by Erica Funkhouser (Copyright Harvard Review 2005)
In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing
About the dark times.
-Bertolt Brecht, “Motto”
Early in 2003, poet and editor Sam Hamill was famously uninvited to the White House. Laura Bush had originally invited Hamill to join her at a February symposium to celebrate “Poetry and the American Voice.” Hamill accepted and then he asked a few friends for poems representing “the conscience of our country.” This was during the weeks leading up to the March invasion of Iraq, when President Bush’s plans to “shock and awe” Baghdad were well publicized: three thousand missiles would strike the city in the first two days of the war, the president promised. Hamill received 11,000 responses to his request for poems. When Laura Bush caught wind of this, she “postponed” the symposium. On February 12, 2003, the day when the original symposium was supposed to have taken place, hundreds of counter-symposia were held across the country. Later that year, Poets Against the War, edited by Hamill, was published with work by 174 poets.