Carolyn Forché refers to the poems in her anthology, Against Forgetting, as work produced by those who “endured conditions of historical and social extremity.” Poetry of witness, therefore is a tangle of the personal and the political simply because its executor is reacting to both. Our class’s workshop with the BreakBeat Poets called upon us students to become witnesses of our own histories—as varied or familiar as they may be. My response to the woman I mentioned above was an excited comment about how important it is for me to tell my story—my history, rather than reading it in the media—often by someone with no life experience as a Hijab-wearing Muslim woman.
One of the first questions I asked my fellow classmate, a Writer in Baltimore Schools student, was why she calls herself a writer. Upon asking her, I recognized that this is not a question I tend to ask myself often. I tend to consider myself “almost there” or “not a writer yet.” But as I’m writing this reflection it is rather clear that well written or not, I do consider myself a writer to some degree. After reading poetry from the BreakBeats Poets anthology, the question of identity became forefront in my mind. I’ve found identity is inherently twofold: it is how you perceive yourself in tandem with how you are seen by the world around you. An example: the students and professors I met the spring of my sophomore year have most likely never known me without my hijab (or don’t realize I’m the same student they saw around campus the year and a half before, pre-hijab). I however see myself as a women new to the life of a hijabi, not as seasoned as my fellow women who have weathered the comments and criticisms of people who ought to say less than they do or educate themselves more. Therefore, when I hesitate to consider the struggles of these women my own, it is because I know I have not shared those experiences (and I almost cringe to say ‘yet’).
However, as I continue to wear hijab, I’ve learned to begin considering myself as one of these women. Prior to taking this class, I knew that my reservations about considering myself a writer was rooted in the question of what my story would be, exactly. It seems that as with being a hijabi, being a writer is something I am. Needless to say, this has not solidified my identity question in a day: I see myself constantly in a state of change and consideration, wondering what my story will be. Of the poets included in this week’s reading, there were some that wrote with their identity inherent in their writing, as the medium itself, while others mused over the question of identity as the content. The poets, and their poems, called on both myself and other readers to consider our identities. I’ve found that for my story, whatever it may be, there are endless possibilities of how to incorporate my identity into it.
 Forche, Carolyn. "Twentieth-century Poetry of Witness." American Poetry Review. Vol. 22, No. 2. March/April 1993: 9-16. Print.