To the Editors:
Recently, Galway Kinnell sent me a check for $500, made out to him by the Treasurer of the United States, a prize for “The Bear.” On the back of the check, the poet had written: “pay to the order of Resist.” Kinnell had read that poem among others during a ten-day national series of benefit readings for Resist and local antiwar and Resistance groups.
Because your columns have, on occasion, contained letters from artists opposed to the war who have refused national prizes (and federal grants), I should appreciate your printing Galway Kinnell’s letter of acceptance:
December 27, 1969
Miss Nancy Hanks
National Endowment for the Arts
1800 F Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20506
Dear Miss Hanks:
Your letter of December 3 has just reached me. I am pleased that you should like my poem “The Bear” well enough to choose it for an award.
The letter of acceptance is enclosed. I have to tell you, however, that I accept the prize only so that I may donate the money to Resist, an organization which helps draft resisters. To encourage, aid, and abet draft resisters is, I realize, a federal offense; I shall use the $500 to commit this offense.
If I accepted the prize money for myself, by so doing I would agree to become part of that facade of human values behind which our government wages the war in Vietnam. Moreover, it strikes me as somewhat grotesque that with one hand the government should honor poetry, whose source is love, while with the other it carries out brutal murder on a people who have done us no harm.
I can believe that you at the National Endowment for the Arts may think that by aiding the arts you thereby in some way are counteracting, even subverting, war. I think you are wrong. In my opinion, to foster the idea that ours is a humane government as much interested in art as in war only contributes to the general irreality and hypocrisy of life now in America.
Resist is very grateful for Kinnell’s decision. His $500 is enough to support a movement organizer for ten weeks or to pay at least five months of rent on a movement office. Resist exists because of such individual contributions. We have supported not only draft resistance groups, but such community organizations as the Young Lords, the Black Panthers, La Raza, as well as high school and campus organizing projects and G.I. underground papers. Our office is located at 763 Massachusetts Avenue, Room 4, Cambridge, Mass. 02139.
June 4, 1970