Poetry in Wartime screens in Monterey.
Thursday, September 9, 2004
From the burning towers of Illium to the killing fields of Rwanda to the deserts of the Middle East, violent conflict seems to be an inescapable fact of life—an impulse that is bred into our very bones. And yet, even as we do our very best to annihilate one another, history shows us that the human urge to destroy is counterbalanced by an equally powerful urge to create. Out of every great conflict comes great art: the poetry of Homer, the history of Thucydides, the art of El Greco, the memoirs of Primo Levi, and the philosophies of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. In the aftermath of trauma, violence and death, it is the artists, the philosophers and the historians who help us make sense of the senseless.
On the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy, a powerful feature-length documentary that explores war through images and words of poets will be shown at the Monterey Democratic Headquarters, in conjunction with the film’s national premiere all across the country at similar screenings and poetry readings.
Poetry in Wartime sharply etches the experience of war through powerful images and the words of poets. Soldiers, journalists, historians and experts on combat, interviewed in the film, add diverse perspectives on war’s effects on soldiers, civilians and society, while poets around the world, from the United States and Colombia to Britain and Nigeria to Iraq and India, share their views and experiences of war that extend beyond national borders and into the depth of the human soul.
“It is a very powerful film,” says event organizer Kathy MacKenzie. “It’s an opportunity for a group of people to share emotions that we don’t easily share in group contexts. The usual responses to war—anger, indignation, resentment—are easy to express in a crowd. This film helps us address other, deeper emotions that we worry may make us lose our composure.”
The film also brings to life how poetry and war have been intertwined since the beginning of recorded history—from ancient Babylonia and the fields of Troy to the great conflicts of the 20th century and the current war in Iraq. The stirring words of poets of the past—Homer, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman and Shoda Shinoe from Hiroshima—are combined with more recent voices: a Vietnam vet, poets in war-torn Baghdad, a poet whose family experienced the devastating war in Biafra.
Poetry in Wartime gives the gut-wrenching experience of war a fresh perspective. It steps away to look at all wars—not just the conflicts currently in the news. The terrible beauty of the poetry is our guide, distilling the grim realities and diverse emotions of war. History and literature have shown us that in times of war, poets can lead us to greater truths and that the power of poetry can help us understand the trauma, violence and death caused by armed conflict.
McKenzie warns that this film is not suitable for children, however. “There are some disturbing scenes and I think that’s important also. We’re not censored by the media. We’re allowed to view the reality of war.”
Poetry in Wartime will be shown twice on Sept. 11. The first screening is at 1:30pm in Monterey Senior Center (the corner of Lighthouse and Dickman) as part of the Peace Jubilee and Books Not Bombs event. The evening screening is at 7pm at the Monterey Democratic Headquarters, 524 Fremont St., Monterey.
Following the evening showing and readings by several local poets, including Phil Wagner, Jacob Martin, and Allison Matulich, there will be anopen mic.