“No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling in a field as in writing a poem.” -Booker T. Washington (1856-1915).
“It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent.” Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
“Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them a space where change can take place.” Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out.
These three quotes provide much fodder for thought as I contemplate my own vocation and direction this year. As one who remains in that space between two countries, I find that I must make myself that safe space for people to come and exchange ideas. Poetry is all about ideas for me, ideas that transform the world and ourselves and our neighbor. Nouwen speaks of leaving our guns at the door, for me I have come to that.
As a poet, while I never was an anti-war poet, I recognize the need to work, and work diligently for peace. We need a strong military. We need a police force with integrity, just as much as we need firefighters and the clergy. Those in the profession of guarding national security must do what they have to do. Those who are in the profession of treasuring the human spirit entrusted to them in the spiritual traditions of their faith must do so. Freedom is this.
But as a civilian, I feel the need to articulate that we can learn from each other – without guns. I’d like to use poems, myself. The question is, how to create a safe place to do this?