Join our Tenth Anniversary DoveTales Celebration Reading Sunday, October 24th, at Noon

Tomorrow, at noon Pacific Standard Time, we celebrate the release of our Tenth Anniversary Anthology, Abrazos, in memory of Sam Hamill, and our 2021 DoveTales, Letter from the Self to the World, guest edited by Adriana Paramo, with a special Sunday LIVE Reading.

Join Host Juniper Moon, Writing for Peace Founder and President Carmel Mawle, our Editor-in-Chief Robert Kostuck, members of our Board of Directors and Panel of Advisers and many of our wonderful Writers for Peace as we read a small sampling of selected work from a decade of DoveTales, as well as beautiful work from 2021.

This 591 paged anthology is dedicated to advisor Sam Hamill (1943-2018), and titled Abrazos in memory of the way he used to sign off on his emails. The beautiful cover was adapted by artist-in-residence Juniper Moon from one of Sam’s original paintings.

Come help us celebrate a decade of Writing for Peace!

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 889 5503 1623
Passcode: 240501

Pre-Order Abrazos & Letters from the Self to the Other

Due to the current paper shortage, the books will arrive the first week in December. Pre-order your copy of Abrazos & Letters from the Self to the Other now to have in time for the holidays. Quantities are limited.

Tenth Anniversary Celebration Sale

In celebration of our Tenth Anniversary, all previous DoveTales titles are 50% off through December 10th, 2021. Writing for Peace DoveTales is the perfect way to raise awareness about social, economic and environmental justice during the holidays. Check out our book selection!



Copyright © 2021 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Tenth Anniversary DoveTales Launches October 24th

We are very happy to announce that our Tenth Anniversary Anthology, Abrazos, in memory of Sam Hamill, and our 2021 DoveTales, Letter from the Self to the World, guest edited by Adriana Paramo, will launch on October 24th with a special Sunday LIVE celebration. Our Featured Writer is Susan Muaddi Darraj.

The nearly 600 pages of poetry, essays, fiction and art features selected work from the years of DoveTales, as well as thoughtful and profound current work from 2021. The anthology is dedicated to advisor Sam Hamill (1943-2018), and titled Abrazos in memory of the way he always signed his emails. The beautiful cover you see here was adapted by artist-in-residence Juniper Moon from one of Sam’s original paintings.

The book is beautiful, the fitting culmination of a decade of Writing for Peace. Watch our blog for coming details in the coming weeks!

Copyright © 2021 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Of Cascadia: A Tribute to Sam Hamill – Readers Bios

Of Cascadia: A Tribute to Sam Hamill

A Poetry Reading in Celebration of 

the 10th Anniversary of Writing for Peace

Reader Bios


Alexis Bernaut is a poet, translator, and musician, born in Paris in 1977. His poetry has been published in several reviews and anthologies in France and abroad, and translated into English, Korean, Hebrew, and Romanian. In 2016, he was invited to the Seoul International Writers Festival. He is the translator of his late friend Sam Hamill, and Trinidadien novelist Earl Lovelace, among others. His first collection of poetry, Au matin suspendu, was published in December 2012. His latest book, Un miroir au coeur du brasier, was published in May 2020, and was shortlisted for the Prix Apollinaire Découverte awarded to younger poets.

Lyn Coffin   Over 30 of Lyn Coffin’s books (fiction, poetry, non-fiction, drama) have been published by Doubleday, Ithaca House and others. Her novel, The Aftermath, was published in 2020 by Adelaide Books. Her collection of formal poetry, Artwork on the Backs of Gargoyles, was published in 2021 by Transcendent Zero Press. Her plays have been performed internationally, as well as in Detroit, Boston and Seattle. She is working on a children’s book (Rainbow the Elephant and Mouse Logo) and a second novel. A short fiction of hers appeared in Best American Short Stories 1979, judged by Joyce Carol Oates. She has won several awards and has had work published in over 150 magazines and literary journals, including Catholic Digest and Time. Her poems were chosen by Judith Roche for a long ago About Place issue. Her website is and her twitter handle is @lynco. 

