Poetry News

Connecticut Magazine Reveals New Poetry Anthology Exploring Gun Violence

By Harriet Staff
Bullets Into Bells, anthology, cover

At Connecticut magazine, learn about a new anthology published by Beacon Press called Bullets Into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence. The anthology is the product of a collaboration between editors Brian Clements, Alexandra Teague, and Dean Rader and contributors ranging from former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins to gun-violence prevention advocates. In the review, Michael Lee-Murphy explains, "As the novelist and essayist Colum McCann writes in the introduction, the call-and-response nature of the contributions creates a 'church of the possible,' in which people can speak to each other to imagine a different future." From there: 

Hockley says she had no reservations about participating. Brian Clements, one of the book’s editors and a founding coordinator of the Masters of Fine Arts program at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, was the one who reached out to Hockley, and is himself too familiar with gun violence. His wife, Abbey, was a teacher at Sandy Hook on 12/14, and survived the shooting. (She is also a contributor to the book, responding to a poem from Meghan Privitello.) “I trust Brian and his family completely,” Hockley says.

In many ways the book is the brainchild of Brian Clements (alongside his co-editors Alexandra Teague and Dean Rader). Through his personal connection to Sandy Hook and his professional connections in the literary world, Clements had exactly the right mix of experience for such a project. “I made it clear to [the contributors and publishers] that I wanted it to be more than just an anthology [of poetry],” he says. The result, Clements says, is that the book is a sort of “political artifact,” a snapshot of a kaleidoscope of experiences. “We don’t really have a gun-violence problem; we have many kinds of gun violence,” Clements says. There are domestic killings, negligent or accident shootings, a problem with illegal guns, a problem with illegal things done with legal guns. “We wanted the book to reflect that,” Clements says, calling it a “complex conversation about a complex problem.”

For the poet Afaa Michael Weaver, who lives in West Cornwall and teaches at Drew University in New Jersey, his poem is about an act of gun violence he witnessed as a younger man in the 1980s in his native Baltimore. Though the poem is most directly about a specific moment, in which Weaver witnessed one man chasing another man with a shotgun, Weaver says he is also trying to bring in the experiences of places that are far from Baltimore: places such as Wyoming where suicide by gun is a massive problem. By incorporating people such as himself and the Rev. Brown, from places including Baltimore and Hartford, the book incorporates “people who understand trauma” at a very elemental level.

Read more at Connecticut magazine. 

Originally Published: January 17th, 2018