Updated and edited by Mollie Smith (2002) and reproduced with permission

Agosin, Marjorie.  Circles of Madness: Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.  New York: White Pine Press, 1992.

Between 1976 and 1983, many young students in Argentina were kidnapped, murdered, or tortured by their own government.  Their relatives protested in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires every week.  Circles of Madness is a book of poetry about the desaparecidos, their families, and their stories.

Also: Witches and Other Things.  Pittsburgh: Latin-American Literary Review Press, 1984.

Witches and Other Things has poems about women, exiles, and being lost.  "Woman Without Papers" describes the struggles of immigrants.  Government-sanctioned disappearances are the subject of "My Country and the Postal System" and "The Disappeared," and exile is ruminated over in "The Exile’s Ballad."

Also:  An Absence of Shadows:  Poems.  White Pine Press, 1998.

An Absence of Shadows contains poetry from Circles of Madness and Zones of Pain, as well as new poetry.  Agosin’s poetry focuses on those who suffered during the decades of corrupt dictatorship within Latin America.  Some of Agosin’s poetry is available online at:  http://www.geocities.com/~hra/agosin.htm.[1]

Alegria, C. and D. Flakoll, trans. and eds.  On the Front Line:  Guerrilla Poems of El Salvador.  Curbstone Press, 1996.


On the Front Line is a collection of poetry about the struggles of people to survive in the war-torn country of El Salvador.  All of the poems are optimistic despite the difficulties faced daily by the El Salvadoran people.[2]


Amichai, Yehuda.  The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai.  Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996.

Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai is mainly poems about Amichai's homeland of Israel and what it means to him to be a citizen.  The book includes "The U.N. Headquarters in the High Commissioner’s House in Jerusalem" and "Seven Laments for the War-Dead."

Boland, Eavan.  In a Time of Violence.  New York:  W. W. Norton & Co., 1994.

In a Time of Violence is a collection of poems by contemporary Irish poet, Eavan Boland.  Through her poetry, Boland attempts to recapture the everyday lives of Irish women that have been lost in an Irish history dominated by images of women as national icons that stirred men to fight against British colonialism.  For instance, in “In a Bad Light,” Boland shares the ironic story of Irish seamstresses sewing beautiful silk dresses in the terrible conditions of “coffin ships” as they travel to America.  In another poem, “Lava Cameo,” Boland imagines her grandmother, who died during childbirth in a Dublin fever ward, meeting Boland’s grandfather at the docks.  Other poems capture the forgotten suffering of the Irish who built “famine roads” during the Potato Famine and the religious turmoil within the country.

Brutus, Dennis.  Simple Lust.  New York: Hill and Wang, 1973.

Simple Lust contains poems of suffering while in prison ("Cold", "Letters to Martha"), poems of rulers and oppressors ("Their Behavior"), and poems of hope and renewal ("Somehow We Survive").

Brutus, Dennis.  Stubborn Hope: Selected Poems of South Africa and a Wider World.  London: Heinemann Education Books, 1978.

Stubborn Hope relates some of the author’s experiences while in prison and in exile.  Some of the most potent poems are "Freedom," "Stop," "There Are No People Left in My Country," and "Sirens Contrail the Night Air."

Buckley, Vincent.  Last Poems.  Australia: Penguin Books, 1991.

Last Poems is a collection of some of Buckley’s most tender and touching poems, including "The Camps," "How Will Civilization Last" (concerning exile in Siberia), "Gulag I," and "Gulag II."

Dalton, Roque.  Clandestine Poems.  Curbstone Press, 1990.

In Clandestine Poems, written just prior to his assassination, Dalton invented five poets to speak about the situation in El Salvador.  The collection “delivers its political insights with biting humor, strength and tenderness.”[3]

Delbo, Charlotte.  Auschwitz and After.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Auschwitz and After is poetry and vignettes about experiences in the camp and life after.[4]

Dipoko, Mbella Sonne.  Black and White in Love.  London: Heinemann, 1972.

Black and White in Love is love poetry to a girl, but also to the world.  Dipoko expresses his joy for the world in spite of the horror he sometimes sees in it.  The book includes such poems as "Pain," "Persecution," and "The Tenderness Manifesto."

Dorfman, Ariel.  Last Waltz in Santiago and Other Poems of Exile and Disappearance.  Viking, 1988.

Ariel Dorfman’s book of poetry details tales of government abuse and terror campaigns in Chile.

Duba, Ursula.  Tales >From a Child of the Enemy.  Penguin USA, 1997.

In her poetry, Duba recounts her childhood in Germany after World War II.  Many of her poems show the devastating effects of the war upon Germany, as well as Duba’s struggles as a German to come to terms with the Holocaust.

Forche, Carolyn.  Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness.  New York: Norton, 1993

This anthology spans Armenian genocide to the Tiananmen Square massacre, drawing together poetry that bears witness to the cruelties of this century and the courage of the human spirit.[5]

Also: The Country Between Us (1981)
Also: The Angel of History (1995)  

Foss, Michael, ed.  Poetry of the World Wars.  New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1990.

Poetry from World Wars I and II.  Both periods revile war, but the outlooks and tone are quite different.

Glatstein, Jacob.  I Keep Recalling:  The Holocaust Poems of Jacob Glatstein.  KTAV Publishing House, 1993.

            I Keep Recalling is a collection of Glatstein’s Holocaust poems compiled from multiple collections of Glatstein’s work.

Heaney, Seamus.  Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996.  London: Faber and Faber, 1998.

Contains Heaney’s famous poem "From the Republic of Conscience" about morality and the duty of everyone in society toward that end.