Martín Espada has published more than twenty books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His new book of poems from Norton is called Floaters. Other books of poems include Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (2016), The Trouble Ball (2011), The Republic of Poetry (2006) and Alabanza (2003). He is the editor of What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump (2019). He has received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Republic of Poetry was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The title poem of his collection Alabanza, about 9/11, has been widely anthologized and performed. His book of essays and poems, Zapata’s Disciple (1998), was banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona, and reissued by Northwestern. A former tenant lawyer in Greater Boston, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Jim Farmer is a Northwest Washington native who spent 37 years with the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission in several roles mostly as a Park Ranger.  During his assignment as Fort Worden State Park Manager in the early 1990’s Jim met Sam Hamill and discovered their mutual love of golf.  Golf became the basis of their connection for over 20 years.  Golfing nearly weekly until Sam couldn’t go anymore gave Jim a unique insight into Sam and his poetry.  Jim turned 74 years old this week and golfs 3-4 mornings weekly.

Cate Gable is a journalist, poet, author, and agent for  change. Born and raised in Cascadia, w/ homes in Paris, France; Tucson, AZ; and Nahcotta, WA, Cate has an MFA from Pacific Lutheran University; MA from the University of WA; BA from University of Pennsylvania (magna cum laude). She’s a weekly columnist for the Chinook Observer and has won awards for both poetry and environmental journalism (from The Bay Guardian; the Hoffman Center for the Arts; the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, Dolly Connelly Award; and a Grantham Prize for Excellence). Her chapbook, “Chere Alice: Three Lives” (Publication Studio, Portland, OR) accompanied the UC Berkeley Bancroft Library exhibit, “A Place at the Table, A Gathering of LGBT Text, Image, and Voice.” Recent poetry was selected for Hawaii Public Radio, Aloha Shorts, and has appeared in Bamboo Ridge, Bryant Literary Journal, Writers Resist, Washington 129, Lit/FUSE Twentieth, and Rain Magazine. Cate wrote the introduction for “Samthology,” a memorial anthology for Sam Hamill (Seattle Poetics Lab, 2019).

Galen Garwood was born in 1944 and spent most of his young life growing up on St. Simons Island, Georgia and in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1966, after one year of art at University of Georgia, he moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he majored in Art and Music with a minor in English. He moved to Seattle, Washington in 1971 and began exhibiting his paintings at Foster-White Gallery in 1973.  He has exhibited his paintings in the United States, Europe, and Asia and his creative contributions have also been expressed in writing, poetry, multimedia and film. In 1976 he won First Place in Painting at the Pacific Northwest Annual Exhibition and in 1979 he received the Hassam, Speicher Award at the Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, New York. In 1995, his multimedia piece ‘Adagio’ won the Bronze Award at the International Multimedia Film Festival in Philadelphia, and in 1996 ‘Adagio’ was included in the Venice Biennale’s ‘Xenograhia, Nomadic Wall’ and again at ‘Art Affair’ in New York. His film ‘Cadmium Red Light received First Place for Narrative/Documentary at the Port Townsend International Film Festival in 2007 and his film ‘Ed and Ed’ received the First Place Award for Short Documentary for at DeReel Film Festival in Australia in 2008. Along with American poet, Sam Hamill, he published Passport, paintings and poems, published by Broken Moon Press in 1987 and Mandala, monotypes and poems, an Homage to Morris Graves, Milkweed Editions, In 2011, he published The One-Winged Body, a series of figurative photographs with poems by Peter Weltner, and the following year, again with Peter Weltner, Where Everything Is Water As Far As He Can See, Marrowstone Press. In 2014 his Maenam (Water) series of photographs were published with poems by William O’Daly, Marvin Bell, Sam Hamill, James Broughton, Peter Weltner, Linda Gregg, Emily Warn, and Jeanne Morel, as MAENAM, of Water, Of Light, Marrowstone Press. A selection from a new series of photographs, ‘The Dream Sea,’ is featured in The Road to Isla Negra, poems by William O’Daly, published by Folded Word Press in 2015. Other images from ‘The Dream Sea’ are in a published collaboration with poet, Peter Weltner, entitled Water’s Eye, Brick House Books, 2015. Since 2002, he has been living in Northern Thailand.

