My mother, a prolific listener of audiobooks from her many years of long commutes, likes to send me recommendations for podcasts sometimes; one that’s really stuck with me is Pádraig Ó Tuama’s Poetry Unbound. I truly don’t know how popular it is, or if everyone I know who likes poetry is already over it, so apologies if I’m walking in here like “any of you nerds ever hear of Star Track?!” But I really like listening to Ó Tuama’s soothing voice and gentle perspective.
In particular, one episode on Rafiq Kathwari’s poem “Mother Writes to President Eisenhower” has been on my mind, perhaps because of certain recent events involving the British monarchy. I found the poem and the episode about it affecting on their own merit, but also because of what is left unsaid: Ó Tuama doesn’t claim to have deep knowledge of the history of Kashmir or of Partition, and he unpacks the work without comparison to his own experiences. I wouldn’t have known, if Mom hadn’t mentioned it, that his career background is in conflict mediation, and specifically in working in reconciliation organizations in his native Ireland. I’m glad the things he chose not to say weren’t lost on me, here.
“I think he’s inviting us to pay attention to all the other voices that it can be easy to consider silencing, as a result, perhaps, of not liking the medium of their communication or as a result of thinking, oh, they’re just distressed because of the war. He’s saying, Yes, they are; and listen.”