By g emil reutter
GER: How did you get involved with the United Nations and the formation of Poetry X Hunger?
HL: My career at the US Department of Agriculture and the US Agency for International Development was all about guiding international anti-hunger programs. And over those years, I was actively involved with poetry. It took retirement, however, for me to realize that there was very little available poetry about hunger of the stomach. In discussing this with staff at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, they offered to showcase such poetry if I would rouse poets to write it. Fast forward – as a result of that partnership and in collaboration with The Capital Area Food Bank and the Maryland State Arts Council, the Poetry X Hunger website (www.PoetryXHunger.com) holds many, many poems from poets around the world. And, those poems are being used in Houses of Worship, in K-18 classrooms, and by anti-hunger leaders and organizations to raise awareness about the scourge in the US and overseas.
GER: Through your efforts poets have written about hunger and malnutrition as well as other areas directly impacting food supply. What impact do you believe this will have on world hunger?
HL: I always make the point: Poetry will never eliminate hunger. But I immediately follow that admission with my solid conviction that poetry can surely help. How? Well, unlike data, trendlines, statistics and even science that are very useful tools-of-logic in the anti-hunger toolkit, poetry speaks to the heart and soul. Poetry can move people to take action in ways that those other tools simply don’t. In fact, poetry has been so important in advancing other social issues such as immigration (think of Lazarus’s poem, The New Colossus, at the base of the Statue of Liberty), poverty, inequality, and the like. So, why not bring poetry to bear on hunger?
Poetry X Hunger logo by Diane Wilbon Parks
GER: What was the selection process for Poets Speak Back to Hunger: An e-Collection of Poems from Around the World ?
HL: We chose a few of the powerful poems from the Poetry X Hunger website. We showcased a diversity of poets from all over the world. And, we presented their work in text form and, in many cases, as audio or video recordings. The e-Collection has been featured by award winning hunger author, Roger Thurow, on his blog. It was also used by the US-wide group, Hunger Free Communities, to find poets who then presented at HFC’s national summit.
The PDF can be read here: https://www.poetryxhunger.com/uploads/1/2/5/7/125799040/poetsspeakbacktohunger.pdf
GER: The Poetry X Hunger website also publishes poets writing about hunger, (https://www.poetryxhunger.com/poems-submitted-for-the-2021-world-food-day-poetry-competition ). How often will the site be updated?
HL: We constantly update and add to the website as volunteer time allows.
GER: On October 23rd at 2pm you will be hosting a virtual reading with the Moonstone Arts Center in Philadelphia. Share with us how this came to be and who will be reading at the event?
HL: I’ve known Larry Robin for several years. He recently reached out to ask if Poetry X Hunger would feature a few poets, in conjunction with October 16’s World Food Day, on MAC’s series, and I jumped at the chance. Featured poets will be Aaron R (Virginia, USA), Josephine LoRe (Alberta, Canada), Tony Treanor (County Limerick, Ireland), Ladi Di Beverly (Maryland, USA) and Taku Chikepe (Zimbabwe). We’ll also replay a haunting poem by Patience Gumbo (Zimbabwe).
Poets call for empathy and action towards a hunger-free world