Poems for the People of Boston Project

By Cate Henry April 20, 2013 06:00 AM
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Poems for the People of Boston Project

California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera finds a way for for himself and his students to reach out to the victims and families of the Boston Marathon bombing and opens it up for the public too.

As Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside, Herrera said his students were beginning an assignment when the bombing occurred–to write poems as letters. “We went outside into the cold. We formed a circle, 44 of us,” Herrera recalled. “We walked (around campus) and back into a circle. We lifted our hands. We let them go into the sky, and then we wrote.”

There expression was the basis of this new project–Poems for the People of Boston. Herrera explains it, “When tragedies happen, that is a call for the poet to write, to speak and remember…I am doing this because I made a promise to Gov. [Jerry] Brown that I would call upon the people of California to express themselves through poetry. Everyone is a poet in the 21st century. We cannot wait to become poets; we must act now and be poets.”

Even President Barack Obama turned to poetry in his speech on Thursday to a Boston congregation, “It was a beautiful day to be in Boston. A day that explains why a poet once wrote that this town is not just a capital, not just a place. Boston, he said, is the perfect state of grace.” Statesmen often look to poetry as a way to overcome and articulate how we feel. An article talks about poetry therapy, “the word therapy, after all, comes from the Greek word therapeia meaning to nurse or cure through dance, song, poem and drama.”  And poet Stephen Dobyns writes in his book Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry, “I believe that a poem is a window that hangs between two or more human beings who otherwise live in darkened rooms.”

Today Boston is still a darkened room. Why not reach out from wherever you may live and write your own poem as a way for us all to heal from this tragedy.

Anyone who would like to submit a verse to the “Poems for the People of Boston” project may do so by emailing Herrera at juan.herrera@ucr.edu or posting on his Facebook wall. The story was picked up by NPR and Herrera posts on his Facebook page “by poets, I mean, everyone — eh.”

Here are a few of the poems:

the runner

light            the spirit
that is
the kindness
to save all
to heal     all
through the world   oceans
the world weeps
for kindness
the runner
there is no  win   no loss
— Juan Felipe Herrera
California Poet Laureate

A Letter to the People of Boston

A letter to the fallen,
The hurt and the confused.
A letter to the souls
Who were taken, killed, and used.

Blood lines the street
And debris fills the air.
Sky and Concrete meet.
Somewhere in the middle is despair.

Sadness fills the sidelines.
Sympathy engulfs the crowd.
Embrace the ones around you,
For love is the most important sound.
— Danielle Onasch


The world is still good
there is still kindness in the hearts of most
using their light to guide their minds
and hearts, delicate ones that
shine with courage, don’t resort
to a painting dulled by hate
this world is not solely sullied
by the tar of the loveless
they are just a few
we are the majority and pull through.
Don’t forget Boston, the world is still good.
— Monica Arellano