Pens and swords – thinking about writers for justice and peace

“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1839. “… many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose-quills and dare scarce come thither.” Shakespeare, 1602.

I used to think that the … cursor
was not mightier
than a protest for justice,
a hunger walk, peace march,
or creation care,

was not more compassionate
than visiting in prison or hospital,
foster care, hospice or
border detention,

was not more intimate
than the loaf from the oven broken,
a cup shared
across lines of race and faith,
gender, age, ability, orientation —

not just that very churchy Cup —
but any cup that means
we are sitting at the same table.

But then I consider these writers
and their words

and I know that all the ears cut off
in all the Gethsemanes
has never changed a heart,

the way a parable or a poem does,
written on a napkin in a coffee shop
the edge of a newspaper
a blog, a move-on petition,
a new baby card —
for one friend,
maybe named theophilus,
or so many many strangers.

At 10,000 Poets for Change

At 10,000 Poets for Change

I wrote this poem for Erice Fairbrother of Aotearoa, New Zealand more than a year ago now, as she gathered together a group of Writers for Justice and Peace for a weekend. I wished that I could travel there but I could only send my words — written words. It is a dilemma — words or actions. Do we hide in one or the other? Does one last longer than the other? Or perhaps is it true that forces of injustice and unrest best serve themselves by dividing those who speak out and act out of their faith. I’ve tinkered with the original a bit for the event 10 Thousand Poets for Change for which I read this last Saturday.

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8 Responses to Pens and swords – thinking about writers for justice and peace

  1. Nice, Maren. I find no need to compare the pen to the sword. I am fortified in my need for endurance and courage by poets and writers who use both.

  2. Maren says:

    In our culture, Dwight, I am afraid that it is the gun not the sword — sword is sort of an elegant word, but often those who do not use words pull triggers.

  3. Jane Fisler Hoffman says:

    Powerful….yet I don’t believe we must choose. Different gifts, used for Gods justice and love…

  4. Maren says:

    Absolutely true — and sometimes different gifts at different time in our lives.

  5. On Sunday I led a service at a church I’d not preached in before. I’d been asked to reflect on new ways of reading Bible stories. Before my reflection I asked the congregation to read this antiphonally, something they appeared to enjoy and appreciate. Thank you for your gift to Levin Uniting.

  6. Maren says:

    Rosalie, that is wonderful! I’m so glad to have my work read but when it is shared with people actually using it that is truly wonderful!

  7. Maren says:

    One of my dreams is to come to your country sometime.

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