March 5th, A Day of Poetry Against the War
Reports from Around the World
Great Britain – Nepal - Germany
Mexico – Italy
John Conyers, Marcy Kaptur, Sam Hamill, W.S. Merwin,
by Emily Warn
At the noontime press conference on Capitol Hill, the
words of W.S. Merwin, Terry Tempest Williams and Sam Hamill
cast a spellbound silence over reporters and film crews, over members of
Congress and the European Parliament who had all packed into a small
conference room on Capitol Hill. It was a brief and dignified ceremony. Sam,
flanked by American flags—go figure—and a Poets Against the War banner,
seemed at first almost shy before a giant bouquet of microphones. He kept
saying what an honor it was to be there and then spoke simply, with a kind
of bemusement and awe, about the overwhelming response to a request he had
made six weeks ago to a few friends over the Internet. He explained how that
response grew, as more and more people, sent in their poems until they
numbered almost 13,000. To me, their voices now seem a single connected
psalm of gratitude for being asked to speak.
When Sam handed these poems to Representative Marcy
Kaptur, she looked like a schoolgirl receiving a class honor. (To send a
message of support and thanks to Representative Kaptur,
click here.) Sam beamed, too.
(I guess you’re not supposed to applaud at press conferences—at least the
press isn’t—but they did. I want to be on the floor of the House each and
every time a member of the caucus reads these poems into the Congressional
Record as they promised to do. Sam, with the help of many editors, picked
out 200 especially powerful poems for them to read.)
Terry Tempest Williams read a poem by Denise Levertov in
which she connects our indifference to trees to war. The poem describes how
she and others light candles on pieces of bark, then set them adrift on a
river to honor a similar ceremony taking place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Halfway through her reading of the poem, the room was still. No pens
scratched. No cameras clicked. Denise’s words, small flames, spoken in
Terry’s resonant voice, had been set adrift again.
Kaptur introduced Merwin next and said in her Midwestern
accent something like, "Ladies and Gentleman, this is the most famous poet
in America and we’re so happy to have him here." Merwin rose, and thanked
her with the same attentive kindness that I watched him pay to all people he
meets. He read to the now rapt audience a statement of conscience and a
poem. His poem is about a moment of domestic peace, of "waking to the
sound/of light rain falling softly," to his sleeping wife and snoring dogs,
which ends with a realization of his shame in his country’s actions, which
make these moments less possible. Again, the room of reporters and
politicians, who normally jostle with each other to orate and pick apart
each other’s rhetoric, were linked in silence.
Then several members of the House’s progressive caucus
spoke. It was the poets turn to listen, which they did with a kind of
surprise at the representatives’ eloquence and honesty: They had been moved
by the poems. They envied a poet’s ability to articulate what makes us
human. They praised Sam for demonstrating that one person can make a
difference, and that we are not a passive, indifferent people waiting for
war to happen.
Representative John Conyers compared the rising up of so
many voices to how jazz happened during his youth in Detroit. It just
happened. Now you can study jazz in college, he said, but it had to be
invented first, and living through its invention marked him as a person and
Representative Dennis Kucinich, who has declared his
candidacy for the presidency, was perhaps the most articulate. To prove
poetry has always had its place in politics, he referenced Yeat’s poem The
Second Coming and drew an analogy between its famous lines—"Things fall
apart; the centre cannot hold;" to today’s tenuous circumstances. He also
referenced Wilfred Owen’s war poems and other war poets.
