Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Political Action Through Art and Poetry, Wow!!!

On February 13, an incredible event illuminated the state of Maine. It was a sweet light of peace-seekers and sanity-bringers. It was a beacon of possibility in a world of impossible impediments. It was artists and poets coming together to show what our tax money could do if it wasn’t going to hellish missiles and the soul-less airborne drones that fire them; and the tanks and helicopters that prowl like giant metal coffins, creating their own piles of corpses on which to feed; and the boot camps that turn young recruits into obedient holders for weapons that suck away at their souls every time they pull the trigger.

Yes, it was an audacious salubrious edifying event. It was the Visionary Draw-A-Thon and Poetry Reading: Bring Our War Dollars Home! and it happened at the United Church of Christ in Bath, Maine.

It was unforgettable and uplifting to see so many ardent wielders of paintbrushes and poetic pencils. Happy people. Enthused . Where else could one go to find such healing camaraderie? The only negative part about the event was that it was rare and it had to end. We all drove back to places where most people just don’t seem to get it.

Photographs of the Visionary Draw-A-Thon can be found here:

And here:

Go to those links. You’ll find samples of the art that was created and combined into four booklets that will be taken to the Capital Building and distributed among congressional leaders. The Draw-A-Thon lives on and spreads! Art and poetry continue to challenge the behemoth of militarism.

It was a rousing honor that I was sent up to the microphone last and so culminated the evening. I read two poems that represented two possible futures. One was extremely beautiful and sensuous, titled “Apple.” And the other, “Monk With Gasoline,” was horribly dark and agonized.

I told everyone about the aching thought on my mind: that we must choose between beauty and peace, on one hand, and ugly destruction and ultimate failure. It was that simple. This is our choice.

Others reading included Betsy Sholl, Maine’s Poet Laureate; Henry Braun, one of the “Bangor Seven,” an engaging energetic troubadour; and an ex-navy officer, Becky Farley, who has gone around 180 degrees since the Iraq War. She was clearly traumatized and heart-breakingly contrite over her role. PTSD is a cruel cruel thing and we all saw that firsthand. No denial possible.

Farley was by far the most powerful poet of the night. Her poem was stark in its doom. She was suffering and constantly on the verge of tears. I wish her well on the difficult yet courageous journey before her.

She's the best sort of hero, the kind who would never get a medal from our imperial generals. She has seen beyond the brute loyalty of the phalanx. She is a spiritual warrior now, and has rejected the corrupt initiation rite of the bloodstorm.

The night was organized by Bruce Gagnon of Global Network, Lisa Savage of Code Pink, and three very well-known artists: Natasha Mayers, Robert Shetterly and Kenny Cole.

They are all fantastic human beings, and I’ll end this piece with some plaudits for them:

Bruce Gagnon is a legendary leader. I can’t even begin to do him justice here. He’s been organizing protests and building connections for decades. He knows Helen Caldicott and was appointed by her as a Senior Fellow at her Nuclear Policy Research Institute. Check out his bio. You’ll be blown away:

Lisa Savage is a Local Coordinator of Code Pink and a co-founder of Waterville Area Bridges for Peace and Justice. She recently traveled to Afghanistan and gives speeches here and there and everywhere.

Natasha Mayers, in addition to many other accomplishments, was the resident artist for Common for quite a while. Her artwork is succinct yet endlessly passionate and honest, combining German Expressionism and her own color-rich portrayals. She has shown at universities and galleries throughout Maine and beyond.

Robert Shetterly’s book, Americans Who Tell The Truth, is nationally known. It is replete with evocative portraits, done by Shetterly, of some of the great progressives: Elizabeth Stanton, Howard Zinn, Sojourner Truth, Mark Twain and many more. Sequels to this classic book have followed, and Shetterly is simply an astounding gift to Maine and, yes, the planet Earth too!

Kenny Cole’s artworks are in their own intense category of satire, symbolism and hybrid creativity. He combines word, sketch and cartoon into powerful statements delivered through consummate craft. His recent Hellfire Missile series is damningly good.

OWL out

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