Trapeta Mayson, Philadelphia’s current poet laureate who spoke as part of Lehigh’s Global Citizenship conference last winter, has launched the Healing Verse Philly Poetry Line.  Callers may dial toll-free 1-855-763-6792 to hear a 90-second poem, updated every Monday.  Mayson, who is also a social worker, started this project because she recognized the power of poets to offer what many really need to hear right now – words of hope, encouragement, condolence, inspiration, and healing.  The first poem that was featured on the hotline was Mayson’s own work, “In This Season”:

In this season of shifting, of barrier-breaking, undoing, unearthing, uprising, leveling, you, beloved, may think yourself too small.

But what a world you are! What sphere of shocking beauty and grace!

During the last 15 months of the pandemic, we have been reminded to trust the science.  We have all leaned heavily on the science to understand COVID-19 — how close to get to people, when to come to campus, when to wear our mask, what types of masks to wear, and now how vaccines will help us get to the end.  

But projects such as Healing Verse Poetry Line — and publications such as International Voices — also remind us to trust the art.   There are some things from the last 15 months that science can’t tell us – about how to understand loss, grief, racial injustice, or how to find hope, help, and resilience.

Art in all its forms brings people together by allowing us to explore together our very humanity. It nurtures the spirit and calms the mind. The United States poet laureate Joy Harjo observed in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine that “Poetry tends to hang out at points of transformation.  People may not have much interest in poetry at all or even read it much, but when a death happens in the family, or some other grief event, or marriage, or falling in love, or falling out of love, birth – people always turn to poetry.”  Perhaps this is why booksellers in France cited fears of increasing “cultural isolation” and campaigned to be classified as essential alongside grocery stores and pharmacies during the pandemic.

This fifth anniversary issue of the refounding of International Voices includes contributions from students at an historic time. The short stories, poems, and visual art may provoke, stir, challenge, and empower.  They may offer catharsis and even some hope.  International Voices reminds us that even though we aren’t all together on campus in Bethlehem, we are still very much a community. 

In short, we need both the science and the art.  We need both the life saving and the life affirming.

Cheryl Matherly

Vice President/Vice Provost, International Affairs