Posted by andreas from dtm2-t8-2.mcbone.net (18.104.22.168) on Thursday, February 06, 2003 at 5:21AM :
In Reply to: Poets Against the War posted by Esperanza from 66-52-12-221.lsan.dial.netzero.com (22.214.171.124) on Wednesday, February 05, 2003 at 11:16PM :
Anti-war poets force scrapping of White House symposium
Thursday January 30, 2003
The White House yesterday confirmed that it had cancelled a poetry symposium after a number of American poets threatened to turn the event into an anti-war protest.
The February 12 symposium on Poetry and the American Voice, which was meant to focus on the works of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman, was one of a number of literary gatherings organised by the first lady, Laura Bush.
When Washington-based poet Sam Hamill received an invitation to the event, he said he was "overcome by a kind of nausea" and refused to attend. Then he decided to email fellow poets, asking them to compose anti-war works and urging anyone attending the symposium to read works of protest.
Explaining the cancellation, Noelia Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for Mrs Bush, said: "While Mrs Bush respects the right of all Americans to express their opinions, she, too, has opinions, and believes it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum."
A former librarian, the first lady has made teaching and early childhood development her signature issues. Her series of White House symposiums to salute America's authors have been lively affairs, featuring discussions about literature and its impact on society.
No future date for the poetry event has been announced.
Mr Hamill, a co-founder of Copper Canyon Press, set up a website in a bid to turn February 12 into Poetry Against the War day. He said that he had received poems or personal statements from more than 2,000 poets during the last week, and plans to present an anthology of the poems to the White House.
In an open letter on the site, Mr Hamill explained: "I believe the only legitimate response to such a morally bankrupt and unconscionable idea is to reconstitute a Poets Against the War movement like the one organised to speak out against the war in Vietnam."
Contributors have included WS Merwin, Galway Kinnell, Ursula K Le Guin, Adrienne Rich and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
"I'm putting in 18-hour days. I'm 60 and I'm tired, but it's pretty wonderful," said Mr Hamill.
Marilyn Nelson, Connecticut's poet laureate, said that she had accepted the White House invitation, and had planned to wear a specially-commissioned silk scarf with peace signs.
"I had decided to go because I felt my presence would promote peace," she said.
Mr Hamill's more forthright form of protest, however, may have tipped the balance for White House planners, however. He told the Seattle Times: "What idiot thought Sam Hamill would be a good candidate for Laura Bush's tea party? Someone's going to get fired over this."
His is not the only protest in verse. Canadian poet Todd Swift took only one week to compile an ebook, 100 Poets Against the War, which he released on Monday to mark the report by weapons inspectors to the UN security council.
"We're trying to create something that is like the Vietnam war protest," said Mr Swift, speaking from his home in Paris. He said he was amazed by how quickly the collection had spread around the world.
"About 25 of the poets in the collection are from the UK or Ireland, and we are adding John Kinsella and a few others this weekend to the revised version, which will be released next Monday to meet Mr Blair on his return from Bush's ranch," he added.
Contributors to the ebook include George Murray, Ethan Gilsdorf and Maggie Helwig.
State of the Union, 2003
I have not been to Jerusalem,
but Shirley talks about the bombs.
I have no god, but have seen the children praying
for it to stop. They pray to different gods.
The news is all old news again, repeated
like a bad habit, cheap tobacco, the social lie.
The children have seen so much death
that death means nothing to them now.
They wait in line for bread.
They wait in line for water.
Their eyes are black moons reflecting emptiness.
We've seen them a thousand times.
Soon, the president will speak.
He will have something to say about bombs
and freedom and our way of life.
I will turn the TV off. I always do.
Because I can't bear to look
at the monuments in his eyes.
-- signature .
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