The 31st World Congress of Poets – Kenosha, Wisconsin – 2011

Part 4 of 5
by Betty Hernandez

Wolfenbuttal Park – Wednesday Morning – All American Day

Wednesday, August 31, was somewhat sunny and a little warmer. The international flags still blew briskly in the cool wind from the lake as the 31st World Congress of Poets gathered for public poetry readings. Mary Ann Lackovich greeted everyone, entreating all to “work wherever you can to let peace spread.” Elliott Aguilar, accompanied on the guitar by Chino, a musician from Kenosha, sang the “Star-Spangled Banner,” followed by the invocation and prayer, which was offered by Stacey Mia.

Professor Afaa Michael Weaver was the first poet to read. He spoke of slavery as the cause of the American war and read “Cherubs in the Glen,” a poem by Phyllis Wheatley, an African-American slave who became a famous poet. Weaver said he was just 16 years old when Dr. Martin Luther King led his famous march on Washington, and it was then that he first realized freedom and democracy should be for all. He said the history of America shows the growth of democracy, which should be extended to all.

Stacey Mia, playing the ukulele, which he explained is a soul expression and native to the Hawaiian people, sang a song that was written for peace and had been sung by Nat King Cole, entitled “Nature Boy.”

Jean Preston, Director of Writing at Carthage College, was introduced by Mary Ann Lackovich as “a poet I discovered in a coffee shop, and her poetry was hanging on a line!” Dr. Lackovich explained that the coffee shop was Carolyn’s Coffee Connection, and each poem had been pinned to a line with clothespins. Ms. Preston read from her latest publication, Poetry on a Line, which is a booklet of 16 poems about 16 mothers, and conveys the most intimate feelings of motherhood – from a child’s as well as a mother’s point of view.

The next poet to read was Dr. William Marr, originally from China, who is now a citizen of the United States and lives in Chicago. He was introduced as “one who can say many, many things in a short poem.” Dr. Marr read his poems first in Chinese and then in English. One told of a lady in his neighborhood who refused to cut her grass because she said it attracted butterflies, and she got into trouble with the police. In another poem, he described television as a spark of hatred that spreads over the world. His poem entitled “Memorial Day,” describes the Unknown Soldier who lies buried at Arlington Cemetery, and says there are thousands who go down in fields far away. In yet another poem about war, he described the Viet Nam Memorial as a block of marble and 26 letters of the alphabet, where a woman finds her son at last. A poem called Sunning Under an Umbrella says that umbrellas are not only for lovers, but also for nations – that peace is possible. And his last poem, Bridge, is made up of two lines: “Clasped together intimate and tight, we really don’t care who was the first to extend a hand.” His poems, like those of other poets who are members of the World Congress of Poets, remind us that peace is possible for all.

Stacey Mia told how the ukulele came to Hawaii from Portugal, where the cowboys played them out in the pastures, then sang a song that he had written entitled, “A Ukulele for My Girl.”

Dr. Elma Photikarm, who originally came to the U.S. from the Philippine Islands and now lives in Chicago, dedicated her first poem to the poets who came so far across the oceans to spread peace, saying that “Farmers all over the land are eager to nurture those seeds.” Her poem, Destiny to All Poets, says that “only thorns are found in boundaries and barriers.” Her symbolic images of peace call for poets to “bring an olive branch, a quill, leaves, and tablets of stone, and a knife to carve their poems.” A boat trip down the River Kwai in Thailand inspired her to write a poem about World War II, wherein she describes the river as enriched by souls and memories of a war that occurred because leaders did not preserve the peace. “War,” she read, “is the expensive baptism of blood to set us free.” She concluded her readings with a poem about prayer, which is “a balm to set us all free.”

Elliott Aguilar sang “America the Beautiful,” followed by an Assyrian poet, Nino Ohis, who read a poem about the occupation of his land, dedicating it to the renaissance of peace. Although he read in Aramaic, one doesn’t need to understand the words to experience the gift of the poet who speaks of peace – it spread beauty with its sentiment and created an energy of hope that came from the utterance of a desire for peace.

The final poet to read was Dr. Ernesto Kahan, Executive Vice President of the Congress, who read his poem of universal peace, describing the elements of earth, life, and humanity. Everyone sang happy birthday to Amado Yuzon, one of the founders of the World Congress of Poets, and the event concluded with the theme song, “The Shining City on a Hill,” sung by Stacey Mia.

To be continued…


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