December 13, 2008

Peace, Poetry and Politics

“Peace, Poetry and Politics” examines the role of poetry as a form of social protest and as a means of calling for peace and justice. The program is sponsored by the Literary Arts Institute of the College of Saint Benedict and the Eugene McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement in collaboration with Graywolf Press. The program will feature three writers who will respond to the topic: Fred Marchant, a Graywolf poet and one of the first Marine officers honorably discharged as a CO during the Vietnam War; Brenda Hillman, a noted poet with seven books of poetry who is also an energetic activist with Code Pink’ and Nick Flynn, also a Graywolf poet and memoirist who has just completed a new book exploring Abu Ghraib and torture.

The program will recall the poetry of protest in World War II and in Vietnam, highlighting Graywolf’s recent publication of a collection of poems by William Stafford titled Another World Instead. The book centers around Stafford’s experience as a conscientious objector during World War II. Eugene McCarthy, an alumnus of Saint John’s, was an admirer of Stafford; in fact, he read Stafford’s poems on the Senate floor and was able to recite the poems from memory. And McCarthy was himself a poet. We will use these past events and experiences as a means to illuminate the situation on the current war-fronts and to explore these questions: do words have any effect on a nation at war? Is the declaration of conscientious objection a public or private act? How does a nation imagine itself at war and can that imagination be enlarged or transformed?

There will be two presentations with this lively group of writers, one on campus on February 5th in Alumnae Hall (HCC) at 7:30 PM and the other in Minnesota Public Radio’s UBS Forum in St. Paul on February 6 at 7:00. Registration will be required for the St. Paul event.

Please visit the McCarthy Center events calendar for a full list of events sponsored by the McCarthy Center.