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GOSHEN -- Like many people, Ann Hostetler struggled to make sense of the bullets fired at an Amish school in Pennsylvania last fall.
She didn't know to put it "into her head and heart," she said. The event at the Nickel Mines school was so unbelievable.
Hostetler, a poet and professor of English at Goshen College, has Amish relatives. Her father, the late sociologist John A. Hostetler, was raised Amish. Hostetler's husband grew up in Bird-In-Hand, Pa., near where Charles Carl Roberts IV killed five Amish girls and wounded five others on Oct. 2 before killing himself.
As a poet, she makes sense of things by writing, so she sat at her kitchen table and wrote one line, then another.
"I wrote one sonnet and I realized I wasn't done," Hostetler said.
She doesn't usually write rhyming poems, but the form helped her as she tried to make sense of the events. That's what writing does for her.
"I may not find answers, but I can somehow begin to deal with it in some way," she said.
The result was a wreath of four sonnets similar to a wreath poet Marilyn Nelson had written about Emmett Till, whose murder helped prompt the American civil rights movement. In a wreath, the last line of a sonnet becomes the first line of the next one.
Hostetler's poems imagine the terror in that school, but also explore the forgiveness the Amish community extended to the family of the gunman.
Hostetler called the response "so Amish and so incredible." Roberts' acts weren't a suicide bombing, but were a kind of terrorist act and the community responded in amazing ways, she said.
She doesn't usually write poems about the news
"Usually things like that take a long time to process," she said.
She let them sit for a time before trying to get them published. Mennonite Weekly Review, a weekly religious publication, first published them last week.