An 84-page anthology titled "Poems From Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak" will be published in August by the University of Iowa Press, giving readers an unusual glimpse into the emotional lives of the largely nameless and faceless prisoners there.
"When I heard pigeons cooing in the trees/Hot tears covered my face," Sami al Haj wrote in one poem. The al-Jazeera cameraman has been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 on suspicion of aiding Islamic militants. "When the lark chirped, my thoughts composed/A message for my son," he went on.
The poems were cleared by the US military after being searched for possible coded information, but the review from the DoD is as expected:
"While a few detainees at Guantanamo Bay have made efforts to author what they claim to be poetry, given the nature of their writings they have seemingly not done so for the sake of art," says Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Defense Department spokesman. "They have attempted to use this medium as merely another tool in their battle of ideas against Western democracies."
Well, that's obvious. Pigeons hate America. Everybody knows that. And who would write a poem about a lark besides an anti-democracy Middle Eastern terrorist?
As far as "art" goes, some of those inmates should be given the Nobel Prize for Literature, considering the lengths they went through to write their thoughts down:
Writing poetry was both difficult and dangerous for the prisoners, who weren't given pens or paper until 2003. Some former inmates say they used dabs of toothpaste as ink. Other inmates, including Moazzem Begg, a British citizen held at Guantanamo Bay until 2005, say they scratched their poems into foam cups with spoons or small stones. Like most of the approximately 395 inmates freed so far, Mr. Begg was never charged with a crime.