White House Cancels Poetry Symposium
Thursday January 30, 2003 4:50 AM
NEW YORK (AP) - The White House said Wednesday it postponed a poetry symposium because of concerns that the event would be politicized. Some poets had said they wanted to protest military action against Iraq.
The symposium on the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman was scheduled for Feb. 12. No future date has been announced.
``While Mrs. Bush respects the right of all Americans to express their opinions, she, too, has opinions and believes it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum.'' Noelia Rodriguez, spokeswoman for first lady Laura Bush, said Wednesday.
Mrs. Bush, a former librarian who has made teaching and early childhood development her signature issues, has held a series of White House symposiums to salute America's authors. The gatherings are usually lively affairs with discussions of literature and its societal impact.
But the poetry symposium soon inspired a nationwide protest.
Sam Hamill, a poet and founder of the highly regarded Copper Canyon Press, declined the invitation and e-mailed friends asking for anti-war poems or statements. He encouraged those who planned to attend to bring along anti-war poems.
Hamill said he's gotten more than 1,500 contributions, including ones from poets W.S. Merwin, Adrienne Rich and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
``I'm putting in 18-hour days. I'm 60 and I'm tired, but it's pretty wonderful,'' says Hamill, based in Port Townsend, Wash., and author of such works as ``Destination Zero'' and ``Gratitude.''
Marilyn Nelson, Connecticut's poet laureate, said Wednesday that she had accepted the White House invitation and had planned to wear a silk scarf with peace signs that she commissioned.
``I had decided to go because I felt my presence would promote peace,'' she said.