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Poetry Anthology Published To Honor Malala Yousafzai

October 9 is the first anniversary of the grim day that masked gunmen stormed onto a bus in Pakistan and shot a child in the head. Their motive was political: She had defied them publicly, having the temerity to insist that girls be allowed to attend school.

The world now knows her mellifluous name – Malala – and many were heartened by her medical recovery, capped July 12 when she addressed the United Nations. “One child,” she said, “one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

At least one cohort of adults believes her. A collection of poets has rallied to contribute to “Malala: Poems for Malala Yousafzai,” edited by Joseph Hutchinson and Andrea L. Watson. Its publication coincides with this first anniversary, and its proceeds go to the Malala Fund.

“This anthology is evidence that some poets still dare to respond to what’s happening in the larger world, and we believe they are making a significant contribution in doing so,” Hutchinson writes in the foreword. Meanwhile, speculation builds that the girl may win the Nobel Peace Prize this October.

For the moment, though, sixty writers from around the world stand with Malala. Kathleen Cerveny, poet laureate of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and the director of arts initiatives at the Cleveland Foundation, made the cut. Here, in its entirety, is her villanelle, “At Fourteen”:

Who was I at fourteen? Who were you?

Diverted from the real by lives of ease,

could we have stood up, then, and claimed our due

 

as humans growing hungry for the new

excitement of the mind – things never seen?

Who was I at fourteen? Who were you?

 

A girl has stood against her world. She drew

the fire of those who guard what’s always been

and stood steadfast against them, claimed her due.

 

Her courage is a brush that paints a view

of human worlds more worthy – rarely seen

by coddled ones, like me, like you.

 

The cowards’ bullets aimed to silence truth;

pierce brain and tongue – still both thought and speech.

She fell, but has not failed to claim her due.

 

And has the gift for rights now been renewed

by blood, the hunger of one child to learn?

This girl of fourteen shames both me and you

If we don’t stand – demand what we all are due.

 

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