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What is a Professor of Poetry? How can poetry be professed?

~W.H. Auden

 

Human-trafficking

 

My next poetry manuscript is about commercial/sexual-exploitation (aka, human-trafficking) in America——tentative title: Object. I chose this title because it works on several levels: first, as an indicator of what buyers think they’re getting when they purchase a human being; second, as an indicator of the trafficked person’s ignored or violently silenced NO; and third, as a plea to readers to say NO to objectification and all forms of trafficking.

 

Poems from this manuscript have been published, or are forthcoming, in: Rattle, Mud City Journal, Waxwing Review, Oddball Magazine, The Philadelphia Review of Books, Green Mountains Review, Crab Creek Review, Naugatuck River Review, Ibbetson Street Review, Mom Egg Review, and in Veils, Halos, & Shackles: a Poetry Anthology on the Abuse & Oppression of Women.

 

My blog posts about trafficking have been regularly posted on the Amirah blog site; Amirah is an advocacy group for human-trafficking survivors; to access those articles: CLICK HERE. I started blogging for Amirah after I directed a Boston-based arts-benefit for the group, called "A Night of Freedom".

 

My article about Amirah's July 2014 panel event “Anti-Human Trafficking in America: Messy, Difficult, and Gratifying Work - from the front lines” can be found: HERE.

 

As well,here is an interview with a survivor advocate Jasmine Mareno that I conducted for the Amirah Blog:"Jasmine's Story: a Survivor Speaks "

 

In addition to writing about human-trafficking, I've also been teaching poetry workshops to survivors in order to empower them to tell their own stories in their own way. My first class ran in the Winter of 2014. Here's an archived account of the fundraiser I ran in Summer 2014 in order to continue the classes: "Help Fund Free2Write Poetry Workshops for Human-Trafficking Survivors". To find out more about the poetry workshops themselves, visit: Free2Write Poetry Workshops for Trauma Survivors.

 

My article in Anchor Magazine about lessons learned while teaching Free2Write classes, titled "Avoiding Volunteer Burnout with Mindful Self-Care", can be found HERE.

 

Amirah asked me to edit and produce a chapbook anthology of survivors' poems--some writers had been my students; the result was: "On Our Way to a Miracle" which launched at the benefit exhibit "ArtSpeak" in March 2014, in Salem MA. In my talk introducing the chapbook, I had the honor of also introducing some of the brave writers who read their poems and spoke about the healing power of the arts. Amirah regularly sells the chapbook to raise funds for thier safe house which is located North of Boston.

 

My hope is that Free2Write programs will be taught every where there is a need; to this end I've featured in panels and poetry readings at The William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences. As well, I've organized a panel discussion called "Teaching Without a Net: Resources for Teachers of Non-traditional Communities" (featuring Jill McDonough, Fred Marchant, Julie Batten and Kathleen Ryan) which will be presented at the Associated Writers Program Conference (AWP) on April 9th 2015. Our discussion will cover funding, proliferation, curriculums, and the how-to's of teaching poetry workshops to "non-traditional" populations including: trafficking-survivors, war-veterans, prisoners, homeless folks.

 

As for why I’m writing about this——I’ve met many modern abolitionists who tell the same story I tell: I was at church one Sunday and heard a sermon about a grisly encounter with trafficking, about trafficking stats and survivor stories; I was so horrified and sorrowed that I knew instantly I had to do something proactive. Yet, as I’ve interviewed survivors for Amirah and for my poems, I've realized that my life has been riddled with encounters with objectification; that there are experiences I haven’t processed, and certainly haven’t written about, that give me a foundation to talk about this scourge of the 21st century which is rightly called: SLAVERY.

 

You can read more about my writing process in my article for Solstice Magazine called: The Politics of Empathy..

 

One of the Object poems published in Waxwing Review, titled "Power Play", was read at the 2013 Universal Peace Federation Forum: Human Trafficking and Poverty, a Critical Connection. Angelika Selle, president of Women's Federation for World Peace USA, said this before reading the piece: "We can see from this poem, that indeed the issue of Human Trafficking has not been around since yesterday or recently, but from the beginning of time. And it is my great hope that in this forum we will be able go even a bit deeper in terms of unraveling the cause of the problem and come up with solutions." Click this LINK to read a transcript of the event.

 

Also, in 2013, I had a chance to talk about how I use creativity and creative endeavors to help raise awareness about modern-day slaverly at the Women's Federation for World Peace National Conference in Washington D.C.

 

 

21st National Assembly 4th Panelist: Jennifer Jean from Women's Federation on Vimeo.