As I consume news stories about people worldwide in different situations, I try to imagine how they feel and write poems about them. The other day I was wondering if it was actually appropriate to do so, since these are people I have never met in my life, and I don’t actually know how they feel besides how things are portrayed in the media. I have written about refugees, Afghan women, Olympic athletes and tried to capture the emotions that they might have, but this is purely conjectural on my part. This poem highlights my dilemma..
How do I write authentically?
When I write, does everything have to be about me?
What if I try to tell a story that is not mine?
Try to inhabit someone else’s mind
In words, try to bring into existence
Another human being’s very different experience?
I read, hear, watch stories of people in crises everywhere
I share nothing in common with them, I’m aware
I’ve never met them, first-hand I do not know
How they really feel, what the media shows
Is all I can base my understanding on
Sometimes stories are shared by those who have undergone
Hardships in life, that I consume and am moved by
But telling their stories in my words, is it even appropriate to try?
I can include only my experiences in my writing content
But my predictable life is limited in the extent
To which it can generate ideas compelling
There is not as much in my life worth telling
As in that of people in different circumstances worldwide
But in writing about them, am I accurately representing their side?
I have tried to imagine and write about
Refugees, war-victims, victims of violent crimes, and no doubt
I cannot fathom how they feel in their lives
I try to honor their indomitable spirit to survive
Despite the hardships that they continually face
Therefore, even though I may be quite out of my place
To write about people I have never met
I write about them, as a gesture of my respect