Humans of the ISM | Bethany Carlson, M.Div. ’16

Literature, Student Life, Yale School of Music

In February of 2016, renowned journalist and poet Eliza Griswold spoke at the Whitney Humanities Center about her experience in reporting on women in Afghanistan, the Syrian refugee crisis, and persecution of Christians in Iraq under ISIS. She also discussed how her roles as poet and journalist intersect. Tara Jamali interviewed ISM student Bethany Carlson, M.Div. ’16, who was at the event, about her takaways from Griswold’s lecture:    

The most dynamic part in going to an event like this is the ability to be vulnerable in the presence of someone else, and I really appreciated [Griswold’s] attention to this aspect and her being vulnerable with us. She talked about the struggle of trying to come up with an ethic for journalism, specifically in dealing with people who are tremendously suffering, and yet wanting or needing to have some sort of story.

As a poet, I pay attention to language. The tone [Griswold] had while reading her poetry, which was like a collection of images – very acerbic and concrete – revealed a lot about how she internalizes different roles as a journalist.

I feel like her style of putting images into words is very reactive, coming out of a need to memorialize things she’s not able to capture in the journalistic format. My own poetry is different in that I need to have a lot of images conveyed through words, not for the sake of remembering things necessarily, but for the sake of expressing the more fragile and fluid contours of art. It’s still reactive, but in a different way.

I currently lead the Asian Student Alliance at Yale Divinity School. As spokesperson for that group and a member of the ISM, the events of this past year and specifically last semester really forced me to think about how those two roles are conjoined, and how viewing myself as a woman of color enhances my art and sets a precedent for what I expect to see in the types of art represented at the ISM. So just working to be more vocal about that, creating more collaborative connections with artists outside the realm of our often Westernized context of the arts, has become really important to who I see myself as – not only in my location as an M.Div. candidate and potential minister in the arts, but as a creative person.


Interview and photo by Tara Jamali, M.A.R. ’17