29 June 2007

day 99 - calling things by their rightful name, one poem a time

in the picture to the left are poet and activist sam hamill of poets against war, an ngo founded by him that features a huge online anthology of poetry against war, and translator isabel cole. i took it right before sam read a couple of his poems, both old and new, and before isabel asked him a couple of questions about his fierce anti-war engagement. being a vietnam veteran himself, his position throughout the subsequent discussion was an uncompromisingly pacifistic one. sadly he evaded my question whether, when he says anti-war, he means anti-military and thus anti-peacekeeping, too. i believe he misunderstood me as a proponent of the military-industrial complex or something and thus gave me a rather twaddly answer about the present day lack of opponents of war in american politics. my dear friends jeanne and steve, however, brought to my attention dennis kucinich, who is trying to become president of the united states by trying to win patriots for peace. obviously his budget and thus chances of being elected are smaller than those of his fellow candidates who gather financial strength and lobbyists behind them, but it's not like there aren't other people out there trying.

nevertheless it was very interesting to hear how sam hamill conceives every poem as a political statement in one way or another, simply because it carries a poets' message forward. apparently, poets are a very humanistic and peaceful guild, too: in all america, sam said, he only knows of one pro-war poet (whose name i didn't memorise, i'm sorry). he quoted camus ("in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect on murder and to make a choice. After that, we can distinguish those who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves or the accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all their force and being. Since this terrible dividing line does actually exist, it will be a gain if it be clearly marked.") and confucius ("all wisdom is rooted in learning how to call things by the right name.") and found that mr. bush is a fascist and hillary clinton a right-wing democrat, if at all, because she believes that in years to come the US "may need a vastly reduced residual force [in Iraq] to train Iraqi troops, provide logistical support, and conduct counterterrorism operations". as far as i know, however, she doesn't plan on occupying iraq permanently, and i highly doubt that a sudden (!) pullout of all american troops in iraq had a stabilizing effect on the region. but sam hamill was at war and has worked with numerous victims of armed conflicts, and given that he speaks chinese, japanese, latin and greek, i suppose his powers of comprehension are above-average - he must have known what he was saying there. among some interesting facts he mentioned, he stated that the US is currently supporting every citizen of israel with the equivalent sum of USD 10'000 per annum, while citizens of nigeria are only supported with USD 0,10 over the same period. if this is true, isreal gets USD 65 billions a year, while nigeria, africa's most populous country where only 60% of the women above the age of fifteen can read and write, is allocated only 13.5 million dollars. that, indeed, is outraging!

currently, sam hamill is hoping for poets against war to strike roots in most any country in the world. i think this is a brilliant idea. if i knew how to put up a proper website, i'd probably try and launch a german version. so in case someone out there knows how to do that and would be interested, please let me know.

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