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In Memoriam, Sam Hamill (1943-2018)

Happier times with Sam Hamill. From left to right, Phillip Richards, Sam Hamill, Carmel Mawle, and Lorraine Currelley

Happier times: (Left to right) Phillip Richards, Sam Hamill, Carmel Mawle, and  Lorraine Currelley.

In Memoriam, Sam Hamill (1943-2018)

By Carmel Mawle

Sam once told me that he thought I’d move away from writing prose. Our flights had been delayed after his reading in New York, and he’d seen a short verse I’d written for my daughter. “You’re a poet,” he said. “You just haven’t accepted it, yet.”

Coming from anyone else, I would have long ago forgotten those words. Sam was down-to-earth and approachable, but despite his lack of pretension, his contribution to the art of poetry, to the collective body of literature, and to peace activism is unparalleled. I listened to Sam, and though we had our occasional differences, I often came around to his way of seeing things. Sam always gave me the time to do that. He was one of our earliest advisers, a mentor, and a friend.

When a man like Sam Hamill dies, there should be a collective pause, a contemplative stillness. Of course, it doesn’t happen. The sun sets, and rises again, and those of us whose lives were transformed by Sam (and we are so many), are left with both an ending and a beginning.

For us, there must be a quiet moment to breathe in the cold air of this new reality – a world without Sam – and then we’ll need to gather ourselves and begin again, to continue onward without him. Through his life and writings, he left us a well-lit path. It will be our life-time task to follow it, in as many ways as we are individuals. Sam would want that for us.

I’m still writing prose – the stories he knew I would have to write – but it’s possible I’ll come around to his way of seeing things. He’s given me plenty of time.

(Photograph by Ian Boyden, 2017)

(Photograph by Ian Boyden, 2017)

Sam Hamill Official Obituary [September 5, 1943 – April 14, 2018]

When the first poetry books from Copper Canyon Press went on sale in 1972, they were revelatory showing that the humble technology of the book could be, and indeed should be, an artifact of craftsmanship itself. Copper Canyon elevated the publishing of poetry books to an art of intrinsic beauty as exemplars of the printer’s craft. One of the driving forces behind this new guild craftsmanship was poet, editor, publisher, translator and fine printer Sam Hamill who died at his home in Anacortes, WA on April 14, 2018. Mr. Hamill was 74.

Arguably no one did more for the art of poetry in all its manifestations in the latter half of the 20th century and early 21st than Mr. Hamill. Born to a carnival fry cook at the end of WWII, Hamill was put up for adoption at the age of three by a father who felt the carnival life was no place for a child. Hamill grew up in Utah, the adopted son of educated poultry farmers who had a deep love of literature and history. As such, the young orphan was steeped in the language and poetry of Shelley, Wordsworth, Keats, and Frost by the time he reached puberty. As Hamill has said in interviews, his adopted father would lull him to sleep night after night reading the canonical poems of the English language. These would stay with him for the rest of his life.

Growing up in a home where poetry was spoken out loud, Hamill in later years insisted poetry should always begin in the ear as a spoken form imbued with the rhythm of the heart. He distrusted poems that clearly came into being on the soulless medium of a computer screen with spellcheck. The many recordings of his spoken poetry on CD and tape attest to this resonant craftsmanship that began in his tympanum as a child. Hamill has been praised by his peers for having one of the finest reading voices for poetry in the English language.

In 1973, Hamill garnered a $500 award for editorial excellence for his work on the student paper at University of California Santa Barbara. Poet Kenneth Rexroth, who taught there, had taken Hamill under his wing after the younger poet ran away from home in his late teens to find his place in the poetic renaissance of the Beats on the West Coast. With prize money in hand, Hamill became the Founding Editor of Copper Canyon Press. Tree Swenson (subsequently director of the Academy of American Poets and Hugo House) and poet, translator, author and friend, William O’Daly were co-founders.

