Anti-war poetry

I have come to dislike the very phrase ‘anti’ since the war in Iraq began. It evinces absence of a will to really research and study what is happening. The anti war poet is one who has already made up his/her mind about the subject -war. War is evil. Generic, genetic and endemic to man, war is evil. We are agreed on that statement. Our discussion needs be about the conditions under which it becomes a em>neccessary evil. When, for example, do nations, employ the military to take a stand against a particular evil and how do we go about doing this?

In the persuit of understanding, good authors/books to read are:
Irshad Manji, ‘The Trouble with Islam’
Ayaan Hirsi Ali “Infidel’
Robert Kaplan’s Imperial Grunts.

Additionally terrorism reports and the oral reports of those who escape oppression, heal and finally become contributing American citizens like the notable Nobel Peace Laureate, educator and holocaust survivor, Mr. Elie Wiesel.

When we write the political at a time of war, we need to be far more vigilant about what we are seeing, hearing, and experiencing…..keep in mind that it took Kurt Vonnegut 23 years to write Slaughter House Five. Mr. Elie Wisel’s ‘Night’ took 10 years to be published because Americans did not want to deal with so depressing a subject. Personally, I run into educated Americans who reach for pills and prescriptions rather than opt to grapple with the complexities facing our children and young adults today. What we are needing is not hand me down thinking or pills but education.

As I engage in further conversation with the anti war poet, I find to my dismay that once the anti war poet is locked securely in his trench, with artillery (words and language) he scours the archives of poetry for other war poets who describe the atrocities of war. The piece of the elephant he is has in his hands to his mind and imagination is the whole elephant. As time goes on this piece of elephant in his hand, gets bloodier and bloodier.

Setting the scene: How to write the perfect anti-war poem and not build real international community.

The anti-war poet brings his poem to a poetry workshop and finds that there are other like-minded poets who are moved by the piece of bloody elephant in his hand. A feast ensues, communal and festive, intimate and intricate, the anti-war fervor feasts on moral outrage and fumes against the cause for the bloody elephant.

“Why is my elephant bloody?” the anti war poet asks his friends, showing it off, passing it around.

“Yes.Yes”, why is it bloody?” the others ask, their once clean hands getting bloody in the whole process.

“My elephant was in the bush. The bush got him bloody.” says the anti-war poet.

“The bush got him bloody?” the others echo.

“Yeah. I’d like to burn the bush” says the anti-war poet.

“You can’t do that. The elephant will have no where to live then” the others say.

“I can too. I am being the change I want to see in the world…… like Gandhi. His words are life sustaining, sheer poetry. I am going to be like him.” say the anti war poet.

“Well, now…you can be whatever you want to be. Sorry, we mean whoever you want to be so long as it is not that big bad bush beating up on the poor elephant, making it all bloody like that.” say the others.

“I might even wear a loin cloth to make my public and political statement.” says the anti-war poet.

“Oooh. Cool. Political. I love political poetry. What can we do to support you?” ask the others.

“Jump on the bandwagon.” says the anti war poet. “…and “follow me.”

And that is what they did. And only so far.

Do we wonder now why anti-war poets have neither significantly affected the war nor foreign policy? How have anti-war poets and our world community acted to remove the military junta in power that keeps a single woman, Ang Sang Su Kyi, in house arrest? What does it say about us as a world community if our words are insufficient to protect or free a single woman? Why was a single man, Ghandi effective but not a whole contingent of anti war poets?

Anti war poets have taken the easier path by blaming/scapegoating the soft target – 3 western leaders – rather than address the complex and difficult enemy ( evil,elusive/intangible) who has demonstrated their willingness to kill and destroy Americans/westerners/western civilization. Islamic nations serious about peace need to get their thinking caps on and convene to discuss how to stop the war rather than engage in scapegoating behavior. Securing the peace and stability of Iraq is not an American problem. The OIC needs to be seriously concerned and take on the responsibility from this point on of actually asking western nations/the UN for military aid and providing whatever resources they can to secure peace and stability in Iraq.

There is need for a strong military and firm, sustained action in a free world to keep it free just as much nations need a police force that is not corrupt to protect its citizens from criminals and violence. Islamist Malaysia has a rotten and corrupt police force, unlike neighboring Singapore with a police force that ranks second to Sweden. I don’t know about Mr. Motion, but I would not want to live in a country that requires four men as witnessess to prove a rape. If I owned oilfields, and the men who ‘owned’ me subscribed to such archaic laws, I would, as I have, allign myself with those who would give their lives to protect me and give them the oilfields, rather than live in submission to what in the eyes of any God is evil. The reality in this world, I am learning, is that we all serve some master. I may be the dog asking for crumbs at the banquet, but here in the United States, there is a chance that I will be invited to eat at the table. It is a chance I am willing to take, a choice for freedom that I , in my narrowed circumstances, make.

