the century of possible peace
after Muriel Rukeyser’s “Poem”
I lived in the century of world wars and
into the century of “hot spots” and “conflicts,”
those isolated regions of hostility and battle, of
choreographed shows of military cliché and the
violent disaffected eruptions of the marginalized
Every day is an homage to some insanity
Media reports are conveyed with facile intensity
by hyperkinetic journalists – they deliver easy
and ominous conclusions based on seemingly
recondite facts, quickly moving to celebrity
gossip and other insipid topics . . .
I have lived in two centuries of wars
I know what it is to be exhausted by the
vain posturing of the ruling class and
the tired protestations of tribal unity and
supremacy based on accidents of birth
I know what it is to imagine peace across
the circumference of one small blue ball
in a Universe of inestimable size and breadth
I know that darkness can descend with the
speed of light and that love is more than an
anchor and that hope keeps our dreams alive
I have lived into the century where the world is
grown small, where the peacemakers are tireless
and perhaps enough hearts have grown large …
sometimes I think I am living in the century
where peace is as possible as war
– Jamie Dedes © 2013 poem, the century of possible peace and 2016, photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.
I lived in the first century of these wars.
– Muriel Rukeyser
Muriel Rukeyser (1913 – 1980), American poet and political activist. Some consider her the greatest poet of her generation. Adrienne Rich
has said of her, “Rukeyser was one of the great integrators, seeing the fragmentary world of modernity not as irretrievably broken but in need of societal and emotional repair.” You can read more about this poet HERE.
Literary allusion is a device by which a writer refers – directly or indirectly – to an individual, an event, or a work of art or of literature. We use this to connect our text to the greater world and the experiences, emotions and ideas that are the common human condition. In the poems above, the subject is war and the way the news of it is delivered and reacted to. I allude to Muriel Rukeyser’s Poem (it’s below mine) in the first line of my poem with “I have lived in the century of world wars.” I feel as she did and echo her observations and emotions in my own way and from the perspective of my own time.
Choose a poem that you very much relate to. Use one line of it in your own poem and explore the subject from your time, place and perspective.