Poets to protest White House action
Boston Globe February 10, 2003
By Associated Press
MANCHESTER, Vt. - A group of poets will participate in a public reading
Sunday to protest a decision postponing a literary symposium at the White House.
First Lady Laura Bush had planned the event, which was to be held Wednesday
and feature the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, and Walt Whitman.
However, the White House called off the reading after learning that some
poets might use the occasion to express opposition to a possible war with Iraq.
The counter-reading in southern Vermont is scheduled to include Grace Paley,
who was recently chosen as the next Vermont state poet.
Jamaica Kincaid, Galway Kinnell, and Jay Parini will also read their work,
along with works by the poets who were to have been featured at the White House.
Organizers said they plan to select verse that addresses the tradition of
dissent in literature.
Parini said it was naive of the White House to invite writers to a symposium
and expect them to leave their politics at the door. He hopes the First
Congregational Church will be filled for the counter-reading.
''It's called attention to the fact that poets are against the war in a big
way,'' said Parini, a Middlebury College faculty member.
Northshire Bookstore owners Edward and Barbara Morrow are sponsoring the
event, and say they disagree with the perception that opposition to a war is
''The war in Iraq, you can look at that however you want to look at it,''
Edward Morrow said. ''But the notion that protest and dissent and free speech is
unpatriotic is so twisted that it's alarming.''
A White House spokeswoman said last week that while Bush ''respects and
believes in the right of all Americans to express their opinions,'' she felt it
would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum. It has
not been rescheduled.