SPRITES & FLARES: PROMPTS RESPONSE FEATURE
AMBER LEE CARPENTER: TESTIMONY
(Interviewer: Brittany Clark, Prompts Editor for SPACES)
Create something where emerging from the dark is the central metaphor.
I woke up with a soldier.
What happened next?
Hit with a pipe.
Poked with a skewer.
They were laughing.
Hit in the face, back, legs.
They released a dog on me,
hit me with a broomstick.
They woke me at three a.m.
There is one … I cannot talk about –
a religious man between my legs.
Rifles around me, photographers.
Then they started.
They put rope around my wrist, rope around …
took my clothing.
Hitting. Beating. Going. Coming.
Cold, wet –
all six nights.
A beard –
they were men with beards.
Like Bin Laden.
I remember …
I don’t remember those days.
I don’t remember.
Soldiers said they raped me.
They beat me.
I woke up urinating.
The guards would molest me.
I started to forget after one year –
tried to resist.
They kicked me, insulted me.
A big Egyptian beat me, smashed my face.
The next was more difficult.
They hit me, kicked me –
left me alone.
Twenty-two at the time of the arrest –
forced on the ground,
hands tied to feet,
hit with fists.
I vomited blood for nine days.
They told me to undress.
I removed my underwear –
forced to take off my underwear.
I walked naked in front of others.
No food for three days.
Another soldier would have sex with me –
other soldiers came in with sticks.
I passed out.
They broke my left arm, my right leg –
still tied up.
My eyesight is fading.
Did this happen to you?
Did you get forced to do this with men?
I had to,
Interview with Amber Carpenter
Brittany: I absolutely love how you took the prompt and applied it to the testimonies of seven Abu Ghraib detainees. Could you give us a little background information on this so we can fully appreciate your piece?
Amber: The poem is actually a redaction poem, a form of poetry that I had never attempted before graduate school. My classmates and I were given the horrific testimonies of seven Abu Ghraib detainees and asked to create a poem from their own words. I was so moved by their stories and felt that this particular piece (“Testimony”) fit the aforementioned prompt that SPACES provided. Those men truly did emerge from the dark, and I believed their injustices needed to be brought to light.
Brittany: Why poetry? Is this your preferred medium?
Amber: I have been writing poetry since my early teenage years; it is the one medium that allows me to express myself through various forms. It is difficult to say whether or not poetry is my “preferred” medium on account of my passion for writing nonfiction essays as well. At times the subject matter calls for poetic form, while occasionally I feel the need to fill several pages with an essay. It just depends.
Brittany: The format of your poem really adds to the rhythm and overall message of the piece. Do you always play with experimental formats, or was this a one time thing?
Amber: Poetry continuously gives me the opportunity to experiment with line breaks and formatting. If I were to write in the same format each and every time I sat down to write a poem, I would feel constricted, and the overall appeal of writing poetry would lessen. Even if the poem fails in some aspect, at least I can say that I challenged myself to the fullest extent. Specifically for “Testimony,” I mostly thought about what an actual testimony would sound like after suffering through such agony. I imagined how difficult it would be to reenact such traumatic experiences, and I wanted readers to gain some insight into the detainees’ discomfort by chopping up their statements.
Brittany: Your play with language and sound is admirable! Tell us your creative process.
Amber: Thank you for the compliment; I greatly appreciate it! While learning to become a stronger writer in graduate school, I was taught to pay more attention to language and sounds. I prefer internal and slant rhyme within my poems. Admittedly, sometimes a poem comes together within twenty minutes, but most of the time, I spend hours crafting every line as if each one is going to stand on its own. I consider the effectiveness of each word before I put it down on the page, and I read the poem aloud several times before and after I finish.
Brittany: I have to ask this because I really want to know: if you had to write a prompt, what would it be?
Amber: If I had to write a prompt, I would ask writers and artists alike to create a message that conveys the unfortunate dividing lines that separate us in our society as a whole.
Amber Carpenter is a writer, poet, and amateur photographer. She completed her Master of Arts in English from East Carolina University with a concentration in nonfiction and poetry. Amber currently resides in Winston-Salem, NC, where she works as an adjunct instructor for the Developmental Education department at Forsyth Technical Community College. She also dedicates her time to teaching online English Composition courses for Ashford University.