Kate Abbott: The power of shaping stories

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Noah's wife - who has no name in the Old Testament - sews seeds into the linings of her sleeves in Hannah Fries' poem, trying to save a few wildflowers as the storm comes. Fries said she often writes poems to fill the gaps, to tell the stories she has not yet heard.

She read in an evening of poems, stories and essays with roots in faith, an event with the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. It became a joyous conversation about turning the gaps into center stage.

Sokunthary Svay grew up in the Bronx. In poems and essays, she told us her parents have survived the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, though her older brother did not. She brought the quiet room into her teenage insistence on learning the flute, as she grew to love Khmer pop music and the Mozart requiem.

Rachel Barenblat, Rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, and the Rev. Liz Goodman, pastor at Monterey Church, read side by side with them. I think now about Rachel's poems in the voices of Hannah, of Abraham and Sarah, and about the young white couple in Goodman's short story, adopting an infant of color, I am thinking of one theme in this week's magazine — the power of telling your own story.

Sokunthary told us about a book she had bound at the Monterey Library book sale —the story of the first women to form Buddhist monasteries, told through their own poetry. I'm glad we can hear their voices.

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