Chris Harris is a baker/cook, writer and Zen student living in Spokane, Washington.









Kaaren Kitchell’s writing life began in Paradise Valley, Arizona, where she won the fourth-grade autobiography contest. The promised prize: a trip to Europe. The delivered prize: a film about the same. She stopped entering contests, but years later, she moved to Paris. Her poems have since appeared in numerous literary journals, various anthologies, and in a fine art manuscript at the Getty Museum. She received an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction, from Antioch University, LA. She has worked as a performance artist, a tutor for blind high school students, a cook on a schooner, a bookseller in Sausalito, CA, Cambridge, MA, and NYC, and she and her late husband, Richard Beban, taught Living Mythically at the C.G. Jung Institute in L.A., at Esalen Institute, and in private workshops in the U.S. and Paris. Their blog of her essays and his photos, Paris Play, can be found at She is Fiction Editor and Co-Poetry Editor of TheScreamOnline Her first full-length book of poems, Ariadne’s Threads, will be published by Tebot Bach in fall 2021.


Gary Lemons has written 8 books of poetry. Original Grace is the fourth book in the Snake Quartet, which was published By Red Hen Press.  Gary received a BFA from the Undergraduate Poetry Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1973 where he studied with Norman Dubie, Marvin Bell, Donald Justice, John Berryman, William Stafford, and Diane Wakowski among others.  He currently lives in Port Townsend, WA. with his beautiful life partner Nöle Giulini and spends his time writing and gardening and doing yoga.


Carmel Mawle is founder of the nonprofit literary organization, Writing for Peace, and served as Editor-in-Chief of DoveTales, An International Journalof the Arts from 2013-2020. Twice nominated  for the Pushcart Prize, her short stories, essays and poetry have been published in Smokelong Quarterly, Lucid Moose Lit, KNOTS Literary Magazine and other journals and anthologies.


Juniper Moon cultivates handwork, as a writer, artist, and letterpress printer. Known to hit the road visiting colleges and school-age camps with co-conspirator Traveling Duende (her 200-pound table top letterpress), she believes in the power of art and handwork to change the world one hand-pulled print at a time. She founded Dwell Press in 2010.


William O’Daly has translated eight books of the late-career and posthumous poetry of Chilean Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda and most recently Neruda’s first volume, Book of Twilight, a finalist for the 2018 Northern California Book Award in Translation. O’Daly’s chapbooks of poems include The Whale in the Web, The Road to Isla Negra, Water Ways (a collaboration with JS Graustein), and Yarrow and Smoke. A National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, he was a finalist for the 2006 Quill Award in Poetry and in September 2021 received the American Literary Award from the bilingual Korean–American journal Miju Poetry and Poetics. A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, his poems, translations, essays, and reviews have been published in numerous journals and as part of multimedia exhibits and performances. He has received national and regional honors for literary editing and instructional design and served on the national board of Poets Against War. Currently, he is Lead Writer for the California Water Plan, the state’s strategic plan for sustainably and equitably managing water resources.


Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma is an author, poet, translator,  teacher, magician, musician, and lover of life. His translation of the classical Tamil masterpiece on ethics, power, and love, The Kural: Tiruvalluvar’s Tirukkural, is forthcoming from Beacon Press in December 2021. Other books include The Safety of Edges (poems), Give, Eat, and Live: Poems of Avvaiyar (translated from the Tamil) and Body and Earth (with the artist C. F. John). He speaks and performs widely, serves as Language Consultant for the Cozy Grammar series of online video courses, and has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, 4Culture, Artist Trust, and the U. S. Fulbright Program. Pruiksma makes his home on Vashon Island, Washington, with his husband, David Mielke.


