Poetry by Phil Johnson, Guest Contributor

Vietnam_War_Memorial_at_night

Vietnam War Memorial at night, Public Domain

A BRISK WALK

A brisk walk
Takes me to a wall
My hand searches the names
For a ribbon of my sanity
The cold marble
Folds into itself with sorrow
The wall aches of innocence
It is the texture of God
Evening shadows pool
Black blood at my feet
These are the victims of deceit

A sense
Not so much of guilt
As unworthiness
Ripples down my spine
What is the purpose here
Absolution, humility
For I have tasted war
Only through the tormented words
Of countless poets

And I wonder
How many more poems
Will be ripped
From the brutal guts and horror
Of the depravity of war

COLD MOMENTS

There are times
Cold moments
In the heat of the day
When I can see
Through the myth
Deep into the naked eyes
Of war

Is it memory
Steeped in violence
Stilled by death
That carries me
On the cold wings
Of a wicked wind
Or is it in the hands
Of a callous god
That delivers me
To the wretched trench

What difference
If I am English
Or German, or French
All occupy
By unholy chance
The fetid trench
And wait
In the moldy mist
With empty eyes
The cruel call
To advance
Another chance
To die

THE INNOCENCE OF HIS YOUTHFUL DEATH

While everyone accepted the innocence
Of his youthful death
No one understood the instant death
Of my innocence
And, no one was aware
Of his winter’s moving in and about
The crevices and shadows
Within the shiplap walls
Of the decrepit barn
Perhaps he spent those winter evenings
Wondering why
I was milking cows
And why
He was dead

Phil JohnsonAbout Guest Contributor Phil Johnson
Say “Phil” in Port Townsend, Jefferson County, Washington and everyone knows who you mean. Port Townsend raised, soldier, peace activist, Berkeley grad, fisher, builder, businessperson, patron of the arts, cultural and environmental preservationist, county commissioner, husband and father, Phil Johnson epitomizes “citizenship.”

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Breaking! Donation Match Offer!

An anonymous donor has generously offered to match all donations up to $2500 during the month of December. This, coupled with our holiday Fundraising Special (below), means your contribution will go further and supplement more libraries than ever before!

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Holiday Fundraising Special!
During the month of December, we will donate a complete five-volume set of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to the public school library of your choice for every tax-deductible donation of $75 or more!

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On Empathy, by Andrea W. Doray

 

Empathy unites the hopes and dreams of humanity

by Andrea W. Doray

From left to right: Picture Me Here mentor Meredith Turk, program fellow Gulsum Katmir, and Writing for Peace president Andrea Doray. Gulsum is also director of the Mosaic Foundation, an interfaith alliance in Denver, CO.

From left to right: Picture Me Here mentor Meredith Turk, program fellow Gulsum Katmir, and Writing for Peace president Andrea Doray. Gulsum is also director of the Mosaic Foundation, an interfaith alliance in Denver, CO.

One Friday night recently, I was in Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Ukraine. I smelled the jasmine and heard the mourning doves of Syria. I savored lunch in Afghanistan. I felt buildings collapse in Mexico, and witnessed the capture of a terrorist in Iraq. I visited a hospital, an airport, and a high school hallway. I met siblings and parents and grandparents, and felt the loss of those who are gone.

Why was I so fortunate? Because I am mentoring writers in a fellowship from Picture Me Here, a storytelling program in Denver, Colorado, USA, for refugees, immigrants and others who have been displaced. The Picture Me Here program uses writing, audio, and video to help people explore their cultural and artistic identities through their stories of migration, memory, and place. That Friday evening, these fellows debuted the audio versions of their first stories.

I was partnered with two young women to mentor them through writing these stories: Sunday, of Burmese descent, and Gulsum, from Turkey. Gulsum, 30, and her husband came to the United States 10 years ago to get their master’s degrees (hers in economics from Penn State), never intending to stay here. In her recorded story on Friday, she recalled receiving a phone call from her husband with news of the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey. In that moment, she knew she could never go home.

In her story, Gulsum said: “Unfortunately, the [government’s] scapegoat was the social movement called Hizmet – [whose members] believe in peace all around the world and promote interfaith dialogue – declared as the enemy of the Turkish state … My worries were because we were planning to go back to Turkey and I am [part] of the Hizmet movement [and President] Erdogan now could do anything to [us].” Gulsum knows she will be jailed upon her return, even if just to visit her parents.

Sunday – who was born to Burmese parents in a refugee camp in Thailand and who came to the U.S. at 13 – wrote: “I lived my whole life in the camp, only leaving when my family came to the United States. Because my mother could not afford to go to a hospital, I was born at home in the refugee camp and not granted Thai citizenship. But I did not have citizenship in Burma, because I was born in Thailand. I didn’t know which country I belonged to.”

