The HyperTexts


by Tom Merrill (August 13, 2017)

I am very happy to report that THT's founder & editor Mike Burch has just been honored by one of the world's finest humanitarian organizations.

That organization is Amnesty International, from which Mike received a quite beautiful letter a couple of days ago asking his permission to use a poem of his on a 3-year contract basis as part of a new online "teaching resource" program to be officially launched in October at Cheltenham Festivals in England by AI in partnership with The Poetry Hour.

This new teaching resource will be "promoted to school teachers, home educators, librarians and parents around the UK," ensuring that the poems selected for inclusion will receive maximum exposure to a wide British reading audience.

When I first heard the news I was simply delighted. I emailed Mike and said "You must be beaming with pride. I would be."

It is well-deserved recognition for a very decent person and a worthy and thought-provoking poem.

Courage and concern can be hard things to muster, but it is still good to speak for ideals. Here is Mike's just(ly) recognized poem (which is an "update" of Martin Niemöller's famous Holocaust poem):

First They Came for the Muslims
by Michael R. Burch

First they came for the Muslims
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Muslim.

Then they came for the homosexuals
and I did not speak out
because I was not a homosexual.

Then they came for the feminists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a feminist.

Now when will they come for me
because I was too busy and too apathetic
to defend my sisters and brothers?

AUTHOR'S NOTE: It is indeed an honor to have one of my poems published by such an outstanding organization as Amnesty International―as Tom said above, one of the world's finest. Not only is the cause good―a stated goal is to teach students about human rights through poetry―but so far the poetry seems quite good to me. Below are two excellent examples that I found in the Words That Burn lesson plan.

by Langston Hughes

Freedom will not come
Today, this year
Not ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my own two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.

© Langston Hughes (The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1994)

by Victoria Redel

Tell me it’s wrong the scarlet nails my son sports or the toy
store rings he clusters four jewels to each finger.

He’s bedecked. I see the other mothers looking at the star
choker, the rhinestone strand he fastens over a sock.
Sometimes I help him find sparkle clip-ons when he says
sticker earrings look too fake.

Tell me I should teach him it’s wrong to love the glitter that a
boy’s only a boy who’d love a truck with a remote that revs,
battery slamming into corners or Hot Wheels loop-de-looping
off tracks into the tub.

Then tell me it’s fine—really—maybe even a good thing—a boy
who’s got some girl to him,
and I’m right for the days he wears a pink shirt on the seesaw in
the park.

Tell me what you need to tell me but keep far away from my son
who still loves a beautiful thing not for what it means—
this way or that—but for the way facets set off prisms and
prisms spin up everywhere and from his own jeweled body he’s cast rainbows—
made every shining true color.

Now try to tell me—man or woman—your heart was ever once
that brave.

© Victoria Redel from Swoon (University of Chicago Press, 2003)

You can further explore Amnesty International's Words That Burn by clicking the hyperlinked title. We highly recommend this valuable resource for students, teachers and anyone else who is interested in exploring human rights through poems like the ones above.

The HyperTexts