Southern Rensselaer Neighbors for Peace held a screening of "Voices in Wartime" and a poetry reading on Saturday at the East Greenbush Community Library. The film is a graphic, moving debunking of the glories of war, told through poetry and the voices of soldiers & peace workers. The version shown was the shorter one, approximately an hour. But there is a longer version, complete with a curriculum for schools (go to their website, www.voicesinwartime.org/ for more information). The event was organized by Allan Brophy, Hervie Harris & others from the group.
What made it particularly moving & poignant was combining the screening with readings by local poets, some invited published poets & an open mic. The invited, you might say, featured, poets were Paul Elisha, Bob Elmendorf, D. Alexander Holiday and me (Dan Wilcox). Paul Elisha is a World War II vet. His poems are meticulously crafted and at times difficult to listen to. I liked his two shorter poems, "Where War is Waged" & "One Picuture's Worth" better than is longer poem, "Drum Beats".
Bob Elmendorf's work is also carefully made, but his wonderful poem "Population Explosion", about his mother ironing & waiting for him & his brother to be born, shows how great emotion can be created out of everyday existence ("no idea but in things"). D. Alexander Holiday started by literally walking as he read "Il Walad, for the children of the Sudan and Somalia", then 2 poems on George W. & the invasion of Iraq. Later, as MC of the open reading he did a couple more of his pieces (you can find his books on Xlibris.com).
I read 2 shorter poems from my new, cheap ($1) chapbook of peace poems, including some humor with "A Pain in the Neck". The very literate, left audience caught the humor early on, which made the poem even more fun to read.
The open mic, as they often do, contained some wonderful surprises: a first-time reader, Marty, had two thoughtful poems & he promised to come out to some of the open mics in the area & actually read (you may have seen him hanging out quietly in the audience in the last couple months, waiting for that push to the mic). And Doug read two poems from a chapbook by Dwight Jenkins, both poems written with a poet's eye for the details that put us "there", even if there is among a soldiers spilling entrails. Other readers included David Wolcott reciting Lord Byron from memory, Virginia Osborn reading from her chapbook "A Fleck of Yeast" (see my Blog on Zounds! below), and Terry Phelan (sans guitar) reciting his songs on the 9/11 attack.
If you know me you know that I find the combination of art (poetry) & politics to be exhilarating, & so it was. Thank you Southern Rensselaer Neighbors for Peace!