Ian Ramsey is a poet and educator based in Maine where he directs the Kauffmann Program for Environmental Writing and Wilderness Exploration. His writing has appeared in journals like, Off the Coast, High Desert Journal, Orion, Words & Images, and the Mountain Research Initiative. Ian, who holds an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop, has served as an artist-in-residence across North America and abroad, and he frequently collaborates with scientists internationally to communicate climate-change research in creative ways. He is an ultra-runner, sea kayak guide, and sponsored mountain athlete, and a founding board member of the non-profit Physiology First, which gives students leading-edge tools to manage anxiety and perform at a higher level. As a musician, he has been nominated for a Grammy and has shared the stage with Yoko Ono and Tony Trisha, among others. He is currently finishing a poetry manuscript, Hackable Animal, that will be published in 2022.


Lauren Marie Schmidt is the author of three previous collections of poetry: Two Black Eyes and a Patch of Hair Missing; The Voodoo Doll Parade, selected for the Main Street Rag Author’s Choice Chapbook Series; and Psalms of The Dining Room, a sequence of poems about her volunteer experience at a soup kitchen in Eugene, Oregon. Her work has appeared in journals such as North American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Rattle, Nimrod, Painted Bride Quarterly, PANK, New York Quarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, The Progressive, and others. Her awards include the So to Speak Poetry Prize, the Neil Postman Prize for Metaphor, The Janet B. McCabe Prize for Poetry, and the Bellevue Literary Review’s Vilcek Prize for Poetry. Her fourth collection, Filthy Labors, chronicles her volunteer teaching experience at a transitional housing program for homeless women in her native New Jersey.  Schmidt is currently at work on a Young Adult novel.

Michael Simms has been active in politics and poetry for over 40 years as a writer, teacher, editor, and community activist. He is the founder of Autumn House Press, a nonprofit publisher of books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction and the founder of Vox Populi, an online gazette for poetry, politics and nature. He’s also the author of four collections of poetry and a college textbook about poetry — and the lead editor of over 100 published books. Simms has won a number of awards and fellowships, including a Certificate of Recognition in 2011 from the Pennsylvania State Legislature for his contribution to the arts. Simms has an MFA from the University of Iowa and a Certificate in Plant-based Nutrition from Cornell University. Simms is a childhood sexual abuse survivor, a person with autism who did not learn to speak until he was five years old, and a recovering alcoholic and drug addict with 35 years of sobriety. He lives with his wife Eva, a psychologist, in the historic Mount Washington neighborhood overlooking the city of Pittsburgh. Simms’ most recent collection of poems is American Ash.

Of Cascadia: A Tribute to Sam Hamill

Sunday, September 26th from Noon to 2:00 p.m. PST

Based in Zoom. See the meeting information below.


Please join us for the tribute to Sam Hamill to hear some of Sam’s work, poems and essays written for Sam, and of course some stories. It will be a powerful reading and evening to honor this complex man and writer, who was the first advisor for Writing for Peace.

SAM HAMILL was born in 1943 and grew up on a Utah farm. He is Founding Editor of Copper Canyon Press and served at Editor there for thirty-two years. He taught in artist-in-residency programs in schools and prisons and worked with Domestic Violence programs. He directed the Port Townsend Writers Conference for nine years, and in 2003, founded Poets Against the War. He is the author of more than forty books, including celebrated translations from ancient Chinese, Japanese, Greek and Latin. He died at home in Anacortes, Washingotn, on April 14, 2018.

Readers include: Alexis Bernaut, Lyn Coffin, Martín Espada, Jim Farmer, Cate Gable, Galen Garwood, Chris Harris, Kaaren Kitchell, Gary Lemons, Juniper Moon, William O’Daly, Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma, Ian Ramsey, Lauren Marie Schmidt, and Michael Simms, among others.

