Poets Against War continues the tradition of socially engaged poetry by creating venues for poetry as a voice against war, tyranny and oppression.

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March 5th, A Day of Poetry Against the War

Reports from Around the World

USTurkey - Great BritainNepal - GermanyCanada
Australia
MexicoItaly


John Conyers, Marcy Kaptur, Sam Hamill, W.S. Merwin,
Terry Tempest Williams


United States
, Washington, DC

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 a politician.

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.

Great Britain

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. Read more…

Germany

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.

Canada

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.

Australia

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 www.poetsunion.com.

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 included).

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.

Yours faithfully
Alison Croggon On behalf of Poets Against War Australia

Mexico

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 www.terra.com.mx.

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.

Italy

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 our action.

Many friend and fellow poets, that I contacted, organized readings in Bergamo, Milan, Rome, Naples and in other small towns and villages.

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 letter:

Holiness,

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,
Giulio Stocchi

Turkey

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 countries.

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 March 5th.

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!”

Nepal

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.


Background
A Short History of PAW

Press Archive
Links to News Articles About PAW

Open Letters From Sam Hamill
Jan 1, 2005
Sept 11, 2004
June 20, 2004
Jan 1, 2004
July 4, 2003

Reports from the Streets
March 5th, Day of Poetry
Poems Presented to Canadian PM
October 25th Report
NPT Meeting Report