Beltway Poetry Quarterly

S.O.S. FOR POETS: AN OPEN LETTER

 

This letter is a cry for attention, a cry to fellow humans, including poets, all over the world, in Myanmar, Colombia, Sri Lanka and everywhere that words have been silenced, hearts stopped, brains bashed in. Why poets? Poets without borders. Poets as witnesses. Poets writing in the face of tyranny, saying no. Poets occupy privileged positions in literature worldwide. They are on call at funerals. They are on call on national occasions, such as Independence Day, the Queen’s birthday, the inauguration of a president. They are also dying in violent ways in ever increasing numbers.

Three poets, including Khet Thi,  are known to have been murdered in the ongoing disturbances in Myanmar. At least one poet has died during the ongoing protests in Colombia. In Sri Lanka a poet, Ahnaf Jazeem, has been tortured in jail where among other “unpleasantries” he has been bitten by a rat, beaten up, starved. He remains without a trial, held under a “prevention of terrorism” statute.

We are curious to ask about China, Russia and Afghanistan. How many poets are languishing among the million Uyghurs being reoriented and reschooled in camps? How many student poets were bombed with the latest IED in Afghanistan as they gathered near their girls  school? How many are jailed along with Pussy Riot for commenting about politics?

Shelley wrote in “A Defence of Poetry” that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. They are the moral compass, an unelected supreme court reviewing the issues of politics, community matters. So let us ask some community questions. How can we reduce our ecological footprint? How can we exercise the freedom we feel in mind and heart on the page, on radio and television, on the internet? How can we walk about the metropolis, or go to bed at night without fearing truncheons, tear gas or bullets, visits from the police and army? Why do some elected leaders unleash their forces of defense and order against fellow citizens? Why cannot we allow for voices in the wilderness, and in the opposition? Why can’t we have civilized debates? Why do some of us kill poets?


Indran Amirthanayagam, poet, editor, Sri Lanka/United States

Sara Cahill Marron, poet, editor, United States

Susana H. Case, poet & professor, NYIT, United States

Jonathan Harrington, poet, United States/Mexico

Pauline Le Roy, poet, Chile

Margo Stever, poet, United States

Bill Nevins, poet, United States

Jennifer Rathbun, poet, professor, United States

Jennifer Franklin, poet, professor, United States

Dominique Hecq, poet, Belgium/Australia

Irma Nimbe Salcedo Rock, poet, Mexico

Renato Sandoval Baciagulpo, poet, translator Peru

Luz Stella Mejia, poet, Colombia/United States

Katia-Sofia Hakim, poet, professor, France

Sophia Naz, poet, Pakistan/United States

Caroline Hagood, poet, professor, United States

Dawad Philip, poet, artist, Trinidad

José Luis Ochoa, poet, professor

 Daniela Bartolomé, poet, Spain

Tim Tomlinson, poet, United States

Antje Stehn, poet, PEN member, Germany.

Mark Pawlak, poet, United States

Sally Bliumis-Dunn, poet, United States

Don Krieger, poet, United States

Cheran Rudhramoorthy, poet, Sri Lanka/Canada

Carolyn Forche, poet, United States

Anne Harding Woodworth, poet, United States

Makhdoom Ammar Aziz, poet, Pakistan

Terence Winch, poet, United States

Gaston Bellemare, Président Centre Québécois, P.E.N.international, Canada

Zilka Joseph, poet, educator, India/United States

Leopoldo Seguel, poet, artist, United States

Alexis Levitin, translator, United States

Evans Okan, poet, Haití/México

Merrill Leffler, poet, United States

Samiri Hernandez Hiraldo, poet, United States

Cristian Avecillas, writer, actor/director, Ecuador

Germaine Beaulieu, writer, P.E.N, international, Canada 

Maurya Simon, poet, professor, United States

Pedro Granados, poet, Peru

Chema Paz Gago, poet, Spain, President Poetas Sin Fronteras

Dick Lourie, poet, United States

Bob Holman, poet, United States

Sofia Estevez, poet, Dominican Republic/United States

Eduardo Espina, poet, professor, Uruguay/United States

Sandra Yanone, poet, United States

Raul Zurita, poet, Chile

Joao Melo, poet, Angola

Álvaro Mata Guillé, poet, Costa Rica

Catherine Gonick, poet, United States

Ralph Nazareth, poet, India/United States

Alfred Corn, poet, United States

Priya Sarukkai Chabra, poet, India

Jorge Contreras Herrera, poet, México

Pramila Venkateswaran, poet, feminist activist, United States

Garrett Hongo, poet, United States

Cornelius Eady, poet, United States

Michèle Voltaire Marcelin, poet/visual artist, Haiti/USA

Mirline PIERRE,  writer, Legs Édition, Haïti

Margo Berdeshevsky, poet, United States, France

Martin Espada, poet, United States

Jeannine Pitas, poet, professor, United States

 Michèle Bernard, writer, P.E.N International, Canada

Jaime Manrique, poet, Colombia/United States

Youssef Alaoui, poet, United States

Hemant Divate, poet-publisher, India

Luis Manuel Pimentel, poet, Venezuela/Mexico

Sebnem Senyener, poet, novelist

Judyth Hill, poet, United States, Mexico

 Alexandra Evtimova, poet, translator, Bulgaria

 Dieulermesson Petit Frere, poet, editor LEGS EDITION, literary critic

 Baron Wormser, poet, writer, United States

 Félix Villeneuve, writer, P.E.N. International, Canada

 Fernando de la Cruz, poet, translator, México

 Luther Jett, poet, United States

 Rita B. Rose, Poet, United States

 Barry Fruchter, Poet, United States/Canada

 Marjolijn de Jager, translator/poet, United States

Esteban Moore, poet, translator, Argentina

Usha Akella, poet, India/United States

Roody Edme, writer, Haiti

Wendy McBurney, poet, professor, United States

Martina McGowan, MD, poet. United States

Bertha Rogers, poet, United States

Luis H. Francia. poet, United States/Philippines

Jiwon Choi, poet, United States

Jaime Garcia Maffla, poet, Colombia

Ellen Bass, poet, United States

Marie Howe, poet, United States

Michael Rothenberg, poet, United States

Forrest Gander, poet, United States

Gordon Langford Magill, poet, United States

Linda Marie Cossa, United States

Margaret Feitlowitz, writer, translator, United States