Kosal Khiev Eloise benissan

Kosal Khiev is an exile from a US prison who used poetry as a way to express his pain and turn his suffering into something beautiful. He considers that his poetry was born the day he was, in a refugee camp in Thailand with his three brothers, three sisters, parents and grandmother. His first poem, however, he wrote when he was twelve but his sister found the poem and because he had written about his true pain, his sister was shocked to read the things he wrote. She told his whole family about the poem and he stopped writing poetry for fear of being discovered again.

"I remember someone telling me it takes only a couple of seconds to make a mistake, but it takes a lifetime to correct it. I'm still paying for my mistakes now,"

That incident was the end of his poetry for a few years until he got accused of attempt in murder in the US and was tried as an adult at the age of 16. Khiev was sentenced to 16 years in prison but only did 14. His poetry started in that time of solace and boredom, where his only means of entertainment was to write everything in his mind down. In prison he got into a fight with some inmates and says “When you're in an environment of monsters you almost become a monster in order to survive” Khiev was sentenced to solitary confinement for one and a half years. This is where he truly found his voice among the silence. He would write all his thoughts, dreams, fears, and nightmares down and started using poetry to survive through the pain. In what he called a cave, sometimes he read his poems aloud and other inmates would hear, they started asking to hear the poems and that’s when he started performing spoken word.

I write for men, women, and children. anyone who ever felt alone, anyone who ever felt disowned
His poems speak a lot about the pain of feeling alone and as he paces around the room describing this unforgettable sadness, it is easy to sympathise with this man who seems to make us feel his pain with him.

As he speaks to our class of twenty-five students he seems to observe us as much as we observe him. As if picking out each individual that might be able to understand this suffering that we have never felt. He talks about prosperity and how he has broken out of this cycle he calls poverty and although the poems are not an outlet for his sadness anymore, they are a voice for those who don’t have one.

His poem, ‘Why I write’ is a perfect representation of the man he is. In the poem he talks about what he’s writing for and especially who he’s writing for. It is clear that he is trying to be a role model, for kids like him, that he never had. Someone that understands and went through the same thing. In the first line where he says, “I write for men, women,and children. anyone who ever felt alone, anyone who ever felt disowned” it becomes obvious straight away that he’s trying to prove that it is possible to survive that emotional pain and that he is living proof that it gets better. As he talks about this in the conference room it is easy to see that although the pain is still there, he has moved on, accepted it, and turned it into something greater. Even as he is questioned about what must be some of the most traumatizing moments in his life, he is not even fazed and will answer any question.

This, I believe, is true strength. Being able to overcome so many obstacles and to come back and to something good for the world is what makes Kosal Khiev the incredible person he is.

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