Poetry and Terror

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Discussion Topic: Poetry and Terror.

How should we as poets of the world community respond in our poems to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.?

This discussion was presented by our readers in the weeks and months following the attack on the Word Trade Center in New York. Reflecting a wide variety of viewpoints, many responses grapple with the idea of personal responsibility in the time of crisis. Several posts here are submitted by Manhattanites, and others close to Ground Zero.

Many writers offer their poems in posts, while others debate the value of poems written in a time of crisis, and whether we should write poems, if at all.

Poems submitted on this topic are displayed elsewhere on these pages.

To be able to paint the images that we've been seeing the last week in words (and other art forms) is very healing. Pain, anger, fear and grief can only be transformed by some sort of positive, creative expression. As poets we can be the voices of many and set an example for others to follow (especially children) in that they, too, can be a voice for healing.

Susan Baker
Houston, TX USA - Mon Sep 17 11:56:15 2001

Poetry, like all artistic expression has many faces. For example E.E. Cummings, Poe, Ogden Nash etc. We must as artists write about the things we see and feel. I am sure each of us will do this in their own way. Some may paint with a darker poetic brush than others, but we must write.

Richard Keith Carlton
St.Louis, Mo. USA - Mon Sep 17 16:05:59 2001

Getting to the humanity of it all. Is there any other way? There is a lot of resentment out there against the U.S. I was actually purged from a poetry workshop in Latin America --I was one of the moderators-- because of the ideological prejudice I found against the U.S. and my attempt to present another point of view. But writing political poetry gets you into propaganda.

Common denominator: the humanity of what's happened, and it's likely to happen. And try not to contract the same disease --resentment.

Eugenio Rodríguez
Miami, FL USA - Mon Sep 17 22:11:57 2001

I think that poetry has to be inspired by how we feel, think, and experience things. We have to dig deep within ourselves and remember what we have seen, and heard, and how we have felt about it. When the emotions are too painful or too confusing, then we must give it time. Sooner or later, we will KNOW that we must write about it, because it is cathartic and compelling.

Perhaps some of our very best work will be born from this horror. But I think, too, we must always remember that poetry coming from deep within a person's soul, is just that---and as such, is in the eye of the beholder. Writer and reader must felt joined in some way, or the message won't be received.

monique buchberget
punta gorda, fl USA - Wed Sep 19 13:36:09 2001

We, who are fortunate enough to be able to transform human emotion into the written word, have a great opportunity to serve our fellow human beings in this tragic moment in history.

Just as a photographer can capture an image and freeze a moment in history that can be passed down through generations as a tool of learning and healing, we can capture raw emotion as it is being experienced. Joy, grief and yes, terror, can be transformed into written works that future generations may someday read. With words, we can strike a common chord amongst many who might be struggling with the horror around them, but are unable to vent it in any constructive way.

When one reads an article, poem or a well written story about something we have all experienced, it generates an empathy for fellow human beings. And it creates unity, because by documenting what we all are going through, we share the burden. We carry the load together.

Betsy Ritsema
USA - Sat Sep 22 14:49:01 2001

I do not claim to be a great poet, but after the tragedy on Sept. 11th, 2001 I felt compelled to write down exactly what I have witnessed and how I felt. I think the poem that I composed really struck a chord with a lot of my friends and family who read it. I feel honored and blessed to be able to share my view and feelings on that horrific day.

William D'Andrea
Rocky Point, N.Y. USA - Sat Sep 29 21:19:50 2001

Poetry is not therapy. If people feel the need to heal themselves through their writing, they should at least have the self-respect to keep their journal entries in their journals. There is nothing more ghoulish, insensitive and self-indulgent than people claiming to be poets sharing their heartfelt reactions to the horrific images they've just seen on CNN.

Laurie Bichette
Bellingham, WA USA - Tue Oct 2 08:51:09 2001

I'd like to add a few words in response to Laurie's post. First of all, I agree with you Laurie that poetry is most definitely not therapy. And I kind of go along with your idea of keeping the healing aspect of a journal entry in a private journal.

Where I disagree is that a journal entry on any subject can be made into poetry. And sometimes we shoot from the hip as poets --as A. Ginsberg said, "first thought, best thought." Hence, sometimes one's immediate reaction to an event can lead one to the beginnings of a poem. But poetry can be much more than that, of course.

Poetry is often the private and necessary longing of the soul to speak, one-to-one, to another soul. Look at the poems of Emily Dickinson for a myriad of examples of one soul speaking to another. I hope that the poets who submit poems on the topic of "Poetry and Terror" do spend some time thinking and reflecting on what the events of 11 September 2001 mean to them, and from those reflections, I hope that this act of witnessing what we have all witnessed can be made into art.

