Speakers urged the Bush administration not to go to war in Iraq and called for world peace at Wednesday night’s Poets Against the War program.
More than 200 people filled the Marvin Center Continental Ballroom to capacity, forcing organizers to turn away several latecomers.
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg also attended the English Department-sponsored event.
Poet Cornelius Eady voiced the need to keep on fighting the Bush administration’s policies in the Middle East.
“Whether or not this stops the war – and I hope it does – it’s good to take a stand,” he said.
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet W.S. Merwin warned a war would only result in the killing of innocent people.
“When you start reading history, it’s amazing that we can repeat these things and never learn from them,” Merwin said.
The event culminated in a visit to Washington by the poets, who earlier in the day presented a collection of more than 13,000 poems to members of Congress. First Lady Laura Bush had originally invited poets to participate in a literary symposium but canceled the event after learning several of the poets were anti-war activists.
“The White House is stupid (for having invited me), because I’ve been a political activist for 40 years and not for any of their causes,” said poet Sam Hamill.
“These poets have given a voice to thousands of people who have been able to express their feelings about the war,” said McDermott in an interview with The Hatchet. “Poems last longer than bombs.”
McDermott drew heated criticism from the Bush administration after traveling to Iraq on a peace mission last year.
“I’m certainly not on the A-list at the White House, but sometimes we have to do things we believe in,” McDermott said. “It’s an act of moral courage, but it’s a lonely kind of courage.”
Professor Fay Moskowitz, chair of the English Department, said she was impressed by the turnout.
“I think people came for two reasons, to hear an illustrious array of poets speak and to come and add their voices with the poets’ against the war in Iraq.”
“I think the fact that we had a full audience, on the brink of war, leads me to believe that we are not alone in our outrage toward this administration,” said poet Terry Tempest Williams. “Coming to this reading was an act of civil disobedience.”
Earlier in the night, a handful of students attended a candlelight vigil in Kogan Plaza, organized by the Students Against the War in Iraq.
Freshman Mandi Danesi said she was not disappointed by the small turnout.
“I’m seeing who I expect to see here,” Danesi said. “But I don’t set my limits too high, especially here at GW.”