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August 22, 2006

The Shelter of Poetry

Several years ago now, in the May/June 2001 issue of Poets and Writers magazine, a series of articles appeared on the topic, “Writing as a Healing Art.” Among these, perhaps the most compelling was a feature by Felicia Mitchell on Frances Driscoll, the author of a volume of poetry, The Rape Poems. Driscoll was working as a poet, beginning to publish her work, when in 1987 she was raped. She stopped writing after the rape. She believed, she said, that she would never write again. And then, gradually, poems began to come.

One such poem is entitled, “Island of the Raped Women.”
It contains these lines:

We all sleep through the night. We wake eager from dreams
filled with blue things and designs for hats.
At breakfast, we make a song, chanting our litany
of so much collected blue. We do not talk of going
back to the world. We talk of something else. . .
(Read the whole poem here.)

In the article in Poets and Writers, Driscoll speaks about the responses she gets to this particular poem:

Little girls barely out of their teens ask. Sometimes college women ask. The question is always whispered. The question is desperate and urgent. The question always breaks my heart. The question is, ‘Where is the island?

Where is the island? It’s such a moving question, such a poignant question. It also points to what is possible: words powerful enough to create an island. Words powerful enough to create shelter.

For the reader?
For the writer?
For both?


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