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Knowledge, power and the capacity to change


I've written about poetry before, because, as both a journalist and a poet, the lyrical, mystical, profound, angry, loving and authentic world of words compressed into lines and stanzas is powerful.

In these tumultuous times - no matter where we fall on the polarized scale - poetry provides an empathetic look into the lives of others, to feel their joys, to experience their struggles, and perhaps most important, to look find in ourselves the capacity to change.

The just-released fifth edition of DoveTales: An International Journal of the Arts, published by the organization Writing for Peace, features both new and established poets (as well as talented artists, photographers, essayists, and fiction writers), writing on the theme of "Refugees and the Displaced."

Carmel Mawle, founder of Writing for Peace and editor-in-chief for the issue, says: "Their suffering is in the front of our collective consciousness ... their situation has descended to new levels of hostility and danger."

The Writing for Peace mission is to cultivate empathy - through education and creative writing - that allows minds to open to new cultural views, seeking to value others' differences, as well as the hopes and dreams that unite all of humanity

As the new president of Writing for Peace, I also believe that a strong and empathetic future will be built by today's young people, and to that end I support programs that develop a spirit of leadership and peaceful activism. As an example, in "Refugees and the Displaced," the winners of the Young Writers Contest demonstrate reflection, knowledge, authenticity and power in their poetry.

I found Lisa Zou's first-place entry, "She Serves in Ben Hai" haunting in its tenderness ... about family, aging, and the shadows of displacement created by the Vietnam war.

A high school senior, Zou is passionate about shedding light on human rights issues and education for young girls. "Writing is a way to express, but more importantly a record of living," says Zou.

She writes: "... Each summer, my grandmother knits guilt / into my waitress dress and hot privilege lacquers my tongue. / I swallow each gated community, each 'made in Vietnam' sticker, / one bleached spoonful after the other."

Second-place winner Lydia Chew, also a high school senior, looks forward to studying political science and aspires to work in government and politics. A strong proponent of political activism, she is also passionate about social justice and civic education, and appreciates healthy doses of introspection through literature

In the poem, Chew's speaker issues an apology to a young woman harassed in school because she is Muslim. Chew writes: "I don't know if you remember me, / but this is my apology. / ... I remember that I never saw you, / I only saw your hijab / ...This letter began as an apology from me to you, / but this is bigger than the two of us ... This is the message that peace will overcome hatred. / This is my hope."

Such words remind me that we all have the capacity for change, for thoughtful consideration of our beliefs, our prejudices, our world views. In young poets such as Lisa Zou and Lydia Chew - and, indeed, in writers of all stripes - we find knowledge, authenticity, power and the capacity to change.

Andrea Doray is a writer who also believes that peace can overcome. Contact her at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

Andrea Doray


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