100 Poets against war
- There has always been anxiety about the role of writers in resisting
tyranny, war, usurpation of rights, censorship, and writers
involvement in resistance.
Here is an article from Canada's Globe and Mail about the efforts of a
Canadian born writer in bringing together 100 poets to protest
against the possible war with Iraq.
Their collection of poetry can be accessed at:
The article from The Globe and Mail is enclosed.
From globeandmail.com, Tuesday, January 28, 2003
100 poets enlisted in protest against war
Montreal-born Todd Swift has organized
an e-mail demonstration of antiwar verse
One week ago, the Montreal-born poet Todd Swift was sitting in a
Paris cafe, reading The Guardian, fuming about the hard-line American
stance on war with Iraq.
He decided to organize a protestof powerful words and haunting
images. And yesterday, to coincide with the release of the UN weapons
inspectors' report, Swift e-mailed an anthology called 100 Poets
Against the War to friends, family and far-flung acquaintances.
In one day, the book (available at http://www.nthposition.com) spread
like wildfire on the Internet, with people around the world reading
the works of these poets, who congregated in one place to beat the
"What I was hoping to do with this book is contribute to a growing
sense that we're not a minority in opposing this war any more," said
Swift, 36, who was reached by phone yesterday in the French capital
where he is currently living with his fiancee. "In fact, we're
becoming a cultural majority.
"Most Europeans are quite upset by what looks like an aggressive,
unilateral push by the United States for war, at a time when everyone
else wants time for further discussion and more reflection," added
"I thought, let's move quickly and get something out that inspires
and contains a powerful message. I wanted to let people who are
opposed to the war know they're not alone."
Canadian contributors include Robert Priest, bill bissett, Maggie
Helwig, Di Brandt and George Murray.
The Toronto-born Murray, who now lives in New York, said the 100
Poets Against the War initiative is important for what it awakens and
also for the values it attempts to instill. "So many people seem to
think that the poet or poetry doesn't have a useful place in
society," said Murray, who contributed his poem The Field.
"But poetry is the oldest form of the evening news, and it used to
play a very critical role politically. First, by disseminating
information and second, by commenting on it.
"This kind of effort, regardless of how valuable each poem is on its
own, as a collection represents a step forward for the kind of
activism that poets need to be part of, that the arts community needs
to be part of."
Murray says he just received an e-mail from the American poet Sam
Hamill, who is trying to organize a project similar to Swift's 100
Poets Against the War.
Hamill was inspired by a letter he received from the White House,
which requested his company at an afternoon reception and symposium
on "Poetry and the American Voice" on Feb. 12. In his e-mail, Hamill
told literary colleagues: "When I picked up my mail and saw the
letter marked `The White House,' I felt no joy. Rather I was overcome
by a kind of nausea."
In his note, Hamill said, "Only the day before I had read a lengthy
report on President Bush's proposed `Shock and Awe' attack on Iraq,
calling for saturation bombing that would be like the firebombing of
Dresden or Tokyo, killing countless innocent civilians.
"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 organized to speak out against the war in
Vietnam." (Hamill is referring to the 1967 antiwar demonstration that
featured leading literary lights such as Robert Lowell, Allen
Ginsberg and Norman Mailer, who attempted to "levitate" the Pentagon.
Mailer later celebrated the march in his work The Armies of the
Hamill then asked every poet "to speak up for the conscience of our
country and lend his or her name to our petitition against this war,"
which he plans to present to first lady Laura Bush on Feb. 12, a day
he hopes will become dedicated to poetry against the war.
By George Murray
The sky has been aged, is ancient enough now
to have lost its teeth, clamping one smooth gum
down on the other in a wry horizon's bite.
That the violence we have witnessed
was not random while the kindness was,
how insulting to our attempts at existentialism!
Can we not even frighten ourselves
with philosophy anymore? That intent
could replace randomness as our greatest fear
speaks of how far we've come;
from there to here, from right to just left of right,
from fallen to the lower part of down. The corn
that stretches into the distance,
once an orderly army, has grown slack, wild,
and hoary, each stalk standing at ease
instead of attention, and in a place of its choosing,
bearing those heavy yellow arms in a silence
similar to hushed anticipation. Listen to the wind,
the brewing rain, the field of fire, the flight
of distant machinery, the coded plan of attack.
From 100 Poets Against the War, published on
- Munir Sahib,
thanks for sending me 100 poets to protest against
the possible war in Iraq.
I sent out a new year greeting to my friends. Although the new year is no
longer relevant I believe my greetings still are!
I am sending a copy of it to this group of friends too:
I KNOW WHO YOU ARE
Sain Sucha (Sweden)
I know who you are!
Shiny buttons and stars on your uniforms
Silky ties that match your suits
And the flashy turbans that go with your kaftans
I smell the stench of
Vomit from the terrified soldiers
Sweat and urine of the trapped civilians
And oozing blood from the dead bodies.
I hear the sound of
Moaning from the wounded men
Lament from the widowed women
And sobbing of the orphaned children.
How dare you call yourself a human being?
In pursuit of conceit like
Wealth, fame, eminence or triumph
You annihilate your fellow beings!
I recognised you
When you called yourself
Pharaoh, Herod, Attila, Hitler or Stalin,
And I recognise you
When you call yourself
Bush, Blair, Saddam, Sharon or Yassir.
You think that by putting on different masks
And using different names
You could elude me?
No, you are wrong
I recognise you
Because I know both of your facades:
You pretend to be
Bold, brave, just and righteous
A champion of equality for mankind!
But in reality you are merely
A coward and a cheat
Who, hiding behind bullet-proof shelter,
And with swarms of bodyguards
Coax innocent young men and women to
Offer their lives and die or kill in the name of
God, democracy, justice, and peace.
But tell me:
If honour, victory and glory,
Through sacrifice and martyrdom,
Is what you commend and aspire to,
Then how come You,
In the manner of your previous aliases,
Are still alive;
While so many of your followers,
Misled by you over the centuries,
I know who you are
A phoney, deceitful Man
Who, using the net of patriarchy,
Spun of devious customs and traditions,
Strives to entrap, subdue or eliminate
All opposition to secure your own rank.
Maybe you believe that
After a life full of follies
YOUR GOD would forgive you
If you were to go and kill
The children of ANOTHER GOD,
Whom YOUR GOD refuses or discards!
I would always oppose you,
I would always disgrace you,
My name is LIFE.