Sunday, now 18, says she looks forward to finally gaining citizenship – in the U.S. – and: “I hope to make a living serving others. I am so happy to achieve for what I want.”

Like the rest of us at Writing for Peace, I am deeply committed to our mission to cultivate – through education and creative writing – the empathy that allows us to value our diversities and differences as well as the hopes and dreams that unite all of humanity.

Through Sunday’s and Gulsum’s intensely personal stories – and the stories of the young Ethiopian man who had to wait 10 years to bring his mother here, the Iraqi man who had worked with the U.S. military there, the siblings from Afghanistan who cried when they remembered their grandfather, and the young woman from Syria who contrasted her life from before and during the war – I felt the empathy swell in me and the others in the room, uniting us in common hopes and dreams. In moments like these, I truly believe peace is achievable.

And that’s how I see it … from my little corner of the world.

# # #

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is occasionally a columnist for The Denver Post through their Colorado Voices panel. Her weekly opinion column, Alchemy, which appears in Colorado Community Media newspapers, has received a first-place award from the Colorado Press Association. Learn more about Andrea and her work here.

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Writing for Peace News

The Writing for Peace Board of Directors extends our deepest condolences to those affected by the recent shootings, and asks…

What Can I Do?

by Jody Rein, Writing for Peace Board Member

More senseless tragedies in America; more assault weapons used to kill and maim the most innocent among us. We feel increasingly impotent, searching for something we can do that will make an impact.

Of course, we can never eradicate violent behavior; humans are imperfect. But we are NOT helpless to change the multiplier—the gun.

Gun safety laws fail to pass at the Federal level because a relatively few people, primarily through the NRA, give a lot of money to fund political campaigns. But your vote can weigh more than their money. When thousands of constituents vow to withhold votes, NRA-funded legislators’ loyalty waivers. We have the numbers: the vast majority of Americans, including many NRA members, support reasonable gun safety laws.

When it comes to influencing lawmakers in the United States, know this:

  1. Your call matters. Your email matters. Most people keep silent.
  2. Most gun legislation today is done at the state and local level. This is where you can have the most influence.

Actions that Make a Difference

  1. Use the Gun Law Navigatorto learn generally about your state’s gun laws.
  2. Find out what laws are on the books in your state, and call or write your local representative to express your opinion. How do you find out? Google local chapters of MomsDemandAction OR the Brady Campaign OR simply “gun safety advocate [your state].”  In Colorado, for example, we have www.coloradoceasefire.org, as well as branches of the national advocacy groups listed above. Colorado Ceasefire is a one-stop-shop for information. It lists upcoming legislation, legislator voting records and NRA ratings, and actions you can take.

Most of these groups also have email alerts; sign up. Act when asked.

  1. Volunteer, either for a gun safety advocacy group, or for the political campaign of someone who supports gun safety. We need you in 2018, desperately. We can’t change the Federal laws until we change the people who refuse to enact reasonable gun-safety legislation.

We can do this.

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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One thing we know for sure: This should not have happened by Andrea W. Doray

President’s Corner:

One thing we know for sure: This should not have happened

by Andrea W. Doray

 

Andrea_final--2 (2)Sunday, in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, a lone gunman killed more than 50 people and wounded more than 500 more. The details – all the sad, heart wrenching, uplifting, horrifying, miraculous, grisly, and even inspiring details – are yet to be known, but one thing we know for certain: This should not have happened.

Something else we know for sure is that this tragedy will reignite the controversy over gun control in the United States. Despite the success of gun control in some countries, and the complete ban of firearms in others, there is a mulish resistance by some sectors of American government – and in our society – who refuse to acknowledge that there is even a problem, much less a solution.

I spent some time in 2010 volunteering with the U.S. Peace Corps in Turkmenistan, a regime second in repression only to North Korea. I personally was followed by the KNB, the Turkmen version of the KGB, and one of the young women I trained with was rousted out of bed in her host family’s home in the middle of the night, for no reason that we ever ascertained. No one else in the village would take her in because they feared the displeasure of these secret police. Fortunately, she connected with another Peace Corps volunteer in the area who was able to help her.

I mention this because the good and kind people of Turkmenistan were completely at the mercy of the whims of their dictatorial government. And although I had previously believed that this could never happen in the U.S., after the 2016 presidential election, I now conclude that anything is possible. The darkest parts of world history are finding a way to replay in America, from Hitleresque demonization of an entire faith to the benighted beliefs of KKK white supremacism.