Click here, for more information about the readers.

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 810 3186 2607

Passcode: 821060





Happy Tenth Anniversary, dear Writers for Peace, and Abrazos

Dear Writers for Peace,

It’s hard to believe that August is here, but ten years ago this month we began Writing for Peace with a writing contest for ages 13-19. We’ve been combing through the years of DoveTales and our blog, selecting the pieces that most represent our journey together, from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter, immigration and the detention of child migrants, and the pandemic that ripped off the veil from so many of the world’s social inequities. As our tenth anniversary anthology takes shape, I am awestruck and humbled by the wisdom and beauty shared over the course of a decade. And there will be surprises. For years, we have said that our wonderful writers for peace hail from every continent except Antarctica. In this anthology, we will hear an important message from that icy continent.

In addition to all this, the book will include our 2021 DoveTales, Letters from the Self to the World, edited by Writing for Peace Editor-in-Chief Robert Kostuck and Guest Editor Adriana Paramo, as well as works from our 2021 Young Writers Contest winners.

The official release date for our tenth anniversary DoveTales anthology, Abrazos, is September 1st. That month, we’ll celebrate with some very special readings with Sunday LIVE Host Juniper Moon and guests. I’ll share more information about that soon, as well as how you can preorder Abrazos, dedicated to the memory of our first Adviser, Sam Hamill.

Stay tuned, and keep writing.

Carmel Mawle
Writing for Peace President and Founder

Copyright © 2021 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Kurt Caswell Joins Sunday Live with Juniper Moon

Event Time: Sunday, July 11th at 5:00 pm PST / 8 pm EST


Kurt Caswell’s writing spans time, continents, and space. For this Sunday Live reading he will read from his book Laika’s Window: The Legacy of a Soviet Space Dog. Come learn how mindfully this writer moves through the world and across the page bringing us stories so that we can better understand ourselves.

Kurt Caswell is the author of four books of nonfiction, most recently, Laika’s Window: The Legacy of a Soviet Space Dog (2018), which tells the story of the first animal to orbit the Earth. His other books are: Getting to Grey Owl: Journeys on Four Continents (2015); In the Sun’s House: My Year Teaching on the Navajo Reservation (2009); and An Inside Passage (2009), which won the 2008 River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize, and a Texas Tech University President’s Book Award. He has published widely in journals and magazines. Caswell was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, and grew up in the Cascade Range in Oregon. He has worked as a teacher in Hokkaido, Japan, on the Navajo Reservation, and at schools in Arizona, California, and Wyoming. A graduate of both the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College (MA), and the Bennington College Writing Seminars (MFA), his work has earned numerous Pushcart nominations, the Lucy Grealy Memorial Scholarship, fellowships at Fishtrap writers’ conference, and the MacDowell Colony, and other honors. He is professor of creative writing and literature in the Honors College at Texas Tech University.

Zoom Meeting Information:

Meeting ID: 820 9332 5006

Passcode: 212396

Jennifer Neves Joins Sunday Live with Juniper Moon

Reading Time: 5 pm PST / 8 pm EST

Please join us for an evening of great literature and a down to earth conversation. Come and learn more about how this writer moves through the world. You won’t be disappointed.

Hope to see you there!

Essayist Jennifer Neves was raised in rural Maine and received a B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Maine and an MFA in creative writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop. She is a technical writer by day, a mother of four all of the time, and author of the new essay collection Freedom Farm, which was a 2021 finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Her previous work includes a humorous travelogue, Backpack Like You Mean It (2012), and her essays have appeared in Litro Online Magazine and Literary Mama. She lives on a farm in Palermo, Maine.

Join Zoom Meeting…

Meeting ID: 875 2664 6096

Passcode: 757763

Copyright © 2021 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Sunday LIVE with Juniper Moon Resumes with Alexis Bernaut

Sunday LIVE Host Juniper Moon

I am so excited to share that the reading series resumes this evening, Sunday, May 30th, at 8pm EST (6pm MST and 5pm PST).

