24 Aug Poetic Responses to Photographic Images of Women in War

The poetry below represents the work of several first-year students enrolled in the introductory creative writing course at Illinois College. The students, Denpota Furugaki, Teresa Umoren, and Wilson Webel, were enriched by writing ekphrastic poetry about the photography in the online slide show, “Women Between Peace and War.”

Upon viewing the slideshow, all students in the course were given the opportunity to reflect in writing about the images of the various artists. By engaging in the art of another, students push themselves past their own imaginative limitations. Because of the connections they make between images created by others and their own imaginations, the writing student benefits greatly from working with art, especially that which tells true stories of important travesties in our world. Writing about art that depicts a range of human conditions resulting from atrocity – whether of despair and poverty or the beauty of endurance and strength – may strengthen their community awareness and prompt urgently needed service. In other words, by engaging in artwork that depicts matters of cultural importance, students build their consciousness. In the process, their writing itself may become less about self-revelation and more about the world.

Publishing encourages writers to reflect on the impact of their own efforts in light of the artwork and the condition of the world.  At the same time, the students help to build others’ consciousness by means of sharing their words.  As writers who produce meaningful works that are made available to the public, students are helping to further the agenda of peace-keeping by contributing to programs such as ART WORKS Projects.  Publication in this and similar venues may lead to meaningful reflection on the part of their readers. Thus, each student-poet’s response is a call to the community, and publishing becomes community activism as well as community art.

The Illinois College students wish to offer their poetry to help raise awareness in the global community, whether as a form of protest against the atrocities of war, as an instrument of hope, or as a declaration of admiration for the strength of the women of Afghanistan.  We hope that in some small way these words will contribute to change for the good.

Dr. Cindy A. Cochran
English Department
Illinois College
Jacksonville, Illinois

Poetry and Women Between Peace and War

Photo by Moises Saman

History Repeats
We came out as our root prevails on the world.
History has proven the nature of beings
The consequence that has repeated from a similar cause.
We humans tend to hold anger, as we take a hit.
Small mindedness that cause revenge.
Do you see the ideal tomorrow in that thought?
In the worldwide extent of humanity,
Ignorance and such attitude repeats history.
The reality is that this world is filled
With selfish beings that see only themselves.
Thinking is part of effort to change,
Thus humanity needs to come up with new thought.

I chose this picture because it resembles the consequence of war and conflict. My poetry emphasizes the fact that human beings always cause conflict because of ignorance, resentment, and selfishness. A new thought for me is being humble enough to understand no one is above anyone, being aware of all the sufferings, and having the great extent of mind to believe we are all family. [Denpota Furugaki ’17]

Women Between Peace & War Poetry

Photo by Jean Chung

Torn between willpower and the struggle for oxygen
My dreams are foggy before my eyes
Caged, constrained, my lungs
Lungs that threaten to explode with the burden of sacrifice
Invisible, Invincible, my spirit
Respire, clear the path for your courage and creative energy
The life I give is yours to keep.

I chose to write on this picture because even in her helplessness, her strength of will appears to seep through. The picture evoked a sense of struggle and yet the tenacity to survive. It is still yet moving. [Teresa Umoren ‘17]


Women Between Peace & War Poetry

Photo by Stephanie Sinclair

My smile bleeds the pink of my agony
Betrothed against my will
They sold my dreams
They told me to sit still
My soul is a carefree white, pure and untouched
Scorch the fabric of my innocent desire
I will still dance with the wind.

I chose to write on this photograph because her peaceful ambience even in the face of a devastating situation is one that is worthy of emulation. This is a poem that reflects my yearning for my past childlike innocence. [Teresa Umoren ‘17]

Women Between Peace & War Poetry

Photo by Lynsey Addario


She’s Strong
She’s pure.
While she lives in a world
Filled with war and hate from
Both her country and ours.
She is pure of heart with
Hope-filled eyes and the innocence
Of a child.
She’s beautiful.
With a missing arm,
Ratted hair, and a
Dirty red sequin dress.
Her beauty does not compare
To that of any other because it lies within.
She’s strong.
She lost her family.
Her days are filled with the
Sounds of guns, screams, and terror
Yet she still manages a hopeful smile.
Yes, she is strong.

This image spoke strongly of the tensions between the individual and war. [Wilson Webel ’17]

Women Between Peace & War Poetry

Photo by Paula Bronstein


Maadar Says
Mother says we must wait in this line.
She says that it gives us freedom,
That father was kind to let us come.
Mother says that I must be a good girl
That it is a privilege to be here to
Get to do what she calls vote.
Mother says we must not speak.
She does not remove her Burqa.
No one in line does.
The men watch mother as she
Puts the paper into the box.
I don’t look them in the eye,
I know better than to do that.
Mother says it’s time to go now.
She doesn’t explain to me why we came
Or what she did. Just says maybe one day
I will be able to do the same, but
In a country of freedom.
That’s what Maadar says.

This image spoke of the confusion war brings and the increased importance of the mother to the war-time child. [Wilson Webel ’17]

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