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White House Cancels Poetry Symposium

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POSTED BY: mark cooley | Fri Jan 31st, 2003 1 a.m.

White House Cancels Poetry Symposium
>Thu Jan 30,12:43 PM ET
>By HILLEL ITALIE, AP National Writer

>NEW YORK - 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.
>