Gulf War Poetry Reading

First published in Woodnotes #12, Spring 1992, page 31. See “From The Gulf Within.”


by Kimberly Cortner

The atmosphere was one of solemn reflection on Thursday, January 14, 1992, just two days before the anniversary of the Gulf War’s beginning, when HPNC [Haiku Poets of Northern California] members and guests gathered at Forest Books in San Francisco for a special reading of The Gulf Within. This collection, published by Two Autumns Press, contains haiku and senryu written in 1991 by HPNC members about the war. Jerry Kilbride opened the reading with Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer.” Readers Christopher Herold, Ebba Story, and Michael Dylan Welch then read The Gulf Within. When Ebba Story exhibited strong emotion as she read Raffael de Gruttola’s “desert storm / the cormorant / sinks into the oil slick,” many in the audience responded to her delivery of this powerful image. And in poems such as Paul O. Williams’ “in the yard / the fourth day of the war / fresh violets,” many found they could identify with the sudden joy of finding something new, fresh, green, and alive while seeing and hearing on television nothing but images of death and war in a sand-blown desert. Following the formal portion of the reading, there was a break with refreshments. Many browsed among the book stacks, and Gregory Wood, owner of Forest Books, was a pleasant host indeed. To close the evening, HPNC members were invited to join in an open reading of Gulf War poetry. As people left, several commented about the reading’s timeliness and the sense of closure it brought to those who had felt deeply the emotions of war. Perhaps that closure is what Christopher Herold felt when he wrote “cease-fire; / at long last / winter rain.” The reading on January 14 brought that “winter rain” for those whose poems—with all their various experiences, emotions, and images of war—make up The Gulf Within.