My guest is Alexis Bernaut, a poet and translator, who will join us for an evening of great literature and conversation. This is going to be a fabulous reading spanning a couple of continents.

Please join us as I’ve missed you and these gatherings.

Hope to see you soon.

Alexis Bernaut Joins Sunday Live with Juniper Moon

Join us this Sunday, May 30 @ 6:00 pm7:00 pm, Mountain Time, when Sunday LIVE resumes with host Juniper Moon. We’re excited to welcome Alexis Bernaut!

Alexis Bernaut is a poet, translator, and musician, born in Paris in 1977.

His poetry has been published in several reviews and anthologies in France and abroad, and translated into English, Korean, Hebrew, and Romanian. In 2016, he was invited to the Seoul International Writers Festival. He is the translator of his late friend Sam Hamill, and Trinidadien novelist Earl Lovelace, among others. His first collection of poetry, Au matin suspendu, was published in December 2012. His latest book, Un miroir au coeur du brasier, was published in May 2020, and was shortlisted for the Prix Apollinaire Découverte awarded to younger poets.”

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 875 2664 6096
Passcode: 757763

Copyright © 2021 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.


Natalie Smith Parra Interviews Dr. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Natalie Smith Parra

We were deeply saddened to learn of the recent passing of Natalie Smith Parra. Although she declined the official title, we considered Natalie an adviser, mentor, and inspiration. Besides being a wonderful writer, Natalie was a tireless advocate for social justice and prisoners caught in the criminal justice system. Natalie was active behind the scenes in Writing for Peace, even serving as a judge in our Young Writers Contest as she underwent chemo. We are republishing here an interview she did with adviser Patricia Jabbeh Wesley. Natalie was a huge admirer of Dr. Wesley, reading all of her books and many other interviews and publications before putting together her thoughtful questions.

All of us at Writing for Peace send our deepest condolences to Natalie’s family. We will miss her very much.

An Interview with Dr. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, by Natalie Smith Parra

“In my dream, I’m on the road, flying
Somewhere, stranded at an airport.
I’ve lost my car or lost the keys
In my lost purse
Or I’m in the airport security line
Without my passport, a lone traveler
without a country” 

--From “In My Dream”

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Ph.D.

Dr. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Writing for Peace Adviser, is a poet, memoirist, and scholar, who was raised in Monrovia, Liberia, and fled her country’s civil war, arriving in her thirties as a refugee in the United States. She has been called one of the most prolific African poets of the 21st century. But her voice is also as American as a voice can be: the voice of the refugee, the displaced, the victim of violence, the immigrant. Her work is a call for peace, for justice, and is timely and essential in our current historical moment. Having to flee the Liberian civil war as a young mother has defined much of her work, and she knew if she survived that war, she would have to tell the story.

The works in her five poetry books play out on a world stage, both personal and universal, and immortalize the Liberian people’s suffering, and through their suffering, the suffering of refugees of the world, “…the simple ordinary world, where people are too ordinary to matter.”

Natalie: At what point in your life did you come to identify as a poet? Was it before or during the civil war? 

Dr. Wesley: Natalie, let me first thank you for this interview, for taking the time to work with me, and for your contribution to Writing for Peace. It is my honor and privilege to be interviewed by you.

I have been writing poetry since I was a child. That was long before the civil war which began when I was already in my early thirties and a mother of 3. Writing began for me early in my life before my teens, but by 14, I was already playing with the writing of short stories and poems. I wrote poetry and short stories from the beginning, but I was more drawn to poetry than to stories. I guess by the time I was a college student, it was clear that I could write poetry better than prose, and during the civil war, I turned more to poetry. I don’t know when others identified me as a poet, but my high school friends knew I was a poet because I wrote poems regularly for my high school newspaper. I wrote my graduating class song and class poem when we were graduating, and continued writing poetry and stories until the war.

Natalie: Why poetry?