I believe in the Founding Fathers’ vision of the rights of American citizens to bear arms, if for no other reason than to ultimately prevent the types of oppression I witnessed in Turkmenistan. But, like all rights, this one must be balanced with the good of the citizenry at large. For example, hate speech is not protected as free speech. Freedom of religion does not extend to so-called cults that break the law. And the right to bear arms needs the balance of sensible minds on all sides coming together to craft policies that honor the intent of the 2nd Amendment as well as protect the people of America from the horrors of a Las Vegas-style massacre.

There are no easy answers for such a complex problem. All that I ask is a recognition by those in government that there is a problem, and a willingness to do the hard work of finding a solution.

In this space, I echo the sentiments of Chris Murphy reacting to the Las Vegas shootings, now a Connecticut senator, who represented the House district that includes Newtown, Connecticut, when 20 children and six adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School: “… the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference.”

I urge us all to engage in civil dialogue about this most critical issue. And that’s how I see it from my little corner of the world.

###

Statement from Writing for Peace:

On behalf of the board of directors, advisors, and supporters of Writing for Peace, I offer our most heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to those who lost loved ones in the senseless violence last night in Las Vegas. May you find peace and some measure of comfort in the days ahead.

To those who were wounded in this chaos, we send love and best wishes for your quick recoveries, physically, mentally, spiritually.

To the police, fire departments, and first responders, the medical and emergency providers, the venue personnel, and the Las Vegas community, we thank you.

To the regular ordinary people who reached out to their fellow human beings — staying with the wounded on the concert lawn, helping others over the venue fences, holding the dying in their arms — you are our heroes.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, it is normal for us all to turn to one another for comfort, to try to speak the unspeakable, to try to understand what we often cannot even comprehend.

Writing for Peace, clearly, stands against violence of this — or any — type. We do not waiver in our passion for peaceful resolution of conflict, and for de-escalating the ways and means of perpetrating such violence.

We continue to speak up, to stand up, to reach out with our ideals of a peaceful world built on empathy and compassion, tomorrow and in the future.

Today, we mourn.

Respectfully,
Andrea Doray
President, Writing for Peace

Writing for Peace

Writing for Peace News

I’m pleased to announce publication of our second all-student edition of The Peace Correspondent. (You can read the first student edition here.) As editor-in-chief Elissa Tivona says, “September has been synonymous with back-to-school, but this year, the month feels more closely associated with disruption … American kids are facing unprecedented challenges as they navigate their young lives in very uncertain times. But resilience and creativity have never been more apparent.”
 
I invite you to dig into student writing such as “Conversations of Gender,” and “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail,” as well as “Comedy in the Politically Correct World.” Our Spotlight on Solutions section features a piece on bringing back the arts and another on climate change.
 
As guest editor, and Writing for Peace Advisor, Djelloul Marbrook, says in his outlook, “We have witnessed the near total collapse of diligent local journalism in America, and this is a costly tragedy that encourages gerrymandering, voter suppression, and confiscatory property taxation, not to mention pure damned corruption … We need people willing to challenge our assumptions about news.”
The young people who share their perspectives here will help us to meet this challenge.
###
Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.
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We are citizens of the world: All may join and be, by Andrea W. Doray

President’s Corner:

We are citizens of the world: All may join and be

by Andrea W. Doray

 

Andrea_final--2 (2)When I sat down to write about the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, last month, I found that I had no words, which doesn’t happen very often for me.

When American neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and domestic terrorists turned a peaceful counter-protest into a deadly confrontation, the worst of this nation was on display. When a deranged, hate-filled ideologue willfully sped a car through demonstrators, killing one and injuring dozens more, the worst of this nation had a face. I was left speechless with rage and helplessness and horror.

andrea Sentence 2 (2)Perhaps it’s more accurate to say, though, that I had too many words, too many jumbled phrases, too many tumbled emotions. I couldn’t focus well enough to put them together.

That changed recently in Denver, Colorado, on the 16th Street Mall, a section of downtown open only to pedestrians, bicycles, baby strollers, and, on occasion, horse-drawn buggies. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that I was safe from terrorism by car, but maybe that was a factor.

andrea Passerby (2)I have the pleasure of mentoring a young writer and the two of us got together one Saturday in August to Write Denver: Meet in the Street, a collaborative write-the-city project hosted by Lighthouse Writers Workshop, where I sometimes teach in the Young Writers Program.

That day’s “Word on the Street” event was a prelude to the Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in the U.S. The NEA Big Read supports dynamic community reading programs that broaden our understanding of our world, our communities and ourselves through the effect of sharing a good book, which this year features Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. In this work – which was a finalist for our National Book Award – Rankine explores what it means to be a person of color in America today, laying bare moments of racism that often surface in everyday encounters.

