Poetry Pharmacy: Poems to bring people together

Apr 11, 2019
Artwork by: Carly Roberts

Dear Poetry Pharmacy,

My two children, five years apart, loved each other when they were young. Now they are on opposite sides politically, and one is straight and the other gay and they cannot see eye to eye. I would love a poem that speaks to waging peace between divided family members. I know this is a tall order but do so believe in the wellness and balance poetry can bring.

Yes, one important thing poems — and art in any form — can do is to show another vantage point: art can help us remember that seemingly oppositional or foreign beings probably have a lot more in common with us than we thought.

This Poetry Pharmacist tries, herself, to keep in mind that we often have a choice when we are in relationships with others: We can focus on being “right,” or we can focus on connecting. Humans need connection to survive. Insisting on being right, on the other hand, often leads to unhappiness and isolation. A line springs to mind from June Jordan’s poem “Poem about My Rights”: “I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name.”

Jameson Fitzpatrick wrote a poem after the massacre at Pulse nightclub you could read to your children. “A Poem for Pulse” points out, by calling attention to words themselves, the ways we needlessly separate ourselves from others. “There are always people who aren't queer people / on the sidewalk on weekend nights,” who, Fitzpatrick writes, are referred to as “just people, I guess,” untethered to any marker of difference. The poet reminds us, “Love can't block a bullet / but neither can it be shot down, / and love is, for the most part, what makes us — / in Orlando and in Brooklyn and in Kabul.”

I also highly recommend a great poem by Chen Chen, “Poplar Street,” in which the poet notes, “Sometimes, parents & children” — although one can certainly substitute “siblings” — "become the most common strangers. Eventually, / a street appears where they can meet again. // Or not.” That “or not” is important, too, because of course there are no guarantees about and no controlling other people’s relationships. But toward the end of the poem, Chen writes, “I’m trying out this thing where questions about love & forgiveness / are a form of work I’d rather not do alone,” and that, to my mind, is itself something to which we can aspire.

All of these poems can be read in full on the Poetry Foundation website, poetryfoundation.org.

Thank you for finding space in your life for the remedy of poetry.

Full versions of all poems mentioned in this column can be easily found for no charge online through the site mentioned or by searching for the title and author’s name. Or consult your local librarian!

Behind the counter at the Poetry Pharmacy is Arielle Greenberg, Belfast Poet Laureate for 2019 & 2020. Arielle invites you to write in with your poetry needs to belfastpoetlaureate@gmail.com. She will fill prescriptions in this monthly column.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.