Dr. Wesley: Poetry did not really come as a surprise, but I believe that I’m a better poet than a prose writer, first, because I think more in metaphors and images than in details. Another factor that forced me to turn to poetry was the Liberian civil war. When one has to be on the run, be under the constant threat of bombs falling from the skies or being tortured in a camp, poetry is the one genre that works. Poetry does not lend itself to the long details that prose requires, and therefore, it is easier to write poetry in such crisis as war. I realized during the war that poetry has the ability to capture vivid images, to abbreviate suffering and to employ tightness of language to say the same thing that a long story could capture. I therefore began writing poetry on the run, writing whatever horrific situation before us at that moment even as it happened, painfully capturing the horrors in metaphors and images in poetry. During this time, I also realized that with poetry, you can spare everyone the bloody details that prose uses. Poetry also saves the reader or the writer the pain of narration that prose needs by its use of imagery and figurative language. It was the painful experiences of the war my family and I endured, the urgency that war created as we were constantly on the run, and the profoundness of human violence and pain that helped me realize that poetry was the genre I needed to be both an artist and a witness without compromising the story at hand. The decision to use poetry as a medium empowered me to tell not only my own story, but the story of my people, those that were dying daily, the survivors, and the dead.

Natalie: Would you tell us who some of your favorite poets and major influences, both contemporary and past are? 

Dr. Wesley: I have too many favorite poets. My major influences are all within the African oral tradition, the stories my Iyeah (Grandmother) and Bai (Grandfather) told me from the Grebo tradition of storytelling, the oral narratives of our culture as Africans and the traditional dirges, songs, tales and fables. We are a deeply traditional people, so that tradition has influenced my poetics and my storytelling throughout my writing career. Besides, my father was a great motivating force and my first fan. It was his support that influenced whether I would become a writer or not.

Having made that clear, let me also say that there are writers that have helped shape my writing of poetry, and they are also important. I was drawn to writers like e.e. cummings, D. Lawrence, W. H. Auden, and to African poets like John Pepper Clark Bekederemo, Okot p’bitek, and from my country, Bai T. Moore. When I first discovered these authors, I was still in grade school, but there was something in their voices that moved me. Decades later on as I became a writer writing against war and about my own country’s war, I realized that these writers were war poets who cried out against injustice and war, and it was that that drew me without my knowing. But now, I was writing about my own country at war long after these writers influenced me. Most recently, I was drawn to Marie Howe’s use of couplet in her lines, couplets not in the traditional sense. I discovered her during my days in the doctoral program in Creative Writing, and from then on began to write these lines that are different from my first book. My second book’s use of couplets were patterned after her style of couplets. There are many other writers from the US, from around the world and Africa that have influenced me. But the foundation of my writing and what dictates how I arrange my lines, my thought, and the images that impress themselves on me is rooted in the rich African oral tradition I grew up on. Without this influence, I wouldn’t have become the voice that I am today.

Natalie: Do you have any favorite recently read novels? Short stories?

Dr. Wesley: I don’t have any favorite novels or short story collections. I’m currently reading a memoir, however, by a friend, Krystal Sital, and I love it. The book, Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad is an amazing book. I am often a reader of poetry more than of prose even though I love prose. In other words, Krystal’s book is a favorite, if there is a favorite prose book. As a poet, I read more poetry and have many favorite poetry books.

Natalie: Do you have any advice for young creatives living now as refugees, whether from war, poverty, or political or other violence? 

Dr. Wesley: What do you mean by “young creatives?” Do you mean creative writers or artists? I guess that is what you mean. Well, young writers, whether free or refugee, should continue to write wherever they are writing, and if they are not already writing, they should begin to experiment with writing. Being able to use art as a tool in such a difficult situation is so important because poets can be a “witness” to the violent, turbulence of war and trauma in their writing and help the world heal. They must keep on writing, exploring the problems of war and violence that keep them in their sad situation. Writing about your pain brings healing to the young artist and all those around even while keeping the stories of the dead and survivors alive.

