Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Poet Deborah Finkelstein on the creation of Like One-- a poetry anthology in response to the Boston Marathon Tragedy.

“People turn to poetry in times of crisis
because it comes closer than any other art form to addressing what cannot be said.”
W.S. Merwin, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2010

Essay by Deborah Finkelstein

 In Freshmen Seminar: Literature of Disaster, a class I teach at Endicott College, students read literature about many disasters including Chernobyl, Hurricane Katrina, 9-11, and The Titanic. I’ve witnessed visceral responses from students. Tragedies do not just raise the emotions of sadness and anger but also of fear and helplessness. There are moments in my class, I have learned, where it’s important that we take a break from these topics. Sometimes I include comedy while other times I use uplifting pieces to remind students of the good in the world. I’ve used many different types of pieces—short plays, essays, cartoons, jokes, etc. Poetry was by far the most powerful, which by itself wasn’t surprising, but this wasn’t my creative writing class; these were freshmen that were taking this seminar as a requirement. When the semester began, most claimed to dislike poetry. But when I used poetry in these dark moments, the effect was profound. It led to me integrating more poems into other classes at Endicott and at North Shore Community College. There is something about poetry, it seeps into the soul and heals the spirit. This is one reason why it’s used in programs at hospitals and memorials; it is a powerful healing tool.

Like most people, the Boston Marathon Bombing left me with feelings of sorrow, anger, fear, and helplessness. I decided to redirect my energy into a project that would help others by creating a poetry anthology of uplifting and humorous poems. The book would not only raise money for The One Fund, but also help heal readers.

Poets loved the idea. Like me, they wanted to do something to help. I approached several poets and it didn’t take long for the idea to go viral. Novelists, non-writers, and poets not in the book also helped spread the word.  I wanted the book out quickly so that we could help with the healing process as soon as possible. I am honored to feature poems from 40 amazing writers from across the U.S. and from a variety of backgrounds, including former U.S. Poet Laureate and Boston University Professor Robert Pinsky to Endicott College student Emily Pineau, a junior and author of No Need to Speak. There are 12 state and city Poet Laureates, as well as winners of the LAMBDA award and recipients of many other poetry honors.

“We are one Boston. We are one community.
As always, we will come together to help those most in need.
And in the end, we will all be better for it.”
Mayor Thomas M. Menino

Once the book was compiled, I ran the manuscript through Wordle, a free program that creates word clouds to demonstrate which words appear most frequently in speeches, surveys, or other texts. The Wordle illustrated that the most common words used in the book were “like” and “one.” I knew this had to be the title because it captured what the book was about—the way that we all came together as a community “like one”. Poets came from all over the country: red and blue states, city and country poets, different ages. During tragedy, our differences do not matter. Disasters make us realize how alike we are and that we have the same vulnerability. Together we all make a difference.

“At moments like this, we are one state, one city, and one people.”
Governor Deval Patrick

Currently we are in the process of setting up readings and placing Like One in bookstores. We are also launching the Like One Library Initiative. In order to ensure that everyone has access to Like One, we are encouraging people to purchase a copy for the library in their town or city, or at their school, or the local hospital or nursing home. We are striving to have it in Greater Boston’s local libraries by October 15, the six-month anniversary of the bombing.

Like One features poetry by Rusty Barnes, Debbi Brody, Kevin Carey, Cally Conan-Davies, Nicolas Destino, Emily Dickinson, Deborah Finkelstein, Robert Frost, Jeannine Hall Gailey, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, David Giver, Kat Good-Schiff, Benjamin S. Grossberg, Meghan Guidry, Doug Holder, Aaron M.P. Jackson, Jennifer Jean, Julie Kane, Joy Ladin, Lance Larsen, Joan Logghe, Fred Marchant, David Mason, Jill McDonough, Donnelle McGee, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Judson Mitcham, Wesley McNair, Alfred Nicol, Paulann Petersen, Emily Pineau, Robert Pinksy, Miriam Sagan, Jan Seale, Dan Sklar, Kevin Stein, David Trinidad, William Carlos Williams, Walt Whitman, Margaret Young. 

Twitter: @LikeOnePoetry
Google Plus: Like One
Wordle: wordle.net

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