Tag Archives: Sam Hamill

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.

Seated Figure, by Sam Hamill

habitation

Seated Figure

It is a long way from there to here.
It is longer than all the roads of exile,
longer even than the silence of the heron.
The landscapes changed. Someone
numbered the dead, someone mapped the pain.

Once, they say, the animals came to us,
and licked our palms for the salt,
and looked at us with huge knowing eyes,
then turned and left
alone. And entered Paradise.

 

(Previously published in Habitation: Collected Poems, Lost Horse Press, 2014)

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill, black background 1Sam Hamill was born in 1943 and grew up on a Utah farm. He is Founding Editor of Copper Canyon Press and served as Editor there for thirty-two years. He taught in artist-in-residency programs in schools and prisons and worked with Domestic Violence programs. He was the founding editor of Copper Canyon Press, directed the Port Townsend Writers Conference for nine years, and in 2003, founded Poets Against the War. He is the author of more than forty books, including celebrated translations from ancient Chinese, Japanese, Greek and Latin.

Learn more about his work here.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

With Ilaria and Francesca in Piacenza

habitation

With Ilaria and Francesca in Piacenza

By Sam Hamill

The years can be brutal––yesterday
a torrent, today just a drizzle. I sat
in the sidewalk café sipping cappuccino,
watching the morning’s passersby. The girls
found me amusing, “like a grampa,” they laughed,
“grizzled old poet against the war,”
who creaked down cobblestone streets in search
of ice cream or granita, or a newspaper.

The girls I knew at such a tender age
wanted no part of me. And now my daughter
could, indeed, be their mother. They are beautiful
and intelligent, and happy to be kind
to the foreign visitor, practicing their English.
All of their joys and heartaches will rise
in time like summer storms, but today
they are laughing, teasing, laughing as only
girls can laugh, and the sun is burning off the clouds
as Plaza Duomo fills with noisy people.

Pigeons coo in the bell tower above the cage,
for sinners like me, that swings in the morning breeze.
I tell the girls, “I sentenced a couple of writers
to that cage last night, kvetching with friends
over pizza and wine at Pasquale’s.” Down here
in sweet samsara, the girls and I get a laugh,
and the cobblestones glisten and the air grows thick
and sweet as honey. “Buon giorno,
buon giorno,” as happy people pass. Cappuccino
finished, I suggest a stroll and put on dark glasses
so Francesca and Ilaria won’t notice
a tear in an old man’s eye.

From HABITATION, Collected poems by Sam Hamill, published by Lost Horse Press.

About Writing for Peace Adviser Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill, black background 1Sam Hamill was born in 1943 and grew up on a Utah farm. He is Founding Editor of Copper Canyon Press and served as Editor there for thirty-two years. He taught in artist-in-residency programs in schools and prisons and worked with Domestic Violence programs. He directed the Port Townsend Writers Conference for nine years, and in 2003, founded Poets Against the War. He is the author of more than forty books, including celebrated translations from ancient Chinese, Japanese, Greek and Latin.

For more information about Sam Hamill and his work, visit his page, here.

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DoveTales Reprinted and Replaced

2016 DoveTales Front cover ImageDoveTales readers noticed a problem with the color images in some of our most recent  Family and Cultural Identity books. Our printer, McNaughton & Gunn, a company with a reputation for quality and attention to detail, insisted on making it right. We appreciate their integrity in this matter, as well as the opportunity to correct the little typos and errors on our end that were found after the first printing. The new books have arrived and they are perfectly beautiful. Shipping will begin in the next week, first to those who have been waiting for book orders, and then to our contributors and readers who purchased the book when it first came out. Contributor discounts will be extended through July . Thank you, friends, for your patience and support through this process, and thank you to McNaughton & Gunn for standing behind their product.

Meet Our 2016 Young Writers

Writing for Peace dreamer2016 Young Writers Contest winner and finalist profiles are beginning to appear on our website. Learn more about these accomplished young writers here.

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. The 2017 contest will open on September 1st, 2016. Interested school representatives and teachers can contact us at editor@writingforpeace.org for information, bookmarks, and a DoveTales ebook at no charge.

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“The government of President Park Geun-hye is using the National Security Law in an extreme way to ban protests and arrest activists. For example, simply speaking positively about North Korea is a crime punishable with seven years in prison.”

Newsletter: Free Prisoners Of Conscience In South Korea

 

Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

My Mother’s Funeral, A Review by Robert Kostuck

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserMY MOTHER’S FUNERAL

by Adriana Páramo

CavanKerry Press, 2013, 258 pp., $21.00, ISBN 1-933880-39-2

A Review, by Robert Kostuck

In My Mother’s Funeral, Adriana Páramo slips between her mother Carmen’s life before children, her own childhood memories, and the present—wake, funeral, cremation. Woven into these personal experiences is an omnipresent Columbia: the open spaces of Mariquita, the squalid poverty of Medellín and Bogotá, rival drug gangs, politics, Catholicism, the Communist Party revisited.

Objectivity is difficult to achieve in a book-length essay; Ms. Páramo, however, succeeds admirably—she gently and firmly pieces together the tapestry of the mother and daughter relationship; readers will find common themes presented in even-handed and sometimes startling prose. Her writing is educational without being didactic; emotional without being sentimental.

Politics in Colombia were harsh in the 1950s. Her rarely-seen father, ‘Mr. B’, a cachiporro (liberal), seduces the innocent Carmen, and after the wedding rushes her away from her home—a few hours ahead of the godos (conservatives). First night together is spent in a whorehouse; for the remainder of the marriage Mr. B comes and goes as he pleases, impregnating Carmen and then vanishing for months or years at a time. At one point her sister Dalila acquires a partially-decomposed adult male human skeleton—courtesy of a ‘snatcher’, recommended by the nuns—and together sister and mother boil and clean the bones. Assembled, Dalila receives her coveted A+ in anatomy and the unnamed skeleton literally hangs around the house, a possible replacement for the missing Mr. B.

The baby of the family, Adriana curls up with her mother in the kitchen or in bed, listening to the stories of the world filtered through a tabletop radio: sports, agony aunties, soap operas, tangos, boleros; Carmen singing along with the radio, Adriana, watching her mother “morph into a woman”.

“Tal vez mañana puedas comprender / Que siempre fui sincera / Tal vez por alguien llegues a saber / Que todavia te quiero. Maybe later you might understand / That I was always sincere / Perhaps someone will help you see / That I still love you.”

