Monday, March 18, 2013
MARCH 18, 2013
Ten years ago, on this date, at this time of the evening, I had just finished writing a long poem to read that evening at the Paula Cooper Gallery in Manhattan. The reading was set up and introduced by poet and friend Vincent Katz. He had organized the reading as a statement against the USA going to war in Iraq and to hopefully inspire others to protest the impending attack on that country.
As it turned out, the attack began the next day, or in the middle of the night East Coast time. He asked Ramsey Clark to make introductory remarks and then four poets to read, Robert Creeley, Ann Lauterbach, Anne Waldman, and me. I was the only one who wrote a poem specifically addressing that impending attack, and a long one as it turned out.
A video was made of the reading which I once had a camera shop transfer to a CD but I could never get my computer to allow me to upload it and as far as I know no one else ever has either. But the audio portion of it was the last track on my CD LOST ANGELS. (You can download the CD, or just that track, on iTunes, or try this link to order it from the small record company.)
The poem was just a series of questions, a device I came up with at the last moment, just before I left my place for the reading. Some of the questions I raised were based on what was already going on in Afghanistan but was underreported, others were just my speculations about what would happen given previous invasions and other events.
As it turned out I predicted quite a lot that later happened and when I read the poem around the country it seemed to impact a lot of people, including many there that first night. I am proud to have written it and only sorry that it didn't have a bigger impact, but then, documentaries and books and political speeches didn't have much of an impact either. The war still happened and continued and Bush Jr. got reelected and we are still paying for it.
The only thing to really have an impact on stopping the war was Obama's election. But I still think it's a poem worth reading. The original publisher was Libellum, Vincent Katz's small publishing venture (I think the poem as a small book—with a cover, and in a later edition illustrations by artist Alex Katz—was the press's first book). Vincent gave me the title, which was simply the date of the reading: MARCH 18, 2003. You can get the book through Libellum at this link.