Daily Video

December 15, 2008

AIDS Poetry Reporting Aims at Young People

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Poet Kwame Dawes returned to Jamaica, the country he’d grown up in, last year to document the lives of victims of HIV/AIDS. More than one in every hundred people on the tiny island nation is infected with HIV.

While there, Dawes talked to people from all walks of life dealing with the stigma of AIDS.

Some of the conversations and stories were sad and painful. To deal with the emotions and the journalistic dilemma of objective reporting, Dawes used the emotional and psychic truth of poetry-“and a way in which the contradictions of experience are articulated through rhythm, and sound, and the beauty of language, and the quest for language and meaning.”

The project, part of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, aims to tell stories in new ways to engage a generation of young people who are turned off by traditional journalism and media outlets.


“Our goal at the Pulitzer Center is to engage people, particularly non-traditional audiences, young people who are not paying attention to newspapers or not subscribing, they’re not looking at broadcast television news, and we’re looking for ways to go to them.” – Jon Sawyer, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

“Poetry for me has always been a way to process, experience. It has always been a fascinating way to turn experience into something that is, frankly, beautiful.” – Kwame Dawes, Poet

Warm Up Questions

1. What is the difference between an objective report in a newspaper and a poem?

2. What are some different forms of writing? What can poetry do that essays or reports cannot, and vice versa?

Discussion Questions

1. Do you think this is a good way to tell stories? Why or why not?

2. What are the challenges of telling stories the way that Kwame Dawes tells stories?

3. Did you like the poems? Do you think they do a good job of describing the experience of AIDS?

Additional Resources

Transcript of this report

Poetry Series

The AIDS Crisis

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