Childhood for Adriana, is a combination of head-long curiosity and goofy naiveté. Carmen, and to a lesser extent, her sisters, guide and guard the young Adriana. Memory is selective; what Adriana shows us is how this mother shapes her daughters: strict, efficient, economical—she maintains a poor but tidy home and life for her children. Lessons by word or example are rarely repeated; they become the very fibers of her daughter’s body and personality. Toward the end of the memoir, Adriana writes,

“Our financial situation started to improve when we moved to Medellín, and Dalila, Amanda, and Ligia got secretarial jobs that required them to wear nylons, high heels, and modest suits. Eventually they began going back to school at night, but they never stopped working, never stopped rescuing Mom and their two younger sisters from the constant panic of uncertainty. I owe everything I am to the women in my family—to my sisters and Mom. Nobody else.”

This is the heart of the memoir: what a daughter learns from her mother: how to be a girl, how to become a woman; and when that mother begins to fade from autumn into winter, how to become her mother. When Carmen, beset by Alzheimer’s, visits Adriana the wife and mother at her new home in Alaska, she relates a story about her pregnancy with Adriana so at odds with the life lessons she’d imparted over the years that her daughter feels an urge to “. . . jump into the lake and sink slowly into its frigid waters.” The fantastic and heartbreaking revelation adds another thin, sharp layer to this complex mother and daughter relationship.

Returning to Colombia in torn jeans and a gypsy blouse, Adriana arrives at the wake, faces somber and seemingly more mature sisters and a brother. Funerals are holidays for the dead, a time when far-flung family reunite and wonder aloud what went right and what went wrong. Her sisters and brother are emotional but methodical—Adriana feels like the only one with an incomparable loss—the woman who as a child promised her mother that she would always remain her little girl. A few days stretches into a painful eternity, and when the siblings return home to divide Carmen’s possessions, Adriana is nostalgic, then practical:

“I imagine landing in Miami, trying to make it through customs with a fern, a plastic chair, a flyswatter, a river stone, and a broom, and I have to laugh at my childishness. I discard my mental list. Instead I take a pair of earrings that belonged to my grandmother, (. . .) a photo of the six women—my four sisters, Mom, and me—that my brother took the day I left Colombia; the locket with a photo of my daughter that Mom wore around her neck like an amulet. I also seize the printout of Mom’s last EKG, taken two days ago.

“(. . .) I don’t know this yet but in six years I will look at this EKG and realize that the ink is fading away and with it the only existing traces of Mom’s heartbeat. I’ll have it tattooed around my left bicep, much to my family’s dismay, so that her heartbeat and mine will always be together.”

My Mother’s Funeral is the literal translation of that EKG tattoo, spanning decades, continents, and lives; a heartbeat that remains long after we scan the final page and move on into the days to come.

Robert Kostuck, Writing For Peace Guest WriterRobert Kostuck graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Masters in Education. His published work appears in the Kenyon Review, Concho River Review, Zone 3, Tiferet: Literature, Art, and the Creative Spirit, Silk Road, and others.

Writing for Peace News

Onward Into 2014!

Last year brought growth and many exciting firsts for Writing For Peace. Here’s a brief overview of 2013:

In 2013 our Advisers continued to demonstrate a commitment to peace and the power of writing through their work, their inspirational blog posts, brilliant ideas such as Mary Carroll-Hackett’s educational Facebook page for young writers, MCH-What’s Going On? and Pilar Rodriguez Aranda’s efforts to reach Spanish speaking young writers by translating our 2014 contest guidelines. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Sam Hamill‘s new and revised translated collection of Chinese poetry, Crossing the Yellow River is being published by Tiger’s Bark Press. His Selected Poems (not yet titled) will be published by Lost Horse Press in September 2014.
  • Lorraine Currelley was selected as an Artist-in-Residence for the 2014 Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC) and as a new member of the Pearls of Wisdom Storytellers. Her Poets Network & Exchange will publish their first poetry anthology in 2014.
  • Veronica Golos is working on a new book, Root Work: The Lost Writings of John Brown and Mary Day Brown. “Of course John Brown was a great abolitionist and so was his wife, Mary and she also had 13 children. I have Ghost Code poems and Runaway poems also in the book. This is a way to make history live again, to get inside it so to speak.”
  • Richard Krawiec supports a community of writers and activists through education and his ever expanding Jacar Press.
  •  Maija Rhee Devine spoke with young people in South Korea and the United States about her award-winning books, The Voices of Heaven and Long Walks on Short Days, her experiences as a young girl during the Korean War, and her work with Korean Comfort Women.
  • Dr. Margaret Flowers continues her peace and healthcare activism. She currently serves as Secretary of Health on the Green Shadow Cabinet. Her recent article, Major Social Transformation Is a Lot Closer Than You May Realize — How Do We Finish the Job?, is also co-written with Kevin Zeese, and published on AlterNet.
  • Adriana Paramo‘s new memoir, My Mother’s Funeral, explores the volatile relationship with her mother, and their love that defies cultural forces, Bogotá street violence, and Medellin drug lords.

This is just a sampling of the wonderful work all our advisers do. Please watch our blog for their posts, follow their work, and support the poets and authors whose writings and activism encourage a more thoughtful and peaceful world.

In 2014, we look forward to hearing from Board Member Andrea W. Doray, who recently returned from Nepal, and to continued growth – including the occasional review on our blog! On this first day of the New Year, we welcome guest writer, Robert Kostuck, who reviews Adriana Paramo’s memoir, My Mother’s Funeral.

Happy New Year, Writers for Peace! And thank you for your ongoing support!

 

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Will Stand With The Innocents? by Sam Hamill

Who Will Stand With The Innocents?

By Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdvisorFifty years ago, I found myself in the war-ravaged former nation of Okinawa, where some of the fiercest battles of the Pacific War had taken place, and where I began to learn of the true atrocities of the atomic bombing of Japan. I also heard there from fellow Marines first-hand accounts of the race wars in my own country, about lynchings, about Bull Conner’s dogs set on nonviolent civil rights marchers, stories I had known only from brief news accounts. I learned about how the impoverished people of Vietnam had driven out the imperialist French and now faced a growing American presence as they struggled toward their own democratic self-rule. President Eisenhower had spoken of our need “to protect our investments in tin and tungsten.”

