Poetry and Peace

The talk by Maxine Hong Kingston was given a few years ago (2004) at UC Berkely, but I only listened to the podcast this weekend and so its news ? to me.

She started her talk with this intriguing statement:

It is a writer’s faith that simply by writing we could change the world, if only we could write well enough, if only we could approach poetry, perhaps we can even bring about world peace. ?

She goes on to talk about a long project of hers, The Fifth Book of Peace, that she started more than 15 years ago. She said it was a to be a book where she would imagine peace and write characters who faced difficult situations with love. She would see if these loving characters could solve problems non-violently.

But in 1991 the manuscript was burned in a fire. So she began the long process of re-writing the books of peace, a process where she traveled to China, went to watch elephant seals mating, and started a writing group for veterans (which led to her most recent book Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace). This May, she was interviewed on Bill Moyers Journal about this book.

I haven’t yet watched the video interview with Moyers, but I will. Her talk at Berkeley was interesting and much of what she said is rings true with my own writing concerns. Some of her feminist ideology was troublesome (especially when she didn’t take responsibility for one of her books, The Woman Warrior being used by the Air Force Academy to provide an ideology of war for women soldiers). But her current intention of writing peace is definitely something that interests and inspires me.

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