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September 27, 2004

Editor's note: At the request of several members of the community, Smith College's Poetry Center will re-screen the following documentary film, which the college and Forbes Library first presented on Sept. 11.

Oct. 18 Re-Screening of “Poetry in Wartime” at Smith College

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- On Monday, Oct. 18, Smith College will re-screen "Poetry in Wartime," a feature-length documentary film, at 7:30 p.m. in Leo Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall.

The event, which is sponsored by Smith’s Poetry Center, is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible.

“Poetry in Wartime” sharply etches the experience of war through powerful images and the words of poets -- both unknown and world-famous. Soldiers, journalists, historians and experts in combat interviewed in “Poetry in Wartime” add diverse perspectives on war’s effects on soldiers, civilians and society. In “Poetry in Wartime,” 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.

The film features contemporary poets Marie Howe, Sam Hammill, Saul Williams, Marilyn Nelson, Ali Habash, Chris Abani, Rachel Bentham, Hasham Shafq and Antonieta Villamil, as well as the stirring words of Homer, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman and poets from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The 75-minute documentary also brings to life how poetry and war have been intertwined since the beginning of recorded history -- from ancient Babylonia and the Trojan War up through the conflicts of the 20th century and the current war in Iraq.  This examination of the terrible beauty of poetry leads to the deeper questions of the origins of war -- is it innate in human beings? Do the warlike societies succeed? Can art illuminate politics? And, in turn, can the grim realities of war teach us about the delicate and important role of poetry?

Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The poetry is in the pity. Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why true Poets must be truthful.                                                                                                 -Wilfred Owen

If history and literature have taught us anything, it is that in the midst of trauma, violence and death, it is the poets who help us make sense of the senseless. In a world turned suddenly upside down, it is “Poetry in Wartime” that can bring us together and lead us to a better place.

“Poetry in Wartime” will be viewed simultaneously around the nation on September 11 as a form of remembrance and engagement, in hopes of bringing people to creative ways of reflecting upon democracy, citizenship, and patriotism. (To learn more about the film, please visit )

For more information, contact Cindy Furtek in the Poetry Center office at (413) 585-4891 or Ellen Doré Watson, director, at (413) 585-3368.


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Marti Hobbes
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