Natalie: First (or most important) memory of your new home after fleeing Monrovia?

Dr. Wesley: None to speak of. I hate to talk about this issue at this point. When you lose all that you have ever worked for, lose family and friends, and are forced to flee your homeland where your mother, father, stepmother, all your siblings and distant relatives are still in the heat of bombs and rockets, when the country you fled is still in a bloody war and you’re worried your family will be wiped out, when you have lost country and your entire world, there is no important memory about your new home where you fled, no comfort in a new home that is strange to you, when you arrive destitute with only the clothes on the backs of you and your children and husband, and when you need strangers to feed you, to give you a place to live, that is not the memory you go to. This was our situation when we fled. A war destitute person who had so much and lost it to become a stranger in a distant land, no matter whether they already knew that land (since we were former graduate students in America from 1983-85), that memory is not comfortable enough to return to. I’m sorry about this, but I believe this question was necessary to help me say what I said.

Natalie: Do you have a most healing or comforting memory of home in Liberia? 

Dr. Wesley: Another difficult question. All of that memory involves my parents and family that were lost in the war or during the war or as a direct or indirect result of the war. I guess the only comforting memory is the time long before the Liberian civil war.

Natalie: I read your recent piece in Harvard Divinity, and I’d like to ask how your faith helped you to not only survive trauma, but thrive in the U.S. 

Dr. Wesley: Well, as stated in that essay, my faith was very important to my and my family’s survival. We are strong believers in God, and pray a lot. We believe that many of the miracles that helped save us from being killed happened because of God’s grace. So glad you asked the question. Many interviewers leave this aspect of our humanity out, and you brought it up. Yes, thank you, faith was the most important and most relevant to our survival. Without prayer, trust in God, the miracles God sent our way, we would not have survived.

Natalie: How did you make the decision to join the board of Writing for Peace? 

Dr. Wesley: This was a very easy decision because the work that Writing for Peace is doing is no different than what I have done for decades now. The use of writing as a tool in healing, finding peace and changing the world is something I have done in all of my books. So, the invitation to be a part was one of the best things that happened to me. I took no time in making that decision, and in fact, I felt so honored, I thought wow, this is such a blessing to meet others who think like you. I also have a blog (not very active now), but a very popular blog I started more than a decade ago called “Poetryforpeace,” therefore, I felt honored when I was asked to join the board. I am proud of all that is being done, and of writers like you who are making the difference. I have a lot to learn from Writing for Peace Advisers and writers though, and I am learning. It is a privilege to be a tiny voice in this powerful vision.

Natalie: Beside art, what is one concrete thing you think could really help bring peace to the world?

Dr. Wesley: I believe that voting for the leaders who have a heart for the world, who have traveled and understand how much damage powerful countries can do by poor leadership to the vulnerable people of the world is the next thing to using art to bring about peace.

Natalie: Do you have any writing projects in the works now?

Dr. Wesley: Yes. I have lots of writing projects I’m working on right now, some, I cannot yet talk about. I’m currently working on another book of poetry, a collection of stories that need lots of work, and I’m trying to get my memoir published and a children’s book published.

Alexis Bernaut Joins Sunday Live with Juniper Moon

Join us this Sunday, May 30 @ 6:00 pm7:00 pm, Mountain Time, when Sunday LIVE resumes with host Juniper Moon. We’re excited to welcome Alexis Bernaut!

Alexis Bernaut is a poet, translator, and musician, born in Paris in 1977.

His poetry has been published in several reviews and anthologies in France and abroad, and translated into English, Korean, Hebrew, and Romanian. In 2016, he was invited to the Seoul International Writers Festival. He is the translator of his late friend Sam Hamill, and Trinidadien novelist Earl Lovelace, among others. His first collection of poetry, Au matin suspendu, was published in December 2012. His latest book, Un miroir au coeur du brasier, was published in May 2020, and was shortlisted for the Prix Apollinaire Découverte awarded to younger poets.”

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