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  • Writer's pictureMichi Marosszeky

The Politics of Poetry with Michele Seminara

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Poetry, as I learned during my conversation with Michele Seminara, is a powerful conduit for connection. It’s “a web of connection through thought and word”. It’s the place where two hands touch, and it’s the warmth that remains after they part.

Michele is an accomplished poet, writer, editor, and mother of three. Her poetry speaks of womanhood and its joys and pains, as well as reflections on other poets. Whilst reading her poetry, I understood it to navigate the line between personal and political, because Michele’s lived experiences are used to comment on injustices within society. This approach to storytelling really resonates with Woven Thread’s mission to tell real stories in order to make real change. I wanted to understand more about Michele’s

process and her story, but above all about how she uses poetry to move through the world. Michele kindly agreed to chat, so we sat down one afternoon to talk poetry.

After introducing ourselves and connecting over our shared love of writing, we got right into discussing the power of storytelling. Michele noted that it is almost impossible to convey a message to someone by lecturing them because they will put their walls up. Sharing stories is an alternate, and more effective way of communicating a message. When you hear someone else’s story, you get a sense of how their experiences have led them to take up that position. You begin to feel empathy, which leads to connection. As Michele says, “real change comes from people’s hearts and actually connecting with each other and listening to each other’s stories”.

This rings especially true at the moment, when the gap between left- and rightwing is widening, and people are becoming more and more staunch in their opinions. In the media we see both sides of the political spectrum trying to persuade the other through a barrage of words and facts. Sharing your story can make you feel vulnerable, but this vulnerability is what allows other people to open their hearts.

In fact, it was a form of vulnerability that led Michele to find poetry in the first place. She was well into her career as a prose writer when her family began to face some tough times. Michele believes that when we are experiencing times of turbulence we often don’t have the mental capacity to read or write longer-form fiction, so we reach for poetry. During difficult times, “sometimes work that’s well-crafted and plotted and linear isn’t necessarily capable of reflecting the often tumultuous state of your mind”. In this sense, poetry is innately political. Many of Michele’s favourite woman writers, including poet Sharon Olds, only began writing later in their lives. Many women are so occupied with the challenges of raising children or earning enough money to live that they don’t have the time to write until they are much older. Poetry can be a perfect form for these women, because, unlike prose, poetry can be written in the brief

moments of peace between the chaos of life.

We traversed many topics in our conversation, but the one that most resonated with me was Michele’s belief in poetry as a tool for connection across culture and time. Through her writing, Michele has formed deep friendships with a variety of people, including Mohammad Ali Maleki, a refugee who was detained on Manus Island and is now living in Brisbane. Their mutual need for poetry compelled them to work

together to edit and publish Mohammad’s works.

During our conversation, Michele was constantly referencing other poets and writers. She spoke about how “when you read a poem or a piece of writing from hundreds of years ago, you’re making a connection with that author and taking a little bit of their mind and heart into yours”. Even though Michele has likely never met these people, she speaks of them fondly, as if they were her friends. You don’t need to meet someone to know their story, you just have to listen to what they want to tell the world.

Perhaps by telling our stories we are becoming amalgams of each other. We learn from other people’s experiences and let other people in when we are the ones sharing. Poetry is an especially important mode of storytelling. As Michele says, “it’s a written form that travels purely from one person’s heart into another person’s heart”.

Find the full interview here


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