I read Gandhi. I read Zen. I read “War is a Racket” by the Marine Corps general, Smedley Butler, who led the overthrowing of several governments himself. I read Albert Camus’s remarkable essay, “Neither Victims nor Executioners,” and I became a devout anti-war campaigner, much to the chagrin of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Fifty years have passed, each with its wars, its body counts, its “collateral damage” that strips people of names and faces and bloody bodies, leaving only numbers, numbers deemed “necessary” by the political class that overthrew democratic governments from Iran to South and Central America, always for the benefit of corporate giants-Standard Oil, the United Fruit Company.

In the past twenty years, following Bush Senior’s bombing of Iraq, Clinton bombed Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan; George W. Bush, bombed Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, and Somalia; Barack Obama has bombed Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. And now the drum-beating to wage war in Syria grows ever louder. The President says we have no definable objective and yet bombs are necessary once again. And once again, as I have every year for half a century, I call out the corporate rulers for their murders and lies because without justifying mass murder and justifying torture and lies, war would be impossible to wage. I ask today, as I did ten years ago, “Who will speak for the conscience of our country?” Who will stand with the innocents we have damned?

True Peace  

Half broken on that smoky night,
hunched over sake in a serviceman’s dive
somewhere in Naha, Okinawa,
nearly fifty years ago,

I read of the Saigon Buddhist monks
who stopped the traffic on a downtown
thoroughfare
so their master, Thich Quang Dúc, could take up
the lotus posture in the middle of the street.
And they baptized him there with gas
and kerosene, and he struck a match
and burst into flame.

That was June, nineteen-sixty-three,
and I was twenty, a U.S. Marine.

The master did not move, did not squirm,
he did not scream
in pain as his body was consumed.

Neither child nor yet a man,
I wondered to my Okinawan friend,
what can it possibly mean
to make such a sacrifice, to give one’s life
with such horror, but with dignity and conviction.
How can any man endure such pain
and never cry and never blink.

And my friend said simply, “Thich Quang Dúc
had achieved true peace.”

And I knew that night true peace
for me would never come.
Not for me, Nirvana. This suffering world
is mine, mine to suffer in its grief.

Half a century later, I think
of Bô Tát Thich Quang Dúc,
revered as a bodhisattva now–his lifetime
building temples, teaching peace,
and of his death and the statement that it made.

Like Shelley’s, his heart refused to burn,
even when they burned his ashes once again
in the crematorium–his generous heart
turned magically to stone.

What is true peace, I cannot know.
A hundred wars have come and gone
as I’ve grown old. I bear their burdens in my bones.
Mine’s the heart that burns
today, mine the thirst, the hunger in the soul.

Old master, old teacher,
what is it that I’ve learned?

From Border Songs (Word Palace Press, 2012)

Used by permission.

 About Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdvisorSam Hamill is the author of more than forty books, including fifteen volumes of original poetry (most recently Measured by Stone and Almost Paradise: New & Selected Poems & Translations); four collections of literary essays, including A Poet’s Work and Avocations: On Poetry & Poets; and some of the most distinguished translations of ancient Chinese and Japanese classics of the last half-century. He co-founded, and for thirty-two years was editor at, Copper Canyon Press. He taught in prisons for fourteen years and has worked extensively with battered women and children. An outspoken political pacifist, in 2003, declining an invitation to the White House, he founded Poets Against War, compiling the largest single-theme poetry anthology in history, 30,000 poems by 26,000 poets. Learn more about Sam Hamill here.

Take Action

Write your Representatives: Prevent an Attack on Syria Now

Hit the Streets: Americans Don’t Want A War in Syria—And They’re Working Hard to Prevent One, by Kevin Zeese and Writing for Peace Adviser Margaret Flowers

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Congratulations To Our New Young Advisers

Writing for Peace is pleased to introduce two remarkable young peace activists, the founding members of our new panel of Young Advisers. Both have shown an extraordinary commitment to peace. Check their pages and watch our blog for their inspirational posts.

Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young AdviserNatan Blanc is an Israeli who refused to serve in the IDF (Israeli army) “because of its actions against the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.” Natan held fast to his convictions, despite being jailed ten times.

Lyla June Johnston, Writing for Peace Young AdviserLyla June Johnston is a Navajo poet and peace activist from Taos, New Mexico, who has found her home in the service of humanity.

Writing for Peace is accepting nominations of young activists, writers, and artists, for our new panel of Young Advisers. Please send nominations by email, along with the reasons for your nomination, and contact information to editor@writingforpeace.org, subject heading: Young Adviser Nominations.

2014 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace Young Writers' ContestThe Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.

 DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales Call for Submissions

Writing for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013Help us reach out to schools and young writers by purchasing a copy of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to gift to your local high school or junior high. Let us know you are gifting your copy, and we’ll include extra bookmarks (beautifully designed by artist-in-residence, PdLietz). Purchase our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

A Tribute to Sam Hamill, by Martín Espada

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdviserCommemorating Ten Years of Poetic Resistance, PAW Post No. 28

Writing for Peace  commemorates the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with Daily PAW Posts from a host of contributors. 

*Parental Guidance Warning –The poets featured during our February Daily PAW Posts write of war and its effect on the human heart. Writing for Peace has not censored these poems, and we encourage parents to review the content before sharing them with children.

To purchase a copy of POETS AGAINST THE WAR from Powell’s independent bookstore, click here.

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Our final post is from Martín Espada, who shares his tribute to Sam Hamill and Poets Against the War, originally given at the 2012 Split This Rock Festival in Washington, D.C. on March 22nd, 2012.

Martín Espada

I am honored to speak today at this tribute to Sam Hamill and Poets Against War.

Poetry saved Sam Hamill. Poetry saved him from a life of violence, self-destruction and incarceration.  This poem is dedicated to him.
Blasphemy
          For Sam Hamill

Let the blasphemy be spoken: poetry can save us,
not the way a fisherman pulls the drowning swimmer
into his boat, not the way Jesus, between screams,
promised life everlasting to the thief crucified beside him
on the hill, but salvation nevertheless.

Somewhere a convict sobs into a book of poems
from the prison library, and I know why
his hands are careful not to break the brittle pages.

 

Allow me to introduce Sam Hamill.

Sam was born in 1942 or 1943 to unknown parents.  Adopted and raised in Utah, he was beaten and abused, a runaway, a petty thief, in trouble with the law, in and out of jail.

