Why Poetry?

Poetry evokes emotion and produces connection. Through the participatory creation of poetry, a space for dialogue opens and creates an opportunity for understanding between people. The unique power of image and metaphor that is created within poetry provides a space for creative thought and it has the potential for generating new ideas for transforming conflict.

Sandra Faulkner talks about the idea of a “Poetic Criteria” and the “Third Space.” The “Third Space” is not unlike the confluence of two rivers. Each river flowing into the other brings along its sediment, nutrients and experience to create a new river, a “third way.” In a similar way I envision bringing a group of people together who have a variety of different perspectives, all valid, all meaningful, all worth talking about and providing a space to inspire a “conscious social action” and the possibility to create together a THIRD WAY. Poetry, perhaps, is this third way: the confluence of thought and emotion in a shared space.

In my background research I became interested in Mark Nowak’s Coal Mountain Elementary. Nowak makes use of personal testimony to give voice to the silent struggle of coal miners and their families around the world. Although a label may be difficult Nowak himself would characterize the work as documentary poetry. Documentary poetry combines the resources of the investigative journalist with the lyric and artistic experience of the poet to “testify to the often unheard voices of people struggling to survive in the face of unspeakable violence.” (Phillip Metres).

I was inspired by these kinds of poetic practices but I wanted to design a public forum that would offer a space to generate collective poems giving voice to the community. To create a form for this collective poetry intervention I looked to Ted Kooser’s Poetry Home Repair Manual, for guidance on the important elements of a poem: voice, substance, descriptors and actions.

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