Poetry in Service of Community
After the divisive presidential election of 2016, Kim Stafford, associate professor and founder of the Northwest Writing Institute —and now Oregon’s ninth poet laureate—began writing a series of poems to “understand the work we have to do if we are to be one people living by kindness together again.” The result was a small self-published volume of poems called The Flavor of Unity: Post-Election Poems, which includes the poem below.
PRACTICING THE COMPLEX YES
When you disagree with a friend,
a stranger, or a foe, how do you
reply but not say simply No?
For No can stop the conversation
or turn it into argument or worse —
the conversation that must go on, as a river
must, a friendship, a troubled nation.
So may we practice the repertoire
of complex yes:
Yes, and in what you say I see …
Yes, and at the same time …
Yes, and what if … ?
Yes, I hear you, and how … ?
Yes, and there’s an old story …
Yes, and as the old song goes …
Yes, and as a child told me once …
Yes. Yes, tell me more. I want to understand …
and then I want to tell you how it is for me… .
From The Flavor of Unity: Post-Election Poems, by Kim Stafford (Little Infinities, 2018). For copies, visit www.lulu.com.