ABQ Poets Against War: A Beginning

November 15, 2010

“And thus does the world begin to change — from a kitchen table conversation.”

ABQ Poets Against War began innocently enough. Three of us sat at the old oak table over a simple meal of pasta with home made pesto. We neighbors had come together to relax on a Friday evening and to enjoy some good conversation. At the table were Demetria and Elaine, two poets and Daniel, an Environmental Sociologist. Before long our conversation took an unexpected turn.

All three of us felt the heavy weight of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. It hovered over us like an unwanted dinner guest. Demetria confessed that, for the first time, she wept upon seeing pictures of a sea turtle mired in oil. She asked, “Do you think this kind of grief is widespread?” Elaine, and her husband Daniel, answered in the affirmative. At that point Daniel said, “You have to understand, imperfect humans cannot make perfect technology. Accidents, such as oil spills and leaks are the norm. And not only that. Most of the oil from the Gulf of Mexico goes to the military.”

Demetria said, “You’ve gotta’ be kidding!” Elaine, feeling the weight of her own activist history, spoke up, “We need to do something. We have a moral imperative to act, to speak now!”

As it happened, Demetria had just returned from the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences. One of her colleagues at the Center’s annual writing workshop was poet Sam Hamill, founder of the international Poets Against War. With this fresh in mind, Demetria put her fist down upon the table and said emphatically, “Why don’t we start our own ABQ chapter of Poets Against War? We could hold a reading addressing the issues of war and the environment.” Elaine responded without any hesitation, “Of course, let’s do it.” And the three of us said in unison, “Consider it done!”

Ice cream and cookies had to wait as we sat and penned the first draft of our mission statement. And so it began.

We held our Inaugural Reading with a standing room only audience, October 24, 2010 at the Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque. Poets Levi Romero, Cathy Arellano, Tony Mares, Stewart Warren, Maria Leyba, Gary Brower, Merimee Moffitt, Mary Oishi, Margaret Randall, Larry Goodell, and Richard Vargas marked the occasion with a diverse array of powerful poetry.

Mission Statement: The Albuquerque Chapter of Poets Against War grew out of a kitchen table conversation about the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster and our disgust at the significant use of Gulf oil by the US military. This use of oil, for both human and ecological destruction, symbolizes the failure of democracy to put the needs of people and the environment first. As citizen-poets we must rise up, bear witness and embrace the work of creating a sustainable, peaceful and just future for all life on earth. (For a brief history of Poets Against War, founded by Sam Hamill, visit www.poetsagainstthewar.org) For information: Demetria Martinez (demetriajuly@aol.com) Elaine Schwartz (delschwartz@juno.com)

Sam Hamill, October 25, 2010

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