Sitting in the audience, I loved watching Sam, William and
Terry’s face as each honorable member stood up and honored them with words
every bit as genuine and moving as their own. I snapped some great photos of
William attentively listening to Conyers, of Sam and William attentively
listening to Kaptur, etc. All of these writers mentioned more than once
during the two days, how they viewed their actions as deeply patriotic and
how moved they felt to experience the workings of democracy.
by Anth Ginn
Poets Against the War day was a massive
success. We delivered five boxes, tied up with red ribbons, to Downing St,
and placed them inside Blair’s front door. We were filmed by Sky TV, and
plenty of press were there taking pictures. I included a brief letter,
telling Blair about the 10,000 poems, a hard copy of Harold Pinter’s poem,
and the whole 10,000 poems on a bunch of floppy disks. (The big boxes were
empty.) BBC Radio 4 did a big piece on the Poets Against the War movement,
where Charles Weatherford (Poets for War) and the "poems" on his site were
critically exposed by Adrian Mitchell.
by Karen Margolis
We handed over the PAW CD with 13,000 poems to the federal
chancellor's office in Berlin on March 5th. The Chancellor's
Office issued a press statement confirming the presentation, which was
announced on radio shows this morning. Hans Jessen had downloaded the poem’s
file to a CD for the delivery, and his daughter made a splendid box in the
shape of a book. It opened to reveal the CD embedded on the recto side,
surrounded by fragments of poems from the website. On behalf of PAW it was
signed by the 5 representatives at the meeting: the writers Christa Wolff
and Karen Margolis, the artists Thomas Schliesser and Klaus Staeck, and
journalist Hans Jessen.
We met the cultural minister, Christina Weiss, at 3 pm and
presented the PaW CD along with a separate box commemorating the Poets Speak
Out exhibition in Berlin in February. After the photocall we talked about
the astonishing growth and importance of the international poetry movement
against the war. Christina Weiss expressed support and promised to find a
good place for the poems in the archives.
by Bob Hicks
The presentation of the poems was held in Burlington,
Ontario at the office of Paddy Torsney MP (Member of the Liberal Party) who
committed to delivering the PAW package to the Prime Minister when she sees
him on March 17. Torsney will also send a message to Ottawa with the details
immediately. Representatives of Poets Against the War included Tais Lintz,
Executive Treasurer of the Canadian Poetry Association (CPA) and the
chairperson for the CPA Burlington and Area Chapter and co-founder of
poetsforpeace.net; and Bob Hicks and Pat Petta, members of Poets for Peace.
Bob Hicks’ remarks
On behalf of the 12,000 Poets from around the world
(including many Canadians) who have, in the last 5 weeks, submitted 13,000
anti-war poems to poetsagainstthewar.org, I would like to thank you for
accepting this package that is filled with wise words and good advice that
speaks out against war. During the past 5 weeks, while these poems where
being submitted, the world has been debating war and peace. It is now
clear to everyone in the world that Peace has won the debate, but it is
not clear to the world what governments will now do. Therefore, on behalf
of 12,000 of the world's poets I would like to make this comment. There is
more need for understanding in this world than there is for war. What we
need is the reconciliation for many fractured relationships - not war. I
would recommend to Saddam Hussein that he continues to cooperate and
continue to disarm, and I would recommend to all other countries that they
do the same. On behalf of 12,000 poets, I plead to all governments to take
more time to resolve this. War is not the answer. If we slow down and give
this more time, 12,000 poets know that peace is possible, and we know that
the 6 billion people who live on this earth want this to be your
conclusion in the days ahead.
by Alison Croggon, Jill Jones, and
Jacinta Le Plastrier Aboukhater
Our representatives, Anne Edgeworth and Hazel Smith,
delivered the Australian poems to Parliament House in Canberra and the
13,000 international poems to the MPs for Peace, led by Senator Greig, a
cross-party collection of about 40 MPs which includes members of the
Government. They have taken the poems to deliver to Howard, and the event
was formally recorded in Hansard.
The first reading of the March 5th poets against war
around the world was held this morning at dawn (6.40am daylight saving time)
in Sydney at the (currently, and spookily, empty) Pool of Remembrance at the
War Memorial in Hyde Park. In this symbolic gesture, a small but powerful
crowd attended and poems were read by poets such as John Bennett, Brook
Emery, Jutta Sierveding, Norm Newlin, Browyn Rodden and Jill Jones and
others (sorry, I didn't get everyone's name). They read either from their
own work or from the work of poets as diverse as Ivor Gurney, Bruce Beaver
and George Oppen.