Scott Reid
USA - Tue Oct 2 22:51:03 2001

I'd like to make a response to Scott's response to my comments. Apologies in advance if this is not accepted practice here. There's no doubt that we all mine our journals for poem ideas; unfortunately, many on-line writers fail to realize the difference between a poem and their journal entries.

I participate in a number of web-based poetry forums, and the explosion of inept, pointless and self-indulgent posts relating to the events of 9/11 has forced many administrators to either create a special forum for this topic, or to ban the topic altogether. I suppose a relevant corollary would be the case of a writer experiencing a significant and traumatic event, and then going home to bash out a poem on the subject. Very seldom is this piece of writing of any quality, even if the writer is extremely skilled.

We often counsel beginning and intermediate writers to take the time to develop some emotional distance from the event before attempting to write poetry about it. By all means, hack away in your journal about what a loser your ex-lover is, but wait a while before you try to write a work of creative fiction regarding him/her.

Laurie Bichette
USA - Wed Oct 3 07:33:35 2001

I buy into the idea that any subject is a possible topic for a poem, including terror. Some things are harder to deal with, and probably terror is one of those, but terror is hard to deal with in any of its aspects. I usually don't feel I can even begin to write poetry about an emotionally traumatic event until months or years later.

But for this topic, this time, three weeks later is somehow long enough for me. I think because the tragedy has been so constantly in people's consciousness, somehow it feels OK to write about it and communicate with others about it without waiting longer.

Audrey Eloranta
USA - Thu Oct 4 21:40:32 2001

September 11, 2001 started out as a normal day, which when writing a poem about the massacre, not a tragedy. This was a crime. Be honest about it. Don't go with your first emotion which may be Anger, Fear.

It didn't affect me right away. September 11, was primary day here in New York. I took off that day (I work for the Police Dept.) to do my part-time job, working the polls. I work in the public school 16, which is across from my apartment complex. I decided to go back to my apartment to call my job that I would not be in.

I became quite distracted because once I entered my apartment I realized my son had not left for school and the t.v. was showing a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. So many things was happening at once. I asked my son why he was still home, while rushing him out the door as he tries to tell me there was a loud boom.

We have a view of the Manhattan Skyline and our apartment is on the 19th floor. As my son is leaving, I am also on the phone with my job. My co-worker seems hurried when I tell her I won't be in. I was confused. I went back to the school and asked the police officer was her radio on, because a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. The officer turned on her radio and we heard the screams for help.

This is when it hit me. I started to cry, for the people who died in the plane crash. For the firefighters, police officers, everyone. I didn't immediately write a poem I couldn't. I had to understand for myself what was going on in the world. As the days went on, I wrote little notes about the incidents. I was able to write a poem, which I copyrighted by the usual methods. I found that so many poems was springing up on the web, that I wanted to ensure my thoughts and feelings about what happened was solely my own and did not stem from another's point of view.

The poem is entitled Remembrance and Memorial September 11, 2001 You made me your enemy, I knew not who you were. I was going about my own life. Rushed off to work didn't kiss my wife. I was going about my own life, I scolded my kids about scattered clothes, completion of homework; and having healthy snacks after school. I was going about my own life. Newspaper in hand, job prospect circled in red. Ascending from the PATH subway station; into the World Trade Center, where the whole world seems to live? When you stole you way into America and aboard our planes. You and your cohorts held hostage, hearts belonging to families we would never see again. We are gone now, having died horrific deaths. Yet, rest assured FAMILY, we saw the darkness then the light, which guided us into GOD'S LOVING ARMS. We are resting comfortably for a time, until the counting stops. GOD has appointed us Angels to give Strengh to the Strong. You know your neighbors were helped from the crumbling World Trade Center by Police Officers. They were assured that their safety was First and Last. Firefighters embraced the flames selflessly to save the lives of: Thousands, Hundreds, One thus, losing so many of their OWN. What courage these men and women have displayed. Providing helping hands, encouraging words and bravery in this time of turmoil and devastation. In a sweep, a death toll was raised, mighty building felled. A mother's love was taken away. The picture of sweethearts parting. Grandparents anticipation of outings with their grandchildren. We will continue to rise, above the calamity of deaths that has transpired. We will go on and yet, remember our loved ones who paid a deadly cost. We will remember and to our bosom hold our flag more dear. Instead of retreating we'll fight to the end. To protect this country, we diligently worked to build. From all Professions, from every corner of the globe, the response to help is celebrated and applauded. Enemy look at what you have done. You did not divide the Fifty States, you brought us together as ONE. The planes you catapulted into the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon and diverted flight 93, shattered many lives. yet,... It's not the names you have destroyed only the constructed buildings. Its not the souls of the people you murdered, just their living spirits. Which will be immortalized forever.

