Poets Against War Newsletter Fall 2005
Poets Against War Newsletter Fall 2005

In this issue:

Breyten Breytenbach: Letter to My American Friend
Estaban Moore:
A Letter from the Poets for Peace and Development to the Presidents of the Americas- English version. Spanish version.
Op-Ed by Sam Hamill Director of Poets Against War

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Dear Fellow Poets Against War:

I hope you will support our efforts on behalf of the poets and people of Central and South America by signing Esteban Moore's petition and by doing everything possible to make Nov 5 an international day of poetry and consciousness-raising.

The United States has exploited and terrorized and manipulated the people of Central and South America for over a hundred years. We have propped up dictators and promulgated death squads and undermined democratic processes time and again. It is a sad, shameful history.

Now Bush wants more U.S. Armed Forces in those countries, expanding his hegemony, his imperial policies, once again in the name of "war on terror." More arms and more death squads are NOT the solution to anything. More profits for Bush's corporate friends at the expense of poor exploited people is not a solution to anything.

These poets and peoples are our allies as we demand peace now. They are our allies when we suggest that poetry is part of the solution when armed forces and terror are the problem. South American Poets Against War will be various in its opinions, and if opinions south of our borders aren't always flattering to the United States, we poets are in the unique position of being available to listen and to agree with all that violence is not the solution to anything. We cannot change our history, but we can participate in writing a better future for all of the Americas.

Most citizens of these United States are completely unaware of what the Bush Administration is doing and how terrible the consequences are likely to be. I urge you to be better informed and to help enlighten those who believe as we do that nonviolence is the only meaningful alternative.

We must stand as allies, united in our convictions that poetry can be, as Esteban Moore and his friends have written, a vital part of creating a democratic and nonviolent future for us all.

Whether through public readings and protests or through simply gathering with a few friends on November 5 to consider this plight and its possible consequences, the poets of the world can begin to speak as one unified voice against imperial policies.

Please take time to enter readings and public appearances scheduled for Nov 5th at <poetsagainstwar.net> and ask friends in other countries to please stand with us on this occasion. Get out press releases to local media. Remember, Iraq is only the symptom; the disorder is greed and power. Think how gratifying it would be to have the petition in Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, French... poets everywhere watching and listening as Bush puts forth his evil proposal on that dark date.

* * *

I have been talking at length with poets in countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Honduras, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, etc., helping them find ways to open their own Poets Against War anthologies and web sites, and I will continue to ask for reports and translations of sample poems from foreign PAW groups to present bi-lingually to our readership. We all have much to gain from this cooperation.

* * *

I'm pleased to announce that Martín Espada and William O'Daly have joined the Poets Against War Board of Directors. Look for O'Daly's essay on poetry and torture in the next issue of the Newsletter. Both have already made substantial contributions to our vision and conduct.

* * *

In early November (including November 5), I will be joining poets against war at the Wellington, New Zealand Poetry Festival. Everywhere, it seems, we find we have allies and more problems to explore and fresh ways to work together.

I recently returned from joining in the celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of Curbstone Press. Its co-directors, Alexander Taylor and Judith Doyle, have been doing our work for all of those years and a good many more. They have been a beacon to many young writers and to the writers of Central and South America (Roberto Sosa, Claribel Alegría and many others), as well as serving remarkable poets like Martín Espada, Doug Anderson, and Luis Rodriguez. Indeed, Sandy and Judy are the very embodiment of what we mean by "engaged" poetry and poetics.

I close this Newsletter announcement with a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, translated by Omnia Amin and Rick London. I think the poet speaks eloquently for us all.

Sam Hamill


Right here and now…

Right here and now, drop the grave
from your shoulders and give your life
another chance to repair its story.
Not all love is death, the whole
of Earth isn't chronic estrangement,
maybe for a moment you'll forget
that old sting of honey and, unguarded,
love a girl who doesn't love you.
Or maybe she does. In this moment
you don't know why she loves you
or doesn't.
As you lean into the rise of the stairs
you feel alien in a duet.
Step out of yourself and into another,
away from your visions,
constructing a bridge in the air -
until you're nowhere.
Mosquitoes near the railway itching
your back might remind you of life.
Take this life on so it can bind you
to life, let the memory of the feminine subside
and right here, right now,
drop the grave from your shoulders…



Sam Hamill's selected poems, Almost Paradise, was recently published by Shambhala Publications.

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