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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Poetry Matters

POETRY MATTERS, a new feature of Poets Against War, brings you information about community and literary events centered around socially-engaged poetry, organizations whose mission is aligned with PAW's mission, and essays about the role and purpose of socially engaged/political poetry. Poetry readings connected with PAW can be posted and found bv using the links to the right.

The purpose of Poetry Matters is to create a virtual community of poets around the world writing, reading and sharing poetry that open dialogue using poetry as a voice against war, tyranny and oppression.

The founders of the Medellín International Poetry Festival write:

“In 1991, in the midst of exploding bombs, while the sinister clock went on ticking, 13 Colombian poets, summoned by the Prometeo poetry review, met in the city with the utopian objective of reducing the limits of crime and beginning to build a city for life. And it came to pass that life was there, vital and vigorous: a whole people came out on the street, to meet around the highest of dialogues: the dialogue proposed by poetry. And that was the 1st Poetry Festival of Medellín.”

An essential element of such creative dialogue, is poetry that re-imagines the world. In a recent NY Times interview with Stanley Kunitz, the poet said, “I always come back to Blake.” U.S. poets need to meet Blakes from around the world, poets who tap the deepest wellspring of poetic imagination. I attended a talk by Marilyn Hacker some years ago, and when asked about the difference between good and bad political poetry, Hacker responded: “A good political poem must be fully imagined.”

Robert Hass speaks of creating “images of a livable common life,” and of Mandelstam's interest in doing so. “Mandelstam's great political ideal was the Italian city-state, and the most Italian city-state in the Russia of the Middle Ages was Nizhni Novgorod, and it was famous for being a free place because they didn't tax you for the well water. Anybody, citizen or not, had access to the well water at any time. It was his image of a just, small society. And I think that's right; I think the task of art is to over and over again make images of a livable common life...”

A local community event in which poetry opened dialogue was “Heart-to-Heart: Vietnam Vets in Community.” The event took place here in Port Townsend, WA last Veteran's Day, November 11, 2004. It grew out of the occasion of a Vietnam Vet responding to this writer's reading John Berryman's “Address to the Lord” during a worship service. The event that was spawned by the Berryman poem brought together seventy-five people, twenty-five of whom were Vietnam vets, from disparate segments of the community. The event opened dialogue between Vietnam vets and the community, and has given rise to subsequent events, all of which include the reading of poems as an integral part of the event.

Please send news of events in your community to: poetrymatters@poetsagainstwar.com.

Send news of, and find, poetry readings via the link in the box in the upper right corner of Poetry Matters.




American Friends Service Committee
Carries out service, development, social justice, and peace programs throughout the world.

Art Without Borders
Preserving and promoting artists' rights in the world.

Campaign for Peace and Democracy
Promotes a new, progressive, non-militaristic U.S. foreign policy.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Advances cooperation between nations and promotes active international engagement by the United States through research, publishing, convening, and, on occasion, creating new institutions and international networks.

CodePink: Women for Peace
A women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the war in Iraq , stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education and other life-affirming activities. 

D.C. Poets Against the War
A group of Washington area writers and activists who came together during the winter of 2003 to protest the planned U.S. invasion of Iraq and who continue to organize, give readings, and publish.

Democratic Underground
A series of international news links centered on current events with descriptions and external links, as well as a large forum for general political discussion.

Docworkers.com - Political Documentaries
Committed to raising the consciousness of humanity through documentary film. Endeavors to bring interesting, entertaining, important films to the public, at competitive pricing.

English Center of International PEN
Exists to promote literature and its understanding, uphold writers' freedoms around the world, campaign against the persecution and imprisonment of writers, and promote the friendly co-operation of writers and the free exchange of ideas.

Global Voices Radio
Global Voices Radio inspires, documents, and gives voice to the shift to a sustainable, just, and conscious age.

International PEN
Promotes friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere, fights for freedom of expression, and represents the conscience of world literature.

Iraqi Body Count
An ongoing human security project which maintains and updates the world's only independent and comprehensive public database of media-reported civilian deaths in Iraq that have resulted from the 2003 military intervention by the USA and its allies.

Move On
A family of organizations servicing busy but concerned citizens to bring real Americans back into the political process, working together to realize the progressive vision of our country's founders.

Not in Our Name
The Not In Our Name proposes ways to strengthen and expand resistance to our government's course in the wake of September 11, 2001.

Open Democracy
An independent website on global current affairs, offering critical analysis, dialogue and debate on issues of global importance, and allowing marginalized views voice.

Operation Truth
The nation's first and largest group dedicated to the Troops and Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan , and the civilian supporters of those Troops and Veterans. 

PEN American Center
The largest International PEN center, founded to dispel national, ethnic, and racial hatreds and to promote understanding among all countries, PEN American Center works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship.

PEN Canada
Works on behalf of writers, at home and abroad, who have been forced into silence for writing the truth as they see it, by promoting debate, lobbying governments, organizing petitions, sending letters for the release of persecuted writers, and conducting public awareness campaigns.

Defends the rights of writers nationally and internationally and fosters a literary community among the diverse writers living in the western United States.

Poetic Justice Institute/Committing Poetry in Times of War
Conducts, encourages and supports, nationally and internationally, activities such as: poetry readings and slams, publication of the literary and creative works, defends the marketplace of ideas and freedom of expression.

Poetes Contre la Guerre
French-language site of poems for peace.

