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Village Voice: Bullets Into Bells

The cover of "Bullets into Bells" an anthology of poems reacting to gun violence in America.
Chelsea Merz/WGBH News

Five months ago, poet Richard Blanco joined Boston Public Radio to launch our recurring segment, Village Voice, where we turn to poetry to make sense of the news of the day. Today is the second time we've had to use poetry to try to make sense of a mass shooting. 

Blanco read Monday "Heal the Cracks in the Bell of the World" by poet Martín Espada. Espada's poem is included in the anthology, Bullets into Bells.

Blanco said "like all great poems, this poem explores nuances and multiple meanings. In this context, bells evoke exultation, celebration — they mark thresholds in time, change, a new dawn (e.g. weddings), freedom (the Liberty Bell). We thought Sandy Hook might be that tipping point — as we hope now hope that the Parkland will be."

Richard Blanco is the fifth presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history. His latest project is the fine-press book “Boundaries,” a collaboration with photographer Jacob Hessler.  You can catch him next Tuesday, March 6th, at an event in Portland to discuss gun violence  and the poetry anthology Bullets into Bells  at the Telling Room.

To listen to Richard Blanco's entire conversation with Jim and Margery, click on the audio player above.

Heal the Cracks in the Bell of the World — Martín Espada
For the community of Newtown, Connecticut, where twenty students and six educators lost their lives to a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Dec. 14, 2012

Now the bells speak with their tongues of bronze.
Now the bells open their mouths of bronze to say:
Listen to the bells a world away. Listen to the bell in the ruins
of a city where children gathered copper shells like beach glass,
and the copper boiled in the foundry, and the bell born
in the foundry says: I was born of bullets, but now I sing
of a world where bullets melt into bells. Listen to the bell
in a city where cannons from the armies of the Great War
sank into molten metal bubbling like a vat of chocolate,
and the many mouths that once spoke the tongue of smoke
form the one mouth of a bell that says: I was born of cannons,
but now I sing of a world where cannons melt into bells.
Listen to the bells in a town with a flagpole on Main Street,
a rooster weathervane keeping watch atop the Meeting House,
the congregation gathering to sing in times of great silence.
Here the bells rock their heads of bronze as if to say:
melt the bullets into bells, melt the bullets into bells.
Here the bells raise their heavy heads as if to say:
melt the cannons into bells, melt the cannons into bells.
Here the bells sing of a world where weapons crumble deep
in the earth, and no one remembers where they were buried.
Now the bells pass the word at midnight in the ancient language
of bronze, from bell to bell, like ships smuggling news of liberation
from island to island, the song rippling through the clouds.
Now the bells chime like the muscle beating in every chest,
heal the cracks in the bell of every face listening to the bells.
The chimes heal the cracks in the bell of the moon.
The chimes heal the cracks in the bell of the world.


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