On using poetry in political dialogue

Struggling To Dialogue Over Israel And Palestine? Try Poetry. – Polina Kroik – The Forward – 1/22/18

“Though we had a lively discussion, the debate never turned acrimonious or openly political. The poets’ affecting voices and powerful imagery allowed students to empathize both with the Israeli and Palestinian speakers without rushing to assign blame.

“It was also significant that the call for empathy was not overwhelming. Good poetry is unique in its ability to combine personal, concrete elements with abstract ideas. After the first emotional response, the poem asks the reader to think about the larger questions. By following this trajectory in Darwish’s and Amichai’s poems, my students and I were able to engage in a respectful discussion, informed by empathy and curiosity.

“In addition, poetry is a genre that tolerates ambiguity…A poem can hold two contradictory perspectives in productive tension, teaching us that sometimes it is just as important to withhold critical judgement as to exercise it.”


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