Thursday, March 24, 2011

Processing the unthinkable

How does one handle traumatic events like the death of someone close, or the crashing of planes into skyscrapers, or earthquakes and tsunamis? Why, with poetry, of course.

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'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


Maureen said...

What a lovely surprise to find my poem featured here. I often find my way through events through poetry. The act of putting the words down becomes a way to memorialize, remember, hold onto the real.

Thank you, Violet.

LauraX said...

It is truly overwhelming much beauty and compassion in the words of these poets and so many others, trying to comprehend and honor the loss of life and grieving for our brothers and sisters in Japan.

L.L. Barkat said...

Why thank you for highlighting these. It is a common language, poetry, for processing grief. Or at least that's what I hope for.

CallingForth said...

thank you for those poems which help me process the event, the hope, the loss, and all the wonderings and feelings I have no way of speaking. Not being a writer of poems I do appreciate it when others can put pictures and feelings into words that say what I cannot say.

Nancy said...

Nice post, Violet. A gift to your readers to have all these links in one place. Thank you.

violet said...

Thank you, Maureen, LauraX, L.L. Barkat, Calling Forth and Nancy!

(So happy to highlight your work, Maureen and L.L. Barkat)

Nancy, I'm enjoying your book!