The Nightingale Editor and Awakened Voices Associate Editor Megan Otto shares reflections on April.
Reflections on April: Awareness and poetry
by Megan Otto
April is commonly known as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but it also happens to be National Poetry Month. Watching both unfold this year, as a part of the literary team for Awakened Voices, I learned more about how the two connect. Reading the perspectives of dozens of awakenings authors, within and outside April, I saw that combining awareness and poetry can be a powerful recipe for healing. When poetry comes into the conversation about sexual violence, the dialog feels gentler, and it feels more like progress. It felt natural that one should serve as an effective tool to talk about the other.
April as an awareness month increases society’s knowledge of the nuances of sexual violence so that we can begin to effectively combat it. But April as a celebration of poetry also leaves me with the reminder that we also need to be aware of how the people affected by sexual violence feel, to listen to their voices and stories, so that we can act with empathy. Choosing to think both critically and with empathy, as I’ve seen at Awakenings, creates a discussion that anyone can participate in, no matter their place in their journey of healing or learning about the issue.
Poetry spreads voices and articulates ideas in an abstract but effective way. If trauma isn’t easy to talk about directly, sometimes it can be easier to talk about in a poem, or another mode of art. Art within the context of a difficult topic or problem is a method of moving forward with that problem, and everyone who has submitted to Awakened Voices or The Nightingale gave readers so much to think about, learn, feel, and share. If awareness is about seeking to understand – or, for those who are already aware, to implore others to understand – art is a marvelous way of accomplishing this. April as a mixing bowl of awareness and poetry leaves us with a way to move forward, to progress.
I feel so grateful for the specific kind of attention that Awakenings encourages and allows me to pay to survivors. In the form of submitted poems, fiction, and memoirs this April, I was able to explore their artistic expressions of hurt and healing. Combining awareness of sexual violence with poetry helps achieve a greater level of understanding about the issue, both for myself and for others who engage with the art. The combination of the two feels like something is being accomplished because something is being made. Awareness is processed and turned into art that exists in the world on its own and does its own good – it’s something new.
We cannot thank you enough for lending your voices and attention to Awakenings. Hopefully April hasn’t been too hard on you, and if it has, well, it’s finally behind us. We hope The Nightingale will continue to be an online space for you all to join us in spreading awareness and expression through art. We’ll use the art to help others better understand, and our community will continue to share stories and truths to help one another heal.
Megan Otto is delighted to be a part of Awakenings as the Editor of The Nightingale. She is a graduate of Kenyon College with a B.A. in English and Creative Writing, and she is now based in Chicago. When she’s not daydreaming or making a run to the library, she can be found drinking lots and lots of tea.