Imagine more than 10,000 poems on the subject of peace.
Or 1,000 pieces of peace-inspired art.
Northern Essex Community College English Professor Paul Saint-Amand did more than imagine it.
He encouraged it.
And kindergartners to octogenarians from Pakistan to Plaistow and Nigeria to Newburyport heeded the call.
Ten years ago the Rockport resident and Vietnam-era veteran created NECC’s Annual Peace Poetry Contest and Reading, quite simply to promote peace. His intent was for students, teachers, and community members to “embrace this social justice activity”. They did.
“Each year, I am pleasantly surprised by the volume of submissions, but, more important, I am overwhelmed by the care and level of poetic expression found in the entries. The reading event just keeps getting better, filling our Tech Center to capacity each spring on the night of the reading,” he said.
Every year, peace-inspired poetry, art, or videos created by students, faculty, and staff from area K-12 classrooms (both public and private) and those adults affiliated with these schools, are invited to submit original works.
The reading event for the winning submissions is held in May in the Hartleb Technology Center on the Haverhill campus, 100 Elliott St.
“We believe that children cannot learn to speak the language of possibility, or envision a culture of peace, if they do not have the opportunity to identify such moments and values within themselves and their relationships,” says Saint-Amand. “It is our responsibility, as educators, to offer students a way to fuel their imaginations and embrace the concept of peace.”
Saint-Amand, is also founder and project director of the National Peace Poetry Project and the director of the Vietnam Veterans Chapbook Project. He has taught at NECC since 2007. He previously taught at a number of institutions including SUNY- Potsdam, NY. He is also the founder of the NECC Veterans Writing Group.