In the moving poem, “Plain Dumb Luck,” he writes of being “huddled in a cell in Fredonia, Arizona/ rolling cigarettes from a Bull Durham pouch/ locked up for the crime of being fourteen and homeless.”  A sheriff tells him to “Go home, son,” but “Home was the road/ for a kid whose other home was hell./ I’d rather steal than taste that belt again./ I stole.”

And yet, by poem’s end, forty years later, the poet concludes that he is “the luckiest son-of-a-bitch alive.” It was his “dumb luck” to discover poetry.  From the practice of poetry everything else would flow.

At City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, there was more “dumb luck:” a serendipitous encounter with poet, translator and critic Kenneth Rexroth, who would become Sam’s first mentor.  As Sam recalls:

I was fifteen years old, and I was smoking a lot of heroin and trying to be cool, man, and I really loved poetry. And Kenneth convinced me that destroying myself was not really the best possible solution, and that I needed to look at the world’s literature, and not just my own life, in order to be hip, if you will. So he had a huge influence on what became of me thereafter.

What became of Sam Hamill?

In the words of Hayden Carruth, “No one—I mean no one—has done the momentous work of presenting poetry better than Sam Hamill. His editing and publishing, his criticism and translations, his own very strong and beautiful poems have been making a difference in American culture for many years. What a wealth of accomplishment!”

Sam has published over 40 books. His collections of poetry include Destination Zero, Gratitude, Dumb Luck, Measured by Stone, and Almost Paradise.  His essay collections include A Poet’s Work and Avocations. He taught himself classical Chinese and Japanese, and is the leading translator of poetry from these ancient languages. His translations include Narrow Road to the Interior and Other Writings of Basho, Crossing the Yellow River, The Poetry of Zen, and the Tao Te Ching.

He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Mellon Fund. In 1973, he co-founded the legendary Copper Canyon Press, serving as editor there for more than thirty years, publishing Rexroth, Carruth, McGrath, the posthumous works of Neruda.

When Sam began his Zen practice and declared himself a conscientious objector, he took a “bodhisattva vow” to become a peacemaker. (Sam is a tough pacifist. I used to tell him that he put the “fist” in “pacifist.”)

Small wonder, then, that Sam felt  (and I quote) “overcome by nausea” when he was invited to participate in a White House symposium called, “Poetry and the American Voice,” hosted by First Lady Laura Bush. The symposium, set for February 2003, was cancelled when word got out of Sam’s plan to gather anti-war poems for presentation to the First Lady.

Never tell Sam: Don’t say that. He fought back by founding Poets Against the War. PAW collected, posted and archived more than 20,000 poems and statements against war. As Sam puts it, “Never before in recorded history have so many poets spoken in a single chorus.” He also edited the anthology Poets Against the War, published by The Nation Books.

In the foreword to that extraordinary anthology, Sam Hamill writes:

Can (thousands of) poems inhibit this or any administration planning a war? It is only one step among many. But it is an important step, as each is. We join physicians against the war, teachers against the war, farmers against the war, and others. Poets Against the War helped bring about hundreds of poetry readings and discussions around the world while compiling a document of historic proportion. And when our critics on the right suggest that poetry might somehow divorce itself from politics, we say, ‘Read the Greeks, read the classical Chinese; tell it to Dante, Chaucer, Milton or Longfellow. Tell it to Whitman, Dickinson or Hughes. Tell it to García Lorca, to Joseph Brodsky or to the Chinese poets living in exile in our country…A government is a government of words, and when those words are used to mislead, to instill fear or to invite silence, it is the duty of every poet to speak fearlessly and clearly.

Albert Camus writes: “henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions. Sam Hamill has become the living embodiment of this principle. He and PAW defined a culture of conscience in this country. When future generations want to know the truth of these times, they will not turn to Colin Powell’s testimony at the United Nations. They will turn to the words of Sam Hamill. They will read Poets Against the War.

Sam is a true visionary. He sees through ancient eyes, “fearlessly and clearly.”  His translation of the poem, “Song of the War Wagons” by Tu Fu, written in China more than 1200 years ago, speaks to us of war today:

We’ve shed a sea of blood.
Still the emperor wants more.
East of the mountains, a thousand villages,
ten thousand villages, turn to bitter weeds…
Our boys lie under the weeds.
Being right is necessary but not sufficient.  In 2003, when he founded PAW, Sam was right about the “sea of blood” and the “emperor” who wanted more; but he also had the integrity to take action, regardless of consequences. Ultimately, Sam Hamill is the kind of visionary who rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.  This is from his poem, “Ars Poetica:”

  
 We go down to the sea and set sail
 For a world beyond war,
       knowing
 we will never find it.
       We are not heroes.
 We sail The Justice and The Mercy
 because these boats need rowing.

The time has come for us to stand up and express our gratitude for all that rowing.  Please welcome my compañero, my hero, Sam Hamill.

*********

Writing for Peace applauds each of the poets who shared their anti-war poems with us this month, every poet who took part in the PAW resistance of 2003, and especially our adviser Sam Hamill, whose moral courage continues to challenge us to search for understanding and stand for truth.

 

Martin Espada, Writing for Peace Daily PAW Post Guest PoetAbout Martín Espada

Called “the Latino poet of his generation,” Martín Espada was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1957. He has published more than fifteen books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His latest collection of poems, The Trouble Ball (Norton, 2011), is the recipient of the Milt Kessler Award, a Massachusetts Book Award and an International Latino Book Award. The Republic of Poetry, a collection published by Norton in 2006, received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A previous book of poems, Imagine the Angels of Bread (Norton, 1996), won an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Other books of poems include A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen (Norton, 2000), City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (Norton, 1993), and Rebellion is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands (Curbstone, 1990).  He has received such recognition as the Robert Creeley Award, the National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.  His work has been widely translated; collections of poems have been published in Spain, Puerto Rico and Chile. His book of essays, Zapata’s Disciple (South End Press, 1998), has been banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona. A graduate of Northeastern University Law School and a former tenant lawyer, Espada is currently a professor in the Department of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Learn more about Martin Espada’s work here.

 

Writing for Peace News:

During the month of February, Writing for Peace has offered a post each day in honor of the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War. We hope all our readers have been as moved and inspired by these poets as we have.

In March, our focus will shift toward other aspects of peace, as we take a step back from the inflammatory debate about reducing gun violence and explore the issue through poetry, essays and fiction. We won’t continue the rigorous posting schedule of February, but you can continue to count on us for two to three posts per week.