Jim Harrison has said: “Hamill has reached the category of a National Treasure though I’d doubt he’d like the idea.” This doubtless pertains because Hamill was by his own admission forever the outsider in the high-status world of Pulitzer Prizes and academic accolades. He never sought employment in academia, instead taught in prisons. He held fast to the belief that poetry was a sacred craft irrespective of the newest trends lauded by East coast taste setters. Copper Canyon in its heyday, from the early 1970s through to the latter 1990s, published some of the finest poets in any language, including David Lee, Olga Broumas, William Stafford, Jaan Kaplinski and Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda, in crafted books that were singularly beautiful. Its catalog was always eclectic, unique, revelatory. It is perhaps as publisher and editor at Copper Canyon Press that Hamill made his enduring mark. Hamill has been credited with single-handedly resurrecting the careers of such masters as Hayden Carruth, Thomas McGrath, and latterly Kenneth Rexroth in the seminal work in one volume, The Collected Poems of Kenneth Rexroth (2003), which Hamill meticulously co-edited. Poets across the spectrum remain indebted to Hamill for how assiduously he championed them in their formative years. He was also a renowned letterpress printer and it infused every aspect of his work.

Hamill published four books of literary prose, seventeen books of poetry, alongside many well-regarded translations and innumerable broadsides. His early collected works, Destination Zero 1970-1995, garnered sincere praise from such luminaries as W.S. Merwin, Donald Hall and Denise Levertov. Indeed, he has been acclaimed worldwide for the lyricism of his poems, perhaps nowhere with more enthusiasm than in Latin America. His poems unfold in the direct language of the spoken word, with a clear eye to the natural world. Stripped of artifice or academic embellishment, these poems have been acknowledged as some of the finest by a minor poet in the American literary canon. He was also an able and respected translator from many languages, and his translations of the great Asian poets such as Du Fu, Li Po, and Wang Wei, and latterly haiku masters such as Basho and Issa, have never been superseded. As for Hamill’s translation of the Tao Te Ching, it is said that the: “extraordinary strength is that it has captured the poetry of Lao Tzu’s original without sacrificing the resonance of the text’s many meanings and possible interpretations.”

After an invitation to the White House in the winter of 2003 by then First Lady Laura Bush, Hamill publicly renounced the invitation and founded the organization Poets Against War (PAW), which sought to use poetry to oppose the Iraq War. Within a year, many thousands of poets had published anti-war poems on the PAW website, and a bestseller of selected poems was put out by The Nation Press under the same name. It inspired a worldwide movement of films and festivals dedicated to the poetry of pacifism. While this act of literary rebellion put Hamill squarely in the national zeitgeist, in later years he was to lament that PAW seemed to overshadow his lifelong vow to the art of poetry, to his own work as a fine poet, translator, publisher and printer. Overlooked were his twelve years as editor at the American Poetry Review or that he had served thirty years with the Port Townsend Writer’s Conference in Washington, including 10 years as their Director. In the wake of his nationally covered protest, the east coast establishment seemingly ignored all this modest poet had done for poetry spanning a fifty-five year career. To the end of his productive life, Hamill remained a fiercely independent and outspoken poet.

Hamill’s quiet generosity transformed the lives of many individuals. He never hesitated to help those in need, whether it was a gift of knowledge, time or means.

Hamill received many honors and awards, including NEA, Guggenheim, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Lila Wallace – Reader’s Digest Fund, and Woodrow Wilson Foundation fellowships, The Stanley Lindberg Lifetime Achievement Editor’s Award from the Rainier Writing Workshop – Pacific Lutheran University, Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry from the Washington Poets Association, two Washington State Governor’s Writers Day Awards, the First Amendment Award from PEN USA, a US Japan Friendship Commission Fellowship, and was awarded the Decoración de la Universidad de Carabobo in Venezuela. Hamill is predeceased by his wife of many years, the painter and artist Gray Foster.

Hamill is survived by his daughter, Eron Hamill and her husband Roger Mah of Richmond, BC and by his partner, Juniper White. As Hamill wrote in his introductory poem of Destination Zero: “It is enough, perhaps/ to say – We live here/ And let it go at that.” In the case of this wise poet, a poignant truth.

Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Speak Out for the Right Reasons, by Kira Marshall-McKelvey

“When we’re constantly feeling good about ourselves, putting our altruism on our CVs, how selfless an act is it really?”

