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21st Century Poetry with ANDY CROFT

An impressive array of poets worldwide make an eloquent and potent case for peace

LAST month the World Poetry Movement / Movimento Poetico Mundial launched an international campaign under the banner of La Terre est notre Maison (The Earth is Our Home).

Poetry readings, book-launches, festivals and happenings about our common human home are taking place all over the world this month, around the idea that The Earth is Our Home and we must take care of it from the fire of war’:
“we must embrace and help the refugees and take care of nature, which gives rise to
all forms of existence. Dignity, justice and truth must prevail in our home. Our house must be a house for poetry and life, and not a house of horror and death.”

Founded in Medellin, in Colombia in 2011, the World Poetry Movement is a loose network of poetry festivals, publishers and educational projects, involving more than 2,000 poets from 150 countries. The aim of the WPM is to use poetry “to help in the conquest of peace with social justice and the cultural, social and political transformations this requires.”

In the last decade, the WMP has co-ordinated thousands of poetry events around the world, including hundreds of events celebrating the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, Aime Cesaire, Pablo Neruda, Yannis Ritsos, Nazm Hikmet and Roque Dalton.

In 2011, over 800 poetry readings were held in 100 countries under the banner of Poets for Change.

In 2013, 145 “actions” took place calling for the Realisation of Social Justice in the World.

In 2016 the WPM organised poetry readings in response to the growing wave of migration in the world.

In 2017, 160 poetry readings were held in 45 countries, denouncing racism and xenophobia. In 2019, more than a thousand poetry events took place around the world calling for a World Without Walls.

At the start of the war in Ukraine, the WPM launched an international appeal for Poems for Peace. The project began in March with a great poem by Irish poet Kevin Higgins:
“The book of war is busy scribbling / another chapter of itself / hardly a syllable of which is true...”

First published in the Morning Star, the poem addresses the bellicose popular culture that talks about peace while demanding a greater escalation of the fighting:
“one vows to abstain from Shostakovich / another refuses from now on to teach Dostoevsky / not to be outdone, a third clucks / that this morning it tried to send / a parcel of AK47s by registered post / others want to shoot down planes / because that’s how peace is made… the Federation Internationale Feline / has banned Russian cats / from its competitions, / though it’s unclear if any / cats took part in the invasion, / because this is how peace is made / Radio Four’s Women’s Hour is instructing its listeners / in how to make Molotov cocktails / of which everyone is suddenly in favour.”

Since then, the WPM has published a new poem every day on Facebook about the endless, dirty wars of the 21st century — in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, the Ukraine and Palestine.

So far the project has included poems from China, the Ukraine, Morocco, Germany, Russia, France, Argentina, New Zealand, Italy, Wales, Iran, Portugal, Kosovo, Peru, Luxemburg, Spain, Hungary, Slovenia, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Scotland, Denmark, Mali, Syria, Croatia, Turkey and Sweden.

It’s a great attempt to mobilise poets and poetry against the absurd warmongers who think that problems can be solved by killing other people’s children. “Gentlemen, would you please / put your guns away?” writes the French poet Francis Combes, “there are children / walking this Earth.”

As the Italian poet Guido Oldani puts it: “I’m not so sure / what is this war really about / when I see it become a short film / between one commercial and another While politicians ‘make blood spectacular…  as always it’s only the poor / who must run or die.”

This is from the French poet Jennifer Grousselas: “There is no song for war / There is no language no tongue for war / There are only cries of war.’ nThe Russian poet Viatcheslav Kouprianov writes about trying to find ‘a word / that will stop all the battles / for the sake of life / under this / obedient sun.”

For the Spanish poet Pedro Enriquez, peace is ephemeral as “words on the sand.”

Meanwhile, the Hungarian poet Halmosi Sandor argues that we are all complicit in every death in every pointless, bloody war:
“Horror always has two ends, / and one human body. In vain / we blame it on the devil, God. / And there is no point involving / the angels. Anything that scratches / existence, bears our fingerprints. / Collar on every neck. / Under each shirt a dog tag.”

Poems for Peace can be read at: Le Merle moqueur — WPM France | Facebook. Anyone who wants to contribute a poem to the project should contact me ([email protected]).

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