Poetry fuels the fire; and the powerful play goes on…
by Andrea W. 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.”
“… 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.
2017 DoveTales, “Refugees and the Displaced” Now Available
The 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!
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