Responding to tragedy is never easy. Words are insufficient to answer deep, soul-wrenching grief. While nothing can erase the pain of loss and destruction we don’t understand, poets have a special gift for helping others’ grief, in a small way, escape into expression.
And, what is more, expressions of empathy in one medium (poetry) have the ability to effect a chain reaction of similar expressions in other media (sculpture, journalism).
That’s why I’ve chosen “Poem Inspires U.S. Sculptor to Honor Quake Victims” by Melissa Block at NPR for the next ProfoundNet. Here’s a snippet:
Last year, a week after a massive earthquake rocked southwest China, we aired a poem on All Things Considered called “Elegy,” by Chengdu poet He Xiaozhu.
Little did we know that when we returned to Sichuan province this year, we would meet an NPR listener who was so inspired by the poem, he decided to make a sculpture based on it.
Steve McGrew of Washington is a blacksmith who has visited China multiple times. Himself a victim of an earthquake in California, McGrew was deeply affected by Xiaozhu’s poem. His sculpture, an iron-and-silver depiction of a dandelion emerging from a cracked boulder, will be displayed at a new museum commemorating the victims of the earthquake, in Sichuan, opening tomorrow, May 12.
What a beautiful reminder of the ability of literati to inspire acts of compassion and empathy around the world. Thanks, Melissa, for a thought-provoking article.
‘Elegy’ by He Xiaozhu
Thousands upon thousands of anguished cries
Returning to silence and tranquillity
Heavenly acts cannot be predicted
The moon over Wenchuan
Still, a question mark
Aftershocks extend to Chengdu
Sorrow engulfs half the world
Tears turn to ice
Let candlelight melt them away
Children, climb on a dandelion
and line up for heaven