Thursday, March 24, 2011
Processing the unthinkable
Since the Japan earthquake I have come across several poems that talked about this natural disaster — each in a different way.
The first one I saw was by L. L. Barkat. She couldn't bear to tell her daughters (11 and 13) about the earthquake and waited for a few days. Then, fearful that they would hear it from someone else she decided to take Emily Dickinson's advice and tell it slant. She wrote "The News, March 2011" which begins:
I found a button,
mother of pearl
It was sitting like the last star
in a mangled universe...
Read all of "The News, March 2011."
Glynn Young in "Cherry Blossoms" found hope in "the story of one Japanese mother, who was running with her daughter to escape the tsunami when the force of the water tore her child from her grasp. The mother survived; her hope is that her child did as well and is being sheltered."
Maureen Doallas described her poem "The Roster" as writing that "conflates some of the details found in news accounts..."
It reminded me of photographs I had viewed the day before I read it, on Boston.com's news photoblog The Big Picture,* where the juxtaposition of confused, sad, terrorized, weeping people with wrecked-by-water ordinary things in the wrong places brought the immensity of the tragedy home to me.
Each poem is beautiful, poignant and healing in its own way, illustrating the power of words to help us process such an unthinkable event where the subject could just as easily have been you or me.
*Some of the photo sets of Japan on The Big Picture
March 11 - Massive earthquake hits Japan
March 14 - Japan: Vast Devastation
March 15 - Japan: New fears as the tragedy deepens