2013 Young Writers Contest

The 2013 Young Writers Contest closes at midnight, Mountain Standard Time on March 1st.  Announcements will be made through our blog on May 1st 2013.  Contest guidelines are posted here.

DoveTales Update!

We’ve already extended our release date twice, and we’re going to do it once more (knocking on wood).  The print copies of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts will be out by the end of March. E-books will likely be offered sometime before that. We beg your continued patience, and assure you it will be worth the wait. Our first issue is absolutely beautiful!

Thank you for your support, and continue to check in with us here for news about DoveTales.

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veronica Golos Interviews Sam Hamill (Part II)

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdviserCommemorating Ten Years of Poetic Resistance, PAW Post No. 27

Writing for Peace  commemorates the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with Daily PAW Posts from a host of contributors.

*Parental Guidance Warning –The poets featured during our February Daily PAW Posts write of war and its effect on the human heart. Writing for Peace has not censored these poems, and we encourage parents to review the content before sharing them with children.

To purchase a copy of POETS AGAINST THE WAR from Powell’s independent bookstore, click here.

Small Writing for Peace logoIn this special interview, Veronica Golos talks with Sam Hamill about the role of poetry, living reality, and love.

(Part Two of Two)

 Veronica Golos:

I’ve just finished reading an interview with you by Lisa Morphew, in the Ashville Poetry Review, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2012, Issue 22.  It is very personal, and you answered willingly and at length about your past, about the era into which you came to manhood.  It seemed a tribute to Kenneth Rexroth actually.  He spoke against, as you quote, “a society which grows daily more depraved and destructive…the poet is always called upon to play his role of prophet, in the Biblical sense, whatever else he may be about.”

I was struck by the intimacy of the interview, especially questions about your relationship to your late wife, Gray.  I bring this up, because your poem, Visitation, published in the inaugural issue of the Taos Journal of Poetry & Art, of which I am co-edited, has haunted me.  There is such vitality to your voice, such subdued passion, and here in this poem, it seems to me, such a delicate touch, a very Japanese feel to it.  If I may quote it:

 Visitation

I wake suddenly, in the middle of the night,
and realize I’m stroking the pillow beside me,
dreaming of my wife who is six months dead.

I rise and brush my teeth and pour a stiff drink
and go out into the garden to sit
on the old iron bench and think.

It’s after midnight and the moon is full.
And after a long silence, I hear, faintly,
a woman’s heels’ chink, chink, chink,

against the ancient cobblestone
beyond the garden wall
as she makes her way down the street.

In the Asheville Poetry Review interview, you also say the Bodhisattva, “perceives the cries of the world.”

I’d like to pull these together – this deep and abiding speaking as a social “prophet,” as one who hears the cries of the world, and a writer of such a love poem, full of absence and grief.

Sam Hamill:

How can we actually learn what love is without learning to fully love this earth on which we stand?

 
I think of W.C. Williams writing in The Wedge that “everything is about the war,” and that he as a poet is simply working in a different sector of the field. Every serious poet, consciously or otherwise, is composing his or her own cosmology. Opening the heart to the truth of experience and engaged imagination, one is “given” the poem via his or her Muse and must compose him/herself via deep listening in order to transform the gift of inspiration into the artifact, the experience, of the poetry. Master K’ung reminds us that emotions are, of themselves, neither good nor bad, (we all have them), but what we make of them matters most. I think anger (not rage) can be a motivator to overcome injustice and cruelty. Even the murderers and torturers are human, misguided in their actions and misunderstanding “reality.” And yet murderers and torturers must be brought to justice.

I could go on at length about what Williams (and Olson & Creeley & Levertov & Duncan) mean about “field composition,” but that would require a whole essay. Suffice to say that “organic poetry” is a means of opening the heart while upholding the deepest values of our lives. The real value of poetry, to me at least, lies in the ways in which poems—my own and many others’— shape and inform, revolutionizes, my life. My *whole* life. I don’t, for instance, enter contests, the beauty pageants of the poetry community. One of my great masters, Tu Fu, died an unknown poet. Two centuries later he was recognized as one of China’s greatest poets ever. It’s not about recognition or popularity contests. It is simply a way of life… I am given poems to compose and I compose by listening to what speaks to my heart and ear. The voices and melos are a plenitude of wisdom and beauty. As Gary Snyder said long ago, “As a poet, I hold the most archaic values on earth.” Being, the Buddha observed, is agonizing or suffering. Poetry is one of the ten thousand paths to the Buddha; through poetry (as various as that word may be), we may find self-realization and do away with the “I-and-thou” and competitive mind-set that makes war possible (as well as poetry contests) and we come into a world of only “we,” we-are-oneness” in our struggle in this sentient interdependent world. To value life requires valuing the cosmos that makes life possible. How can we actually learn what love is without learning to fully love this earth on which we stand? —The very dirt and stone of it. We must protect it from capitalism just as we must protect those who suffer most from organized oppression. We must love and resist and rebel.

 

Sources:

Ashville Poetry Review, Vol 19, no. 1, 2012, Issue 22

The Progressive, Interview by Anne-Marie Cusac, Apirl 2003, www.progressive.org/mag_cusachamill

Paul e Nelson, http://paulemelson.com/organic-poetry/why-poetry-matters-sam

Poet Reflects on 30 Years of Publishing Poetry    www.kearneyhub.com/content/tncms/live/

Poets Against the War  2006  http://poieinkaiprattein.org/poetry/poiein-kai-prattein-and-the-poets

A Monks Tale, by Sam Hamill

EYES WIDE OPEN  www.rattle.com/poetry/2011/03/eyes-wide-open-by-sam-hamill

Poems, by Sam Hamill    www.lorenwebster.net/In_a_Dark_Time/category/poets/sam hamill

An E-view with Sam Hamill by Rebecca Seiferle, The Drunken Boat   www.thedrunkenboat.com/hamillview.thm

Veronica Golos, Writing for Peace Advisor

About Writing for Peace Adviser, Veronica Golos

Veronica Golos is the author of two books, Vocabulary of Silence (Red Hen Press, 2011), winner of the 2011 New Mexico Book Award, poems from which are translated into Arabic by poet Nizar Sartawi, and A Bell Buried Deep (Storyline Press, 2004), co-winner of the 16th Annual Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize, nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Edward Hirsch, and adapted for stage and performed at Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA.  A Bell Buried Deep is set to be re-issued by Tupelo Press, with an introduction by Patricia Smith, in 2014.

