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Reflection and Resurgence: Poetry throughout Changing Times

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It's safe to say that just about every event that has affected me deeply—the deaths of my husband and father, my experience living abroad in Poland, my growing up in a multilingual environment, and more—has found its way into my poems.

For me, poetry presents a shaped and distilled version of my inner life that intersects with the outer world. This awareness is not only personal, but also social and political.

As Poet Laureate, I put on a series of readings called the Borderlands Project on each of Indiana's state lines, featuring poems about home, borders, migration, and immigration by writers in our state and their counterparts in the neighboring ones. These occurred in Madison, South Bend, Richmond, and Terre Haute.

The attic of the Terre Haute Art Museum offered a fascinating backdrop for the reading of Hoosier and Illinois poets. The Italianate windows at floor level cast a glow over the audience. I read a poem called "Ancestry.com" about some immigrant relatives who died in 1920, during the last pandemic.

As the poet Naomi Shihab Nye once said: "Poetry is a conversation with the world, poetry is a conversation with words in which you let the words speak back to you, and poetry is a conversation with yourself."

Sometimes I wonder how people bear their deepest griefs or give voice to their most radiant happiness without poetry.


Written by Karen Kovacik, Indiana's Poet Laureate from 2012-2013.

Visit Karen's website here.