Speak Out for the Right Reasons

By Kira Marshall-McKelvey

I am a member of Colorado State University Speakout! program, a community that facilitates weekly writing workshops with incarcerated and at-risk youth populations. I have been participating in these workshops at the Larimer County Jail with fellow students since January, and have been amazed, inspired, and in awe of the work that comes out of these workshops. I am delightedly envious of the poetry that seems to slide off the tongues of these writers, and inspired by their bravery in telling difficult, heart-wrenching stories with such grace and poise. While it may sound cliché, the lessons I have learned about rhyme schemes, writing from the heart, and tempo have come from Wednesday nights at the jail.

As we charge towards the end of the semester, however, I must take a step back and consider why I’m doing this work, and who is truly benefitting from these workshops. At a Speakout! training a few months ago, the guest speaker reminded us that the bar is set tremendously low for volunteers—we are blindly accepted as do-gooders, as inspirational, as selfless.

When we’re constantly feeling good about ourselves, putting our altruism on our CVs, how selfless an act is it really?

This is not a Speakout!-specific problem—there is a certain danger to embodying, or even accepting, the holier-than-thou identity that can come with volunteer work. There are troubling power dynamics associated with the idea that we, the volunteers, are bestowing our knowledge and wisdom on “the Other.” When we say we want to empower others by giving them a voice—but leave the jail with a “helping people high”—who benefits?

This isn’t to say that empowerment isn’t a noble goal. We cannot scorn the hope of giving the marginalized a space to speak, to exist freely, but spending an hour a week in a jail doesn’t give us claim to say we “get it.” Writing and publishing about our work with these writers is a tremendous privilege—it is a demonstration of power. And it all too often leaves out the voices of those we tried to include in the first place.

Frequently revisiting the “why am I here?” question is necessary in volunteer contexts, and the answer can change. I entered Speakout! with the intention to help others, to give them a space to write and create. Now I recognize the complexities in using language that implies I am “giving” something. My work at CSU challenges me to question stereotypes about incarcerated individuals, and to reject the low-bar that the public has set for volunteers.

We may accept the nuances and ambiguities with volunteer work while still finding merit in engaging in these workshops. We can want to help while recognizing the privilege in doing so. We can realize that there are multiple benefitters from this work, and that we, in fact, have been receiving wisdom from those we wanted to help all along.

Kira WFP (3)Kira Marshall-McKelvey is a second year Masters student in Rhetoric and Composition at Colorado State University. She teaches college composition and writes in the areas of digital feminism, Native American rhetoric, and prison literacy. She works with incarcerated writers as a member of CSU’s Speakout! program, and serves as social media intern for Writing for Peace. When she is not working or studying, she enjoys going on hikes, doing yoga, and hanging out with her two delightful cats.

Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Swoop, Bash, and Submit!

Kurt Vonnegut

“Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut

The truth is, there are as many different writing processes as there are writers. Where do you find your inspiration? Is it in individual acts of courage, like we’re seeing in the young people standing up to the status quo, determined to change a power structure dominated by corporations and their lobbyists? Is your pen fired up by  injustices, like children torn from their parents by an immigration policy that is applied without compassion, especially toward people of color? We’d love to hear about your inspirations and writing processes!

In the meantime, whether you’re a swooper or a basher, the ultimate goal is to get your writing out there where it can make a difference. Today, March 15th, is the final day to submit work for our annual literary journal. If you haven’t already sent us your work, you’ll find the DoveTales guidelines and submit button here.

If you’re planning on entering our contest, you have a couple more weeks. The deadline is April 1st. For ages 13-19, it’s a fun and free challenge that could lead to publication, awards, and other opportunities. You can learn more about the 2018 Young Writers Contest here.

Wishing you all much success in your writing for peace,

Carmel Mawle
President and Founder

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Young Writers Contest Announcement

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Young Writers Contest Announcement

Now in its sixth year, our annual Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest has had entries from 26 countries and every continent except Antarctica! We’ve extended the deadline to receive essays, poems, and stories from young writers ages 13-19 to April 1st, 2018. Find the full guidelines online here.