Version 3Dan Manzanares, Lighthouse Community Programs Coordinator, chalked out two huge blank pages on the center sidewalk and piled up words pasted on wooden blocks. Among “and,” “the,” “I” and “my,” were random words such as “tanks,” “stadiums,” heroes” and “punks.”

My student Grayson and I dove in.

It was an interesting process. Grayson seemed to put sentences together first, picking up a collection of blocks to position on the sidewalk page. I, on the other hand, found words that intrigued me, such as “seriousness,” “innocent,” “nostalgia” or “illuminated,” then added blocks, moved them around, or sometimes tossed them.

After about an hour, the two pages in the middle of Denver’s 16th Street Mall were nearly full, attracting the attention of passersby. Being who I am, I briefly outlined the project and asked them if they wanted to play. Some did.

andrea Sentence 1 (2)A tall black man took his time before he laid down blocks that read: “I roared I wish / my kids never know.” A young white couple wrote simply: “All may join / and be.” The man returned a second time, with this: “Instead of ambition / wish life & joy / be on all.”

Wow.

From my student, this: “We looked different / so life was floodlights / and / they did what they had to.” And, “This just in / the people are / only partially awful.”

All this from random blocks we were given.

For my part, by zeroing in on a word or two and then building around them, I wrote: “Neighborhood young families / punks and professional heroes wish / days crowd into night.” And this: “Oh, I myself had my cruel / seriousness too illuminated, thinking / innocent touch is enough.”

Did I write about the travesty of Charlottesville? Did I find my voice against hatred and violence and vile racism? Maybe … the experience of sharing words and thoughts with my student and with strangers – none of whom knew Rankine’s work, by the way – was oddly liberating. And uplifting. And illuminating.

In the end, I put together this about racism and Nazi flags and Tiki-torch violence: “Some nostalgia makes eager fraternities,” and, “My life wish is me / shutting doors / myself.”

And that’s how I see it from my little corner of the world.

# # #

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is occasionally a columnist for The Denver Post through their Colorado Voices panel. Her weekly opinion column, Alchemy, which appears in Colorado Community Media newspapers, has received a first-place award from the Colorado Press Association. Learn more about Andrea and her work here.

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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Standing up for a free press, by Andrea W. Doray

President’s Corner:

Standing up for a free press

by Andrea W. Doray

 

Andrea DorayJournalists are in mortal danger and that’s not fake news.

From the continuous assault on the news media as an “enemy of the people” from the president of the United States, to the prisons of Turkey where more journalists are jailed than in any other country in the world, the very concept of a free press is facing its most serious threats.

I live in the U.S. state of Colorado, and when I was younger and out to change the world, I participated in a yearlong leadership program. We explored the foundations of American society, visiting hospitals, jails, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters. Once a month, we spent a whole day exploring a topic germane to running a city.

On the day dedicated to the workings of government, my colleagues and I met with a panel of officials where the dialogue inevitably came around to a familiar lament: “Why does the media only publish bad news?”

The elected and appointed officials in attendance, as well as those in business and economic development, were concerned that “bad” press was keeping companies from relocating in Colorado, deterring skilled workers, and actually contributing to job loss. So, these leaders mused, maybe the media ought to report only the good stuff.

What they were saying about negative publicity was probably true: Colorado was on a rough economic ride at the time, and I agreed that the continual news about high numbers of home foreclosures and rising jobless rates wasn’t uplifting. It was the proposed solution to this perceived problem that jolted me out of my seat to address the panel and my colleagues, in genuine alarm at the prospect of limiting – in any way – the freedom of the press.

Note: I wasn’t talking then about information outside the bounds of accurate reporting and good taste, and I’m not talking about it now. I’m not naïve … shock jocks, fringe networks with fanatical followers, and the ever-present sound bites make it more difficult than ever for the public to find and discern the truth.

Add to this the current climate of “alternative facts,” misleading statements, and outright lies that are purveyed not only by the U.S. administration and Congress, but also by actual and would-be dictatorial states around the world, and we have a situation of dire peril.

On that day years ago, I was fiercely defending a freedom that too few nations enjoy, a freedom that we’ve seen violently suppressed in despotic states and that I’ve personally witnessed censored in totalitarian nations – an essential freedom that continually guarantees citizens in democratic societies access to the truth.

In addition to the heart-thumping nerve it took for me to stand up and address the assembly in that hall, the only real detail I remember was the number of Imelda’s shoes – a big story at the time that ultimately became iconic for the excesses of the Marcos regime in the Philippines.

