The Global Human: Social Comments

Isn’t it Quiet

Posted in Poems, Poetry by Solveig Hansen on 2016/11/26

Irish poet Pat Ingoldsby wrote this poem in 1997. Still as releveant a comment as ever.



By (c) Pat Ingoldsby

When the Catholics have killed all the Protestants
and the Protestants have killed all the Catholics
and the Jews have killed all the Arabs
and the Arabs have killed all the Jews
and the Muslims have killed all the Christians
and the Christians have killed all the Muslims
and all the graveyards are full
and all the crematoria are burned out
and only one person is left living on this Earth
I hope to fuck they enjoy the peace.

From See Liz She Spins, 1997

Published with the permission of the author.


For Our World

Posted in Poetry by Solveig Hansen on 2016/09/11

It’s been 15 years since 9/11. Young poet and peacemaker Mattie Stepanek (1990-2004) wrote this poem, For Our World, on September 9, 2011.


For Our World

We need to stop.
Just stop.
Stop for a moment…
Before anybody
Says or does anything
That may hurt anyone else.
We need to be silent.
Just silent.
Silent for a moment…
Before we forever lose
The blessing of songs
That grow in our hearts.
We need to notice.
Just notice.
Notice for a moment…
Before the future slips away
Into ashes and dust of humility.
Stop, be silent, and notice…
In so many ways, we are the same.
Our differences are unique treasures.
We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts
To nurture, to offer, to accept.
We need to be.
Just be.
Be for a moment…
Kind and gentle, innocent and trusting,
Like children and lambs,
Never judging or vengeful
Like the judging and vengeful.
And now, let us pray,
Differently, yet together,
Before there is no earth, no life,
No chance for peace.

Matthew J.T. Stepanek ©
September 11, 2001

Hope Through Heartsongs (Hyperion, 2002)
Just Peace: A Message of Hope (AMP, 2006)

Listen to Mattie reading his poem:

True Colors

Posted in Freedom of Speech, Poetry by Solveig Hansen on 2016/09/03


If I had the skills of a wordsmith
and my words were stained black and white
by power-hungry, greedy small men
        who commanded me
        to dress like this
        or pray like that
        or to live like this
        or love like that
        or mute my voice,
        as if I were their property
        and the nation’s assets were their wallet,
I pray I would have the courage
to stretch my wings
and let my words fly

Maybe you would hear me
and maybe, if I were silenced,
you would set an empty chair in my place
        to put shame on these small men
        who cling to their absolutes
        and tremble at our words

Then, when I looked at myself
I would see my true colors

(c) Zol H, 2016

Pay for your coffee with a poem

Posted in Poetry by Solveig Hansen on 2016/03/18

Poetize away on World Poetry Day. It makes the world a better place.

Text: Solveig Hansen

By paying tribute to the men and women whose only instrument is free speech, who imagine and act, UNESCO recognizes in poetry its value as a symbol of the human spirit’s creativity. By giving form and words to that which has none – such as the unfathomable beauty that surrounds us, the immense suffering and misery of the world – poetry contributes to the expansion of our common humanity, helping to increase its strength, solidarity and self-awareness.

– (Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO)

March 21 is World Poetry Day, as declared by UNESCO in 1999. This is an opportunity for you to join others and post your poems all over the social media. Or, be a conscious citizen and join PEN International in taking action for imprisoned Kazakh poet, journalist and social activist Aron Atabek. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2007, following a protest against the demolishing of the shantytown of Shanyrak.

An inspiring trinity: cafés, coffee and poems
Julius Meinl, an Austrian coffee company, has made their own twist and turns poems into currency on World Poetry Day. Like last year, they again invite their guests in coffee shops all over the world to pay for their coffee with a poem come March 21. The initiative is called Pay With a Poem.

In 2015, over 100,000 coffee drinkers in 1,153 coffee houses in 27 countries participated and wrote their poems with the red pencils on the red-bordered notes that Julius Meinl provided to match their red coffee cups.



Some had red shoelaces, as well. Picture from Julius Meinl’s Facebook page.

Unfortunately, the poems are not published anywhere, but here are some pictures.