We’re excited to announce that this year our prestigious panel of judges are all members of our panel of advisers. Each of them has created a body of work that promotes peace and empathy, demonstrating outstanding creative writing, wisdom, and an innate understanding of the world of human interactions and connectivity. We’re grateful for their service, their time, and their willingness to judge our contest.

Meet Our 2018 Judges:

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Writing for Peace AdviserPatricia Jabbeh Wesley, Poetry

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley is an Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Penn State University, Altoona. Wesley’s most recent book of poems, “When the Wanderers Come Home,” was written during a four-month stay in her homeland of Liberia in 2013. In his review of the book in World Literature Today, Matthew Shenoda wrote, “Wesley is a poet working to find language that can help show the fractures and fissures of a postwar nation and the personal realities of displacement and return.”

Wesley is the author of four previous collections of poetry and a children’s book. Her poetry has been featured in American Life in Poetry, and her awards include the 2016 WISE Women Award in Arts and Letters, the 2011 President Award from the Blair County NAACP, the 2010 Liberian Award, and a World Bank Fellowship.

 

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserAdriana Paramo, Nonfiction

Adriana is a Colombian writer, born in cold Bogotá but raised in Medellín, The City of Eternal Spring. She received her bachelors of science in Petroleum Engineering and worked as a geophysicist for a multinational oil company for ten years before she left Colombia to make radical changes in her life.  She moved to Alaska where a few years later, she graduated as a Cultural Anthropologist with an emphasis in dance ethnography. In 1996, she moved to Kuwait where she engaged in social activism, advocacy of immigrant women’s rights and designed a tool to assess the quality of life of Indian servants living in Kuwaiti work camps. The findings of this research eventually evolved into “You’re not my Sister,” a CNF work. In 2000, Adriana returned to the USA to teach Humanities and Anthropology to undergraduate students at the local college. She continued her women rights advocacy and did extensive work with the immigrant farming community working in the Florida fields. This research resulted in the production of the manuscript, Looking for Esperanza,” winner of the 2011 Social Justice and Equality Award in Creative Nonfiction, released in 2012 by Benu Press. Her memoir, “My Mother’s Funeral,” set in Colombia, published by CavanKerry Press, was nominated for the Latino Books into Movies Award in 2014. 

Adriana is also on the advisory panel of Writing for Peace, an active member of the travel writing workshop of VONA–Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation–a community of writers of color, and provides one-on-one mentoring to inmates for a Prison Writing Program.

djelloul-marbrook leaningDjelloul Marbrook, Fiction

Djelloul Marbrook is the acclaimed author of five books of fiction, five books of poetry, and five more books are currently forthcoming from Leaky Boot Press, United Kingdom.

Marbrook won the 2008 Literal Latté fiction prize for “Artists Hill,” an excerpt from Crowds of One, Book 2 in the Guest Boy trilogy. New Millennium Writings has selected four of his stories and one poem in the last 10 years. His work has been published by American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Coal Hill Review, Omniverse, Galatea Resurrects, Taos Poetry Journal, Onager Editions, Orbis (UK), From the Fishouse, Oberon, The Same, Reed, Fledgling Rag, Pine Hills Review, Le Zaporogue (Denmark), Poets Against the War, Poemeleon, Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology (France), Atticus Review, Onager Editions, Knot Magazine, Deep Water Literary Journal, Red Sky (the Sable Books anthology on violence against women) and Daylight Burglary, among others.

Marbrook maintains a lively presence on Twitter and Facebook. A U.S. Navy veteran and retired newspaper editor, he lives in the mid-Hudson Valley with his wife Marilyn. His newspaper career included the Providence (RI) Journal, the Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, the Baltimore Sun, the Winston-Salem Journal, the Washington Star, and Media News dailies in northeast Ohio and northern New Jersey. He is the editor-in-chief of Arabesques, a trilingual online and print literary quarterly.

Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

President’s Corner: January Hello and Update, By Carmel Mawle

President’s Corner:

Carmel Mawle is the founder of Writing for Peace and serves as President of the Board of Directors.

Carmel Mawle
Founder and President

Hello, friends! I’m hoping that this first post of 2018 finds you all well and on your way to a fruitful new year. We look forward to supporting you in your writing and activism.

