Learn how Hedy Tripp’s work as a poet invites people to foster the art of empathy
Recently I wrote about what empathy is and why we each have a duty (to ourselves and to society) to cultivate and strengthen our ability to connect to one another by understanding the similarities of our emotions. In that same article, I explained that reading literature (or hearing it performed) fosters empathy. Lyricality exists to help us all become more empathic people.
Listen to Hedy Tripp’s Poetry Presentation: Flex your empathy muscle
I invite you to strengthen your empathy-muscle by bringing your attentive, open-minded listening presence to Hedy Tripp’s brave, honest, in-your-face performance of her poetry and Asian American women’s herstories on September 14th, 5:30 – 7:00 pm, hosted by Unite Cloud on Zoom.
Hedy Tripp was born and educated in Singapore. A Saint Cloud elder with the Minnesota Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL) and retired professor/lecturer, she came to her identity as a poet late in life, she says, “Because I never had time, earlier, to say, ‘I am a poet.’”
For the past year, a Central Minnesota Arts Board (CMAB) Artist Career Development grant has allowed Hedy to intentionally immerse herself in what it IS to be a poet, to understand what lyrical poetry is, and to create Black-Indigenous-People-Of-Color (BIPOC) poetry by studying with BIPOC poets, especially Southeast Asian poets.
I first met Hedy through the Central Minnesota Arts Board’s discussion series on Race and the Arts and got to know her a little bit better when she worked with me as one of Lyricality’s collaborators in the creation of the communal poem Looking Back to Imagine Who We Could Become, commissioned by Paramount Center for the Arts for its 100 anniversary.
By immersing herself in the life of a poet, Hedy recently learned that to arts organizations and arts funders in the Twin Cities Metroplex, central Minnesota is considered “Outstate.” Compared to the Metroplex, cultural resources in central Minnesota are more limited, hard to come by. One of the common themes I’ve heard from poets and writers in central Minnesota is that it’s hard to build and sustain a thriving literary community here. It’s even harder for BIPOC poets, let alone Southeast Asian women poets.
“It’s much easier to do poetry and literature in the Twin Cities,” she said.
Fostering the art of empathy through poetry and story in central Minnesota
The reason Lyricality is advocating for, and working hard to build a strong literary community in central Minnesota is not because we think literature is cool, but because we believe literary artists and the organizations that support them are necessary resources for fostering empathy.
The Twin Cities has nationally lauded literary resources that cultivate not only empathic people, but, by extension, more empathic communities. Every night, somewhere in the metroplex, there’s a literary reading. There are ample opportunities for workshops, classes, and gatherings of people who share a commitment to building and enriching a literary culture. For this reason, it has been customary for poets and writers from this region to travel to the Twin Cities to participate in that culture. And it’s probably not inaccurate to say that most of this region’s young artists relocate. Hedy’s own artist/writer children moved to the metroplex. And while it’s only 90 minutes away, it’s just not here.
Lyricality is partnering with organization and artists like Hedy to build and enrich culture here, where we live. And Hedy is partnering with us, as well as with Unite Cloud and CMAB because, she said, “Central Minnesota is where I live and where I can offer resources that are hard to come by. Outstate Minnesota is where we are. How do we steward our resources?”
I’ll repeat that, because it’s an important question, one I’d like all of us to be thinking hard about: How do we in central Minnesota steward our cultural resources?
I wrote about the importance of questions two years ago in a conversation with Mara Faulkner. Questions, by challenging the status quo, open individuals and societies to change, to grow, to recognize the truth of the matter. Only when we know what is true, what is really happening in us, to us, and around us, can we respond in a way that is helpful and good. In other words, questions facilitate transformation.
Hedy Tripp’s Presentation: A fusion of historical/academic presentation, narration, and poetry
Hedy Tripp’s upcoming presentation will be a fusion of historical/academic presentation, narration, and poetry. The massacre of Asian women at a spa in Atlanta, Georgia is among her topics. She asks, “How did we get to the point that somebody could walk into a salon and kill Asian American women?” She works to break down the stereotypes people hold of Asian women, particularly the unquestioned assumption that Asian women are subservient and gentle.
“Let’s talk about the word gentle,” she said. “And how are we respected? Are we going to be gentle because we’re afraid of white people’s feelings? What are you going to do, how are you going to respond to someone who is obnoxious—disrespectful to you?”
When we start with an assumption that to be uncomfortable is bad, that discomfort is to be avoided, we create a whole series of disconnections. Connections facilitate transformation; disconnections are at the root of violence.
Hedy insists on truth. I applaud her, as do wisdom teachers across time and cultures who repeatedly have told humanity that the truth will set you free. She came to the identity of being a poet late in life, but now she says boldly, bravely, “I am a poet.”
I asked what it means to her to say that.
“It’s empowering,” she said. “To be a poet is to be able to express myself in a way that people will understand and hear, because the words flow and give people new meaning and perspective.”
What kind of poet does she seek to be, if not gentle?
“Authentic. Honest. In your face, with content warning. Challenging. Brave. Telling the story as I see it. BIPOC.”
Hedy Tripp on How poetry facilitates clarity
We talked about the how poetry facilitates clarity.
“I can come to the point much faster than an academic presentation would allow,” she said, “because I can use metaphor to describe an issue. Metaphor is a part of lyric poetry, and also a powerful teaching tool. To [hear me] read as well as perform, a poem on breast cancer gives the audience a much greater impact than if I were to lecture about breast cancer. The lyrics, sound, cadence of a poem enter a person’s understanding a lot quick and remains a lot longer. Poetry brings in all the senses, which is more difficult for a lecture to do.”
She sees herself as a retired professor-lecturer who is still involved in co-facilitating introductory antiracism workshops, now using poetry—a great tool for educating.
I know not all the people in central Minnesota see the need for us to educate ourselves about racism, to become anti-racist, but if you are among those who have seen our need, I respectfully implore you bring your attentive, open-minded listening presence to Hedy Tripp’s brave, honest, in-your-face artistic presentation of her poetry, prose, and narration on Asian women in America on September 14th, 5:30 – 7:00 pm, hosted by Unite Cloud on Zoom.
Expect to be uncomfortable. She will not sweeten or gentle-down the uncomfortable moments. She will use direct imagery to bring you into the experience of how it feels to be told, “Oh, your English is so good,” when English is your mother tongue, and you’re a professor, and you have a better command of the English language than the people who mistakenly think they are complimenting you.
Hedy Tripp: about being uncomfortable
You may wonder why Hedy Tripp wants to make you uncomfortable.
She says, “I do not want you to be uncomfortable. But my poetry will touch on difficult social issues. I am not responsible for making you feel comfortable or uncomfortable. The question is — do you want to deal with the issues or do you want to remain in your comfortable space so you do not have to feel uncomfortable?”
(Check out this article about highly empathetic people, and why they challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what they share in common with others rather than focusing on what divides them.)
“It’s not my role to make people feel comfortable,” Hedy Tripp says. “My role is to tell authentic stories through poetry and the arts. My role is not to challenge you. As a poet I want to tell authentic stories through poetry. My primary goal as a poet is to do poetry that tells the truth in history, in emotions and feelings, and I believe I can do that.”
Lyricality agrees, Hedy. You can do poetry that tells the truth. And for that—for your lyrical truth-telling—we thank you, applaud you, respect, and honor you.