Thursday, September 3, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Leona Sevick

We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond.  ― Gwendolyn Brooks  

Split This Rock Virtual Open Mic announcement includes a black background with red Split This Rock logo, text that reads "Virtual Open Mic," and an illustration of a hanging lamp sending out rays of light over a laptop.
As we journey through political, economic, and global health crises, we turn to poetry to share truths that unearth underlying causes, illuminate impacts, and insist on transformative change. For many of us, today’s challenges are not new. The struggle of isolation, economic insecurity, inadequate medical care, deadly institutionalized negligence, governmental decisions that put Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, disabled, sick, and other structurally precarious people at greater risk are not new. Today, many more people are experiencing the vulnerability of these unrelenting issues. We recognize this opportunity for a heightened awareness of how our very survival depends on one another.

Poetry can help keep the flame of resilience, solidarity, and resistance alive in us. It can help us process and move through grief, anger, loneliness. Poetry can be a comfort when the most necessary actions are to rest and recover. It can remind us of what’s at stake, that our lives and legacy are worth the fight. As cultural workers, we know that culture shapes our political and social imagination at a foundational level. As poets, we can use poetry to map what is, what has been, and possibly, the way forward, including the reasons not to return to what does not honor and protect our lives, our communities, and our planet.

We asked poets to give us the words they chant to get out of bed, to raise their fists, to encourage their kin, to remind us, as this crisis does, that “we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” To read all of these poems, visit Split This Rock’s website.


By Leona Sevick

“Star Gazing Platform,” 7th century Korea, Silla Dynasty

I think of her leaning over ink-stained scrolls,
closely examining lines that would become
the cut granite fitted together just so, 
one for each day of the lunar calendar. 
Holding back the long, silk sleeves of her hanbok,
she lowers her face to the paper, pictures
night growing dark inside the square aperture
through which everyone, even peasants, will pass.
Inside, they will turn hopeful gazes upward
to the top of the tower, quietly sense
the hanja whispering “well” to the bright stars.
Now they’ll believe the rains and strong sun will come.
It is the second year of Queen Seondeok’s 
reign, and her people find themselves in the skilled
hands of a benevolent woman ruler.
They would have pitied us here in America.

Listen as Leona Sevick reads "Cheomseongdae."

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