By Richard Doiron
RICHARD DOIRON: New Brunswick, Canada. Age 75 years. Journalism work in print 58 years. Poetry in print 51 years. Work included in 150 anthologies and personal books. Winner of numerous international literary recognitions, including Lifetime Achievement Award from World Poetry (2012) and World Friendship Poetry (2017), the latter also naming me World Poet Laureate (2019). Invited participant in a number of international literary festivals. Work read at the UN’s University for Peace. (New Year’s 2000). Writing career reported on dozens of times: print media, radio, and television. website: http://www.spiritsinpeace.com
There is turmoil in our world. Hatred. Racism. Poverty. Grave injustice. Ultimately, we have war. The poets observe, sense, and are moved into action. Through their words, they create an alternative order. In that alternative order comes transformation. The transformation, first, occurs at the personal level and, from there, expands into social transformation. Poets are teachers, historically, the consciences of communities. They now work on a global scale. Modern technology has given them new tools, whereby communication is immediate. This would be a good thing. To speak from the heart is to touch the heart, and to speak from the soul is to touch the soul. Peace poetry is holistic. Peace poetry is not merely anti-war rhetoric. It addresses the social ills and inadequacies that will result in conflict. Poetry is creative, innovative, connecting all the dots. Peace poetry is not political. Taking sides is not to solve the problem. The poet is the pivot, the fulcrum, the point of balance, the sensible and sensitive in an often insensible and insensitive world. Peace poetry addresses life from a spiritual context also: how can anyone claim to believe in God and involve themselves in endless wars, and what is war anyway, if not the ultimate failure? In peace poetry, it’s never winner-take-all, it’s about sharing.
In 1989, the great peace activist and poet, Denise Levertov, wrote:
A voice from the dark shouted out, "The poets must give us imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar imagination of disaster. Peace, not only the absence of war." But peace, like a poem, is not there ahead of itself, can't be known except in the words of its making, grammar of justice, syntax of mutual aid.. A line of peace might appear if we reconstruct the sentence our lives are making, revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power, questioned our needs, allowed long pauses.... A cadence of peace might balance its weight on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence, an energy field more intense than war, a mighty pulse then, stanza by stanza into the world, each act of living one of its words, each word a vibration of light - facets of the forming crystal.
Peace, as Levertov, further noted, is “not there ahead of itself, but it must be forged in the “alembic” of our lives. Peace poetry is not silent, but words, in fact, leading to action. But, to transform the world, we must also put ourselves on the line. As Levertov wrote:
“When words penetrate into us they change the chemistry of the soul,
of the imagination. We need, in effect, to be the change we seek in the world.
Peace poets are not into propaganda, which is a political tool, though
the peace poets have to deal with all issues.
A poet cannot address outer turmoil, lest inner turmoil has been
addressed. It is our own change that we articulate best.
Peace poets are not into statistics. One injustice is one too many.
Peace poets are not weak in the knees. They, too, hold their ground.
Art depicts conflict for what it is, presenting images that may very well
both “appall and empower.”
Peace poets do not advocate blind faith. Evil does not go away through prayer alone. If it did, with all the prayers of history, war would be history. We need a new faith paradigm, one which forever speaks of hope, yes, but speaks in practical terms, too. It is not difficult to become absorbed and influenced by an endless barrage of violent social imagery. This must be countered using a different frame of reference, which we arrive at via creative and constructive thinking. Peace poets counter the ugly with the beautiful, penning poems of praise, of love for our fellow man, for our world, overall, presenting a picture worthy of civilization at its best. It is not to deny the atrocities and horrors, but to transcend them, to employ poetry that is not only jarring, but poetry that stirs the imagination, awakens the senses, inspires the people. With the new paradigm, the poets keep themselves fresh, and refreshing, like flowers growing alongside busy thoroughfares.
Our poetry must raise social consciousness, if social constructs are to be revised, reviewed, and renewed. Peace poetry is an ecology of the mind, its impetus the soul. It is grounding, inclusive, the premise, always, necessarily being that all things are interconnected. We are all children of the one Universe, of the One God, and the need is not to live in chaos, but to live in peace and harmony. It demands of poets, then, to present vibrant, innovative, and viable alternatives. To be believable is to be soulful. Our peace poems must have as a mission the salvation of the planet, the conversion of minds, the transformation of action, as we move from the mundane to the majestic, from the destructive to the constructive, from the haughty and hateful to the heeding, healing, and holy. We are the people, imbued with power, the angels of mercy, our pens in play. We may invoke Divine Mercy, but the Universe demands that we do our part. Beyond the words, there needs to be action, but action is only possible if there is fuel to energize it. Our peace poems are the call to action. True transformation calls on the moral, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. People need something to think about. No one is better equipped to make others think than the thinkers among us. I say, as in a prayer, let us think. Let us make others think. Let thoughts be beautiful things. Positive things. Life-altering things. And possible things.
Speech delivered in Richmond, B.C. on May 26, 2012, in conjunction with the 2nd World Poetry Canada & International Peace Festival.