Afterwards John Bennett and Jill Jones were interviewed on
radio 2SER about the reading and the anthology of 13,000 anti-war poems to
be presented to Prime Minister Howard at 2pm today in Canberra. They both
read some poems on air. The Australian poems can be read on the Poets Union
web site at
A very successful public reading was held on March 5 at
Linden Gallery, St Kilda, as the live Melbourne event to coincide with the
international day of poets protesting against the Iraqi war.
Poems from the Australian contingent of poems by 119
poets, send to Mr Howard today along with 13,000 other poems collected
worldwide, were read at the gathering.
Local poets read their own offerings - Alison Croggon
(also Australian organiser of the Poets Against War submission), Emma Lew,
Philip Salom, Dan Spielman, Kate Davis and Jacinta Le Plastrier Aboukhater.
Other poets, who didn't submit poems to the protest but
who support its intentions, such as Michael Farrell and Petra White, read
poems included in the submission.
Actors Helen Morse, Paul English, Richard Frankland,
Aboriginal poet. film-maker, writer and activist, and poet/actor Dan
Spielman also read poems of behalf of poets from interstate, including work
by Les Murray, Peter Porter, Kevin Hart, Jack Sue Wong, Zoe Croggon (13
years old), Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Michael Leunig, Waadeh Sa'adeh, Pat
Raison, Geraldine McKenzie and Anna Yang (at 10 years, the youngest poet
As well as this outstanding poetry, the gathering was read
the letter by Croggon to Mr Howard, which accompanied the Australian poets'
work, a news article on Les Murray's personal protest against the war (The
Age, 5 March), a comment on the poetic spirit in this time of militaristic
and propogandist language by Michael Leunig (written specially for the
occasion of the reading) and a number of poems by young Iraqis on the
suffering caused by the sanctions against Iraq (in place since 1991).
The reading was also given coverage by The Age, The
Melbourne Times/Emerald Hill Times, ABC radio and 3RRR (Michael Leunig's
poem was read, along with a discussion of the protest day).
This reading coincided with readings around the world and
followed a dawn reading at the war memorial in Sydney.
Statement to the Prime Minister
The Rt. Hon. John Howard Parliament House Canberra
March 5, 2003
Dear Mr. Howard
This anthology of poems has been collected in the past
five days as a protest against your Government's policies towards the
proposed war on Iraq. It is part of a much wider international protest
sparked by Sam Hamill, the US poet and publisher, which has gathered
13,000 poems - the largest chorus of poets in history - which are here
also presented to you.
It is a testament to the deep concern and alarm that
your policies have caused in the wider community that so many poets of
such widely differing political beliefs are here gathered in the one
cause. These poets represent every section of the Australian poetic
community: from well known poets to school children, from the rural to the
urban, from conservative to radical political persuasions.
We believe that Australia is a country which desires
peace. We believe that Australian troops have no place in the Gulf. We
believe that our participation in a pre-emptive war in the Middle East
will have disastrous consequences which we and our children will have to
live with for years to come - both for the region itself and for our
nation in the international community. We do not believe that the world
you are currently helping to build will be either more safe or more just.
We believe, Mr. Prime Minister, that you are mistaken.
And we urge you to reconsider your policies in the light of the deep and
real concerns expressed here, and in the wider Australian community.
Alison Croggon On behalf of Poets Against War Australia
by Carlos Hinojosa
This will be a day to remember in both human and literary
history. Like other people working on this project in other countries, here
in Mexico we had many problems getting the 13,000 poems to the president in
a direct way, but we reached his Office by the Presidency's Net on March 3rd.
We told him about Poets Against the War and sent the 13,000 poems to him. We
reminded him about the large number of ethnic Mexican soldiers that will be
sent to the front lines of the battle and about the millions of Iraqi
children who will die because the lack of medicine and food supplies.
