a poets' resistance

I don't think we should be surprised to find that it is the poets who may showing the greatest courage in the face of tyranny in the White House.

Laura Bush has postponed a White House symposium on the works of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman after some of the poets invited said they hoped to use the event to protest American military action in Iraq.

. . .

In his message [to his colleagues, one of the poets invited to the symposium, Sam Hamill] said he felt "overcome by a kind of nausea" as he read his White House invitation, and decided the only response would be to reconstitute a "Poets Against the War Movement." Mr. Hamill said that he had not planned to attend the White House event himself but that the submitted poems and statements would be compiled into an antiwar anthology to be presented to Mrs. Bush on Feb. 12.

By Wednesday, Mr. Hamill said he had received 1,500 responses, and had to create a Web site, which he named poetsagainstthewar.org, to handle the e-mail messages that were overloading his system.

I don't see any other community showing the same resistance. Most people, as individuals or as groups, can't even be discreet about their glee when they are invited to add themselves to a Bush photo opportunity. Are they all starstruck, or do they just think they have to be super polite?

One of the poets who submitted compositions to Hamill was Marilyn Hacker whose poem included these lines:

The world is howling,

bleeding and dying in banner headlines.

No hope from youthful pacifists, elderly

anarchists; no solutions from diplomats.

Men maddened with revealed religion

murder their neighbors with their righteous fervor,

while claiming they're "defending democracy"

our homespun junta exports the war machine...

Mr. Hamill plans to organize anti-war poetry readings across the country on Feb. 12, in what he would like to make "A Day of Poetry Against the War."


Are they all starstruck, or do they just think they have to be super polite?

Perhaps they think the possibility of war is just. Perhaps, like me, they are not sure about the possibility of war, but are willing to hear the evidence before making up their minds, rather than people who automatically believe that every war is wrong or motivated by selfish or hidden reasons.

[I told my self not to get into this, but I can't stay on the sidelines, and that shouldn't surprise you.]

The war they have been planning for years will begin in a matter of days, and they've told us repeatedly we already have enough evidence, but you say you still can't make up your mind about it.

Well, yes, I suppose it is easier to decide whether a war is just years after the initial fighting, and the immediate death and destruction, has ended, but that hardly seems a sensible course for an intelligent citizen of a republic, and it cetainly is not a moral approach.

A final note: Historically, very few artists have supported governments. Even Kipling, the poet of another empire, lived to regret his jingoism, even if it took the battle death of his own son to help him see the consequences of war and his own contribution to its horrors.

Other artists are organizing as well:


is the site for Theaters Against War.