In the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake, ripples from the tragedy shook Nepali citizens living outside of Nepal. Samyak Shertok felt the weight of the tragedy fall heavy on his shoulders, and turned to poetry for solace. Studying for his master’s degree in creative writing at Arizona State University, Samyak had used poetry for the purpose of healing as a visiting poet at the nearby Mayo Clinic. He decided to turn his gift for poetry into a project that would help his fellow countrymen heal from the trauma caused by the horrific quake. Samyak’s project, entitled “Healing Through Poetry: Nepal Earthquake Relief” was funded through Kickstarter, a popular online crowdsourcing site. Samyak’s belief in the power of words, coupled with his passion for his country, inspires many.
Tell me the basics of your project. What inspired you to create it? Healing Through Poetry: Nepal Earthquake Relief strives to help Nepal heal and rebuild through poetry that at once embraces, documents, and transcends this historic tragedy as it is happening. I will go from house to house and talk to the earthquake survivors and write poems for them. I’ll also run several poetry workshops for the young people in the hope that it will help them confront the tremors that will be felt for years to come.
On your Kickstarter page, you talk about the people you helped at the Mayo Clinic as a Visiting Poet. How did you get that position? How did that experience change you? It was an internship. It’s a collaborative effort of the ASU Creative Writing
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Program and the Mayo Clinic called Poesia del Sol. The project is led by Alberto Rios, the inaugural Arizona Poet Laureate and a professor of creative writing at ASU. It was meant to be for a semester, but I feel very fortunate to be doing this for almost a year and a half now, thanks to Alberto Rios, Corey Campbell, and Katherine Kough. Just like with any other job, there are difficult times when you don’t find a willing patient or the patient you’re working with turns out not to be a good fit for the project. But most of the time, I receive overwhelmingly positive feedback from the patients. One woman, who was waiting for a new heart, after reading the poem, told me, “You bring back so many memories.” A veteran who hadn’t eaten all day concluded, “You were my medicine today.” There have been experiences of this nature, and it’s incredible to see how one poem can help people feel so much peace and comfort.
How do you think this project will help your people? What change will it bring about that otherwise wouldn’t have happened? The first goal of this project is to simply listen to the stories of the people who have been affected by the earthquakes. To listen to them as a friend. To listen to them wholeheartedly without any purpose or reward attached to it. Not as a counselor. Not as a journalist who is interested only in the story. This act alone can bring great relief and comfort to many people as I have witnessed it firsthand at the Mayo Clinic. After that comes the time to look at the story I have just heard and see if I can create a poem out of it. Some poems can focus on one specific moment or image while others can
Photo by Syamsul Ardiansyah
RISING FROM RUINS
Published on Jan 12, 2016
Winter is here, but adventure awaits! Strike up a conversation, spark a new interest, or slip into something familiar in this issue of Stowa...