kaona

"Is there anyone out there?"

Kaona / koan: Jamaica Osorio and Norman Fischer voice the conflicts

Photo: Courtesy of the White House by Chuck Kennedy

The students in my graduate poetry course on documentary poetry worry about voices. Some of them are writing about persons at risk: a homeless woman who loves to dance, inmates sent to prisons in other states — or locked up here at home. They're also writing about themselves and what they’ve lost, be it a grandfather or a culture or the tangled combination of both. Whose voices can they use? How do they cite what they quote of these voices? Are they potentially causing harm to those whose voices they use? Should they use names? Specify places? Beneath all these questions are worries about themselves, the possibility for self-harm involved in act of speaking out. Surely to put someone else’s words to paper is to implicate yourself.  So the question is, how to write voices without superintending them; how to be author without presuming an authority that puts others in psychic or physical danger.

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