Bill Diskin is the Poet Laureate for the city of York, PA. Every other Thursday, he writes a column for The York Daily Record. You can find those columns about poetry at his Poetryork blog, but you”ll find a great deal more there as well. You”ll find poetry – not just his own, but that written by people who live and work in York, and write about life and death and work and joy and tragedy and baseball. Diskin”s column and blog are another of those special treasures that I run into when I”m poking around looking for something else. In this case, I was looking for more information on the subject of poetry and healing, the subject I wrote on yesterday. What I found was this…
Is there a role for poetry in a society burdened by public tragedies?
In yesterday”s blog entry, Diskin wrote about two local writers and shared the poems that they wrote to help them deal with the tragedy of six little girls shot to death in an Amish schoolroom. The poems that he chose touched me with a special lightness, because they echo a poem that a friend of mine is working with. All three poems share a tone – a gentleness and grace that lifts them above revenge and hate and makes them truly healing poems.
And I believe there is a reason for this – a reason that”s touched on by the other poet that Diskin wrote about in the same column, Joseph Maldonado. Maldonado is a journalist who often contributes to the York Daily Record. He was stunned to learn that one of the families involved in the shooting at the schoolhouse was a family that he had written about some years ago. He said,
Maldonado admits that his initial personal reaction was a desire to seek revenge on the shooter. “But this is not the way of the Amish”, Maldonado says.
I believe in the power of words to heal and to hurt, to enflame and to douse fire, to bring people to their feet or to their knees. The same poem that is only words to one person can bring about a transformation in another – and that transformation can have powerful results. Diskin believes in the same things – this is not the first time that he has written about the power of poetry to heal. On September 26, he wrote about Olivia”s House, an organization of caregiving professionals whose mission is to help children deal with grieving. Poetry is one of the tools that they use. His August 1st column quoted poet Robert Hess:
In July, he wrote about how poetry and parenting. In June, about poetry and building community. In May, he pointed to an article in the Philly Inquirer about the growth of online poetry communities. I suspect that if you asked Diskin if poetry is dying, his response would be a resounding, “Hell, no!”
Diskin uses his columns and his blogs as a platform to introduce readers to other poets, to share poetry that he loves, and poetry that he has written and to talk about poetry and what it does in the world today. His focus may be regional, but it reflects the role that poetry is taking on around the country. Words, skillfully crafted and carefully chosen, can be far more than flat letters on a page. They can help start and promote healing in those that take the time to listen and let themselves feel along with the poet. Thank you, Bill – and thank you, Jonathan, Marion and Joe for the poems that brought tears to my eyes and gentleness to my heart.
Diskin”s Why Poetry Matters from Susquehanna Life Magazine
Bill Diskin”s Personal Website
Submission Guidelines for York Daily Record
YorkWritesJr Blog edited by Diskin, children”s poetry
YorkWrites poetry by York residents and others
RSS Feed for PoetrYork Blog