To paraphrase a great quote from Edmund Burke, the only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. That thought was the impetus for the collaboration I thought of as #PoetsforPeace.
Following a spate of spectacularly horrific, and closely occurring, violent events in the United States in July of 2016, the killing of black man by a police officer in Minnesota that was live streamed on the internet. That within days of police officers shooting and killing another black man in Louisiana.
Finally, with the ambush of police officers in my hometown of Dallas, Texas, during an otherwise peaceful protest organized to demonstrate the unacceptability of the killing of unarmed citizens. Police officers who were there in support of the demonstration and to protect the demonstrators. I had to do something, I had to take a stand and make a difference … somehow.
Being a Poet, a writer, I decided should write poetry, but wanted to be sure my voice was heard above the din of societal noise, particularly that made by polarized factions who seemed more interested in rhetoric and blaming, or the media that exploited that tendency for their ratings. I knew more voices were needed, and decided on a collaborative poem.
Whenever I think of poetry collaborations I think of Neha from ( forgottenmeadows.wordpress.com). Her collaborations always inspired me to spontaneous writing, and I believe that is where our creativity blossoms. Apparently many other poets feel that way because Neha’s collaborations are always rich in diversity of style and thought. The only problem was that Neha had not been around in weeks.
Still heavily on my mind for the next few days as the media splashed the images of violence and its accompanying parade of people who seemed unwilling to understand, or incapable of understanding, the issues from another’s perspective, I wrote my own poems on the subjects and noticed many other poets doing the same.
There was a pervasive reaction to the events, a wide range of emotions and thoughts. All carried the underlying echo of the words of Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”
Then I noticed a post from Neha on her blog and approached her with the idea for #PoetsforPeace. She was open to the idea and we discussed the matter and began that weekend.
Poems poured in from all over. Neha’s base of followers, our blog posts, that were reblogged many times, and the tireless efforts of Marie from WritingWingsforYou.com, and Neha resulted in a fairly substantial collaboration.
After the adrenaline rush, of course. Being that we had planned for no eventuality other than compiling the collaboration, we did not have the mechanisms in place to secure permissions from all the contributors.
The next few weeks we were busy contacting via email, tweets, and comments on blogs. We got permission to publish from 99% of those who posted a poem in the #PoetsforPeace collaboration.
The success inspired the thought of making this an annual event, expanding to try and have every country of the world represented, and coordinating the event with the United Nation’s International Day of Peace held annually on September 21st.
I am immensely proud of the synergy that arose from one small idea, and for the demonstrated belief by the Poets for Peace that as Mahatma Gandhi suggested we need to, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Following publication, the Poets for Peace collaborative poem will become part of Stanford University’s digital archival of the 100,000 Poets for Change collection.