Anti-War Poets Force Scrapping of White House Symposium

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Fri Jan 31 07:07:43 MST 2003


*****   Anti-war poets force scrapping of White House symposium

Sarah Left
Thursday January 30, 2003

The White House yesterday confirmed that it had cancelled a poetry 
symposium after a number of American poets threatened to turn the 
event into an anti-war protest.

The February 12 symposium on Poetry and the American Voice, which was 
meant to focus on the works of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and 
Walt Whitman, was one of a number of literary gatherings organised by 
the first lady, Laura Bush.

When Washington-based poet Sam Hamill received an invitation to the 
event, he said he was "overcome by a kind of nausea" and refused to 
attend. Then he decided to email fellow poets, asking them to compose 
anti-war works and urging anyone attending the symposium to read 
works of protest.

Explaining the cancellation, Noelia Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for Mrs 
Bush, said: "While Mrs Bush respects the right of all Americans to 
express their opinions, she, too, has opinions, and believes it would 
be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum."

A former librarian, the first lady has made teaching and early 
childhood development her signature issues. Her series of White House 
symposiums to salute America's authors have been lively affairs, 
featuring discussions about literature and its impact on society.

No future date for the poetry event has been announced.

Mr Hamill, a co-founder of Copper Canyon Press, set up a website 
<http://www.poetsagainstthewar.org/> in a bid to turn February 12 
into Poetry Against the War day. He said that he had received poems 
or personal statements from more than 2,000 poets during the last 
week, and plans to present an anthology of the poems to the White 
House.

In an open letter on the site, Mr Hamill explained:
"I believe the only legitimate response to such a morally bankrupt 
and unconscionable idea is to reconstitute a Poets Against the War 
movement like the one organised to speak out against the war in 
Vietnam."

Contributors have included WS Merwin, Galway Kinnell, Ursula K Le 
Guin, Adrienne Rich and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

"I'm putting in 18-hour days. I'm 60 and I'm tired, but it's pretty 
wonderful," said Mr Hamill.

Marilyn Nelson, Connecticut's poet laureate, said that she had 
accepted the White House invitation, and had planned to wear a 
specially-commissioned silk scarf with peace signs.

"I had decided to go because I felt my presence would promote peace," she said.

Mr Hamill's more forthright form of protest, however, may have tipped 
the balance for White House planners.... He told the Seattle Times: 
"What idiot thought Sam Hamill would be a good candidate for Laura 
Bush's tea party? Someone's going to get fired over this."

His is not the only protest in verse. Canadian poet Todd Swift took 
only one week to compile an ebook, 100 Poets Against the War 
<http://www.nthposition.com/100poets.pdf>, which he released on 
Monday to mark the report by weapons inspectors to the UN security 
council.

"We're trying to create something that is like the Vietnam war 
protest," said Mr Swift, speaking from his home in Paris. He said he 
was amazed by how quickly the collection had spread around the world.

"About 25 of the poets in the collection are from the UK or Ireland, 
and we are adding John Kinsella and a few others this weekend to the 
revised version, which will be released next Monday to meet Mr Blair 
on his return from Bush's ranch," he added.

Contributors to the ebook include George Murray, Ethan Gilsdorf and 
Maggie Helwig.

State of the Union, 2003

I have not been to Jerusalem,
but Shirley talks about the bombs.
I have no god, but have seen the children praying
for it to stop. They pray to different gods.
The news is all old news again, repeated
like a bad habit, cheap tobacco, the social lie.

The children have seen so much death
that death means nothing to them now.
They wait in line for bread.
They wait in line for water.
Their eyes are black moons reflecting emptiness.
We've seen them a thousand times.

Soon, the president will speak.
He will have something to say about bombs
and freedom and our way of life.
I will turn the TV off. I always do.
Because I can't bear to look
at the monuments in his eyes.

<http://www.guardian.co.uk/antiwar/story/0,12809,885536,00.html>   *****

--- Saturday, February 1 ---
An Anti-War Day of Awareness (from 9 AM till late into the night) + a 
Walk for Peace (from 7 PM)
On February 1st, there is going to be an anti-war day of awareness at 
Victorian's Midnight Café (251 W. 5th Ave., Columbus -- half a block 
east of Neil Ave.) on 5th Avenue.  Throughout the day there will be 
numerous musicians, poets, speakers, sign and mask making, and a walk 
for peace/a dance of the dead during the gallery hop in the Short 
North (roughly from 7 PM).  We ask you and the members of your 
organizations to join us on this very special day.  The event will be 
an all-day affair, so if only for a cup of coffee, please come in to 
support the call for peace.  We hope to see you all there.
Location: Victorian's Midnight Café, 251 West 5th Avenue, Columbus, OH
--- Contact: 614-299-2295 or 614-784-9119 or <budhaloaf at hotmail.com> ---

-- 
Yoshie

* Calendar of Events in Columbus: 
<http://www.osu.edu/students/sif/calendar.html>
* Student International Forum: <http://www.osu.edu/students/sif/>
* Committee for Justice in Palestine: <http://www.osudivest.org/>
* Al-Awda-Ohio: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Al-Awda-Ohio>
* Solidarity: <http://solidarity.igc.org/>

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