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  • Writer's pictureAriella Pinedo

Writing and Empathy | The Words Between the Words

Updated: Aug 29, 2020

How is poetry understood? Is it through the lens of empathy? Does it help drive the point of across? Empathy is not just important in poetry, it's valuable in life. I attempt to paint emotions in a way that it's understood to help empathize with those around you and then perhaps practice that empathy. See beyond you and through the lens of others.

I sat with a photographer to talk about how we use empathy in our work. We sat in a room that was being illuminated by the glare of strobe. The heater was on and 90s pop music playing in the other room, it was almost like they were fighting for attention by seeing who can make the most noise. Dan turned on the recorder and paced a bit. I can see it in his face that he was trying to figure out how best to formulate the question. He's excitement for this project couldn't beat his tired eyes.

You see, that is what we do. Dan studies life behind a camera ( and me behind words; Dan captures an image and paints it with words. My work is meant to cut through the bullshit because I prefer the more direct approach to my writing. I want my readers to feel a little less alone, that maybe those feelings you can't really describe on your own; someone else feels them too.

Dan believes that empathy is a concept that continually needs to be reworked, so he asked me, "what is a lesson on empathy you want to show?" As if it were an instinct, I responded that I believed that empathy is always being tested. I've seen so many times that if allowed to help someone, most people would just look the other way. "Writing Off the Warhol Next Door" talks about that. (Find poem under 'Writing Samples') I was always taught to not necessarily think less of myself but also not believe that I'm better than everyone else. It made me approach life with an open mind.

I'm not sure how my writing would be today if I hadn't been open to others' many teachings. At times as a fly in the wall, I studied people's interactions with others, and I try to translate that into my work. One lesson in empathy I want to leave with is approach life with an open heart and listen a little more often.

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1 Comment

Maura Larkins
Dec 13, 2019

You have said so many things here that I agree with. I love the line about not thinking we are more than others or less than others. I think that each person occupies a pretty stable position on the empathy spectrum, determined mostly by our genes and our early experiences. Then, in later years, some people work at expanding their empathy, while others, sadly, either suspend it or work to get rid of it. Suppressing empathy seems to be a popular goal in some political circles today. I am glad we have people like you and Dan care about it.

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