Monday, June 29, 2009

Reading in Racine, Wisconsin on July 2nd at the Public Library!

Poet reflects on war and peace
Monday, June 29, 2009 4:19 PM CDT

The poetry of Philip Metres has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including “Best American Poetry.”

At age 38, the Chicago-raised writer, translator, scholar and activist has authored more than six books, including “Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since 1941,” and “To See the Earth”.

On Thursday Metres will share his reflections on the poetry of war and peace during a program at the Racine Public Library, which is offered in conjunction with the Racine Interfaith Coalition. The Journal Times asked him a few questions in advance of his visit.

Q: Who or what first got you interested in writing poetry?

A: Here’s a short list: my mother’s love of Wordsworth and Hopkins (“the world is charged with the grandeur of God”); my father’s love of Khalil Gibran; the lyrics of U2, R.E.M., Paul Westerberg, Husker Du, Fugazi; “Dead Poets Society”; falling in love with Jen Newman; my high school English teacher Mr. Lally; travels to Mexico and to Russia; a world that seemed alternately opaque and stunningly miraculous.

Q: What makes poetry a good literary form for expressing protest?

A: These days, I’m drawn more to a poetry that invites us to change our lives, that imagines a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. While protest is sometimes necessary and even a civic duty at certain moments, I value poetry that invites, encourages, provokes and sustains us. As Dr. King writes about nonviolence, artists and activists need to turn our heads, to invite us to conversion. That’s the kind of work that we gathered together for the anthology “Come Together: Imagine Peace”, edited by me, Larry Smith and Ann Smith.

Q: One of the questions that your class on “War and Literature” asks is “How has 9/11 changed our discussions and definitions of war?” What are some examples of how it has done so?

A: 9/11 brought war home to us in the most visibly excruciating way. Since World War II (and arguably, even during the war for civilians), war has been a distant reality, registered in the U.S. only in the wounds of returning soldiers. In my book, “Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront”, I argue that it is no longer possible to think of war as something between soldiers; given the fact that over 90 percent of casualties of war worldwide are civilians, all of us need to think hard before we rush to war, because the people who will bear the brunt are walking around just like us, living, breathing, loving, with names and histories and dreams.

Q: What essential piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to learn to write poetry?

A: Read lots of poetry. Read more poetry. Imitate what you love defiantly — it will come out distinctly yours. Read more poetry. Love the sounds and roots of words. Write every day. Share with other people. Revise. Remember that poetry is about the words, the worlds they summon; they are sufficient in themselves, and need no explanation.

If You Go:

WHAT: The Poetry of War & Peace: A book reading/discussion with Philip Metres.

WHEN: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

WHERE: Upstairs at the Racine Public Library, 75 Seventh St.

COST: Free.

INFO: For program info, call the library at (262) 619-2571. For more about Metres go to

1 comment:

Nick Demske said...

This is going to be killer!