- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

MANCHESTER (AP) Poet Jay Parini said he was disgusted when the White House indefinitely postponed a literary symposium after learning some poets planned to express their opposition to a war with Iraq.
It was naive for organizers to think he and other poets would check their politics at the door of the event sponsored by first lady Laura Bush, he said.
Mr. Parini and other prominent poets and writers with ties to Vermont gathered at a church Sunday for "A Poetry Reading in Honor of the Right of Protest as a Patriotic and Historical Tradition."
Before an overflow crowd of about 600, poets read works of their own and other poets who were to be featured at the White House event. Organizers said the Bushes were invited but did not respond.
"For poets to remain silent at a time of national crisis is unconscionable," said Mr. Parini, a Middlebury College professor who had planned to read an anti-war poem at the White House event.
"Poets from the time of ancient Athens have raised voices in protest," he said.
"Why be afraid of us, Mrs. Bush?" said Julia Alvarez, reciting a poem she wrote about the "disinvitation." "You're married to a scarier fellow."
A White House spokeswoman has said that although Laura Bush "respects and believes in the right of all Americans to express their opinions," she felt it "would be inappropriate to turn the literary event into a political forum."
Sunday's lineup included Pulitzer Prize winner Galway Kinnell and incoming state Poet Laureate Grace Paley, both Vermonters and longtime peace activists.
"What happened in the last few days has really been so encouraging, so hope-making," Miss Paley told the audience, referring to peace protests around the world Saturday. "And I really feel that the rise of the poets had a lot to do with it happening everywhere in the world."
Mr. Kinnell, who had been invited to the White House event but declined, read his own work and a few by Walt Whitman.
"His bitterness is not because he was a bitter person or because he was anti-American or unpatriotic," Mr. Kinnell said of Whitman. "It was because he loved America so much that he was continually disappointed."
National Book Award winner and Vermonter Ruth Stone read a poem titled "Lesson," about one of her former University of Wisconsin students who ended up in jail after protesting the Vietnam War.
The poetry read Sunday will be published, with the proceeds going to charity.

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