Poetry in Service of Community

“Practicing the Complex Yes,” by Kim Stafford.

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.



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.