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Friday, April 18, 2014

Comments on the Poinsettia

The Poinsettia

Ruby red lipstick smeared over a weed
You skirt around in your green underwear
From Mexico you travelled with great speed
And made Albert Ecke a billionaire;
 
You skirt around in your green underwear
Joel Robert Poinsetti you hypnotized
And made Albert Ecke a millionaire
Now the entire world you have mesmerized.
 
Joel Robert Poinsetti you hypnotized
With your flaming bracts and cyathium spell
Now the entire world you have mesmerized
Much love for you in their hearts doth dwell.
 
With your flaming bracts and cyathium spell
A gift of you they send with awesome smiles
The love for you in their hearts doth dwell
As they dress you in lots of pretty styles.
 
A gift of you they send with awesome smiles
Trees of flowers on this the Holy Night
As they dress you in lots of pretty styles
With yellow poinsettia eyes so bright.
 
Trees of flowers on this the Holy Night
Tear-drop leaves joy for the new baby's worth
With yellow poinsettia eyes so bright
Joy-bells ring out at our Savior's birth.
 
Tear-drop leaves joy for the new baby's worth
From Mexico you travelled with great speed
Joy-bells ring out at our Savior's birth
Ruby red lipstick smeared over a weed.
 
Comments on – The Poinsettia
 
The poinsettia is a culturally and commercially important plant species of the diverse spurge family that is indigenous to Mexico and Central America. Its scientific name is Euphorbia pulcherrima. It is known by such names as poinsettia, Christmas Star, Mexican flame leaf, Christmas flower, lobster plant, painted leaf. It is a poisonous plant though some folks would dispute this. It has a milky sap characteristic of all Euphorbia, which can cause skin problems if not washed off. The debate on this is still out there.
 
There is much folklore that surrounds this plant. The Mexicans have their own brand of folklore on this plant. This plant was introduced into the United States of America in 1620 by Joel Roberts Poinsetti, United States Minister to Mexico at that time; its popularity in the USA blossomed in the 1950s.The poinsettia breeders at the time began trying to produce a plant that would rapidly grow into a small bush covered with red leaves. Its commercial value as a plant is noted on account of its growing ways. There are over one hundred cultivated varies of poinsettia. Its religious and other affiliations go back to the Aztecs who used its red dye to reduce fevers and they called it “cuetlaxochiti” meaning “flower that grows in residues or soil”. Modern Mexico calls the poinsettia “La Flor de Noche Buena” meaning “The Christmas Eve flower”. Spain, Puerto Rico, Guatemala and other Central American countries and into Turkey they have their own names for the poinsettia.
 
From the 17th century Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plant in their Christmas celebrations. Its star shaped-leaves pattern is said to symbolize the “Star of Bethlehem” and the red-color represents the blood-sacrifice through the Crucifixion of Jesus. Poinsettia plants are popular Christmas decorations in homes, churches, in offices, in the West Indies, North American countries and in other lands across the sea.
 
The American poinsettia industry was created by Albert Ecke who emigrated from Germany to Los Angeles in 1900. His poinsettia industry made him very rich and it amassed great family wealth. No doubt he did this because there were no competitors in the industry and more importantly he kept the secrets for breeding all varieties away from the public.  Government saw this and broke the monopoly by bringing more competitors into the market as it were.
 
The pantoum originated in Malaysia in the fifteenth-century as a short folk poem, typically made up of two rhyming couplets that were recited or sung. The pantoum as we know it today is a poem of any length, composed of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza. The last line of a pantoum is often the same as the first.
 
The pantoum was especially popular with French and British writers in the nineteenth-century, including Charles Baudelaire and Victor Hugo, who is credited with introducing the form to European writers.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Comments on "Elegy for Angela Barnes, RN"

Elegy for Angela Barnes, RN

Checking those charts at her station my Angela carefully read all;
September nightingale was unabated in snowfall...
Strong to us, suddenly frail in the eyes and her movable stride weak;
Broken in spirit and fewer her words but she did speak.