Hull, Robert, ed.  Breaking Free:  An Anthology of Human Rights Poetry.  City: Library Binding, Thomson Learning, 1994.

Breaking Free includes poems about refugees, prisons, slavery, torture, and censorship. Some are anguished (a poem by the Chilean poet Dorfman begins, "My son is missing"); some have a biting sense of irony (Brecht feels for the writer whose books aren't important enough to be burned). The quiet poems about ordinary moments are some of the most intense (a Greek poet finds peace "when a knock on the door means a friend").[6]

Kelly, Deborah.  I Am What You Fear I Am.  Minneapolis:  Lee Publications, 1985.

Deborah Kelly's book is protest poetry inspired by a racially-motivated murder of an African-American woman in Minneapolis in 1983.  A copy is available in the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library in the Law Library.

Kim, Chi-ha.  Heart's Agony:  Selected Poems of Chi-ha Kim.  Fredonia: White Pine Press, 1998.

First imprisoned in 1964, Korea's Chi-ha Kim was sentenced to death in 1974. His crime: writing poetry that provoked the military government of Chunghee Park. His sentence was commuted in 1980 following the assassination of Park. Heart’s Agony gathers poetry from all phases of Kim's career, including poems that led to his imprisonment and torture and those written from prison.[7]

Also:  The Middle Hour: Selected Poems.  Cornell: Cornell Press, 1972.

By a Korean poet who was sentenced first to death, then to life imprisonment.[8]

Kumin, Maxine.  Connecting the Dots.  New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996.

Connecting the Dots contains the poems "After the Cleansing of Bosnia" and "Youth Orchestra, With Dogs," a poem of healing.

Martinez, Valerie.  Absence Luminescent.  Four Ways Books, 1999.

Martinez’s collection of poetry is “moving, mysterious, passionate, and written for the sake of something larger than ourselves.”  An example of the poems in the collection is “The Little Number,” in which Martinez describes the wretched existence of a political prisoner in a Beijing prison.[9]

Miloscz, Czeslaw.  The Collected Poems.  New York: The Ecco Press, 1988.

 This collection contains a number of poems on Miloscz’s experiences in 1940s Poland, including "A Book in the Ruins," "Song on the End of the World," "Song of a Citizen," "The Poor Poet," "A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto," and "Dedication" (to the war dead).

Miranda, Victoria.  On the Edge of a Countryless Weariness:  Poems.  Ism Press, 1986.

On the Edge of a Countryless Weariness is a book of poetry about repression and dictatorship in Chile and includes both English and Spanish versions of the poems.[10]

Nicholls, Judith, ed.  Sing Freedom!:  An Anthology of Poems.  City: Faber & Faber, 1992.

Sing Freedom! is an anthology of human rights poetry from around the world.

Sepalma, Sipho.  From Gore to Soweto.  Johannesburg: Skotaville Publishers, 1988.

 Sepalma’s book is a collection of poems about South Africa, greater Africa, the nature of apartheid, and the meaning of freedom.

Serote, Mongane Wally.  Third World Express.  Johannesburg: David Philip, 1992.

Third World Express is one long poem about suffering and diminishment of humans around the world.  Includes an indictment of U.S. involvement in and compliance with governments in Latin America and Asia with abysmal human rights records.

Schiff, Hilda, ed.  Holocaust Poetry.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

            This collection is a compilation of poems by several different poets that focuses on the Holocaust.

Straus, Austin.  The AI Poems.  1978.

Although The AI Poems is an unpublished book of human rights poetry, one copy is available in the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library at the Law School.  There are poems on many issues of human rights: dictators, disappearance, native exploitation, and the importance of advocacy and letter-writing.

Vallejo, Cesar.  Poemas humanos (Human Poems).  New York: Grove Press, 1968.

This collection presents an apocalyptic vision of human alienation, possibly prompted by the slaughter of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).[11]

Volavkova, Hana, ed.  I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-44.  Schocken Books, 1983.

I Never Saw Another Butterfly is a collection of art done by children in the Terezin concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, and includes a foreword by Chaim Potok and an afterword by Vaclac Havel.[12]

Wallace-Crabbe, Chris and Kerry Flattley, eds.  From the Republic of Conscience.  Fredonia: White Pine Press, 1992.

This collection of human rights poetry brings together over 100 poets from 42 countries including: Mandelstam, Neruda, Allegria, Dorfman, Milosz, Cardenal, Soyinka, Brutus, Ratishinskaya, Darwish, and Heaney.



[1] Based on the synopsis from Amazon:  www.amazon.com

[2] Based on the synopsis provided on the Doctors for Global Health website:  www.dghonline.org/nl8/arts4.html

[3] Based on the synopsis provided on Doctors for Global Health website:  www.dghonline.org/n18/arts4.html

[4] Based on the synopsis from www.webpac.hennepin.lib.mn.us

[5] Synopsis from Literature for Teaching Human Rights: An Annotated Bibliography by Nancy Flowers, Curriculum Coordinator for Amnesty International USA

[6] Based on the synopsis from www.amazon.com

[7] The synopsis from www.amazon.com

[8] The synopsis from Literature for Teaching Human Rights: An Annotated Bibliography by Nancy Flowers, Curriculum Coordinator for Amnesty International USA

[9] Based in part on a review by Jan Valentine provided on the back cover of the book

[10] Based on the synopsis from www.webpac.hennepin.lib.mn.us

[11] Based on the synopsis from "Encarta 98 Encyclopedia."  Microsoft, 1998 [CD-ROM]

[12] Based on the synopsis from www.webpac.hennepin.lib.mn.us

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