California Poet Laureate starts Unity Poem for Newtown victims

Courtesy of UCR Today
Courtesy of UCR Today

In response to the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting that took place Dec.14 in Newtown, Conn., California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera took to his Facebook page and posted a heartfelt poem entitled, “Little Ones We Carry You.”

Much like a previous project of his, “The Most Incredible and Biggest and Most Amazing Poem on Unity in the World,” Herrera not only included his own effort but also the contributions of anyone inspired enough to write a poem pertaining to the incident.

According to UCR Today, “By the morning of Monday, Dec. 17, nearly two dozen individuals had contributed their thoughts as well, some in Spanish, most in English.”

Even afterward, poems continued to make it to his page and on Thursday, Dec. 20 Felipe posted, “Keep the Unity with Newtown poems coming—we will be collecting them Saturday… And I will send the entire canasta to Sacramento for further news and all points beyond. To Pres. Obama and Newtown as you know. Thanks so much once again—let your heart flow…”

One particular contributor was Melissa Garcia, who posted her poem on Tuesday, Dec. 18.

“Truthfully I wrote the poem even before Professor Herrera asked for poems,” stated Garcia. “I am a graduate from the creative writing program [at UCR] and I write poetry. When I woke up that morning and saw the devastation on the faces of the people affected by the massacre I truthfully couldn’t stay at home so I went on a walk with my sister and that is where the poem stemmed from. The poem is just speaking in retrospect to my life and paying respect to the lives lost that day. I decided to submit the poem to not only myself but give voice to them, to allow others to understand how precious our lives are and that believe that my words—poetry can heal and [unify] people.”

The Connecticut school shooting is the second deadliest in history, after the Virginia Tech shooting of 2007. The shooter, Adam Lanza, is responsible for 26 deaths, 20 of those being children. He was also found dead by first responders due to a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

“I just think it was one of those life changing moments for people,” said Peris Wambui, a fourth-year English major, about the shooting. “When I heard about it, I couldn’t believe the number of lives that were lost. And most of them being children. Its like, you don’t even feel safe just living your life,” she said.

Although she didn’t contribute to the Felipe poem, she also shared what she thought about it.

“I wasn’t even aware that he did that but I think that’s a great sentiment,” Wambui said. “I’m sure people will really appreciate that. The idea of including other people’s poems is interesting too. I think it allows people to heal together,” she said.

Nick Ohashi, a senior majoring in public policy, shared a similar reflection of the incident. “For me it really brings to light how easily life is destroyed and how massive an impact one person’s actions can be,” said Ohashi.

Karen Mai, a fourth-year English major, stated about the poem, “I think that’s an awesome thing to do. There was so much negativity going around, I think having someone actually showing empathy and unity gives back hope to people,” she said.

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