The high point of that day was my explanation that, because of a free and independent press, we in commissioners’ chambers in a city in Colorado knew more about what was happening halfway around the world than the people who lived there.

Then I sat down. I believe there was applause.

***

Today, I’m still out to change the world. I’m still standing up for freedom of the press, and I still get alarmed when someone proposes we should “do something” about the media.

I understand that all professions and all professionals have their foibles, their falsities, and even their outright failures, but no one – no one – has the right to tell the media what news they ought to report or how they should report it.

I stood up for freedom of the press that day, and I stand up for a free press today. Will you stand up with me? I think I hear applause.

And that’s how I see it, from my little corner of the world…

###

P.S. For a look at the future of journalism, especially peace journalism, take a look at the new student edition of The Peace Correspondent here.

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is occasionally a columnist for The Denver Post through their Colorado Voices panel. Her weekly opinion column, Alchemy, which appears in Colorado Community Media newspapers, has received a first-place award from the Colorado Press Association. Learn more about Andrea and her work here.

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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The Peace Correspondent, Vol.1, No. 3

Student Edition, Part One

We’re excited to announce the third edition of our Peace Correspondent, a solution-based periodical published by Writing for Peace. This is the first installment of the anticipated two part student edition. We have made it available on the site here. For those who prefer the traditional periodical format, it will arrive via email as a pdf attachment. You are welcome to forward the pdf  to interested friends and family. The periodical will also be shared through our Facebook page.

In this edition, look forward to:

Another Look at Homelessness: Overlooked in Fort Collins—Testimony from the Street

by Megan Braa

Another look at Indigenous Movements: The Water Protectors—Where are they now?

by Cullen Lobe

Spotlight on Agriculture: The American Way

by Gwen Hummel

Spotlight on Northern Colorado: Watering Down the War

by Julia Rentsch

Human right or mortal sin: an in-depth look at the assisted suicide controversy

by Emily Mashak

Conversations on immigration: Empathy on the Southern Border

by Erin Phil

A word about coming Peace Correspondent news journals

by Editor-in-Chief Elissa Tivona

The second part of our student edition will be announced on our blog and will include a special editorial by Writing for Peace Adviser Djelloul Marbrook.  If you are interested in joining our Peace Journalists and writing for The Peace Correspondent, check out our guidelines here.

Congratulations to Editor-in-Chief Elissa Tivonna, our Associate Editor Melody Rautenstraus, and all our talented student Peace Journalists!

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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A Moral Imperative, By Andrea W. Doray

President’s Corner:

America has a moral imperative to offer asylum

by Andrea W. Doray

Andrea DorayUnited States from Egypt, where she would have been murdered by her own family as an honor killing because she refused an arranged marriage to her cousin.

A mother and young children travel north from Guatemala to the U.S., fleeing the gang violence, drug wars, and political corruption of their everyday existence.

A Syrian refugee family is finally reunited during the reprieve granted by judicial injunctions against the White House travel ban.

These are real cases, real people who have come to the United States to seek asylum. Their plights, and those of others like them, are the result of religious extremism, brutal repression, and despotism around the world. These people are forced to flee persecution, war, and intolerable conditions at home to seek safety in America.

Immigration – and the age-old debate that consumes it – continues to take center stage not only for politicians around the world, but also for those with strong convictions on this issue, one way or the other.

As an American, I am horrified at current policies and proposals from our very highest levels of government not only to deny admission to refugees, but also to hunt down law-abiding people who have made their lives here and to send them back to the desperate circumstances they once fled.

Fortunately, American immigration lawyers, expert witnesses, and researchers come together to detail country conditions for asylum officials, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) attorneys, and immigration judges. They help to explain situations that immigration officials themselves often cannot even imagine happening, using details, reliable reports about human rights violations, and expert testimony to support the truths of violence, poverty, and brutal repression that asylum-seekers face day to day in their home countries.

Of course, under the current U.S. administration, the lives of those who are at risk if they are deported to their homelands have become lives of fear in America. The government has ramped up its efforts to send asylum-seekers back, at a staggering multi-billion-dollar cost and a waste of precious time and resources in the already overworked court system.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. government spends an average of $12,500 to arrest, detain, and deport just one person who has arrived in the country illegally, or who has overstayed his or her visa. A study released by the Migration Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan think tank in Washington, DC, found that, in the post 9/11 era, nearly $18 billion federal tax dollars were spent on immigration enforcement in 2012 alone – an amount greater than that spent on every other federal law enforcement agency combined.

Surely there are better uses for this money than chasing people who have sought or are seeking asylum in the U.S., and sending them back to certain imprisonment, torture, persecution, and, in many cases, death. Persecution, as defined by U.S. law, includes serious harm because of an applicant’s race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group.

