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A conversation with Anti-war Poet Collier Nogues

30 Oct, 2019

American Anti-war Poet Collier Nogues spoke at English Corner on 17 October sharing with students and staff members of CIE on how poetry could transform a society.

Ms. Nogues spoke about the importance of poetry and the power of words in the context of social conflicts. In a society where language is controlled and manipulated by powerful state authorities, poetry is a platform for the oppressed peoples to voice their discontents. On the surface, the power of the pen is minuscule compared to the life destroying weapons used by the state apparatus. However, poetry can provide a record of current events, influence public opinion, and speak to future generations. Historically, poetry had played influential roles in anti-war efforts, and transformed societies through the compassionate voices of poets.

Ms. Nogues demonstrated a particular technique of poetry writing called erasure poetry. The poems are formed by erasing words from an existing document, and make the document say something it is not meant to say. This type of poetry is relatively easy as it frees the new poet from the anxiety of facing a blank page and not knowing where to start. It is at the same time powerfully subversive as it allows the poet to take control of the language and change its meaning.  The talk concluded with the message of using freedom constructively, creating the change you want to see. Poetry is a creative way to transform society through peaceful means.

Students responded enthusiastically to the talk. They took the opportunity to speak with Ms. Nogues to find out more about literature and poetry, as well as publishing opportunities in Hong Kong.