[The One-hearted] are the warriors of hope, navigating
oceans and crossing continents.
Their message is simple: Now
is the time for peace. It always has been.
-from “The Doves Flew High,” by David Krieger
December’s darkness leads us inward. We light candles and turn our thoughts to peace, taking a small break from all the chaos. Almost everyone becomes a poet, reaching out to others with words. “Poetry is an act of peace,” wrote Pablo Neruda, a statement David Krieger quotes in his preface to The Poetry of Peace (Capra Press, 2003), a collection of the winning poems from the first seven years of the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Awards, sponsored by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation of Santa Barbara. Krieger, president of the foundation, continues, “Peace and poetry meet and interact in mysterious and surprising ways : and inspire us to action.” I like to think that a poet’s words turn some minds around, give comfort and company to those who grieve, and give voice to the unheard.
So many poems have been written throughout history for peace and against the atrocities of war, you’d think by now we would have listened. Award-winning Fresno poet Brian Turner, an Iraq War veteran, writes, “it should break your heart to kill / It should never be so easy as this” in his book, Here, Bullet (Alice James Books, 2005). Santa Barbara poets Bob Potter, J. Cruickshank Muir, and David Krieger’s thoughts follow in the same vein, evident at the November Veteran’s Day Poetry Zone reading held at the Karpeles Manuscript Library.
Potter joined the Army Reserves in 1957 during the Cold War “peacetime army.” “But all the same,” he writes in his collection, Poems in Transit 1957-2004 (Solstice Press, 2004), “being trained to kill people proved to be quite an enlightening experience.” A retired professor of dramatic art and playwriting at UCSB, Potter is the vice president of the Santa Barbara chapter of Veterans for Peace and one of the founders of Arlington West, a project that has erected crosses on the beach beside Stearns Wharf every Sunday since November 2003. When American casualties in the Iraq War reached 3,000, he wrote a poem, “Three Thousand Deaths,” which, in part, reads: