In 2003 Laura Bush organized a symposium entitled Poetry and the American Voice. As an invitee, poet Sam Hamill declined due to his strong opposition to the Bush Administration’s foreign policy in Iraq. Instead, he emailed about 50 fellow poets and asked them to send poems to him expressing how they felt about U.S.armed forces in Iraq so he could forward the poems to the White House.
1,500 poets responded within 4 days.
The Poetry and the American Voice event was cancelled. Since then, poets from all over the world have contributed their emotion, intellect, criticism, and creativity and been published on the website created to manage this outpour of expression, www.poetsagainstthewar.org. And then, the poetry spilled out of the computer and across cafes and schools. Poetry readings were held in villages, homes and government buildings around the world. There are now over 20,000 poems in the largest poetry anthology ever published. Poems have been presented to representatives of the U.S. congress and introduced into the Congressional Record. Children, elders and people who never fashioned themselves as poets are participating. Renowned poets including feminist Adrienne Rich and U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins have also contributed.
Now, a new documentary, Voices In Wartime, is debuting and screening across the U.S.It tells a story of how people are coming together to speak their feelings, be heard and take action on a community and global level. However, it has been a challenge to find places to screen the independent film. Quick to take action and rise to the challenge, poets and non poets are contacting local independent theatres, non profit organizations are hosting public screenings and radio stations are playing excerpts. And so I ask us all to ponder, regardless of how you feel about the U.S.in Iraq: Are Poets Against the War and Voices In Wartime examples of social change? If so, how? How is the internet being used to harness creativity, thought and voice to create collective action? Or is it? And the last question I pose is this: are we in some way actually experiencing the cancelled Poetry and the American Voice event? - Patty