Long tradition
Of course, cafés are not new venues for writers and artists. For more than a century, poets and writers have found their way to these establishments to write, drink and socialize. Pay With a Poem is a modern continuation of that tradition. The typical Viennese coffee house, with its marble tables and a variety of coffees, pastries, and international newspapers, represents social life at its best, Julius Meinl writes on their website.

It is a place where all sorts of individuals meet to discuss their dreams, to reflect on their thoughts, to share their ideas, to compose masterpieces, to read or just to quietly sit and watch our colourful life happen.

This is my Twitter-short coffee poem, one that I recycle every time the terms coffee & poems come up:

          You bring me coffee
          I bake you cake
          I eat your coffee
          You drink my cake
          Then we practice
          the art of conversation

          (Zol H, 2013)

Sharpen your pencils, have a cup of coffee and poetize away. The hashtags are:

Be inspired:

How do you perform your poems?

Posted in Poetry by Solveig Hansen on 2015/05/10

Watch and be inspired by Sarah Kay, a spoken word poet/performer. In this TED talk, she reads her amazing spoken word poem called B, written to her future daughter. It starts like this:

If I should have a daughter… ‘Instead of ‘Mom’, she’s gonna call me ‘Point B.’ Because that way, she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me. And I’m going to paint the solar system on the back of her hands so that she has to learn the entire universe before she can say ‘Oh, I know that like the back of my hand….’

Tomas Tranströmer (1931–2015)

Posted in Poetry by Solveig Hansen on 2015/03/28

Tomas Tranströmer, Swedish poet and winner of Nobel Prize in Literature (2011), has died at the age of 83. He was known as a master of metaphors, capturing the corners of the human mind and adding a sense of wonder to the journey of life.

Sometimes we need to land and warm ourselves, even only for a while. “There’s so much we must be witness to,” he wrote in Summer Meadow, “Reality wears us so thin, but here is summer at last: a large airport – the controller brings down planeload after planeload of frozen people from outer space.”

His poems often have a religious quality to them. In Romanesque Arches, we are reminded that we are always underway, constantly creating and recreating ourselves, opening “vault behind vault,” like in a cathedral. “You’ll never be complete, and that’s as it should be.”

Enjoy Romanesque Arches, translated by Robert Bly, read by Rudi A. Bach, music by Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble:

Romanesque Arches

By Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

Tourists have crowded into the half-dark of the enormous Romanesque church.
Vault opening behind vault and no perspective.
A few candle flames flickered.

An angel whose face I couldn’t see embraced me
and his whisper went all through my body:
Don’t be ashamed to be a human being—be proud!
Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.
You’ll never be complete, and that’s as it should be.

Tears blinded me
as we were herded out into the fiercely sunlit piazza,
together with Mr and Mrs Jones, Herr Tanaka and Signora Sabatini—
within each of them vault after vault opened endlessly.

Tagged with:

A Poem for a Cup of Coffee

Posted in Poetry by Solveig Hansen on 2015/03/21

Pay for your coffee with a poemOn this World Poetry Day, Julius Meinl, an Austrian coffee company, turns poems into currency. Guests in coffee shops all over the world are invited to pay for their coffee with a poem.
#PayWithAPoem #WorldPoetryDay #PoetryDay

My coffee poem:


You bring me coffee
I bake you cake
I eat your coffee
You drink my cake
Then we practice
the art of conversation

By Zol H, 2013

See also:
Guardian: “What is a poem worth? As authors around the world despair of making a living, a company based in Vienna has finally come up with a definitive answer: one cup of coffee.”

‘Pay With a Poem’ and Four More Ways to Celebrate World Poetry Day

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World Poetry Day 2015

Posted in Poetry by Solveig Hansen on 2015/03/21

“Poetry is the universal human song, expressing the aspiration of every woman and man to apprehend the world and share this understanding with others.”

Irina Bokova, Director General
Message on World Poetry Day 2015

March 21 was declared World Poetry Day by UNESCO in 1999.


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Wonders in the Making

Posted in Articles, Poetry by Solveig Hansen on 2014/03/18

By Solveig Hansen, IFLAC Web Editor

The IFLAC Children’s Peace Train Poetry Festival 2014 is open for poems and drawings. The deadline is June 30.

