poets created an online forum for the international poetry community. Out of the thousands of submissions posted from all over the world, Robinson and her colleagues selected the work of 83 poets for inclusion in Only the Sea Keeps: Poetry of the Tsunami (Bayeaux Arts).

The group elected to use the book to raise funds for tsunami survivors through Mercy Corps and the American Library Association’s Library Disaster Relief Fund. All of the funds from the sale of the book go to these causes for tsunami relief efforts.

“The main point besides the poems themselves,” says Robinson, “is to come to the aid of the survivors. This is something that we hope stretches past the physical needs into some of the emotional.”
—Elaine Vitone

What the...

Air force pilot Sterling Ziegler begins seeing double and losing consciousness. His plane is under fire, and the oxygen line is severed. Scrambling for the escape hatch, the bombardier and navigator black out, one atop the other. As the plane’s left engines burst into flames, Ziegler—raked with fire and wounded—crash-lands the B17 on a sandbar in Germany’s North Frisian Islands.

Ziegler piloted air force sorties from England during World War II. The crash landing happened on June 13, 1943. He and his crew became prisoners of war and were taken to the notorious Stalag Luft 3, made famous in the Hollywood film The Great Escape. There, Ziegler became a “sandman,” covertly disposing of dirt from the digging of secret tunnels. More than 70 prisoners used these tunnels to escape, but only three were ultimately successful in finding freedom.

Rich Sanderson’s book, What the...What the Hell Are You Doin’ Here? (Soldiers & Sailors National Military Museum), contains a hard-hitting collection of war reminiscences. Ziegler and other Pittsburgh-area veterans recount deeply personal tales of war, long untold. Sanderson (EDUC ’59), a Korean War veteran, brings awe and humor to these stories, which depict young, everyday Joes caught in the chaos of war, desirous of life and love, grappling for survival and victory, all the while doing their duty.
—Alan Gintzler

Power Plays

Cepot, the puppet, contemplates which is more valuable: a dead anchovy or the corpse of the Indonesian president.

It’s after midnight, and the puppet is reciting a monologue at a party in an Indonesian village where wayang golek, the Sundanese rod-puppet theater of West Java, is being performed. Cepot is a traditional comic character dressed in a simple peasant sarong, in contrast with the other ornately decorated puppets on stage that represent royalty.

Cheers, whistles, and applause arise from the crowd when Cepot determines that the anchovy is more valuable because you can eat it.

Challenging the president is a bold act—especially at time when the government is banning newspapers, television programs, and public protests.

Andrew N. Weintraub sits behind the stage during this performance in the early 1990s, when he traveled with a gamelan instrumental ensemble accompanying the puppet show. He is now an associate professor of music at Pitt.

Weintraub recalls the anchovy scene in his new book, Power Plays: Wayang Golek Puppet Theater of West Java (Ohio University Press), in which he records 20 years of observations about puppet theater as a channel for representing the interests of ordinary people, as well as a tool for transmitting the state’s objectives.
—Cara J. Hayden

Road to the Robes

A 3-year-old hunkers down with his family as rifle-toting Ku Klux Klan members gather near his home. It is 1922, and the Klan initiates new members in its effort to resist the influx of Catholic and other non-WASP immigrants.

That youngster was Ruggero J. Aldisert, who later became a senior U.S. Circuit Court judge. He grew up in a changing cultural landscape where Irish, Italians, Germans, and others took turns being unwelcome. “I didn’t have to wait to study the Equal Protection Clause in law school many years later to understand this, or wait for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to recognize that it was wrong to practice ‘discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion or national origin,’” he writes in Road to the Robes: A Federal Judge Recollects Young Years & Early Times (Author House).

Along the way, Aldisert (LAW ’47, CAS ’41) was editor in chief of the Pitt News, a U.S. Marine Corps officer, a Pittsburgh attorney, and an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court judge. He taught law classes at Pitt for many years and is an emeritus member of Pitt’s Board of Trustees.

He keeps the story lively with photographs, news clippings, and even a paycheck from his coal-digging days. As a result, his story is not about the life of a judge, but of the person who became one.
—Leah Samuel

Those Winter Sundays

On the Cathedral of Learning’s fifth floor, visiting English instructor Kathleen Welsch stands near an elevator, balancing a stack of student essays. She wears a skirt, cashmere sweater, and pumps. A telephone technician stands near her, in blue jeans, a work shirt, and a sagging tool belt with a lineman’s handset. The technician is Welsch’s father, and the two are “on the job.” Look at us, she thinks. We both carry the tools of our trades. Yet, in a glance, she knows the vast gap between their working lives.
This scene opens Welsch’s story in Those Winter Sundays: Female Academics and Their Working-Class Parents (University Press of America, Inc.), a collection of essays about academic daughters and their working-class parents. The rift between scholarly aspirations and working-class roots can also separate parent and child.

Welsch (FAS ’94), now an associate professor of English at Clarion University, edits this book, in which 16 women explore class differences, parents’ sacrifices for their children, working-class ethic, and intellectual achievement. Other essayists include Pitt graduates Gwen Gorzelsky (FAS ’98, ’92), Jean Grace (FAS ’90, CAS ’86), and Nancy Atkinson (FAS ’97, ’91, EDUC ’87, CGS ’83).

“Each of these academic daughters of working-class parents addresses the complexity of balancing between two vastly different worlds,” says Welsch.
—Erik Price

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