Poets for Peace: Local Authors Share Views On War

As Americans nationwide struggle to deal with the pain inflicted more than a month ago, small readings throughout the community have been helping local poets express their feelings and deal with grief.

Poets for Peace, an international organization founded in the 1990s, is sponsoring readings in Buffalo where local poets can come together and express thoughts and emotions regarding the attacks of Sept. 11. A cathartic reading held last Wednesday at the Center for Inquiry also raised money for the American Red Cross and the United Way of Buffalo.

In a small, dimly lit conference room at the Center for Inquiry, a group of nine gathered to read poems attempting to express the pain of the recent attacks, as well as others that spoke of moving on. Ed Buckner of the Center for Inquiry opened the night, joined by one of the reading's organizers and poets, Karen Lewis, who gave thanks for the use of the venue and the contributions they have received.

"We come together to embrace each other through physical presence," said Lewis.

Jane Adam, an English lecturer at UB, first took the podium. Adam read many pieces, some with titles borrowed from staple poets such as Keats and Frost. Her poems dealt with the change of season and wanting to hold onto the freedom of summer. Other poems dealt with the confusion of emotions created by the events of Sept. 11.

"[Poetry] has always been an installation of peace inside me," said Adam, adding that poets are the ones who should be helping people deal with emotions in this delicate time.

Following Adam, Lewis read pieces describing children as victims of war, compositions she said were influenced by Leon Golub's war-like creations. Golub was featured at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery earlier this year. Lewis also read two poems by Pablo Neruda.

There was plenty of humor and a sense of comfort among the poets, who appeared to have worked closely on many occasions. One member joked that he would "not introduce the next reader until the collection tins were full."

Professor Ken Feltges of Mount Saint Mary College took the podium next. Feltges described his personal experience with Vietnam and Desert Storm, where a family friend was lost, in addition to his reactions to the attacks.

As Feltges spoke of the World Trade Center disaster, he described the twin towers as "so high [they] scrape the hand of God"; after the attack, it was as if "the mouth of hell has opened. ... The space in the Manhattan sky is like a child's missing front tooth."

With a viewpoint just as relevant now as it was then, poet John Rigney read a poem about the Pan-Am 103 bombing, "Their victory is in turning us on ourselves."

"They were all convicted with the crime of working on a Tuesday morning," said Rigney of the thousands of victims in New York City.

Poet Maureen O'Connor described how cheaply words "in the past month have been cried, hurled," especially by the media.

Every poet expressed healing power words, and the usefulness of poetry in a time of crisis.