“Peace goes into the making of a poem/ As flour goes into the making of bread.” —Pablo Neruda
Poets Against War Canada started with the confluence of three people. In Canada, there are already a few organized movements by poets and writers for peace or against war (eg. Poets for Peace and Canadian Writers Against War), in addition to those who believe that all poetry promotes peace. With relatively few exceptions, however, there has been a curious stillness here among poets, on the specific subjects of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other recent armed conflicts. Many poets at public readings, choose to read one or two war poems with their other selections, but need a forum such as this to organize their voices together to be heard speaking against war.
An international web-search drags up “Poets Against the War” (see links), started by Sam Hamill of Copper Canyon Press in Port Townsend, Washington State. I clicked the ‘contact us’ link and asked if there was an affiliated organization in Canada. About a week later I got a reply from Hamill himself, saying basically, “No there isn’t. Why don’t you start one?” I sat on the idea for awhile, guiltily, still cruising the web to find poets who were writing about the current escalation of militarism. One day in my inbox — serendipity. A message from Sandra Stephenson, another poet and activist: Sam had forwarded my e-mail to her near Montreal, where she coordinates a college Peace Studies program. We exchanged e-mails about ‘the poetics of dissent’ and the technicalities of setting up this site. We exchanged poems. It proved to be an energizing, fascinating correspondence. Clearly, we were on the same page, at the same time in history. You will be able to read some of those electronic letters by clicking ‘archive’.
The result was this site, and a Peace Poetry Jam in Montreal, following on others across the country since the new millenium. I contacted old friends and poetic collaborators in Nova Scotia, Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario (see links). More readings were arranged. PAW chapters have opened in several countries (links). You can join us. Please send us your non-violent peace or anti-war poems, send this link to writers and friends, and get active politically if you’re able. Organize Peace Poetry Jams in your area and on the streets! Let us know about them by posting to our ‘forum’ page.
Pablo Neruda, a Nobel Literature Prize winner and one of the 20th century’s great poets, put it this way in his Songs of Protest: “How simple peace is, and how difficult.” War cannot go unchallenged, especially by those of us closest to the powers who could stop fueling war. There are many lives for whom we may be their only—and most eloquent—voice.
by Art Joyce, with Sandra Stephenson, co-founders, October, 2006