Loneliness sealed in the box with her dreams and my Angela is gone;
Roses engraved and she shines in the galaxy; lives on.
Numbness in body with shaky emotions that caved in and lay bare
Sadness on faces of mourners there; numbed from this nightmare.

Cancer in stomach and pain in her bones and her thoughts in dark grave;
Fighting a battle with mortician’s hand at her still wave;
Angela spoke for a time as she geared for the traumatic event;
Gone from this world; as we grapple with hymns and with praise sent....

Christ to us gives the assurance and strengthens us; comes from the Most High;
Years of her life she at fifty would hand us her goodbye.
Wading and splashing in lake to the south of her, swans in a straight row;
Family and friends with their thoughts in respect and their tears flow.

Faces of copper and hovering cold on those mourners and pall-crew;
Marching with casket with roses away from the glass-view...
People around her at grave and her son with his sister in dark blue;
Family, Petty her friend there he stood and he cried too.

Any discussion on the elegy must focus on roles played by poets of the following 7th, 17th, 18th centuries. Poets who impacted on this poetic genre called the Elegy would of necessity include Archilochus, Minnermus, Tytraecus, Tibullus, Propertius, Galius Valerius, Catullus, Publius Ovidius Naso and others like, John Donne, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas Grey, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Percy Bysshe Shelley; just to mention a few.

The elegy originated in ancient Greek language as far back to the 7th century B.C. It was developed by Greek poets Archilochus, Minnermus and Tytraeus. The elegy was not confined to lamentation or mourning per se, but was often concerned with love or war.  The Greek elegies were so called primarily because of their elegiac meter. The elegiac meter is also known as the elegiac couplet. The elegiac couplets of classical Greek poetry specified the use of unrhymed couplet verses in which the first verse of the couplet is a dactylic hexameter; a hexameter measures six feet. The second verse of the couplet is a dactylic pentameter which is five feet. The final metron of the sixth and the fifth foot is always a spondee known as the anceps. The metron is the rhythmic unit that can be repeated in a verse or series of verses. The dactyl    ͞͞͞     ̌   ̌ is the basic metron of the dactylic hexameter.

The anceps is the final syllable of a hexameter verse. The anceps can be long    ͞͞   or short    ̌   and in the scansion process it is marked by the symbol “x”. A verse consisting of six metra in a row is called a hexameter, the shortened form for the dactylic hexameter. For example when anceps in the Dactylic Hexameter is a trochee   ͞͞      ̌ , the anceps becomes a long syllable by poetic license.  The anceps is a “free syllable” or “variable syllable” in a verse of poetry. The syllable may be either long or short or "irrational" depending on the meter being discussed.

The dactyl is what defines the hexameter, also known as the “heroic meter”. It has traditionally been associated with quantitative meter of classical epic poetry of the Greeks. Greek poet Homer used hexameter verses in his poems. His “Odyssey” provides an example shown in Exhibits; 1a and 1b. 

Exhibit 1a 

Exhibit 1b

Greek elegy found its way into Roman poetry and its dactylic foot and quantitative measurement also defines classical Latin poetry. The Roman poet Quintus Ennius during the period of the Roman Republic introduced Greek literary models in Latin literature; the elegiac couplet is a case in point. With respect to the fixed standard for defining the Greek elegy, the Romans expanded on their definition by declaring that the elegy goes beyond the idea of a ‘funeral lament’ but is a reflective poem written in elegiac couplets.