Thank-you Firefights, Police Officers, Doctors, EMS Workers, Con Edison, FEMA, Thank-you New Yorkers. Thanks to ALL who came to lend their HELP AND SUPPORT.

Debra R. Andrews
Brooklyn, NY USA - Sat Oct 6 20:35:03 2001

Poetry can be therapeutic, for both writer & reader. I cringed at Laurie's remarks. Although I understood her point, it felt narrow & rigid. Had the majority of my English teachers shared her sentiments, I doubt I'd have ever used this medium for expression. Because poetry allows such freedom, it can be seen as 'open arms' to the 'soul-heavy'.

September 11th's events caused many to feel terrorized. I don't want to shut my mind or heart to anyone who needs to share those feelings--even if I have to read their "journals".

Wanda Kay
USA - Tue Oct 9 11:14:22 2001

In response to Wanda Kay's comments: You have demonstrated that you don't know what poetry is. Do yourself a favor and find a copy of "Sound and Sense" by Laurence Perrine and read it. Good luck.

Laurie Bichette
Bellingham, WA USA - Tue Oct 9 11:24:47 2001

Laurie, irritability is one of the signs, too. But mostly poets tend to be very tuned-in people, open to emotion, and, therefore, subject to seeing little Giotto angels wringing and buzzing around their heads when events like this unfold. Artists, too--think about Goya's psychotic Disasters of War. I studied Perrine in school; I think all that Western canon stuff is a little dated. Great screenname, though.

On the other hand, I'm sick of the corporate bandwagon of compassion. Incident used as sales pitch and pseudo community conversation piece. Weird patriotism which tends toward Freud: "Stand tall, America!" bumper stickers. This reminds me of the sickology in the Last Will of one of the Muhmids--who expressly forbids unclean pregnant women within twenty meters of his grave. These guys on both sides are so scared of the shadow of their own Jungian feminine that they have to blow it up along with whoever else happens to be in the neighborhood.

The U.S. is, after all, an imperialist power, and to dump gag bags filled with McFries or pork rinds on the fleeing peasants and their camels probably doesn't even convince illiterate people any different. If the U.S. wants that petroleum--and we do (how likely is it that we will say, OK, you bad Arabs, we will just use mass transit and domestic oil, and rapidly move toward eco-friendly energy supplies??)we had better be prepared to fight for it when it belongs to the Comanches.

Pema Chodron at Shambhala.org has a Jungian scroll which Buddha hid and was only recently discovered which suggests a good meditation technique for handling grief and reworking it into constructive energy. It might be helpful to somebody. http://www.shambhala.com/html/special/index.cfm/xid,7900875/yid,83010696/userId,C40A1501-4FAF-4A6E-A85EE3129027AF18

Catherine Brown
Waco, TX USA - Wed Oct 10 06:30:45 2001

Naomi Nye writes a poem on Kindness which is a great Jungian take on suffering.

Also, speaking of dated Western canon-ites, I'm sure Morse Peckham has long since been stomped out in the elephant herd that is art criticism. However, I still think he's right. And his argument shows how there might be a need for restructuring the inconceivable and incomprehensible into non-lethal dosages:

My paraphrase of Morse:

Artist create an unsettling, but safely circumscribed, perceptual experience for their audiences. They mine discontinuities, the Kuhnian anomalies. In most other activities, man craves order and attempts to impose it, but this causes human beings to have a dangerous bias toward ignoring whatever details do not fit into our working model. The bias is dangerous for obvious reasons: human fallibility and the ever-changing nature of the both subject and object. Artists inoculate individuals and cultures by dosing them with levels of chaos they can tolerate. Artists do this, he believes, by being more sensitive to the places where the shoe of culture pinches, and forcing the rest of us to acknowledge the issues we would prefer to avoid.

The cultural frame, be it museum or walls of Lascaux, is important partially because it provides the cue that the chaos is only an imaginary disruption, which will take place within some kind of bounds and may be taken as playful rather than a real threat of requiring immediate action to stabilize the situation and regain our composure. Art rubs our noses in controlled chaos so that we can get ready for the real thing. Peckham refers to it as a “rehearsal” for life’s uncertainties.

Catherine Brown
Waco, TX USA - Fri Oct 12 06:40:08 2001

To Laurie Bichette: I've been reading your negative postings slamming others who have chosen to post their thoughts in this OPEN forum. Usually I keep my opinions to myself, but you accuse Wanda K of not knowing what real poetry is. Do you have some stringent definition??? I was not aware that this art of expression was so restrictive and narrow. I mean, is it science or art we're talking about here?

If you have a list of "rules", please, by all means share them with us. All the literary teachers and mentors I've ever encountered impressed upon me that what is most important is finding and cultivating one's own individual voice. Some people have true talent; some people suck - but everyone should have the opportunity to find this out.

