Trauma Poetry and Empowering The Writer
Perusing thru my poetry book in the first few days of the war between Russia and the Ukraine, I came across a poem entitled “Auto Wreck” by Karl Shapiro. The story narrative is simple enough to understand, but it was the last seven lines of verse that struck me with regard to how hostility and hatred can be the by-product of war-time rhetoric.
“For death in war is done by hands; Suicide has cause and stillbirth, logic; And cancer, simple as a flower, blooms. But this invites the occult mind, Cancels our physics with a sneer, And spatters all we knew of denouement Across the expedient and wicked stones.” (1942)
“Proper words in proper places.” That is how one great writer spoke of English prose, Jonathan Swift, in his description of good writing. A good poet finds appropriate words, and knows how to skillfully arrange them.
With this particular poem, I am reminded that sudden tragic and fatal automobile accidents echo the same traumas of war. Auto accidents are the mini versions of peace turned against itself in sudden violent outbursts. And the verse:
“But this invites the occult mind.”
is a particularly powerful line for anyone caught in the trap of coercive control by a powerful ruler understands it’s effects. Tyranny invites the occult mind most often with blood shed. In my opinion, this verse is saying, the shock and pain of the trauma make victims vulnerable to ideological influences and manipulations by people and things more powerful than they. It’s by-product can create an invisible prison similar to the invisible chains of electromagnetic torture by stripping away the alertness of consciousness. A narrative, I have found to be part of my experience with the phenomenon of gang stalking with electronic torture.
And then there are the verses of Philip Larkin’s “Church Going” written in 1955.
“Power of some sort or other will go on. In games, in riddles, seemingly at random; But superstition, like belief, must die, And what remains when disbelief has gone? Grass, weedy pavement, bramble, buttress, sky, A shape less recognizable each week, A purpose more obscure …”
Superstition boils down to nothing more than a delusion. And delusion, like superstition must die. Belief in superstition that is usurped by a thief thru sudden violent altercation, similar to the effect of the last seven lines of verse in Karl Shapiro’s “Auto Wreck” which, he says, “spatters all we knew of denouement Across the expedient and wicked stones.” Such is the pain of loss, and to lose fantasy, to have it replaced with a new reality; painful. The belief of a fantasized immortality being ripped away through unholy ends hardly seems fair. Like the walking dead alone in the night surrounded by Death.
Yet in another poem, whose form reminds me of language chaos simply because of its lack of grammatical punctuation which make it difficult to read and comprehend, we see a glimmer of hope in the “nothingness” or Death. It has been labeled a sonnet and it’s entitled “Opening the Cage” by Edwin Morgan.
“I have to say poetry, and is that nothing? And am I saying it? I am and I have poetry to say, and is that nothing saying it?” (1968) (*)
I say, “I have nothing to hide,” in the age of surveillance capitalism. That says, “I am nothing.” I make excuses to use the services that surveillance capitalism, with their agreements, manipulate me in terms of “the cage,” built by master craftsmen. But I still have poetry to say, and is that nothing? Am I nothing?
“I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry.” ~John Cage (**)
(*)Grammatical punctuation added by post’s author.
(*) John Cage was an American artist and composer (1912–1992) noted for his startling experiments in sound and silence.