Guns, Books and Poets

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Get Lit's Olympia Miccio reads her poem from Bullets into Bells. Photo: Michael Ray.

By Michael Ray

Beyond Baroque hosted authors and activists, for a reading of Beacon Press’ “Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence.” The June 16 event was held inside Beyond Baroque’s theater and included readings from contributors and a detailed discussion about the book’s history. The anthology includes poems from Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey and Yusef Komunyakaa as well as responses from survivors of school shootings.

Co-Editor Dean Rader stated “Beacon only wanted to publish 50 poems, we had in mind more poems, but they wanted to limit the number of poems to 50. We decided that we did not want to take submissions, we wanted this to be a curated book; originally, we had hoped to get all of the poet laureates, who are alive, to give us a poem, but not everyone has a poem on the topic.” 

He also spoke about his fellow editors, Alexandra Teague and Brian Clements, addressing the challenges they faced in producing the book; including requesting permission from numerous publishing houses to reprint selected poems.

Clement served as emcee during the event, introducing the poets and narrative response readers. “Given anything that could’ve gone wrong, and given the controversial nature of the book we were afraid, a little bit, of some blowback,” Clement said. “So far, we haven’t had any negative responses.”

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Photo: Michael Ray.

In addition to reading, two organizations were also present: “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” and “Women Against Gun Violence” (WAGV). Margot Bennet, Executive Director of WAGV was at the event promoting a campaign in opposition of Barnes and Noble’s sale and placement of gun magazines in local bookstores. Her mail-in petition featured a photo of magazines that can be bought from Barnes and Noble. She stated that some of the magazines feature accessories that are banned in California, such as bump stocks. “I’m pleased to be associated with today’s event, we count on all part of our society, everyone has to come together.”

Readers present during the event included American poet Carol Muske-Dukes, Michelle Bitting, a California Poet-in-the-Schools and Get Lit’s Olympia Miccio; they shared poems from the anthology and their thoughts on gun violence.

For more information, visit: www.beyondbaroque.org.

Poet Michelle Biting reads from Bullets into Bells. Photo: Michael Ray.
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