Here is my poem on the subject of war to be contrasted with that of Mr. Andrew Motion. Please forgive me if the empire is striking back. My intention is not to hurt, harm or ruffle the feathers of a fellow poet but to urge him think!and yes, read..

Malaysia was a former colony of the UK, and instead of learning as western nations do from their past, to my deep and abiding regret, the ‘oppressed’ in Malaysia have taken on the face and features of their oppressors. A curious (and actually funny) set of circumstances….claiming 446 years of oppression! Sorry. Not for any man or government on earth is this little woman taking that burden on.

On The Subject of War by Anushka Anastasia Solomon
for Rabindranath Tagore

I will not sit with disheveled hair, myself, unconscious
of the grounds I tread, Tagore; the burning desire of man
wrenches not only your book of poems from my hand.

The dreams I had full flower in the languor of the night
fall scattered without safe arbor, my faith falters –
We live in a world another poet says no poor man

ever picked his way out of. Life forces. This part –when
I am dragged by my hair- I turn the television off.
a loveless union ends where poems never end. Bruised, these lips.

Close like a purse. Like a foreign tongue women and children
are wrung. On either side of the temple I press mine hands.
Your poems are a jeweled comb on these dessert sands.

Once the satellite dish goes up, they drink it in. Now. The
four corners of the prayer mat are too narrow to live on.
The four corners of the world are too wide not to sin on.

but the gateway to heaven is everywhere
but the gateway to heaven is everywhere
but the gateway to heaven is everywhere

I will not look for another glowing city to burn. Neither
Mecca nor Madurai will burn in the fires of disaster
I will not look for the Nazarene or set my eyes, like oil lamps

At the doors of wastelands. There are no kings or lovers
In Israel or Palestine of whom to ask justice, a portion
equal to two females for one is too much

I am either taken out of man or belong in hellfire
When God brings me laughter, like a cup of cold
Water, I will open my mouth to their utter disgust

Pour your poems out, like a spout. Then clad in black
Like oil, these nine parts of desire will come unhinged
The river will run nubile. I will run naked and drown

the crescent moon, two or three or four times.

And below is a 30 word poem (or statement) from Andrew Motion, 1999 poet laureate of U.K, written prior to the war in Iraq. Mr. Motion claims that he is speaking up on behalf of ordinary Americans who need to be heard. Ironic. Because it was the Iraqi people, and people, from Islamic nations with despotic Islamic governments, like myself, without freedom of press, religion, and expression who need advocates/spokespersons. Western nations already have these precious commodities and celebrities who are flourishing in the freedom won for them by the sacrifices of the American servicemen and women and their families. This war, in the words of other western leaders in politics (not poetry)such as John Howard, Tony Blair and George W. Bush, is about civil liberties.

If the leaders of non western governments would absord the ideas of the good, western books they read when they get the elitist education that places them in positions of prominance in the public arena, they would gain the humility they need to bridge the gaps between those who are genuinely oppressed and those who are not. The roots of real rebellion and revolution run and cut painfully deep. Mr. Michael Moore’s propaganda movie “Farenheit 9/11” is as poor a solution to our problem of Islamic terrorism as Malaysian PM Mr. Abdullah Badawi’s attempt at “Islam Hadhari” or “Civilizational Islam.”

Causa Belli by Andrew Motion

They read good books, and quote, but never learn
a language other than the scream of rocket-burn
Our straighter talk is drowned but ironclad;
elections, money, empire, oil and Dad.

Mr. Motion describes his conversation as “straighter talk”. For real “straighter talk”, and for good conversation on any subject, from poetry to politics, I suggest the U.K poet laureate request an audience with US Secretary of State (previously National Security Advisor) Ms. Condooleeza Rice. Ms. Rice speaks several more languages than Mr. Motion has grasp of, and has not just absorbed the good book, but read many others and is far more conversant with how we might dismantle the oppressor’s house than he can ever dream of. War, when it becomes a neccessary evil, to address a threat, like flight becomes a defensive action first and then, an offensive one.

I am not saying that anti-war poets are bad poets. I just think that poetry needs to steer clear of politics if the poet is doing as Mr. Motion did, taking a position. A position is not a poem. His 30 word statement is just that. A statement of belief. His “piece” of the whole elephant.

To use Sam Hamill’s word, it is ‘unconscionable’ when anti war poetry is manufactured like so much cotton candy. We all like sugar and many westerners have become accustomed to putting a lot of it in everything but salt is what sustains us as a world community.

Incidentally, I regret deeply the loss of the writer Kurt Vonnegut who died at the age of 84 today. I had hoped someday to meet and talk to the author of “A Man Without A Country” and show him ‘Hindu heaven’.
Regretably, he beat me there.


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