First, some news:

President Andrea W. Doray has stepped down for personal reasons, but will continue to serve on our Board of Directors as Past President. We’re grateful for her leadership and vision and look forward to future blog posts from her. The good news is we have an amazing Board of Directors. Our longtime adviser Mary Carroll-Hackett has agreed to serve as Vice President, and I’m honored to once again serve as president of the board and Editor-in-Chief of DoveTales.

Since our Refugees and the Displaced edition of DoveTales was released last year, we have seen rising and unprecedented cruelty in United States immigration policies. Families are torn apart. Patients are dragged from their beds. Immigrants fear calling the police when they are the victims of violent crimes because the call could trigger their own deportation. And asylum seekers, with little chance of a fair review, are being sent back to the countries they fled even though their lives are in danger.

One thing we can and must do is help them get their stories out. You will likely see them in our blog, our journal, our Peace Correspondent, and on our Facebook page. We will also be working to make our annual Youth Summit accessible to those who might benefit from translation. If you’re interested in helping with this project, please send your contact information, resume, and a short introductory paragraph to editor@writingforpeace.org.

While you’ll see lots of new initiatives this year, you can count on our annual publication, DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, our Young Writers Contest, and our periodical, The Peace Correspondent.

The theme for our next journal is “Empathy in Art: Embracing the Other.” It promises to be a powerful look at how we connect with each other and move toward compassion. The deadline has been extended to March 15th, and the book will be released on July 1st. We plan to celebrate with launches and readings all over the globe and hope you can join us for one! Check our guidelines for details.

Our Young Writers Contest is up and entries are trickling in from all over the world. The deadline has been extended to April 1st, 2018. As always, there is no fee for participation. For the complete guidelines check our website.

And continue to look forward to our beautifully evolving periodical, The Peace Correspondent. I’ve heard from so many friends who, like myself, experience moments of despair when reading the news these days. The constant negative torrents of media can be overwhelming, but remember that you are not alone. Keep in touch, and spread the word. We’re in this together. Thanks for all you do.

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Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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.”

Small Writing for Peace logoWriting for Peace News

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!

5 books 2

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!

Our administration is board operated, and all members, board and advisers, work on a volunteer basis. 100% of contributions go to support our mission. Writing for Peace is a 501c3 nonprofit corporation, Federal Tax ID Number, 45-2968027.

Ours is a simple mission with profound affect on the lives of our young writers:

Through education and creative writing, Writing for Peace seeks to cultivate the empathy that allows minds to open to new cultural views, to value the differences as well as the hopes and dreams that unite all of humanity, to develop a spirit of leadership and peaceful activism.

Donate now to take advantage of our special library offer and see your contribution doubled!

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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.

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 …

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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.

 

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.

Birds Still Build Nests, by Mary Carroll-Hackett

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Birds Still Build Nests

By Mary Carroll-Hackett

even when bombs are falling, even when the dams are failing, even when the hate is ravenous and roaring, even when the hills are on fire. Birds still build nests, making homes for their babies, weaving string and straw and song and wire into being, as if the world is not careening toward ending, as if they’ve forgotten how dark, how dark, it always is. But then, maybe we’re the ones who have forgotten, who have made myths of our own pain, who have convinced ourselves of power against the torrential rain, all wishful shields and shrouds sewn of things that don’t last, can’t last. The birds, skittering between forever and yesterday, say: Nothing lasts. Build it anyway.

 

Mary Carroll-Hackett, Writing for Peace Adviser2Mary Carroll-Hackett is the author of The Real Politics of LipstickAnimal 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. Learn more about Writing for Peace Adviser Mary Carroll-Hackett and her work here.

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2017 Young Writers Contest

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest

Our March 1st deadline is quickly approaching! Writing for Peace challenges young writers (ages 13-19) to expand their empathy skills by researching an unfamiliar culture and writing from the point-of-view of a character within that new world, while exploring social, political, and environmental pressures, and universal themes. There is no fee for participation. Spread the word!

Support Writing for Peace

You can help make the Writing for Peace Mission a reality by supporting our youth outreach, international journal, and peace journalism in the following ways:

  • Help spread the word about Writing for Peace. One way to do that is to frequent our Facebook page, share and like our posts.
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Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.