On March 4th, President Fox made a statement in
Aguascalientes using the final words of our request: "No to the war. Yes to
the peace". Later that day, we sent a press bulletin to the major newspaper
in Mexico and to the news service of
All of us, who in many ways are working to change the
course of the war, need to remain together; We in Mexico have the Bush
cowboy in our courtyard, and he's gonna be real pissed off if Mexico votes
against the US in the UN's Security Council. We, the Mexican people, are
against the war and we want this to be our answer in the Security Council,
but at the same time we are worried about the cowboy's reaction. We need
your friendship more than ever. Thanks for your attention.
by Giulio Stocchi
I think that we are all "heroes" fighting against the
monster of the war with the weapons of our poetical imagination. I sent the
press release, in English and in Italian, to the all Italian newspapers,
radio, televisions. I am sure that many of them will publish something about
Many friend and fellow poets, that I contacted, organized
readings in Bergamo, Milan, Rome, Naples and in other small towns and
Pope John Paul II, to whom I sent my poem, "In wartime,"
replied to me with compliments and his personal blessing. It was impossible
for the Pope to give me an audience, because in these days he is very busy,
but I sent to His Holiness the PAW CD with 13.000 poems and the following
I offer to Your hands the gift of this CD recording the
poems of 12,000 poets, women and men, believers and non believers, all
united in a steady refusal of war. They entrusted me to thank You for Your
strenuous defense of the supreme blessing of peace. May these voices, each
with its own accent, join in the prayer You every day raise that on this
earth the love among all people may triumph.
With my deepest respect,
by Zerrin Bakoglu
On March 13th, Mr. A. N. Sezer, the President of the Turkish
Republic, read a letter and petition from Turkish Poets Against the War,
along with over 13,000 antiwar poems written by poets in many different
In addition to a CD containing all the poems, President Sezer received a
printed chapbook of powerful poems from the poetsagainstthewar.org web site
with a cover translated into Turkish, a copy of "In wartime" (a long and
eloquent poem written by Giulio Stocchi of Italy), a book of Turkish poetry,
and a printed report of the antiwar activities of poets around the world on
Will we stop the war plans? We cannot be certain of the effect we will have.
But history will say; “The poets were not quiet this time!”
by Pushpa Ratna Tuladhar, President of NepalBhasa Writer's Forum and
Editor of Layalama Online Magazine
On March 5th, a very successful public reading of Poets Against the War
was attended by 100 poets, writers and readers from Nepal, under the
chairmanship of renowned Nepalbhasa poets Durga Lal Shrestha and Purna
Vaidya, at Pratibha Samaj, Satoaki Building, Lalitpur (between Katmandu, the
capital city of Nepal and Lalitpur, the city of artistic handicrafts).
Amir Ratna Tamrakar, secretary of Nepalbhasa Writers' Forum, welcomed the
distinguished poets and guest and Bhubaneswor Joshi, vice-president of
Nepalhasa Writer's Forum expressed thanks to those present for participating
in the Poetry Reading on the International Day of Poetry Against the War.
Twenty-seven poets from Nepal read their work, including Madhav Mool
(Song of Peace), Pushpa Ratna Tuladhar (The Peace Digger), Nabin Chitrakar
(The Veiled Soil), Taba Maru (Ican't create the poem) and Bhagat Das
Shrestha (For Human and Humanity's sake). Other renowned Nepalbhasa poets
featured were Durga Lal Shrestha, Purna Baidya, Buddha Sayami, Pratisara
Sayami, Suresh Kiran Manandhar, Malla K. Sundar, Shakya Suren, Rajani Mila,
Iswori Maiya Shrestha, Sudan Khusa, Narad Bajracharya, Sri Ram Shrestha,
Pushpa Rajkarnikar, Mohan Kayastha, and Basanta Maharjan.
Presidents of the literary organizations, Nepalbhasa Parishad, Chwasapasa,
Nepalbhasa Academy, Newa Dey Daboo, Nepalbhasa Writers' Forum, also the
Senior Human Activist, Padma Ratna Tuladhar and Malla K. Sunder, were
present. A video of this whole event will be forwarded to the Poets
Against the War.