Write or refuse to write – “Poems for Tragedy and Grief” on poets.org

After seeing the news this morning of the tragic shooting in Orlando, I found myself in deep despair for the families affected, for the LGBTQ community, and frankly, for humanity. I wasn’t sure what to post on my blog today or if I even should post on my blog today. Sometimes, incidents that occur in the world can utter us speechless, create pockets of silence, and/or create upheavals of noise. I’ve found the ability to see history through the poetry of surrounding events an invaluable insight into those who lived, survived, and died in times I cannot always access in other ways, e.g. history books.

I found this poets.org article “Poems for Tragedy and Grief” and the poetry it contains a mild comfort this morning, if only in solidarity and sympathy. Not only do “these poems try to help us to heal, or give us wisdom, or lend support in time of need. . . . If they don't say the unsayable, then they attempt it valiantly, speaking when we are afraid to speak, and bravely giving a voice to a collective grief.” On the other hand, for some, silence may be the only option. Specifically, a quote from Billy Collins stood out to me in the article, in reference to September 11:

“There seemed to be pressure on well-known poets to produce a poem, or refuse the opportunity, as the new Poet Laureate Billy Collins did, saying in an interview with NPR that the occasion was ‘too stupendous’ for a single poem to handle. He said that the terrorists had done something ‘beyond language.'”

As poets and writers, we all make decisions to determine what we write about, and what we don’t. For me, writing heals. But I think it is also important to acknowledge that for some, silence may be the only option. It’s a personal decision, but I do hope that if you write and that when you are ready, you will choose to write.


Trish Hopkinson has always loved words--in fact, her mother tells everyone she was born with a pen in her hand. She has two chapbooks Emissions and Pieced Into Treetops and has been published in several anthologies and journals, including StirringChagrin River Review, and The Found Poetry Review. Hopkinson is co-founder of a local poetry group, Rock Canyon Poets. She is a product director by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and their two outstanding children. You can follow her poetry adventures at https://trishhopkinson.com/.

2 replies »

  1. I hear what you're saying that the terrorist have done something “beyond language". Still, it is my belief that one of the terrorist's aims is to shut up free expression or anything that disagrees with their self-serving, violent ideology. We must counter that however we can, though I don't mean we should get expressive about our political or religious views. It's not for us to hold our feelings in and despair. Thank you for sending this site.

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