Poets speak out against war

Roughly 40 students as well as several faculty members from the department of literature and language shared or listened to poetry regarding the war in Iraq, Feb. 16.

Although the turnout for this year’s Poetry Against the War public forum may have been smaller than in years past, all the guests who attended the event in Northern Kentucky University’s Otto Budig Theatre remained engaged and attentive.

The program began at 3:15 with a brief account of the history surrounding poetry and war. The organizers of the event – Dr. Kris Yohe, Dr. John Alberti and Dr. Robert Wallace – discussed how war has inspired the work of generations of artists.

“Poets and artists have always been interested in the human conscience and war,” Wallace said. “They attempt to show the reality of the war to the people who are fighting it.”

The organizers were also sponsoring the Wounded Warrior Project, which is an organization that collects donations for troops who are suffering injuries. The money donated provides a wide array of services to wounded troops, from medical needs for the seriously injured to books and DVDs to soldiers who are stuck in bed. Last year, the Poetry Against the War forum raised well over $100 for this cause. Wallace said contributors donated just as much this year.

Nearly all of the NKU faculty members in attendence took the podium to read. The audience heard selections from the works of E.E. Cummings, Brian Turner and Bob Barth, who is an NKU alumnus.

Additionally, Professor Andrew Miller and Dr. Gary Walton read some of their own poetry. Their poems were concerned with various aspects of the war in Iraq. Some of the different titles included “Iraq Song and Dance,” “Blood and Oil” and “Excuse me, Mr. President?”

“While I am always thrilled to share my work when asked, I have mixed feelings about reading at the Poetry Against the War event for a couple of reasons,” Walton said.

“I fear that the American people have accepted war as a natural state of being, the ‘norm’ if you will.”

“I have no idea what it is like to be in a war zone,” Miller said. “However, I still think it is important to speak out against injustice and against things that you see as harmful to society.”

Besides NKU faculty sharing their poetry, two students, Thom Snowden and Amanda Smith, chose to read some of their work.

Smith’s piece, titled “Raped by Apathy,” was a lyrical barrage of song which attempted to make sense of the senseless. Smith, who has been composing poems since she was 10, said much of her inspiration for this particular piece came from Allen Ginsberg and the other poets from the Beatnik generation. Smith wanted her poem to be both political and passionate.

Snowden, a junior English major, said he was debating whether to read at the event at all. He said when he looked down at what he had written he didn’t understand the kind of suffering that is associated with war. Snowden’s poem, although untitled, spoke volumes about his feelings concerning the war in Iraq.

Snowden described the event as “productive.”

“It was nice for people to come together and have an open-minded discussion,” he said.

Marking his third time as one of the event’s organizers, Wallace commented on the war readings.

“I thought the quality was high,” he said. “My feeling is that anything you get on that subject is a plus.”