TomDispatch.org a regular antidote to the mainstream media.

Truth Out
Dedicated to establishing a powerful, stable voice for independent journalism. Provides citizens with access to reader-supported news instead of advertiser-supported news to educate citizens to be able to make their own informed decisions.

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
Based on human rights and international law, the campaign is a diverse coalition working for freedom from occupation and equal rights for all by challenging US policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

United for Peace & Justice
A coalition of more than 1300 local and national groups throughout the United States joined together to protest the Iraq War and oppose our government's policy of permanent warfare and empire-building.

Veterans for Peace
A national Non-Governmental organization represented at the UN comprised of members across the country including veterans from World War II , Korea , Vietnam , the Gulf War, other conflicts, and peacetime veterans.

Voters For Peace
Working to educate, organize, and activate voters to end the occupation of Iraq and prevent future wars of aggression.


Political Lies and Olympic Games on a German anti-racist website

Agent Orange Deforming a Third Generation in Vietnam By Tom Fawthrop, Comment Is Free

Pens Not Swords by Sarah Browning | Foreign Policy in Focus, in Fiesta

Soldier Health Scare Back in News By Audrey Parente Daytona Beach News Journal

"Devastating" Moyers Probe of Press and Iraq The most powerful indictment of the news media for falling down in its duties in the run-up to the war in Iraq

Poetry After 9/11: Beyond the Dreamrim of Grief
Heather H. Thomas has published an essay in Writer's Chronicle about  poetry after September 11, 2001.

Writing of Jordan, dreaming of Palestine
Ibrahim Nasrallah is a writer of figurative poems, but he always expects trouble from his books.

Without rhyme or reason
Omani poet and playwright Abdullah al Ryami has been blacklisted and arrested in his home country for speaking out on civil rights. Richard Lea talks to him about his experiences and poetry

Pens Not Swords Sarah Browning | September 21, 2006
In the winter of 2003, as the West Wing of the White House was announcing plans for a preemptive “Shock and Awe” campaign against Iraq, the East Wing was preparing an altogether different event. First Lady Laura Bush was putting the final touches on a symposium on “poetry and the American voice,” designed to celebrate the poetry of three of the country's most important poets: Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson.

"Wrestling with faith and reason: An interview with Bill Moyers" Moyers talks about asking writers such as Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie to discuss the ways they use their art to imagine a way forward in the public struggle between faith and reason.

Circulars: Poets, Artists and Critics Respond to U.S. Global Policy
Brings together articles and original writing in dated postings to create a forum for poets, artists and critics to read and discuss U.S. Global Policy.

Poetry and Torture
Article from World Literature Today September and December 2004 discussing interrelationships between poetry, torture, activism, and language. (PDF)

War is a Racket
Article by the legendary Major General Smedley Butler arguing that war is designed solely for profit.

Was the 2004 Election Stolen? Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House. BY ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.

Rafael Campo wrote a review of books by three poets - Benjamin Alire Saenz, Denise Levertov, and Jean L. Connor - called "When Doves Cry: Political and personal poetry addresses the wider world" for the Washington Post Book World.

Beltway Poetry Quarterly: The Wartime Issue (Spring 2006) Sarah Browning, Guest Editor46 poets from the mid-Atlantic region respond to our country's ongoing military presence in Iraq. Browning writes: “When the politicians are compliant and the press is distracted by the next sparkly thing, the poets continue to believe, to speak out, and to say no to fear.”

The Potomac: Poetry & Politics Issue Includes an interview with three DC-area poets on the relationship between poetry and the Spoken Word movement.

"Proving That You Are Someone," An Essay by Performance Poet Daphne Gottlieb Gottlieb asks whether poetry can have a social change impact.

Harold Pinter's Nobel Lecture: "Art, Truth & Politics"

Poetry and the Pentagon: Unholy Alliance?

Sam Hamill. "Report from Medellin Poetry Festival 2005"

Daggett, Lyle. “Political Poetry,” Pemmican.

Galvin, Rachel. “Of Poets, Prophets and Politics,” Humanities . Jan./Feb 2002, Vol. 23/No. 1

Hass, Robert. “Hass on Prose Poems, Political Poetry, and "Rusia en 1931" excerpt from “Informal Occasion with Robert Hass," Iowa Review 21:3 (1991), 126-45.

Imaginative Literature and Social Change

Merwin, W.S. [From "The Name the Wrong." Excerpted from Nation, Feb. 24, 1962.]

Neilson, Shane. “Political Poetry and the Canadian Tradition,” The Danforth Review.

Tuwhare, Hone. “Hone Tuwhare defends his political poetry,”
The People's Embassy, NZ

Verner, Scott. Editorial on political poetry. Poetry London.


Interviews with Sam Hamill - The Nation

The Progressive interviews Sam Hamill


Words Against Warriors, Brisbane Social Forum, Brisbane, Australia, July 30, 2005

Writers At Large: "Writers of the Storm:  Fake News, and Public Decency, in the Age of Terror"  Los Angeles, CA, Aug. 9, 2005

International Poetry Festival of Medellín-2005

70th Annual PEN Congress

Mad Poets Revolt

National Day of Poetry Against the War

Medellín Poetry Festival: 2003

PEN: New York Festival of International Literature


Autumn 2007 Newsletter

Links to Peace and Poetry Organizations

Essays About Socially Engaged Poetry


Poetry Readings

How to Create a Poetry Reading

Find a Reading in Your Area