Publius Ovidius Naso known as Ovid wrote love poetry in elegiac couplets such as “Amores” and “Ars Amatoria”. The love elegy is a Roman invention and Ovid is its great master. “Amores” is a collection in three books of love poetry in elegiac meter that follows the conventions of the elegiac genre developed by the Latin poet AlbiusTibullus and Sextus Propertius. These three books describe the many aspects of love and focus on the poet’s relationship with a mistress called Corinna. Scansion on the first two verses of “Amores 1.1 shows dactylic hexameter verse (dh) has six metra equal 6 feet, dactylic pentameter verse (dp) has 5 metra equal 5 feet used in an alternating pattern as shown in Exhibit 2 below:

Exhibit 2
 “Ars Amatoria Book I” in Exhibit 3 showing the dactylic hexameter verse measuring six metra which is equal to six feet and the dactylic pentameter verse measuring five metra which is equal to five feet. This pattern is consistent throughout remaining verses of the poem.

Exhibit 3 


Gaius Valerius Catullus was born in Verona, Northern Italy in the year 87 BC and died at the age of thirty years. He was from a privilege family and a Latin poet of the Middle Ages (5th to the 15th century). His poems influenced poets such as Ovid, Horace and Virgil. He began writing neoteric style of poetry during the late Middle-Ages. This style can only be described as risqué that went against the social norms of his day.  Catullus’s poems are housed in an anthology of one hundred and sixteen carmina. His sixty short poems are found in Polymetra; then there is a section for his eight longer poems and a section for his forty-eight epigrams. The polymetra and epigrams easily fit into four major thematic groups; poems to and about friends, homosexual pendants, rude or indecent and poems solemn in nature.

Catullus could easily be labeled a liberal poet of his era and was a poet of love, sexuality and desire. This assertion is made because he wrote erotic poems, Catullus 99 is an example; he used invectives easily classified as foul language, Catullus 16 is an example. However, he demonstrated the capacity to show empathy and feelings of deep sadness caused by loss or misfortune as when he lamented on the death of his brother as revealed in Catullus 101. Catullus wrote in many different meters including hendecasyllabic and elegiac couplet. Catullus 101 is an example of his writing in elegiac couplets . A scansion of the  first two verses in Catullus 101 is shown in Exhibit 4.

Exhibit 4

"Elegy for Angela Barnes, RN" has rhyming couplets as shown in first stanza in Table 5a even though they have a rhyming pattern aabb they are not heroic couplets because they are not written in iambic pentameter like what John Donne has done in his poem “Elegy XIX to his Mistress Going to Bed”.

Table 5a

Elegy for Angela Barnes, RN


Rhyming Couples


Checking those charts at her station my Angela carefully read all;         
September nightingale was unabated in snowfall...                                     (rhyming couplet)
Strong to us, suddenly frail in the eyes and her movable stride weak;     
Broken in spirit and fewer her words but she did speak.                              (rhyming couplet)

Loneliness sealed in the box with her dreams and my Angela is gone;                   
Roses engraved and she shines in the galaxy; lives on.                               (rhyming couplet)
Numbness in body with shaky emotions that caved in and lay bare      
Sadness of mourners there; filled with numbness from nightmare.          (rhyming couplet)


The poem imitates the classical structure in its use of the dactylic foot exclusively where these couples have verses made up of dactylic hexameter followed by the dactylic pentameter thus making them elegiac couplets rhyming aabb as shown in Table 5b.  

Table 5b

Elegy for Angela Barnes, RN


Dactylic Hexamete and Dactylic Pentameter


Checking those charts at her station my Angela carefully read all;          (dactylic hexameter verse)
September nightingale was unabated in snowfall...                                      (dactylic pentameter verse)
Strong to us, suddenly frail in the eyes and her movable stride weak;      (dactylic hexameter verse)
Broken in spirit and fewer her words but she did speak.                              (dactylic pentameter verse)


The scansion of the poem first stanza as shown in Table 5c how the dactylic hexameter verses and the dactylic pentameters verses have been created.