Golos’s poems are included in The Poet’s CraftAnnie Finch, Editor, 2012, University of Michigan Press; Collecting Life: Poets on Objects Known and Imagined, 3: A Taos Press, 2011, and in journals including Spillway, Meridians, Drunken Boat, Orion, Cimarron, Contemporary World Literature, Sin Fronteras, Verso (Paris), Poetry (London), Rattle, World Literature Magazine Spring’s Forum. Translated Poems from Vocabulary of Silence have appeared in over 24 journals and publications throughout the Middle East including (Syria), www.nabee.awatf.com,  www.saddana.com, (UAE),www.shenrayar.com/ar, (Iraq)  www.Alimbaratur.com (Denmark) and Maqal (Kuwait).

Golos is Acquisitions Editor for 3:A Taos Press, and co-editor of the Taos Journal of Poetry & Art.

 

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace Advisor

About Writing for Peace Adviser, Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill is the author of more than forty books, including fifteen volumes of original poetry (most recently Measured by Stone and Almost Paradise: New & Selected Poems & Translations); four collections of literary essays, including A Poet’s Work and Avocations: On Poetry & Poets; and some of the most distinguished translations of ancient Chinese and Japanese classics of the last half-century. He co-founded, and for thirty-two years was editor at, Copper Canyon Press. He taught in prisons for fourteen years and has worked extensively with battered women and children. An outspoken political pacifist, in 2003, declining an invitation to the White House, he founded Poets Against War, compiling the largest single-theme poetry anthology in history, 30,000 poems by 26,000 poets. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Mellon Fund, and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission; other honors include the Stanley Lindberg Lifetime Achievement Award for Editing, the Washington Poets’ Association Lifetime Achievement in Poetry Award, two Washington Governor’s Arts Awards, a Western States Book Award, a PEN-Oakland Anti-censorship Award, a PEN Center/USA First Amendment Award, the Charity Randall Award from The Poetry Forum, and the Condecoración de la Universidad de Carabobo in Valencia, Venezuela. His work has been translated into a dozen languages. He lives in Anacortes, Washington.

February Writing for Peace News:

All during the month of February, Writing for Peace is commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with a Daily PAW Post. If you are interested in arranging a reading this month in honor of Poets Against the War, please contact us with the details at editor@writingforpeace.org, and we will be happy to share your information on our site.

2013 Young Writers Contest

Contest Deadline is March 1st! The Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest is in full swing, with entries coming in from all over the globe.  The contest is open to writers of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, for ages 13 to 19. Spread the word to young writers everywhere! You’ll find contest guidelines here.

DoveTales,  An International Journal of the Arts

The first issue of DoveTales will be released this month, featuring poets, writers, artists and photographers from all over the world.  We are also looking forward to seeing the winners of our 2012 Young Writers Contest in print. Watch our posts for news of the journal’s release. The new submission guidelines will go up on March 1st. Thank you for your support!

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Veronica Golos Interviews Sam Hamill (Part I)

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdviserCommemorating Ten Years of Poetic Resistance, PAW Post No. 26

During the month of February, Writing for Peace  commemorates the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with Daily PAW Posts from a host of contributors.

*Parental Guidance Warning –The poets featured during our February Daily PAW Posts write of war and its effect on the human heart. Writing for Peace has not censored these poems, and we encourage parents to review the content before sharing them with children.

To purchase a copy of POETS AGAINST THE WAR from Powell’s independent bookstore, click here.

Small Writing for Peace logo

  In this special interview, Veronica Golos talks with Sam Hamill about the role of poetry, living reality, and love.

(Part One of Two)

 

Veronica Golos:

Well, I feel as though I do know you — one of the many benefits of Face Book.  We share many of the same views on a whole host of topics, including, I believe, the role of poetry.  The role of poetry especially for “American’ writers.

I thought we might begin with a quote from Camus, one you used in an article.

Camus reminds us that if art ‘adapts itself to what the majority of our society wants, art will be a meaningless recreation. If it blindly rejects that society, if the artist makes up his (sic) mind to take refuge in his dreams, art will express nothing but a negation. In this way we shall have the production of entertainers or of formal grammarians, and in both cases this leads to an art cut off from living reality.

Did or does PAW prove that in fact there is an “American” art NOT cut off from living reality?  For my own recent poetry book, Vocabulary of Silence, I read a great deal of translated Arab poetry, and certainly so much of their poetry is part and parcel of their living reality. An awareness of the world and a response to it.

May we start here, and I’ll pick up questions from your reply?
Sam Hamill:

Living reality is learning the names of children bombed from drones, remembering the heroes who exposed this country’s war crimes, war crimes that continue day by day. 

26,000 poets writing almost exclusively in American idiom suggests that the poetry of engagement is alive in this country. What is the general political reality? That our poetry would make no difference in the political arena except as agitation. We were a “liberal minority” in a country that has loved and profited from war from Day One.

Nevertheless, many of the nightmares predicted in the poetry became reality on the ground. I was granted five minutes of fame, not for organizing against the war, but for embarrassing the White House. Our major media asked questions worthy of a bright third grade student —”Is it poetry if it doesn’t rhyme?” “Do you think a poem can stop a war?” “If your poetry doesn’t change anything, why write it at all?” I was subjected to ad hominem attacks in the op/ed pages of the NY Times and the Wall St Journal, in both instances by former Nixon speech writers, telling me that I was a nobody. The fact remains: Poets Against War was an effective call to resistance. And while we couldn’t stop the attack, we helped turn the tide of American opinion against the slaughter. But the slaughter continues in new incarnations. Living reality is learning the names of children bombed from drones, remembering the heroes who exposed this country’s war crimes, war crimes that continue day by day.
 Veronica Golos:

I’ve been reading some of the really excellent interviews (there are so many) with you.  In all of them, you offer an affirmation of poetry, an affirmation that poetry matters.  Of course, as an author of over 40 books and translations, teaching in prisons, continuing the PAW, and your keen awareness of the present state of the world, you have viewed both poetry and the world for a long time.

In your interview with Paul E. Nelson, you are quoted: “In order to transcend a materialist culture we have to have spiritual values.  We have to have a spiritual economy, an economy of the soul. Poetry is part of that commerce.  It lives outside the mainstream economy.”

