Caught in the Crossfire: Children and War

Kathleen Fearing is a writer extraordinaire!  Her latest book, Caught in the Crossfire, an anthology of poems about children living with war, is a hauntingly insightful look at the suffering forced on the innocent who have no way of understanding what is happening to their world or why it is that way.

I had the honor to interview Kathleen about her book this week.  
Welcome, Kathleen!  I am so excited to have you as a guest on the blog.  So, let's begin - what inspires you to write poetry? 

First of all, I want to thank you, Linda, for agreeing to be a part of my latest book of poems, Caught in the Crossfire – Poems of Children in War. It was such a creative and rewarding project and I’m thrilled with the results. 

As far as my inspiration, I don’t know if I can put my finger on it, but years ago, I was reading a book that was written in verse for young people. My imagination went through the roof because it was so different and beautiful and thought provoking. I decided then and there to try something like it on my own. The result of that inspiration was my first book written in verse “Adisa’s Basket,” the story of a young African girl in 1700 Nigeria who, along with her sisters, is captured by slavers.

After that, I read poetry quite often and fell in love with the poems of Mary Oliver, along with others. Now I have shelves full of wonderful poets and poems. 

When did you first start writing, what made you feel the need to express yourself in this way? 

I began writing at a very young age. I’m sometimes amazed at how long it takes a writer to write well. At least for me it took years of study and refinement. Now, I find that poetry is the ultimate truth in written form. Poets – good poets – can, in a very short space, put the most private thoughts on to a page and make the reader weep without chapters and chapters of description. And, let me also say that some prose are very much like poetry. I’m thinking of Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient.” It is all a matter of how a writer chooses to paint his or her story – Ernest Hemmingway had his blunt, straightforward method, Ondaatje has a more poetic approach. The poetic approach fulfills me more as a writer than any other form. 

Why did you write - Caught in the Crossfire? What led you to write it? 

It is sad that I felt compelled to write it in the first place. Over the course of years of watching the never-ending wars on my TV screen, and the effects of those wars on innocent children, I wrote my feelings down in poems. This continued until I had a rather large collection of them. One night, after seeing a dead child, who looked no more than four years of age, being carried out of the rubble of yet another bombing, the line from singing group The Carpenters came to mind: “Bless the beasts and the children, for in this world they have no voice, they have no choice.” It was then that I formulated the idea of a book. I’m very proud of it, yet I wish there were more I could do. 

How did you find the other poets that contributed to the book? 

I’m blessed to know several very good poets - you, for one, Linda and your incredible poem, “Rocket’s Red Glare.” And your recommendation of Andrea Heiberg and her poem, “The Grass is Green” was such a wonderful addition to the book. My husband Ed contributed along with a friend here in Tennessee. I’m grateful that all of these remarkable people agreed to be a part of my book. 

Well, I am blessed to have dear friends, like you, to collaborate with on projects such as this.  Speaking of other contributions, the cover photography is haunting. Where did the photo for the cover come from? 

My husband found that photo on line. It is actually one from WWII. He is a talented researcher and can find almost anything on line given enough time. I thank him for devoting so much time to a project that was and is so dear to my heart. 

What do you hope people will take away from Caught in the Crossfire?

My whole purpose in putting together the poems in my book is so that adults will stop for a moment and remember that children are our future, our hope for a better world. If they are scarred by war, they grow up to be scarred adults. Some children, understandably, grow up full of hate toward the people who shattered their childhood. It seems to be a never-ending cycle that we are powerless to stop. Yet, I know in my heart that that is not true. We do have the power if we could only recognize that we do. “Imagine all the people living life in peace.” (John Lennon). If you can imagine it, it can be accomplished. If only we had the courage to stop wars. 

When you write about such difficult subjects, what keeps you centered?

Staying focused is difficult for me. I could put a label on it – ADHD, or something else, just grab an initial – but in this case, all I needed was to hear or see another story about children being blown apart by adults’ bombs that set my course. 

Like many poets, you write in other genres as well. Could you tell us a little about what else you have written? 

I write for young people. I write stories that let them see that life is difficult, but it is doable…that they are okay if they just recognize who they are, and who they are, is good. I try to help them see that adults are not perfect, that they are not perfect, yet we all have such potential to be better. My books include “Champ,” about a young boy who thinks he’s responsible for his father’s death; “My Friend, the Werewolf,” about two boys who find out by accident that their friend is a werewolf, and “Voyage of Dreams,” about a young girl growing up in 1903 Ireland who has an unexpected chance to go to America and follow her dreams. 

Who are some of your favorite poets? 

I mentioned Mary Oliver, but I have also been inspired by, believe it or not, Jack Kerouac, and a not-so-well-known poet, Denise Levertov and also Louise Erdrich and Adrienne Rich, May Sarton. I’m also a fan of Robert Frost. 

What advice do you have for aspiring poets? 

To aspiring poets and writers alike, read, read, read. Read the great writers and poets. Decide, if this is what you want to do, to lose yourself in your writing; let it make you cry; let it make you laugh; let it change your life. Ray Bradbury said, “Be certain of this: when honest love speaks, when admiration begins, when excitement rises, when hate curls like smoke, you need never doubt that creativity will stay with you for a lifetime.” 

What else would you like to share with the readers about Caught in the Crossfire? 

Caught in the Crossfire can be found at 

Kathleen Fearing writes books for young people and poetry for adults. She is a member of the Tennessee Mountain Writers, Inc. SCBWI, and the Authors Guild of Tennessee. Kathleen’s book, “Voyage of Dreams, An Irish Memory,” has been published by Celtic Cat Publishers of Knoxville and a number of her stories for young children have been published on line. She has self-published seven other books, including three stories for young people and four books of poetry. Kathleen has a doctorate in education and taught children’s literature, as well as other courses at various colleges in western Massachusetts, including the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She reviewed newly published children’s books for local newspapers and radio stations in western Massachusetts for many years. As a radio producer, Kathleen’s children’s radio programs won first and second place awards from the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association. She lives in Norris, Tennessee with her true love, her husband Ed.


Robyn Chausse said…
Thank you for sharing this wonderful book. A difficult subject but one that most emphatically needs to be addressed. Perhaps the poetry will touch those hearts that have not yet been reached with logic and protests.
Rev. Linda said…
Hi, Robyn!

Yes, we can only hope that hearts will be touched and we can end the madness in the world.

Blessings, Linda

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