Give children a theme for a poem, or a set of crayons, and wonderful things will happen. This is what the IFLAC Children’s Peace Train Poetry Festival is all about. In this joint ride between IFLAC (The International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace) and Children’s Peace Train, we invite children (and their parents) to send us a poem and, if they like, a drawing about Peace in My Own Life.

As a voluntary web editor for IFLAC I have had the pleasure to publish – sometimes with a big smile on my face, sometimes with tears in my eyes – the results of various peace poetry contests for children. When we asked them What is Peace to you? we were taken aback by the children’s ability to poetically articulate their reflections on what peace meant in their lives. Just to give you a taste:

To me peace is a rare and wonderful sensation,
It trickles down your body like an egg.
The egg is cracked on your head.
And you feel this wonderful mood,
Sliding down your body.
And you start to feel at ease.


And will not bear the sword against any nation
And a wolf with a sheep sitting,
And the dove and olive leaf in her mouth
Display safely every window in every house.


Imagínate un mundo
Donde las fronteras
Solo sean un camino
Para cruzar al otro lado y ver
a nuestros hermanos

(Imagine a world
Where borders
Are just a path
To cross to the other side and see
Our brothers and sisters)

Or the story about Amer, who becomes an angry man and stops smiling as he watches armed soldiers on their way to make peace:

Amer thinks and then he says: to reach peace
They are killing innocent children and destroying homes
And burning fields! It is strange!
Amer becomes an angry man
He does not laugh or smile anymore.

It ends on this hopeful note:

Dear peace, come and paint
On people’s faces a great smile again.

Read the winning poems: Peace for All contest 2011 and Peace Poetry and Story Contest 2013

IFLAC is an NGO founded by Egyptian-born Israeli writer, poet, lecturer and peace researcher Ada Aharoni in 1999, with the goal of building bridges of understanding and peace through culture, literature and communication. Prof. Aharoni has taught conflict resolution and written 20+ books, including peace poetry.

In an interview for IFLAC Children’s Peace Train I asked her how children’s poetry and artwork can help create bridges between peoples and cultures. She said that poetry and artwork are deep mirrors of our lives, values and beliefs, and if the children share them with other children from other countries and cultures and read and appreciate their poems and artwork in return, then a strong bridge of understanding is created between them. “This is the most important ingredient for preventing misunderstandings, conflicts and wars between people and nations – as the Creation of Cultural Bridges leads to the respect and knowledge, and even love of ‘the other.'” A wise answer from a peace poet who has been writing for almost eight decades.

Children’s Peace Train is South Korean Jeremy Seligson’s dream come to true. In this project, children are invited to create drawings on the theme Peace in my own life and then download a certificate making them a Conductor of the Children’s Peace Train. Since its establishment in 2002, the Peace Train has expanded to more than a dozen countries.

Photos from Prof. Seligson’s Peace Train workshops are published on his site, showing children carefully holding their drawings for the world to see. And the drawings keep rolling in regularly. One of my favorites is a drawing of a bucket on which the child’s favorite things are neatly written: Mom (followed by a heart), Food, Love, Friendship, Books, Music and Netflix. Another one states, “War is not healthy for children and other living things.”

What if children are not encouraged to express themselves creatively? On one of his workshop tours Seligson visited a kindergarten class where the children had art teachers and knew how to draw, and a village of Government compounds surrounded by high fences where the children seemingly were not capable of creating shapes or forms. They just filled sheet after sheet with colored lines as fast as they could. “I left with a feeling that these children were suffering a great deprivation, and desperately needed an art program for their creative self-expression,” Seligson wrote. As a contrast, in the kindergarten where the children knew how to make objects and shapes and express emotions in their work, the drawings showed happy families, often with a sun shining over a hilltop.

IFLAC Children's Peace Train

So, this year IFLAC and Children’s Peace Train have joined forces to host a Peace Poetry Festival. As on the original Peace Train, after submitting their poem, the children can download a certificate making them a certified Child for Peace. Our signature drawing shown above, picturing children holding hands around the globe, is made by a former Children’s Peace Train participant, age seven at the time.

By the end of the year, an anthology with a selection of the poems will be released. Poems not yet brought to life – like a hopeful promise echoing from the future. Isn’t that wonderful?

Want to join us? See: IFLAC Children’s Peace Train

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