Literary academic Giselle Rampaul asked both writers to engage the notion that they speak about trauma in their work, in distinct patterns, endowing it with fresh, thought-provoking considerations. Shara McCallum voiced what she thought might’ve been an unpopular sentiment, stating that, for her, the act of writing itself can be its own catharsis, at times even more so than the content, than the story her words have told on the page. (I see why this rationale could be thought of as less flattering to the sensibilities of a reader, but I remind myself, time and again, that there are no hard and fast rules for writing/appreciating poetry, and that poets have every right to respond to their poems differently, with a separately engaged narrative than their audience does.) D’Aguiar’s response had much to do with gratitude: the sense that he is deeply thankful in the here and now, and has been growingly grateful over time, for all his poems as they’ve come to him; for all the things they revealed, even miles and miles after they’d been written. Both poets urged, to young writers: read, read, read, read! Seek out as much work as you can, by as many writers as fascinate, intrigue and shock you. Poetry, they concurred, is someone’s life, someone’s testimony to being alive… so absorb as much of it as humanly possible. I could think of no finer sentiment on which to conclude this year’s poetry sessions. I know I’ll spend every day I’m fortunate to read fiction carrying out just that advice.
Photo by Nicolette Bethel.