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Manifesto in Times of War


Tell the enemy this:

that missiles can no more blow up the human spirit

than tanks can crush an idea.

Guns are the weapons of the impotent,

and I wouldn't trade one line of true poetry

for a thousand of them. The blood flows

in a poem while bombs can only spill it.

Shrapnel can shatter glass and shred the flesh

but it cannot silence the song in a people's heart.


Tell the enemy this:

that our missiles fly on imagination's wings

they're poems aimed to explode in the heart

with all the violence of love and compassion.

It may flatter princes to think the sword mightier

than the pen, but we have the last word.

The true poet pioneers paths of freedom

and places on the future's mouth a brotherhood kiss

with the rage of a rainstorm that makes the desert bloom.


Tell the enemy this:

that every man, woman and child wears a helmet

poets hammer from a metal harder than any steel

the metal of their faith in creation.

You can tear a person limb from limb

but you cannot sever a song from the listening heart,

and when your missiles long rust in scrapyards

today's tears will have watered the desert

to make yesterday's laughter blossom into tomorrow's love.


Tell the enemy this: Yes, we're still writing poems, and if your grenades blow off our hands, we'll sing them into the future.


© Henry Beissel, 1986 ( was reply to a poem by a princess-poet from Kuwait who rhapsodied the war effort (against Iran), declaring this was no time for poetry and that she’d trade a hundred poets for one soldier. He wrote the poem overnight and it was read the next day in English & in Arabic–to the consternation of the many army officers in the audience.

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