Table 5c

Elegy for Angela Barnes, RN


Scansion of the First Four Verses in the First Stanza


Checking those charts at her station my Angela carefully read all;
September nightingale was unabated in snowfall...
Strong to us, suddenly frail in the eyes and her movable stride weak;
Broken in spirit and fewer her words but she did speak.
                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                        anceps
      ˗      ˬ       ˬ             ˗          ˬ     ˬ         ˗  ˬ     ˬ          ˗    ˬ  ˬ       ˗      ˬ   ˬ        ˗    x
Checking those  ׀ charts at her  ׀ station my  ׀ Angela  ׀ carefully  ׀read all;׀
        dactyl                dactyl             dactyl          dactyl       dactyl       spondee   (dactylic hexameter)

                                                                                    anceps
     ˗  ˬ     ˬ           ˗     ˬ    ˬ          ˗    ˬ    ˬ      ˗   ˬ    ˬ       ˗     x
September   ׀ nightingale ׀ was una ׀ bated in ׀ snowfall... ׀
   dactyl             dactyl          dactyl      dactyl       spondee     (dactylic pentameter)

                                                                                                                      anceps
      ˗      ˬ    ˬ          ˗      ˬ   ˬ         ˗    ˬ       ˬ       ˗     ˬ        ˬ          ˗  ˬ   ˬ         ˗        x
Strong to us,  ׀ suddenly ׀  frail in the ׀ eyes and her ׀ movable ׀ stride weak;׀
     dactyl            dactyl          dactyl           dactyl            dactyl         spondee        (dactylic hexameter)                   

                                                                                             anceps
     ˗    ˬ   ˬ          ˗  ˬ  ˬ          ˗   ˬ      ˬ          ˗         ˬ       ˬ        ­˗      x
Broken in ׀ spirit and ׀ fewer,  her ׀ words but she ׀ did speak. ׀                                                                        
   dactyl           dactyl        dactyl            dactyl             spondee   (dactylic pentameter)


Notice how in Table 5c how the dactyl appears in the compulsory fifth foot and the spondee in the compulsory sixth foot, this final metron is represented by ( ̵ x ) but in any given Dactylic Hexameter verse it is not uncommon to find either a trochee ( ̵ ᵕ ) or a spondee ( ̵  ̵ ) but what happens when the Dactylic Hexameter has a trochee in the last foot when the rules of the Dactylic Hexameter insist that the anceps in the last foot must be a spondee; poetic license allows for the anceps x to be changed into a long syllable through the process known as poetic license, thus during the scansion of the poem the trochee becomes a spondee automatically. The anceps is a “free syllable” or “variable syllable” in a verse of poetry. Table 6 shows the acceptable foot patterns for writing Classical Hexameter Verses.

Table 6 

Classical Dactylic Hexameter Patterns


Foot Measurement


1st
foot

2nd
 Foot

3rd
Foot

4th
 Foot

5th
 Foot

6th
Foot

Standard Foot Patttern


Dactyl

Dactyl

Dactyl

Dactyl

Dactyl

Spondee

Acceptable Variations in Classical Dactylic Hexameter Foot Pattern




1st
Foot

2nd
Foot

3rd
Foot

4th
Foot

5th
Foot

6th
Foot

Option 1

Spondee

Dactyl

Dactyl

Dactyl

Dactyl

Spondee


Option 2

Spondee

Spondee

Spondee

Spondee

Dactyl

Spondee


Option 3

Dactyl

Dactyl

Spondee

Dactyl

Dactyl

Spondee


The first four feet can be dactyls or spondees, more or less freely. The fifth foot must be a dactyl. The sixth foot is always a spondee, though it may be an anceps syllable. Homer’s hexameters contain a far higher proportion of dactyls than later hexameter poetry. Homer used dialectal form that is, altering the forms of words so that words fitted the hexameter. The best way to scan a poem (that is, to mark its stressed and unstressed syllables) is to read it aloud. As you read them, mark the patterns on a piece of paper.

It is difficult to find English Language poems written strictly in dactylic hexameter by 21st century poets. So it seems that poem “Elegy for Angela Barnes, RN” stands alone in this regard. However, the 19th century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote poems in Dactylic Hexameter and his poem “Evangeline” comes to mind but it has no end rhymes. The first stanza of the poem is scanned as an example as shown below:

Evangeline

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of elf, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.


     ˗   ˬ     ˬ           ˗  ˬ      ˬ        ˗  ˬ       ˬ           ˗    ˬ   ˬ          ˗      ˬ       ˬ         ˗      x
This is the ׀   forest prim ׀ eval. The ׀ murmuring ׀ pines and the ׀ hemlocks,
     dactyl            dactyl           dactyl        dactyl                 dactyl           spondee    (dactylic hextameter)

                                                                                                                    anceps
     ˗     ˬ     ˬ           ˗          ˬ     ˬ         ˗     ˗                ˗      ˬ    ˬ       ˗    ˬ      ˬ         -     x
Bearded with  ׀ moss, and in  ׀ garments ׀ green, indis ׀ tinct in the ׀ twilight,     (dactylic hextameter)
     dactyl              dactyl               spondee       dactyl            dactyl          spondee     

                                                                                                anceps
     ˗       ˗            ˗ ˬ     ˬ         ˗      ˗           ˗   ˗          ˗    ˬ      ˬ         ˗     x
Stand like  ׀ Druids of ׀ elf, with ׀ voices   ׀ sad and pro ׀  phetic,           (dactylic hextameter)
  spondee         dactyl       spondee   spondee      dactyl         trochee

                                                                                                        anceps
     ˗      ˗         ˗        ˗          ˗        ˗          ˗           ˗          ˗     ˬ      ˬ          ˗  x
Stand like ׀ harpers ׀ hoar, with ׀ beards that ׀ rest on their ׀ bosoms. (dactylic hextameter)
  spondee     spondee    spondee         spondee          dactyl           trochee

                                                                                                            anceps
    ˗        ˬ     ˬ        ˗   ˬ   ˬ         ˗       ˗             ˗       ˗               ˗     ˬ  ˬ        ˗  x      
Loud from its ׀ rocky ca ׀ verns, the ׀ deep-voiced ׀ neighboring ׀ ocean             (dactylic hextameter)
        dactyl             dactyl      spondee      spondee          dactyl           spondee

                                                                                                              anceps
      ˗        ˬ      ˬ      ˗   ˬ          ˬ        ˗     ˬ   ˬ         ˗    ˬ       ˬ           ˗   ˬ      ˬ      ˗   x
Speaks, and in ׀ accents dis ׀ consolate ׀ answers the ׀ wail of the ׀ forest.           (dactylic hextameter)
       dactyle           dactyl          dactyl          dactyl           dactyl          spondee


 “Evangeline” is a dactylic hexameter bearing in mind that the dactylic hexameter measures long vowels only as is in keeping with quantitative measurement typical of Greek and Latin poetry. The dactyl is what defines the Hexameter. The Hexameter consists of six feet. It is also called the “Dactylic Hexameter” or the “Heroic Hexameter”. It has traditionally been associated with the Quantitative meter of classical epic poetry in both Greek and Latin. The poets of that era considered the Hexameter to be the grand style of classical poetry of which Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid are the premier examples.

Many changes in structure and definition of the elegy in English literature showed up during 16th century and continued on into the 21st century.  The dactyl as the preferred foot is replaced by iamb; the alternating of the dactylic hexameter and dactylic pentameter is replaced by iambic pentameter verses; the idea of alternating verses was abandoned; unrhymed couplet used in classical elegy is replaced with  rhymed couplets, thus an elegy couplet is consistently rendered as rhymed iambic couplets; classical Greek and Latin elegy was defined by the elegiac meter and not confined to lamentation or mourning as a subject matter, but dealt with themes of love and war; whereas, English literature defines the elegy as any poem whatever its form, so long as the poet reflects upon feelings. English poets who were in the vanguard of affecting change in the elegy or creating the unique brand for English elegy are for example; Thomas Gray, John Donne, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Alfred Lord Tennyson, just to mention a  few.

