Poets Against War Autumn Newsletter 2007
Poets Against War Newsletter Summer 2007

In this issue:

The Republic of Poetry: Hampshire College Commencement Address by Martín Espada
Two Poems and Two Paintings by Tarek Eltayeb
Poetry of Solidarity by Karen Margolis
What Country is This? Editorial by Sam Hamill
The Good Artists Were Usually on the Right Side by Samih al-Kasim

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The Republic of Poetry: Hampshire College Commencement Address

Martín Espada
May 19, 2007

To the graduates, their families, the faculty and staff of Hampshire College: Congratulations. I would particularly like to salute the Baldwin Scholars graduating today. James Baldwin delivered the commencement address here at Hampshire twenty-one years ago. That day, he said: “The reality in which we live is a reality we have made, and it’s time, my children, to begin the act of creation all over again.” Read complete article.

My Grandmother’s Advice

My grandmother’s advice when I was small
Was the following:
            “Eat well to grow strong.”
            And I grew strong
            “Drink lots of water.
            Don’t stay out late; don’t smoke:
            You’ll live longer that way.”
            I stayed out late and I smoked
            And have yet to die

Yet once in the autumn of my life
I sat in front of the television
And saw heavy boots
Crushing the world
I heard the endless tally
Of those who had just climbed to heaven
Each one madly racing to the grave
From that day on
I could hardly sleep

On a different channel
I took in the very same things
In another language
And then in yet another
My eyes devoured them
My entire face was flashing lights—
I did not sleep

The commercials that broke up the news
Advised me to buy
Something sweet for my stomach
Something refreshing for my mood
But how, how could I possibly sleep?

I grew old at the end of autumn
Older than I’d ever hoped:
I realized that these tiny giants
Were setting out to plow the earth
To dig up its treasures
To till the cosmos
And bless us with the news
Of fresh and heavy boots
That would crush the world

I cannot sleep:
Absurd—so much to eat here
Alongside so much hunger
Absurd—so much to drink here
Alongside so much thirst
And so much news
Both here and there

No-one wants to understand the news
The faces cram themselves against the storefront windows
They hang there like pendulums
Still seeking
Boots fit for a live broadcast

[Vienna; March 28th, 2005]

More Poems by Tarek Eltayeb


Worldwide poetry readings for democracy and media freedom in Zimbabwe were held on 9 September 2007. British poet Karen Margolis, who was born in Zimbabwe, attended the main reading at the Berlin International Literary Festival as correspondent for Poets Against the War.

The power of poetry as a grassroots political medium was vividly demonstrated once again on 9 September 2007, when poets, human rights activists and audiences the world over took part in stage and radio readings for democracy and media freedom in Zimbabwe.  

The events followed an appeal launched by Ulrich Schreiber, director of the Berlin International Literature Festival, and signed by over 170 writers in 56 countries, including Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer and many other leading South African authors, along with writers from Congo, China, Korea, Latin America, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Palestine, India and Iran, as well as Europe and North America.


The Good Artists Were Usually on the Right Side

He was the guest of honor at the 7th Swiss-Arabic poetry festival al-Mutanabbi: the poet Samih al-Kasim, voice of the Palestinian resistance.

Their tongue and their conscience, their spirit and their poet: that is what I want to be! As a poet I speak for my people, for the Palestinians. And I can say without hesitation that there is nothing they want more than peace, peaceful coexistence in an undivided country. We want to live as brothers with the Jewish population. As a British officer, my father fought against Hitler – and for the Jews. And the Palestinians represent a large group within the Semitic community of languages: nothing is more foreign to our nature than anti-Semitism!

And I believe that the Jewish population, too, ultimately wants nothing other than peaceful coexistence. Nowhere have the Jews fared better than here, in our common country. It is the authorities that are blind enough to want a purely Jewish state. They had this inhuman, monstrous idea of a wall!

Read the complete article


Op-Ed By Sam Hamill
Director of Poets Against War

What Country is this?

What country is this? What has happened to the moral imperative, to the idea of a government that is representative of the people? I watched, with rising outrage, as the “leading” Democratic candidates for president of this country repeated, each after the other, that she or he could not promise to have American armed forces out of Iraq in another five years. How outraged can one tired old man be? I was the fool who suggested Barack Obama as the best alternative to another Clinton presidency, a candidate who would end this immoral, illegal war.

The United States’ armed forces are in Iraq to stay. The “new American century” envisioned by Rove, Cheney, Bush and their cronies is a fascist state planning American hegemony over the world. Blackwater, Halliburton, oil companies—the war profiteers enjoy soaring profits as the American experiment in democracy crumbles and the people are impoverished by generations of debt and another war of aggression bloodying our hands. Read more...

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