Poetry Meets the Zero Hunger Movement: Bringing Written and Spoken Verse to the Hunger Prevention Cause

March 19, 2019

by Hiram Larew, Ph.D. of Poetry X Hunger

For this lovely bowl
Let us arrange some flowers
Since we have no rice

-Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694)

For as long as hunger has plighted the planet, there surely have been poets writing about the scourge.  Basho, one of the foremost composers of haiku, offered his bittersweet take nearly four centuries ago (see above).  Poetry X Hunger, an informal initiative begun in 2018, is designed to uncover such historical poetry and to encourage today’s poets to write about the plight – all with the intent to bring poetry more fully and intentionally to bear in our efforts to prevent and eliminate hunger in the U.S. and around the world.

In close partnership, the UN/FAO and Poetry X Hunger offered the 2018 World Food Day Poetry Competition to poets in suburban Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. First Place Winner, Aaron R. of Arlington, VA presented his poem, Hunger Pains, in October, 2018 to a standing room only crowd (see attached photo/video).  His poem as well as many others that were submitted are posted on Facebook at Poetry X Hunger.  These are being used as teaching tools in classrooms, as prompts in workshops, as meeting openers or closings, and in banners in newsletters.

(Above: Clip of Aaron R.’s presentation of his poem Hunger Pains at a reception at FAO’s offices in Washington, DC)

With help from staff at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, accounts of starvation from Colonial Jamestown have been shared on Poetry X Hunger’s Facebook site.  While not poems, per se, these stark descriptions of deprivation from the 1600’s may provide prompts for those who are currently writing about hunger.

Poetry, by itself, will never eliminate hunger.  But, along with wake-up statistics, powerful science, and mindful policies, poetry can help to engage hearts and minds in our ongoing campaign to wipe out hunger.  For more info, PoetryXHunger@gmail.com or HLarew@gmail.com.