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Every War Has Two Losers

August 26, 2010

        in review

        A Poet’s Meditation on Peace

A film by Haydn Reiss based upon the life, journals and poems of World War II conscientious objector and poet William Stafford (1914-1993). Stafford wrote in his journal, “The question, ‘Wouldn’t you fight for your country?’ begs the real question which is, ‘What is the best way to behave here and now to serve your country?’ So the real answer would be, ‘If it was the right thing to do, I would fight for my country. Now let’s talk about, what is the right thing to do?’”

Reiss states, “… I think this is what Stafford is saying, ‘Yes, we do and can make war. But what else can we do?’ The undiscovered possibilities in human behavior are what we should pursue. The die is not cast; imagination and creativity are not in short supply.”

This beautifully crafted film documents Stafford’s stance on culture and humanity through both poems and journals (named as is this film, “Every War Has Two Losers”) and as expressed by fellow writers who knew or admired him, such as Robert Bly, Maxine Hong Kingston, Naomi Shihab Nye, Alice Walker, and including his son Kim Stafford, an adept poet himself.

Poems have meaning. Poems should have meaning. This film makes that abundantly clear. And it is presented in a manner and a time that could do well to stand and look, address the questions here expressed.

In a world where a culture of violence abounds, it is a challenge to imagine how the deeds or words of one person can be heard above the clatter. Stafford says in his journal, “Artists and peacemakers are in it for the long haul,” and “Redemption comes with care. Here’s how to count the people who are ready to do right: one… one… one…”

In Stafford’s poem “A Ritual to Read to Each Other” (1953), he wrote,

     For it is important that awake people be awake,
     or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
     the signals we give – yes or no, or maybe –
     should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

This film is currently being broadcast on PBS stations around the country (August – September 2010). The film website can be viewed at as well a PDF of the current broadcast schedules.

A DVD of Every War Has Two Losers is also available at the website. This includes a bonus presentation of “William Stafford and Robert Bly: A Literary Friendship” (1994, 60 min) as these two poets explore the art of writing, the craft of teaching, the reading of poetry, and more.

Broadcasts for this film are already well in progress, so if interested, please check the schedule listing as soon as possible for your area.

William Stafford and Robert Bly

One Comment
  1. August 31, 2010 7:25 am

    Hi there, i love all of what you are doing on this blog
    I am new here; please could you take a look at blog and leave me any feed back on my Poems. I am also in the process of publishing my first Poetry novel, entitled The Jaw, due out in October. Any comments will be so gratefully received. Kindest regards and keep up the good work, K

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