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Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 11:02 GMT
Protest fears scrap US poetry forum
White House
The forums are held at the White House
The White House has cancelled a poetry forum over fears it would be taken over by ant-war protests.

The discussion was to be hosted by US First Lady Laura Bush on the works of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman.

But some poets indicated they wanted to protest about proposed military action against Iraq during the meeting on 12 February.

"While Mrs Bush respects the right of all Americans to express their opinions, she, too, has opinions and believes it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum," Noelia Rodriguez, spokeswoman for Mrs Bush.

The first lady has hosted a number of the literary events to honour American authors and their impact on society, often turning into lively debates.

Laura Bush
Laura Bush is a campaigner for educational standards
Connecticut's poet laureate Marilyn Nelson said she had accepted an invitation from the White House.

But she had planned to wear a specially commissioned silk scarf emblazoned with peace signs.

"I had decided to go because I felt my presence would promote peace," she said.

But the symposium also inspired nationwide protest.

Respected poet Sam Hamill rejected his invitation and requested that his friends send him anti-war poems.

Hamill, whose works include Destination Zero and Gratitude, also encouraged those would have been attending to read protest prose to the assembled audience.

He said he been moved by the response and had received more than 1,500 poems including works by WS Merwin, Adrienne Rich and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Mrs Bush is a former librarian who campaigns for better teaching and childhood development.

See also:

10 Nov 02 | Entertainment
09 Jan 03 | Entertainment
10 Dec 02 | Entertainment
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