Truth, Justice, and the Poetic Way
By Kristen Thompson, Associate Coordinator, Bluegrass Writers Studio
In my writing, I often explore injustice, oppression, and the brackish waters of human rights and resilience. Not only major events, but the smaller things, times when things just don’t go right. There are exceptions, of course, poems with more tender sentiments, but most have to do with loss on some level. I guess that’s the soul of my poems; then I craft the bodies. I’m very concerned with accuracy of form and sound, and making the poem work on multiple levels. I guess you could say I want to do justice to the subject.
I often joke that poetry is Truth and therefore is nonfiction, but I take the element of truth seriously. I’m a fact-checker. It would be impossible to write a poem of emotional truth while you're supplying your reader with falsehoods. When writing a poem about the exhumation of Pablo Neruda, I read news articles until I was familiar with the history of the Pinochet regime and accusations. Then I tossed all of my notes aside and wrote a love sonnet to the poet, unrhymed, to honor his way. The research I had done gave me confidence in my understanding so I didn’t get tripped up being unsure.
I had a friend translate that sonnet into Spanish so it could appear like Neruda’s poetry books, the translation and the original side by side. The highlight of that, for me, was learning that the men who vanished during the Pinochet regime were referred to as los Desaparecidos. The Disappeared. Chileans have a word for them. I consider the form of that poem to be the Spanish and English versions side by side. The Desaparecidos are part of it now. I believe I have done the best I could for Neruda and the disappeared.
I don’t feel the need to overwhelm the reader with information, but I also have to be sure I’m not giving misinformation, or leaving the reader with too many questions. The reader should be able to trust that I’m telling them all they need to know. For me, that means speaking from the well-informed heart.
Published on August 04, 2014