Thomas Gray was born in Cornhill, London, England on Boxing Day 1716. He was a poet and historian. His poetic works include elegies, and odes. His most famous poem is “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”. He died at the age of fifty-four and is buried at Stoke Poges, in the churchyard that inspired his poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” he wrote in 1751. This poem has two parts; the elegy and the epitaph.  The elegy is contained in Stanzas 1-29 and the epitaph is contained in stanzas 30-32. This famous elegy in its pastoral setting, in its sympathetic treatment of simple people and life, and in its mood of reflective melancholy indeed has foreshadowed romantic poetry of the 19th century. In reading the poem one cannot but admire its clearness, elegance, symmetry and repose, that pays true attention to neoclassical tradition per se. An excerpt from this two part poem is shown below:

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
(Excerpt)

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,                       Stanza 1
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,                        
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,       Stanza 2
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,                           
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

The Epitaph

Here rest his head upon the lap of earth                         Stanza 30
A youth to fortune and to fame unknown.
Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth,                              
And Melancholy marked him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,                    Stanza 31
Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Misery all he had, a tear
He gained from heaven ('twas all he wished) a friend.

This poem has 32 heroic quatrains whose verses rhyme alternately that is, first verse rhymes with third verse and the second verse rhymes with fourth verse, this arrangement penetrates whole poem. The first twenty-nine quatrains is the elegy and the last three quatrains is the epitaph. The epitaph usually is inscribed upon a tomb, though by a natural extension of usage, the term usually applies to anything written ostensibly for that purpose whether actually inscribed upon a tomb or not. The epitaph is a shortened form of the elegy whether its structure is ancient or modern it invites readers of it to reflect about life and mortality. Thomas Gray wrote “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” in iambic pentameter using qualitative measurement and with verses rhyming alternately. Take a look at sample shown in Exhibit 5:


Exhibit 5 































    And leaves      the world       to dark      ness and           to me
 iamb                 iamb                 iamb          pyrrhic               pyrrhic
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


John Donne was a 17th century metaphysical poet and also an Anglican Priest who was born in London, England in 1572.  He died at age fifty-nine. His literary accomplishments include sonnets, songs, Epistles, satires and elegies. His elegies have fascinated readers for years. “Elegy 19” written in 1635 is a love elegy wherein it lies religious symbolism and exploration of the theme “Elegy to his mistress going to bed”. The idea here though, is not to indulge in the analysis of “Elegy 19” but to show how the English elegy has moved away from the structure and format associated with classical Greek and Latin elegies. This elegy is further testament of how the English elegy evolved in unique ways with regards to its definition and structure. This elegy is in keeping with the English definition of an elegy “the expression of deep emotional feelings” and it also shows the moving away from the dactylic hexameter for the preferred iambic pentameter in qualitative measurement with rhyming couplets structured from a sequence thus establishing what is known as the heroic couplet. The excerpt below provides an example:

ELEGY XIX TO HIS MISTRESS GOING TO BED
By John Donne

Stanza 1

Come, madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labor, I in labor lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven's zone glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th' eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.

Stanza 2

Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you that now it is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown, going off, such beauteous state reveals,
As when from flowry meads th' hill's shadow steals.
Off with that wiry coronet and show
The hairy diadem which on you doth grow:

This elegy has octet stanzas made up of rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter verses as shown by the end-rhymes in these heroic couples identified in bold print.

Come, madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labor, I in labor lie
.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing though he never fight.

Off with that girdle, like heaven's zone glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.

Unpin that spangled breast plate which you wear,
That th' eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.

The iambic pentameter is identified in scansion of Stanza 1 as shown in Exhibit 6: 







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Natural disasters whenever and wherever they occur impact on all of our lives. The Good Book says we are our brothers and sisters keepers lead by the Holy Spirit. Hence, we must do our part when disaster shows its ugly face. Any assistance, great or small, given from generous and loving hearts has equal weight. I'm passing on this information I received that Barbadians can go to First Caribbean Bank to donate to the Disaster Relief Fund for Haiti. The banking information is shown below:

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