Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On Telling the Truth

I was listening to a podcast today from an NPR program called On Being.  This is the information from their website: 

On Being is a spacious conversation — and an evolving media space — about the big questions at the center of human life, from the boldest new science of the human brain to the most ancient traditions of the human spirit. The program began as an occasional series on Minnesota Public Radio in 1999, then became a monthly national program in September 2001, and launched as a weekly program titled Speaking of Faith in the summer of 2003.

On Being is heard on a growing number of public radio stations in the U.S. — 240 and counting — and globally via Internet and podcast. In 2008, the program was awarded the highest honors in both broadcasting and electronic media — our first Peabody and our second Webby Award. Being is the only public radio program in the U.S. to achieve this distinction. 

The specific program I listened to was entitled "Words that Shimmer".  It was a conversation between the host Krista Tippett and Elizabeth Alexander about how poetry is filling a specific need right now; how people seem to be hungering for the straight truths that are told in poetic form.  

Ms. Alexander is a professor of African American Studies at Yale University and wrote and delivered the poem "Praise Song for the Day" at President Obama's Inauguration.  On the day before the Inauguration, she was on The Mall as they were making preparations and doing sound checks.  The audio technician asked her to say a few lines of poetry into the microphone so they could check the sound quality.  She began reciting a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks called "Kitchenette Building".  Hundreds of people were milling about The Mall, but as soon as Elizabeth began reciting the poem, they stopped their movement, paused and listened to the poem.  When she was done, they applauded.  She said it was incredibly inspirational to realize the power of poetry in that moment.  She came away with an even deeper understanding of the emotion conveyed through a few lines of fine verse.
For the many poetry lovers and lovers of words on Open Salon, I encourage you to listen to this enlightening podcast.  You will find the link below.  

Poetry is accessible, valuable and transcends the soundbite jargon that currently consumes most of the airwaves and print technologies.  We have an opportunity through poetry to tell the truth in a way that is accessible and desirable.  I wrote a poem called "On Telling the Truth" to add to the discussion..

On Telling the Truth

I will speak the truth
In words
That resonate

They will not deceive
Or leave you holding
An empty vat
Of hollow sound,

A sound that
Neither sates your hunger
Nor fills the void
Of longing,
Longing for the truth,

That’s what you wish for,
Is it not?

If I tell you the truth about life
And death
Love and hate
Will you believe me?

What if I tell you I have no answers,
But I will search with you
Until we find the truth?

Then don’t believe me,

I do not know the truth,
I cannot find the truth,
But I will search with you
For deeper meaning,
Deeper understanding,
Of all that exists,
And we will come closer
To the truth;
That I can promise,

Is the willingness to search
Together enough,
Even knowing the truth can’t be found?

Seeking the truth may be
the only truth
we can hope for.

Please enjoy the video of Ms. Alexander's Inaugural poem:


On Being link:


  1. I agree that searching for truth is what we must do and that we will never really find it. At least not on this side of life. And that's ok. Thanks so much in helping us all on that journey.

  2. And thank you for being on the journey with me.