Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Verse As Therapy - Using Poetry to Deal With Tragedy

Adjua Starks worked for the New York City Board of Education’s Office of Placement and Referral as a field monitor, regularly interacting with, advising, and helping mentally and physically challenged youth workers. One of Adjua Starks’ passions is poetry, which she started writing when she was only 12 years old.

Many readers and writers of poetry, including University of Tennessee English professor Marilyn Kallet, believe poetry is a powerful tool for dealing with tragedy and disaster.

Dr. Marilyn Kallet, a poet herself, has formed this opinion after her own close brushes with tragedy. Professor Kallet was at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport on September 11, 2001, as the 9/11 attacks happened. She was also in Paris in November 2015 during the deadly terrorist attacks that left 130 dead and many more wounded. In both instances, Kallet says that instead of retreating inward and trying to hide or block out the tragedy, she immediately reached for her pen and pad, using poetry to sort through the shock and emotion of such horrific experiences.

Professor Kallet has since passed her technique along to others. After the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, in July 2016, she encouraged her doctoral student Ben McClendon to collaborate with her on a poem about the tragedy. A gay man himself, McClendon took the opportunity to use his voice for good, refusing to remain silent in the wake of such violence. He reports that the process aided him in dealing with his own emotions, calling it “incredibly healing.”

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