Refusing asylum to people who have come the country for their safety does not represent, as I understand them, either the values of our society or the ideals of the United States of America.

My own grandparents, Timor and Lucretia, immigrated from Romania, entering the U.S. through Canada at the turn of the 20th century to escape the unrest and volatility of Eastern Europe. Timothy John, as my grandfather was known, worked as a janitor, ultimately headed a group of janitors, and helped other Romanian immigrants come to America.

Certainly much has changed since then: America had been seen as a beacon of hope and stability for people who have fled their home countries in fear for their lives. But because of its regressive policies and often-convoluted regulations, our government now endeavors to send them back.

Those helping immigrants through the U.S. court system say they encounter two basic reactions from ICE officials, DHS attorneys, and immigration judges to asylum cases: those who believe this country should welcome asylum applicants, and those who believe their responsibility is to serve as gatekeepers. These two worldviews reflect our larger society as a whole, with some of us believing that we are better because of immigration, and others who regard immigrants and asylum-seekers with both fear and anger. After September 11, and with the creation of the DHS, whose aim was originally to protect us from terrorist threats, there exists in many circles a deep-seated fear and mistrust of immigrants.

It would be hard to overstate the trauma, terror, and shame of women fleeing rape or female genital mutilation, or the fears of dissidents who are beaten or tortured for their political views, or the profound losses of families wrenched apart by civil strife, religious extremism, and outright war.

As Americans, I believe we have a moral imperative to uphold the ideals of life and liberty, and offer these same protections for those who seek safety in new lives here.

That’s how I see it, from my little corner of the world …

###

P.S. Our 2017 edition of DoveTales: An International Journal of the Arts focuses on “Refugees and the Displaced.” Order your copy here for insightful writing on this issue, and to support the efforts of Writing for Peace.

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is occasionally a columnist for The Denver Post through their Colorado Voices panel. Her weekly opinion column, Alchemy, which appears in Colorado Community Media newspapers, has received a first-place award from the Colorado Press Association. Learn more about Andrea and her work here.

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

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Poetry fuels the fire; powerful play… by Andrea W. Doray

President’s Corner:

Poetry fuels the fire; and the powerful play goes on…

by Andrea W. Doray

Andrea Doray

Not surprisingly, I am in love with the written word. I love the power of the pen on the page to move, amuse, anger, or delight. The power to take us places we’ve never been before. The power to take us back to times and places we have come from.

Fiction, nonfiction such as biographies and creative nonfiction, memoirs, and essays have always had their devoted followers. Poetry is now also finding its way further into the mainstream … and even into the commercial realm as well. In an ad last year for the Apple iPad Air, we heard Robin William’s voice in his portrayal of John Keating, the beloved English teacher in the U.S. film Dead Poets Society.

From the sound track, replicated in the iPad ad, Williams/Keating quotes the poet Walt Whitman … but it’s far more than a quote, more than just a reading of words on the page. When Williams recites from “O, Me! O, Life!”, it is a performance that is as much a celebration of Whitman’s poetry as of the life about which Whitman writes. And for those of us who need a reminder of the profound power of Walt Whitman’s words, Williams gives it to us with a tantalizing invitation: “…the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

Our just-released fifth edition of DoveTales: An International Journal of the Arts, published by Writing for Peace, features both new and established poets (as well as talented artists, photographers, essayists, and fiction writers), writing on the theme of “Refugees and the Displaced.” As Carmel Mawle, founder of Writing for Peace and editor-in-chief for the issue, says: “Their suffering is in the front of our collective consciousness.” Carmel reminds us that their situation has descended to new levels of hostility and danger:

What can we do to change this trend? We march. We show up at airports. We boycott. We call and write and demand accountability from our legislators. We write to shine a light … and we are making a difference. Don’t let the drumbeat of dystopia dampen your passion for justice.

As Carmel tells us, this book is fuel for the fire in our bellies.

* * *

Sam Hamill, revolutionary poet and scholar, co-founder of Poets again the War to protest the conflict in Iraq, is our featured advisor in “Refugees and the Displaced,” and we are fortunate to include three poems from his book, Habitation.

When celebrated poet Martín Espada was asked to comment on the release of Habitation, he said: “When future generations want to know the truth of these times, they will turn to the words of Sam Hamill.”

As is evident in his poetry and his activism, Sam Hamill is a man who intensely feels the suffering of others, much like the character of John Keating from Dead Poets Society, who said, “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.”