Could you elaborate on this?  Especially in light of these continued and ever expanding US wars, of which you speak so eloquently and forcefully?

Could you give us examples of how your Zen practice, and the righteous anger you express, combine in your poetry?
Sam Hamill:

The poem is ultimately a gift, a bestowal. It’s an investment in human character. 

Poetry begins with the gift of inspiration—drawing in the breath of one’s Muse to become pregnant with meaning; that “meaning” is transformed into the energy of poetry through insight and craft in order to become the poem. The poem is then given away on the breath of the poet. This transference and transformation of energy and insight then becomes inspiration for the next listener who also passes it along. The poem is ultimately a gift, a bestowal. It’s an investment in human character.

I have lived my life in accord with what the Chinese call san chiao, the “three systems of thought” that include the sometimes seemingly conflicting teachings of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Lao Tzu tells us that “no name names the name” of the Tao, that words have limits and understanding Tao lies beyond words. Master K’ung teaches us that “all wisdom is rooted in learning to call things by their right names.” Buddhism teaches us to practice compassion and right mindfulness in a world in which “being is agonizing,” and that we already have within us our own awakening. I take these fundamental teachings not as religion, but as applied practical existential philosophy. Lao Tzu says, “You find yourself by serving others.” My primary service has been to poetry, to the life of poetry— as poet, as editor, as translator. Buddhists say, “There are ten thousand paths to the Buddha.” Poetry is one of those paths.

We live in a house that is burning down around us. Corporate capitalism has no spiritual values. We call our country and ourselves “exceptional,” and divorce ourselves from the suffering we inflict all around us. Our leadership needs a “they” to create fear, some “other” that is threatening us even as we manufacture the threats as we did with Iraq. But there is no “they.” There is only a “we,” as in human being, and our violence turns back on us constantly. When a house is burning down, you can’t sit idly by and claim to be working on your own spiritual advancement. You must act to put out the fire and try to save lives. The Bodhisattva “perceives the cries of the world,” and refuses to enter nirvana until all sentient beings become enlightened. His or her actions begin in compassion for those who suffer the most, but extend ultimately even to those who are murderers and the accomplices of murderers. I think of the courage of Albert Camus who pleaded against the death penalty even for war criminals. Every day we see our language corrupted by our political class, we read of drones bombing children while our president tearfully addresses the slaughter of children by a mad man. Lies and hypocrisy and greed rule our public air waves and our political process. Camus tells us that the line between murderers (and their accomplices) can be clearly drawn by those who refuse to become accomplices and says, “we must resist with our whole being.”

The poem is the dance of heart and intellect among the ten thousand things. Like any other kind of writing, it can be trivialized and corrupted. But the true poem arises naturally and is less “about” the poet than about human character and shared experience. Many of us, I believe, are deeply inspired by those who have been silenced. When silence is complicitous, we must speak out and speak clearly.

 

Veronica Golos, Writing for Peace AdvisorAbout Writing for Peace Adviser, Veronica Golos

Golos is the author of Vocabulary of Silence (Red Hen Press, 2011), winner of the 2011 New Mexico Book Award, as well as A Bell Buried Deep, co winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize (Story Line Press). She was Poet in Residence at Sacred Heart Academy in Greenwich, CT in 2005, at the Nassau Museum of Art, and Yaxche School in Taos,New Mexico. She has lectured on Teaching Poetry to Children at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College and Colorado State College. Golos’ work has been widely published and anthologized nationally and internationally, including Meridians, Drunken Boat, Orbus (London), and Liqueur44 (Paris). She has performed at the Nuyorican Café, LincolnCenter, and Cornelia Street Café in NYC, and many venues in the Southwest. A lifelong activist for social justice, humanitarian and peace causes, Golos uses her poetry not only to interpret and question but “to challenge and act.”

Learn more about Veronica Golos here.

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace Advisor

About Writing for Peace Adviser, Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill is the author of more than forty books, including fifteen volumes of original poetry (most recently Measured by Stone and Almost Paradise: New & Selected Poems & Translations); four collections of literary essays, including A Poet’s Work and Avocations: On Poetry & Poets; and some of the most distinguished translations of ancient Chinese and Japanese classics of the last half-century. He co-founded, and for thirty-two years was editor at, Copper Canyon Press. He taught in prisons for fourteen years and has worked extensively with battered women and children. An outspoken political pacifist, in 2003, declining an invitation to the White House, he founded Poets Against War, compiling the largest single-theme poetry anthology in history, 30,000 poems by 26,000 poets. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Mellon Fund, and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission; other honors include the Stanley Lindberg Lifetime Achievement Award for Editing, the Washington Poets’ Association Lifetime Achievement in Poetry Award, two Washington Governor’s Arts Awards, a Western States Book Award, a PEN-Oakland Anti-censorship Award, a PEN Center/USA First Amendment Award, the Charity Randall Award from The Poetry Forum, and the Condecoración de la Universidad de Carabobo in Valencia, Venezuela. His work has been translated into a dozen languages. He lives in Anacortes, Washington.

February Writing for Peace News:

All during the month of February, Writing for Peace is commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with a Daily PAW Post. If you are interested in arranging a reading this month in honor of Poets Against the War, please contact us with the details at editor@writingforpeace.org, and we will be happy to share your information on our site.

2013 Young Writers Contest

Contest Deadline is March 1st! The Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest is in full swing, with entries coming in from all over the globe.  The contest is open to writers of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, for ages 13 to 19. Spread the word to young writers everywhere! You’ll find contest guidelines here.

DoveTales,  An International Journal of the Arts

The first issue of DoveTales will be released this month, featuring poets, writers, artists and photographers from all over the world.  We are also looking forward to seeing the winners of our 2012 Young Writers Contest in print. Watch our posts for news of the journal’s release. The new submission guidelines will go up on March 1st. Thank you for your support!

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Tourist Attraction, by Peter Street

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdviserCommemorating Ten Years of Poetic Resistance, PAW Post No. 25

During the month of February, Writing for Peace  commemorates the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with Daily PAW Posts from a host of contributors.

*Parental Guidance Warning –The poets featured during our February Daily PAW Posts write of war and its effect on the human heart. Writing for Peace has not censored these poems, and we encourage parents to review the content before sharing them with children.

To purchase a copy of POETS AGAINST THE WAR from Powell’s independent bookstore, click here.

