Ed Werstein


Ed Werstein, Milwaukee, WI, is a regional VP of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. He was nearly 60 years old when his muse awoke and dragged herself out of bed. His poems have appeared in over 50 different journals and anthologies. He won the Poetry Society of Michigan’s Margo LaGattuta award in 2015. In 2018 he received the Council of Wisconsin Writers Lorine Niedecker award. His book, A Tar Pit To Dye In, is available from Kelsay Books.


Let's Train Poets Here

The School of the Americas, Fort Benning, GA, has trained 60,000 Latin American soldiers (over 3,000 of them Chilean) in combat tactics and torture techniques.

"Look around—there is only one thing of danger to you here—poetry"

—Pablo Neruda, to Pinochet's soldiers when they came to search his Isla Negra home, September, 1973.

Let's train poets here, not soldiers,

here at Isla Negra, by the sea.

Let's build a new school of the Americas. 
Let's write a new curriculum of love and understanding.

We'll sail the poet's boat into international waters
and discover a planet without flags and borders, 
a planet he dreamed of. 
Essay question: Why is the land we return to different? 

We'll study a photo of the earth taken from outer space
and contemplate its fragility and smallness. 
Essay question: Imagine you are an alien discovering Earth. 
What life do you hope to encounter there?

We'll study the economics of exploitation, 
climb a mountain and rewrite the sermon to read:
the meek shall inherit the earth, and the mineral rights. 

We'll make annual field trips to Georgia,
to that other school of the Americas, 
join with those who advocate its closure,
read our poems, sing our songs, 
dream a world of peace. 

And when graduates of that school

are sent again to raid this place, 
may they find nothing
but this memorial to Neruda: 

a library full of beautiful, dangerous poetry.

Isla Negra, Chile (December 2009)

The Way Philanthropy Works

At concerts in Rockefeller Center
sensitive ears can still hear the cries and wails
of the Ludlow miners
and their wives and children
slaughtered on the picket line in Colorado, 1914.

Without opening a book,
keen eyes can read
the lost lives of unschooled steel workers
on the façades of thousands of libraries,
part of the Carnegie bequest.

And who remembers
the abandoned artistic ambitions
of the aluminum smelters, the oil riggers,
and the bank tellers who labored
so the Mellon family could endow
the National Gallery of Art?

First appeared in Mobius: The Journal of Social Change