Haiti Living Hell

How poetry helped her cope.

Posted Feb 09, 2010

By Kristin Vukovic

I began mentoring Kerline, a 16-year-old Haitian girl, a couple of months ago through Girls Write Now, an organization that helps underserved or at-risk teenage girls find their voices through writing. Not long after our initial meeting, the January 12, 2010 earthquake happened, Kerline lost her best friend and some relatives, but luckily her sisters, who are still living there, were unharmed.

Sometimes the best way to cope with difficult things is to write, even though the act itself might be extremely difficult. I told Kerline it's a way to prevent everything from festering inside. Even if you can't find the language to describe your thoughts and feelings, even if you think you've lost your voice, try. The words are somewhere inside you.

Robert Carroll of the UCLA Department of Psychiatry wrote a compelling review in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, "Finding the Words to Say It: The Healing Power of Poetry," in which he endeavored to help the reader experience for themselves the power of poetry to heal through one's own voice. He asserts, "Finding the words to articulate a traumatic experience can bring relief."

Kerline told me that her poem "Haiti living hell" came to her while watching CNN with her father. She was transfixed by the statistics, the rising death toll, and thinking about the home in Haiti she had left only three years ago to come and live with her father in Brooklyn. She wrote to me in an email, "I wish that had never happen. I can't never go to Haiti again. My families are ok but the sorrows are just multiplying by numbers."

While watching CNN, Kerline sat with her journal and scribbled down statistics from the news and the thoughts that jumped into her head. What eventually resulted is her riveting poem, "Haiti living hell." She will read the poem at the Girls Write Now spring reading series, which is free and open to the public (for more information, call 212-336-9330 or visit girlswritenow.org).

—Kristin Vukovic is a PT intern.

Haiti living hell

7.0 magnitude earthquake

How does it feel to be there?

Shakes right to the heart and soul.

The pictures of loved ones

Start falling off the wall.

The house starts shaking

Plunging right to the ground.

The house is tearing apart.

Blocks start to collapse

Young children start to cry

jezi jezi edem!

Jesus Jesus help me!

Mother crying out

Kote timoun mwen yo

Where are my kids?

Father reaching out to his son

Sister can't help her brother.

2 month-old baby

New to the world

A victim of broken bones.

12 year-old girl

Seeing such a disaster

And still surviving after 6 days under concrete.

Port-au-prince now without a port.

3 million now traumatic.

The capital is now

The capital of dead bodies.

200k into the truck

Dumped over the mountain.

People crying for help

The president is now homeless.

No power, no electricity

Mostly no food and water.

Haiti is now on the big screen.

The voice of help is reaching out to heaven

Has God forsaken them?

Voices of the world,

USA, Europe, Africa, Asia

Unite as one to help.

Haiti is now a living hell.

--Kerline Louis