Antiwar movement takes poetic turn

— Poets brought their antiwar verse to Congress on Wednesday, handing lawmakers thousands of poems to protest pending military action in Iraq.

The group, "Poets Against the War," is barely a month old, born out of one poet's refusal in January to attend a poetry symposium with first lady Laura Bush.

Sam Hamill later called on other poets to voice opposition to the war. Many of those slated to appear at the symposium responded, and the White House indefinitely postponed the event.

A Web site soon went up, collecting more than 13,000 poems and statements from amateur and professional writers opposing the war. A selection of works from almost 200 poets will be published in April and dedicated to the first lady, Hamill said.

Three former U.S. poet laureates and nine current state poet laureates are among the contributors to the Web site.

Stanley Kunitz, 97, is one of nine Pulitzer Prize winners included. In a letter to President Bush, he writes:

"When they shall paint our sockets gray

And light us like a stinking fuse,

Remember that we once could say,

Yesterday we had a world to lose."

Hamill said poets would have scored a victory if they started a discussion of poetry's relevance to American life and politics.

Keeping the two mutually exclusive was not natural, he suggested. "This is the only country in the world in which people can say, 'Why is your poetry political?'" he said.

Poetry readings against the war were to take place Wednesday around the world, from Italy to Turkey to Hong Kong.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, a presidential hopeful, said, "The work of these poets is in a tradition of poets throughout contemporary history who have used their art to challenge war."

About 15 Lawrence poets submitted works to Poets Against the War for delivery Wednesday to the White House. A related poetry reading with an antiwar theme took place Wednesday night at Cafe Luna downtown.¢ MORE:

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and other sympathetic lawmakers said they would hand the CD-ROM and some printed versions of the poems to the Library of Congress. Kaptur read Kunitz's poem into the Congressional Record.

The White House said the poetry event was postponed because the mix of politics and poetry was inappropriate.


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