For the Wednesday, February 7th SASAH class of ARTHUM 2200E, “History and Theory Across the Disciplines,” I had the opportunity to listen to my classmates give their responses to prompts in regards to poetry, the value and impact of which was our topic for that week. It was one of the most emotional classes and set of presentations I have ever had the privilege of listening to. I ended my presentation with this statement: “I think poetry makes us angry, it makes us cry, but most of all, it makes us gentle”. This was unexpectedly well received, upon which I recognized that my cohort had perhaps unknowingly bonded that day in just a few hours.
Several of us cried when presenting (I most definitely did!), and others cried with us. I think in moments like these, our tears are just as communicative as our words because they make our emotions tangible. I learned that the individuals in my SASAH cohort are all incredibly tender people based on our interactions; the silences were not awkward, but compassionate, and reflections were thoughtful and gracious. I became even fonder of my cohort that day.
What I had not realized I had witnessed that day was what Professor Henri Boyi, when he came to visit the AH2200E class on Thursday, March 21st, calls Ubuntu. Ubuntu means that we are persons through other persons. This is a concept that fascinates me in of its apparent simplicity. I was and still am struggling to come to grips with what it means to be human. Furthermore, how do I discern the world and leave it and the people living in it better than how I found it? Ubuntu, which means “a person is a person through
other people,” has left a lasting impression on me. It led me to think about my interactions with others and how my relationships shape me as a person. I find that genuine compassion and the willingness to put others first is a form of humanism truly difficult to grasp. This is where poetry comes in. Poetry is often personal, a portal to a part of the heart that is utterly our own, but which interior ultimately affects those around us. As spectators and creators, this kind of vulnerability is affective; when you or someone else shares such a delicate part of their heart through poetry, we all share the responsibility to handle this material with care. Thus, we all become gentle – we learn Ubuntu. That is what makes poetry so powerful: to soften hearts and bring people closer together is perhaps the best starting point for change. As cliché as it may sound, it is in moments of epiphany like these that I realize the incredible capacity of writing. And I am grateful.