John Keating wanted his students to experience poetry with a different perspective of authentic knowledge and feelings. In our “Refugees and the Displaced” issue of DoveTales, the winners of our Young Writers Contest share this authenticity and power in their poetry.

Poetry judge E. Ethelbert Miller says of Lisa Zou’s first-place entry, “She Serves in Ben Hai”: “This is a beautiful poem – haunting in its tenderness … about family, aging, and the shadows of displacement created by [the Vietnam] war.”

Zou writes:

“… Each summer, my grandmother knits guilt / into my waitress dress and hot privilege lacquers my tongue. / I swallow each gated community, each “made in Vietnam” sticker, / one bleached spoonful after the other.”

Second-place winner Lydia Chew’s speaker issues an apology to a young woman harassed in school because she is Muslim. Says Miller: “Chew’s work attempts to understand what is at the root of our fears.”

In “Dear M,” Chew writes:

I don’t know if you remember me, / but this is my apology. / … I remember that I never saw you, / I only saw your hijab.

As Miller commented, “There is hope (in this poem) that perhaps we all have the capacity to change – no matter how long it may take.”

* * *

To quote from Walt Whitman:

“That you are here – that life exists and identity, / That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

In poets such as Sam Hamill, Lisa Zou, and Lydia Chew – and, indeed, in writers of all stripes – we find the compassionate, empathetic members of the human race John Keating describes in Dead Poets Society. We find knowledge, and authenticity, and power. We find fuel for the fire in our bellies.

And the powerful play goes on.

###

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is occasionally a columnist for The Denver Post through their Colorado Voices panel. Her weekly opinion column, Alchemy, which appears in Colorado Community Media newspapers, has received a first-place award from the Colorado Press Association.Learn more about Andrea and her work here.

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2017 DoveTales, “Refugees and the Displaced” Now Available

2017 Front CoverThe fifth edition of our annual literary journal, DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is now available. Our “Refugees and the Displaced” themed DoveTales is a timely affront to a status quo comfortable with the suffering of others. With contributors from every continent on the planet except Antarctica (we’re working on that), this is a book that is meant to challenge assumptions and explore issues of peace, social justice, and our responsibility to our fellow man. Cover art is by Canadian artist, Allen Forrest. Purchase your copy here, or find all our books at the Denver Lighthouse Writers Litfest!

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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A World of Voices, by Vicki Lindner

Photo: New York City Dawn, By Hans Lienhart

A World of Voices

By Vicki Lindner

 

In May I flew to New York, my former hometown, for PEN America’s 2017 World Voices Festival, “Gender+Power.” Unlike most literary conferences, this one, founded after 9/11 by Salman Rushdie and others, focuses on international writers and combatting isolationism. This year, 200 writers from 40 countries were featured in the festival.

PEN defends unjustly imprisoned writers in countries that fear the power of the word—China, Africa, and Mexico. I’ve been a PEN member since 1982, when I worked with the Prison Committee, teaching writing to Sing Sing prisoners and judging an annual prison writing contest. PEN also sponsors prestigious book awards. Since the 2016 election, it sends members a daily update on political issues affecting freedom of expression.

The international festival was appropriate in a city teeming with immigrants (almost everyone has an accent) and foreign tourists. Every event was held in a bar, bookstore, or theater, like the Nuyorican Poet’s Café, in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. Every panel was political, vociferously anti-Trump, and focused on identity politics, multicultural literature, sexual orientation and gender, with titles like “Unapologetically Afro Latina,”  “Identity in the Age of Globalization: An African Diasporic Perspective,” “Militancy and Sisterhood,” and “Queer Representation in the Media.” Most events featured international women writers, although some white Americans, like Marge Piercy, Jennifer Egan, and Vivian Gornick, were included. Straight white men could be glimpsed mostly in the packed audiences.

I never heard the word craft, though “how to” did come up in discussions about process, including self-editing. The panelists on “Badass Writers; Power and Truth” advocated letting the “real editor” take over, but one, who commented on white editors’ cultural blindness said, “Hey, if you don’t know what a quinceanera is, do your job! Google it!” Both Gabby Rivera, a feisty gay Latina who writes for Marvel comics, and Natalie Diaz, a Native poet at the University of Arizona (“I’m the go-to person when you need a Native to dance for all-white institutions.”) spoke about anxiety. Some eschewed Twitter for fear of encountering nasty Tweets. Gabby recommend Lexapro: “It made me a better person.”

I attended three events in the Housing Works Bookstore in Soho, my old neighborhood, where every product and service is donated to help homeless AIDS victims. (Free condoms at the counter.) On one panel, “Forbidden: Too Desirous,” on writing about women’s sexuality, glamorous Mona Eltahawy, the Egyptian author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, began by taking PEN to task for making her the panel’s only Muslim woman of color, saying that sex for African women is a vastly different issue. (I asked, “Where are the older women?”)

