Writing poetry in Rwanda: a means for better listening, understanding, processing, and responding

Pages 71-83 | Received 20 Mar 2016, Accepted 20 May 2016, Published online: 15 Dec 2016

This article reports on the early stages of a multi-year project using writing to facilitate healing among university-aged survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Working with genocide survivors carries with it expected and unexpected personal and professional complexities. Drawing on early versions of her own published and unpublished poems, the author demonstrates by way of example the role that writing poetry and the use of poetic inquiry played in addressing those complexities. The article includes an overview of the project that took place in Rwanda and describes the challenges inherent in working with survivors, then lays out the role that poetry and poetic inquiry can play as a means of engaging with this sort of difficult research. Through the inclusion of the poems themselves, the author explores the ways poetry affords opportunities for listening, understanding, processing, and responding to others. The article concludes with an explication of the broader implications of this work.

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