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

homepoemsnewsletterpoetry mattersdonatearchivescontact us


An Open Letter from Sam Hamill
July 4th, 2003

"All I ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect on murder and to make a choice. After that, we can distinguish those who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves or the accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all their force and being. Since this terrible dividing line does actually exist, it will be a gain if it be clearly marked. Over the expanse of five continents throughout the coming years an endless struggle is going to be pursued between violence and friendly persuasion, a struggle which, granted, the former has a thousand times more chances of success than does the latter. But I have always held that, if he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward. And henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions."  -- Albert Camus

For the past six months, it has been my privilege to serve as founder and primary spokesman of Poets Against the War. Our accomplishments have been bold and vivid, subtle and modest. Both the electronic anthology of 13,000 poems and the now best-selling print selection from it have made history. Our actions in creating national and international days of poetry readings against war have also been historical firsts. We have established a worldwide network for poets opposed to George Bush's threat of worldwide "pre-emptive" war and his creation of a United States that is in fact and deed a rogue nation. We have joined with other anti-war and human rights organizations to broaden and deepen our opposition to this administration's policies as more and more people become aware of the terrible consequences we all face. All of this, and much more, has been accomplished because poets gave their art and hearts and money to make it work.

The war, however, has only just begun. The Bush policies have been somewhat reinforced, at least for the short run, thanks to manipulative, flag-waving media. Poets Against the War will remain an active organization opposing new and continuing wars and new "patriotic acts." Now it is time for long-range planning. For that reason, the Board of Directors has appointed Andy Himes to the position of Executive Director. I will continue to serve on the board while acting as Artistic Director, aided by an Advisory Committee of poets to be named within the month. We will continue to extend our message and provide valuable information, as well as opening a forum where poets may explore strategies and propose actions.

We have drawn our line in the sand. Our tools are everyone's tools: the simple words we use almost thoughtlessly every day, but use in our art with scrupulous honesty and precision. I am Confucian enough to believe that "All wisdom is rooted in learning to call things by the right name." And we poets understand why Dante put the defilers of language into the seventh circle of his Hell. Our liberties are defined by a few clear, simple words

The history of poetry is filled with advocacy, private and public. It is our privilege to draw on that history and to educate our friends and neighbors and ourselves to extend the vast pleasures and wisdom of poetry as we explore ideas, working to make a peaceful world together. In telling the story, in singing the song, there is always the poetry behind the words, both the beautiful and the deceitful. The more people learn to see clearly through the deliberately warped language of this administration, the sooner we shall understand the consequences of our actions. The better our poetry, the better we come to understand the terrible damage done by inappropriate metaphor and deliberately deceptive misnomer.

Only a few well-chosen words can make peace. And even then, only when we are willing to fully inhabit those words. To live by them. By August 1st, <poetsagainstthewar.org> will once again begin publishing new poetry on our web site. May we all find those few right words we can live by.

Sam Hamill
July 4, 2003



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