Hey y’all. I hope everybody is doing well. I miss you all so much! I’m posting a quick message before I head to bed. Hopefully I’ll have some more time to write now that the weekend has arrived. It has been quite a busy week.
As most of you now know, I recently announced that I am going to have several poems published in a collection this spring. I’m every excited about it, and it has been funny to share the news with friends and family back home while I’m in Afghanistan. It has actually been a really nice way to connect with everyone back home, to reach out and enjoy feeling the love I get back, to close the distance for a little while.
Being able to make this announcement at this point in time — while I’m living and working on the other side of the world in such a harsh place, with such amazing people — has been strange but also good timing. I have taken a brief break from writing, and having these poems accepted, ushering them through the editing process, and receiving such positive responses from all of you have been a good reminder of this “other side” of me. I am excited to keep writing, and hopefully I will produce more poems to share, possibly about my travels and time in Afghanistan and beyond!
I had an interesting moment when I told the Afghan women in my Kabul office about receiving the news that my poems were about the be published. I had never talked to them about my writing or that part of my background, so it was the first they had heard that I write poetry. They were very kind and excited for me. But what really touched me was that one of them exclaimed, “Ah! I understand you now!” as though she had just figured me out and was now satisfied that she really knew me. I thought that was an interesting response, so I asked her what she meant. She told me that she had always thought I was “different,” by which I think she means different from other Americans she has worked with and known. The fact that I am a poet explains why I seem so different. She said, “You are not like the others. You listen to us with your ears and your heart. You speak with your heart. You know us with your heart.”
I felt deeply touched by her words and more than a little complimented. It is not the first time one of the Afghan staff has told me that I seem to understand them “with my heart.” Empathy goes a long way here and seems to have helped me connect, make friends, and do my job better — a job which is ultimately about helping people. And I think they’re right — being a poet has a lot to do with who I am, how I view the world, and how I connect with people in that world. Studying poetry, reading poetry, writing poetry — literature teaches us how to know others through our hearts.
Perhaps this should be my answer when people ask me if I’m using that literature PhD, eh?