Lately, it seems as if the world is turning inside out: attacks on human life almost every day, many natural disasters changing the landscape of our planet, countries at war, and people just losing hope. Technology has made it easy to find out within seconds, any event from anywhere in the world. The media feeds off the carnage and it is hard to escape. Some of us even refuse to turn on the television to avoid the horrific news.
As one of those people who use to loathe history, politics and any kind of chaos, I have realized how important it is not only to stay informed, but to use all of it as inspiration for my writing.
Most poets write from the discord within, as a sort of therapy to heal themselves. Why can’t we do the same with the pandemonium we see from outside sources? Some poets give historical descriptions of wars experienced, preferring to express angst. Pablo Neruda did so with the Spanish civil war, as well as Paul Celan, a survivor of the Holocaust. Teresa Mei Chuc, a Vietnamese poet who migrated to the U.S. after the Vietnam War, gives readers a different perspective. She writes compassionately of her experiences while giving us a glimpse into the history and culture of her country.
As much as we poets love to express our opinions on politics and war, as it often stirs up controversy and will get readers into heated discussions, write from the heart as Chuc does to show another perspective of strife. She uses her poetry to heal the time lost from her country of birth. With her poem “Praying at the Cemetery on Con Son Island,” she attempts to reconnect with the people and traditions of the land while visiting a gravesite:
Some graves were marked with a yellow star and a name, many others were marked by a yellow star but no name because the person dead could not be identified. Everywhere I looked in all directions, as far as my eyes could see, were gravestones of people who died on the island from the wars, including those who died during imprisonment during the most recent U.S. war in Vietnam. I offered incense and prayers for peace and love for these souls.
Lives are lost every day whether from war, domestic crime, natural disasters, or poor health. Instead of focusing on the melancholy of death, write an uplifting poem of the victim or a beautiful moment that occurred after. Use the memories of a person seen in a news article or emphasize the act of the heroes involved. When nature intervenes, describe a place of the way it used to be or its significance in history and culture. Write to give others hope rather than dampen spirits. It is what people need today more than ever, and as poets, we can have a bigger impact by revitalizing the soul.
Chuc, Teresa Mei. “Vietnamese Globe: Divided by War, United by Poetry and Compassion.” Dissident Voice. 6 July, 2015. Web, 7 December 2015.
Written by: Donna J. Sanders
Donna is a freelance writer and blogger in West Palm Beach, FL. She is the author of Ataraxia – a poetry collection about the struggles we face, the state of the world and how to see beauty in the simplest things, and Cardboard Signs – poems to bring awareness about homelessness, mental illness, self-esteem and the injustices many face.
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