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Paintings, poetry speak to peace

September 19, 2011

How could war be so beautiful?
This scarlet red fire sky,
a beautiful sunset that never goes away.

For 10 years, the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, collected paintings on peace and war created by Vietnamese children. Then, American children, veterans and established poets were invited to respond to the paintings with their own poetry.

The result is “Speak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children’s Paintings,” which will be on exhibit Oct. 1-Nov. 9 at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 7374 E. 2nd St., Scottsdale, in collaboration with The Virginia Piper Center for Creative Writing and ASU’s Young Writers Program.

In conjunction with the exhibit, poet Bruce Weigl will give a reading and sign books at the museum at 7:45 p.m., Oct. 13, as part of the Piper Center’s Distinguished Visiting Writers Series.

“Speak Peace,” a collaborative, international project between Kent State's Wick Poetry Center and School of Art Galleries, and Soldier's Heart, a veterans return and healing organization, is on a national tour.

Showcasing the visions of Vietnamese children and the power of poetry to promote healing and reconciliation, Speak Peace offers a timely testament to the emotional truth of war and peace.

As part of the events surrounding the exhibit, ASU’s Young Writers Program designed special Speak Peace creative writing lesson plans for the Phoenix Union High School District's Poetry Central, a day-long event engaging more than 200 Phoenix Union students from Alhambra, Bostrom, Camelback, Carl Hayden, Central, Cesar Chavez, Maryvale, Metro Tech, North, South Mountain and Combs high schools and Carson Jr. High School,

The curriculum is designed to be flexibly used by teachers in grades 9-12. The activities can be customized, simplified or enhanced to support the differentiated needs of students, particularly English language learners, said Sean Nevin, director of YWP.

“Speak Peace is a project that closes the distance between borders, generations and cultures. It taps into the power of art and poetry to reveal truths about peace and war that brings us closer together, that heals us. In the end, as always, it is through art and children that we arrive at these revelations.”

How could war be so beautiful?
This scarlet red fire sky,
a beautiful sunset that never goes away.
The sound of screams at night,
my own demented lullaby
When I hear gun shots I don’t wonder
what side is winning,
I wonder who will never see
their family again.

Mina Williams

Mina Williams attends Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts in Akron, Ohio, and was in the seventh grade when she wrote “War.” She dances at the University of Akron’s Dance Institute and in her spare time loves to paint and spend time with friends.

Who Knows

Who knows if peace will come or not?

People are afraid of touching peace,

Hands folding so it won’t fly away.

All that we know is all that we give.

We work together to reach the swan.

Peace tastes like the victuals of Eden.

Peace is the color of fire

And the burning motion of time.

With fingertips like irons,

Peace brands the unborn.

– Collaborative Poem, by students from the Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD)
Written at the Young Writers Program workshop (POETRY CENTRAL)