Poetry is an act of peace. Peace goes into the making of a poet
as flour goes into the making of bread."
~ Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) from Confieso Que He Vivido: Memorias, 1974
In 2006, I felt frustrated with the state of the world.
I was one poet, a small voice, who felt very much alone. I asked myself, What could a poem do to change things? What difference could a poet make in the world?
Not much, the negative voice inside my head sang out.
Sometimes, I need to act to feel as if I have some control. Sometimes, the voice in my head needs to be quieted when it's singing the wrong song. I decided to meditate on peace and the question, "What could I do to make a difference?"
Inspired by the Pablo Neruda quote above, I decided to create a broadside series called, "The Making of Peace." In case you don't know what a broadside is. they are sort of like small posters on high quality paper that has a poem printed on it and they usually include artwork. They are wonderful pieces of art that I have always admired.
I decided to put out a call for poems on the theme of peace in case their were other poets also interested in this subject. I was overwhelmed to receive over 450 submissions of poetry from the US and internationally to select poems from, as well as a generous grant from the Puffin Foundation to do this project.
I chose thirteen poems that I felt best added to the conversation of peace that I created into broadsides.
I knew I wanted others to see these poems and share in the conversation of peace so I began contacting bookstores and venues across the US to see if anyone was interested in displaying the series during National Poetry Month. Over 55 venues and bookstores in 38 states and the country of Cypress, where one of poets was from, displayed these poems on peace in April 2006.
I also had 2311 broadside printed to give out free to the public to honor the US soldiers that had died in war between 2003-2005. As of December of 2005, that number was 2311. As of today, in writing this, that number has almost doubled to 4363, which does not include all the Iraqi civilians or soldiers from other countries that have also died in this war.It is three years after this project and I still meditate on peace.
I am not sure the difference these poems made in the world, but I know I felt as if there was a little more good in the world because of them.
Jane Hirshfield said in an article by the Marin Independent Journal that a program like the "Making of Peace is how you move the majority of social opinion - you move it one whisper at a time."
And maybe that is poetry and how a poem can change the world for the better, one whisper at a time.
You can read all the poems about peace that were featured in this broadside series: The Making of Peace at: www.agodon.com/themakingofpeace
You can also see a list of bookstores and venues that featured the broadside series for National Poetry Month, April 2006.
Poets with poems included in this series were Jane Hirshfield, Naomi Shihab Nye, Lola Haskins, Martha Silano, Barbara Crooker, Todd Davis, Susan Elbe, Lana Hechtman Ayers, Lee Sharkey, M.J. Iuppa, Kathleen Winter, Alisa Gordaneer, and Lisa Suhair Majaj.