My favorite panel was a two-hour discussion of Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the New York mayor’s “read” for the city. The five Nigerians and one African American revealed fascinating material about their lives and views as they related personally to Adichie’s themes, creating a new, inspiring drama.

PEN World Voices is usually held in May. Most events were free, though advance tickets are recommended. You don’t have to join PEN to attend, but PEN offers memberships for writers, readers, and students from $125 to $25.  A good cause!

This essay was previously published in the Lighthouse Writers Workshop Blog and reprinted by permission of the author.

vicki Lindner (3)Writing for Peace Adviser and Lighthouse instructor Vicki Lindner is a writer whose work has appeared in the Paris Review, Kenyon Review, and Ploughshares. Learn more about her work here.

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Writing for Peace Welcomes John Holley to Board of Directors

John Holley crop3John Holley’s fiction has appeared in Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Fast Forward, The Barcelona Review, Expressions, and received honorable mention in Glimmer Train’s very short fiction contest. His non-fiction was a regular feature in the Casper Star Tribune and the Sol Day News. John lives in Denver, and is a graduate of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop inaugural Book Project.

 

2017 DoveTales, “Refugees and the Displaced” Now Available

2017 Front CoverThe fifth edition of our annual literary journal, DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, will be shipped on May 1st. Our “Refugees and the Displaced” themed DoveTales is a timely affront to a status quo comfortable with the suffering of others. With contributors from every continent on the planet except Antarctica (we’re working on that), this is a book that is meant to challenge assumptions and explore issues of peace, social justice, and our responsibility to our fellow man. Cover art is by Canadian artist, Allen Forrest. You can purchase your copy here.

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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New Board Members

Writing for Peace celebrates the addition of four new members to our Board of Directors,  Mary Carroll-Hackett, Jody Rein, Azfar Rizvi, and Brad Wetzler.

The range of experience and knowledge these Directors bring to Writing for Peace is vast, and we’re excited by their many ideas for growth. We’ll keep you posted on new developments in our blog.

Mary Carroll-Hackett, Writing for Peace Adviser2

Mary Carroll-Hackett’s poetry and fiction have appeared in more than a hundred journals. She is the author of  The Real Politics of Lipstick, Animal Soul, If We Could Know Our Bones, The Night I Heard Everything, Trailer Park Oracle, and A Little Blood, A Little Rain. Her newest collection of prose poems, Death for Beginners, will be out from Kelsey Books in September 2017.  She is a Writing for Peace Adviser. Learn more here.

jody reinFormerly an executive editor with imprints of the Big Five publishers in New York, Jody Rein runs the boutique literary agency Jody Rein Books, Inc. and the consulting company, AuthorPlanet.org. Agency projects, primarily nonfiction, include bestseller and film The Big Year by Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Obmascik (Simon & Schuster); bestseller and sitcom 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter by W. Bruce Cameron (Workman); and the forthcoming Crazy Horse Weeps by Joseph M. Marshall III (Fulcrum). Jody has facilitated the publication of hundreds of worthy books variously as acquiring editor, agent, consultant, publisher or ghost writer. Learn more here.

Azfar Ali Rizvi, Writing for Peace Adviser2Azfar Rizvi is a proponent of social justice, and a driving force behind interfaith, cross-cultural and pedagogic initiatives across three continents. He is a Toronto based documentary filmmaker, Photographer, an academic and a cross-platform communications strategist. Originally from Karachi, Azfar experienced extremism in his early years after surviving violent ethnic cleansing first hand. The incidents shook him to the core and he started exploring reasons behind extremism through this writing; something that evolved from local dailies to covering systemic national issues for news and current affairs publications across Pakistan. Before transitioning into television news and documentaries, he took to presenting radio with the country’s first English radio network at the time. Learn more here.

Brad WetzlerA former senior editor at Outside magazine, Brad Wetzler is a writer, journalist, and editor best known for his magazine feature stories and essays. His work has appeared in respected publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Wired, GQ, Men’s Journal, Best American Travel Writing, and Outside, where he is a current contributing editor. His work typically combines travel narrative with in-depth original reporting. He’s traveled to dozens of countries to report on stories about politics, the environment, travel, religion, and sport. He’s writing a nonfiction book about his travels in Israel and Palestine. Equal parts memoir, travelogue, and history, Chasing Messiahs is the story of the human craving to be saved—and of the saviors we place our faith in. Learn more here.

Welcome to all our new Directors, and thank you for your commitment to Writing for Peace!

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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