Small Writing for Peace logo

Tourist Attraction

by Peter Street

We are sheep or slaves
walking in a long line,
towed by a man on his tractor
to a Police Station with its face
blown off.

He shouts “Stay on the tarmac –
everything else is landmined!”

We chug past without looking:
bright red swastikas and dicks
painted on white walls where family life
once sang out its parties, now piled up
in the front garden.

He points to Serbian cannons.
There’s a silence we’ve never heard before:

no birds, no cats, no dogs.

Peter Street, Writing for Peace AdvisorAbout Writing for Peace Adviser, Peter Street

He has published five previous poetry collections. His first, Out Of The Fire (spike books) was nominated for the 1993 Forward prize. The same year, I.T.V. television broadcast a twelve minutes Remembrance Sunday Special about his time as a war poet during the Bosnian/Croatian conflict. Street has also been seen on Zoom T.V.,  Rundrunk, Munich, Germany and Nederlandse programma Stichting ( NPS Holland).  His poetry has been broadcast on the World Service and he was poet in residence for B.B.C.’s Greater Manchester ” Who Cares?” and also the B.B.C. G.M.R. Arts program.  He won the Poetry Society’s Fish and Chip Placement. Street has been Writer-In Residence in many schools, colleges and prisons and at the International Youth Camp. In 207 Street wrote a series of poems for the highly successful Tony Bevan Catalogue. He is a qualified Arborist and has previously worked as a forester, a Mediterranean chef, and gravedigger/exhumer. Street is a recent recipient of a Royal Literary Fund Grant.

 

February Writing for Peace News:

All during the month of February, Writing for Peace is commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with a Daily PAW Post. If you are interested in arranging a reading this month in honor of Poets Against the War, please contact us with the details at editor@writingforpeace.org, and we will be happy to share your information on our site.

2013 Young Writers Contest

Contest Deadline is March 1st! The Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest is in full swing, with entries coming in from all over the globe.  The contest is open to writers of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, for ages 13 to 19. Spread the word to young writers everywhere! You’ll find contest guidelines here.

DoveTales,  An International Journal of the Arts

The first issue of DoveTales will be released this month, featuring poets, writers, artists and photographers from all over the world.  We are also looking forward to seeing the winners of our 2012 Young Writers Contest in print. Watch our posts for news of the journal’s release. The new submission guidelines will go up on March 1st. Thank you for your support!

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

My Brother’s Computer, by Maija Rhee Devine

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdviserCommemorating Ten Years of Poetic Resistance, PAW Post No. 24

During the month of February, Writing for Peace  commemorates the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with Daily PAW Posts from a host of contributors.

*Parental Guidance Warning –The poets featured during our February Daily PAW Posts write of war and its effect on the human heart. Writing for Peace has not censored these poems, and we encourage parents to review the content before sharing them with children.

To purchase a copy of POETS AGAINST THE WAR from Powell’s independent bookstore, click here.

 Small Writing for Peace logo

Writing for Peace Welcome guest poet, Maija Rhee Devine.
My Brother’s Computer was originally written in Korean and translated to English by the author.

My Brother’s Computer

 
My brother is 77 years old.

At fifteen, recruited by Korean Navy
To do a job like Radar’s in M*A*S*H
He rode in U.S. Patrol Craft 703
Ready to kill, in a wing of 260-battle-ship fleet
Commanded by General Douglas MacArthur.
One September night,1950, Korean Navy blooded
N. Korean communists on Youngheung Island
Planted Korean flag atop the hill
He sped away for his night shift in PC703
Only to learn at dawn
The fourteen war buddies he left behind
Were bullet-riddled to unidentifiable bodies
By enemy troops who sneaked
across the tide-drained strait.

I’ve sinned
I’ve sinned by staying alive
What can I do to cleanse this sin?
What can I do with my life
To make it worth fourteen lives?
Shriveled under that weight
He mourned each day for six decades

As shrunken is his computer
Out its phlegm-congested throat come mysterious groans
The battery has already given up its ghost
Why don’t I get you a new one? I offer during my visit to Seoul.
Oh, no, no.  My daughter-in-law’s getting
A new computer.  Her old one will be my new one,
He says.

Until the “new” one arrives, he goes through these steps.
He turns on the surge protector, which he turns off each night.
Presses the “on” button.
Then the “F 1”
“F 10”
“Enter”
“Esc”
The Windows screen blinks through its many phases
When it’s done, he presses “Begin,” “Program,” “Internet.”
If the “Internet” doesn’t surface
He enters the time, date, and year.

Then clicks “Apply” and “Confirm”

Ahhh!  The internet’s up!

At his age, I’m lucky he knows what a computer is.
And here comes his E-mail message
Limping, coughing, and wheezing across the Pacific Ocean
Lands on my morning tea in Missouri
Hot, heart-shaped.

Published in a Korean literary journal 윌더니스, 2011 겨울호

 

Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace Guest PoetAbout Maija Rhee Devine

Maija Rhee Devine, a Korean-born writer whose fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Boulevard, North American Review, and The Kenyon Review, and in anthologies, holds a B.A. in English from Sogang University in Seoul and an M.A. in English from St. Louis University.  Writing honors include an NEA grant and nominations to Pushcart Prize and O. Henry Awards. Her novel, The Voices of Heaven, is set during the Korean War, and flows from first-hand experience of growing up in Seoul during the war and its aftermath.  Long Walks on Short Days, her poetry chapbook about Korea, China, U.S. and other countries she traveled to, is available now through April 5, 2013, at http://finishinglinepress.com for preorders.

 February Writing for Peace News:

All during the month of February, Writing for Peace is commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of Poets Against the War with a Daily PAW Post. If you are interested in arranging a reading this month in honor of Poets Against the War, please contact us with the details at editor@writingforpeace.org, and we will be happy to share your information on our site.

2013 Young Writers Contest

Contest Deadline is March 1st! The Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest is in full swing, with entries coming in from all over the globe.  The contest is open to writers of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, for ages 13 to 19. Spread the word to young writers everywhere! You’ll find contest guidelines here.

DoveTales,  An International Journal of the Arts

The first issue of DoveTales will be released this month, featuring poets, writers, artists and photographers from all over the world.  We are also looking forward to seeing the winners of our 2012 Young Writers Contest in print. Watch our posts for news of the journal’s release. The new submission guidelines will go up on March 1st. Thank you for your support!

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.