Maybe you should read some of Maya Angelou's work. She is one poet who is able to strike a chord in a wide range of people and some of her most compelling and positive work was born out of some of life's most tragic situations. Loosen up, Laurie. When you read another's work, enjoy what you feel is true poetry and discard the rest. Just try not to be so hostile about it. Peace

USA - Fri Oct 12 16:15:11 2001

Hi Betsy, Maya Angelou is often mentioned in the same breath as Jewel and Rod McKuen; see if you figure out why. Take as much time as you need. Good luck.

Laurie Bichette
Bellingham, WA USA - Fri Oct 12 19:49:08 2001

Micro, macro=Laurie, Bin Laden? You speak of refining words & adhering to the rules, so vehemently, Laurie, that I'm beginning to see how you feel . . . inside. Maybe, you just don't know how to express yourself outside of poetry, without it sounding too much like journal read. From now on, I'll listen to what you're REALLY saying--like we do with poetry. Friends?

Wanda Kay
USA - Sat Oct 13 07:01:08 2001

Catherine, I find your comments very interesting, especially about the ideas of Morse Peckham on the function of art in society. I agree about artists being "more sensitive to the places where the shoe of culture pinches, and forcing the rest of us to acknowledge the issues we would prefer to avoid." The importance of the cultural frame makes a lot of sense, too.

One thing I don't go along with is the idea of the artistic experience being circumscribed. An artist has no way of predicting or limiting the range of feelings and ideas that his or her work will generate within the reader. The experience is between human beings, without any limit on what they can think or feel, and can affect the reader powerfully in ways that the artist never imagined or intended. So I'm uncomfortable with the use of words like "circumscribed" and "controlled" to describe it.

Audrey Eloranta
USA - Sun Oct 14 06:59:30 2001

Wordsworth talked about poetry as being 'a spontaneous overflow of emotion recollected in tranquility'. Perhaps the farther into tranquility the poet gets, the better the poetry will be that is written about 9/11/01 and terror since that date...

Rudy Thomas
Somerset, KY USA - Thu Oct 18 08:46:28 2001

The days after the attack were like a being lost in a bad dream. it was a terror that was surrealistic. even now it seems unreal. people tried to express their feelings many ways. most just had this emptiness like you feel when you've lost a loved one. this poem just came to me when i came home for lunch and watched the news. i thought of the stars as being all those lost looking down on us, and then of all the brave firemen, police and others who at that time were still just listed as missing, and our military men being called up. it mostly wrote itself.

daretha daugherty
new albany, in USA - Fri Oct 19 18:17:16 2001

Having read the discussion about Laurie Bichette's comments, I'd now like to offer my two cents. Life-altering events happen all the time to people. But for those events, and the impact of those events, to be useful as poetry, I believe there are three necessary elements.

First, the writer must be able to see the metaphorical aspect of what has happened to him or her. That is, he or she must be able to see the event in a new way and communicate that vision to others. This insight is an absolute necessity. Second, of course, the rules of poetry must be followed - that is, the vision must be communicated in the most effective manner. Things like rhyme, meter, alliteration, and form must be given the proper attention. Third, there must be a hopeful conclusion, or a lesson to be learned. This cannot be forced - the poet must genuinely see it.

As a Christian, I believe this is the most important element. If a person is insightful, his or her journal entries may well contain all three elements. But to write like this usually requires takes time and much thought.

As far as September 11, I am somewhat saddened, but much more angered, by what has happened. The terrorist attacks underscored for me the reality that this is a dangerous world, that there are valuable things in life that are under attack. I haven't come yet to writing a poem about it.

Clarence Thompson
Fullerton, CA USA - Thu Oct 25 12:22:15 2001

I didn't read all of the postings in this thread due to time constraints but I think the 9/11 event caused all of us to rethink the direction that we were headed both as a country and as an individual.

For some of us we used poetry as a way to express ourselves in ways that we could not have done otherwise, as a coping mechanism because the whole thing was so horrifying to us. To have the ability to share those poems with others, is not an exploitation of the horror but an attempt to reach out to others to validate the feelings we are experiencing. To not have the freedom to express, to vent, to talk, and to share, is much like an amputation left bleeding and open with no way to begin healing.

I still am affected, and my life has changed. History has changed. To not have a way to document that change would be stifling, suffocating and add to the heartache that is already there.

Linda Boerstler
Modesto, CA USA - Sat Nov 3 12:24:36 2001

"The great courage is to stare as squarely at the light as at death" -Albert Camus. This how we should respond. And with honesty, honesty to the truth of our feelings. Not with what we think people want to hear. But what we hear deep down in our hearts. patriotism, terror, joy, sadness, violence, peace, love, sex, death. more life more death. However we do it, we are blessed with life and the ability to express ourselves, it is our duty to all who no longer can to express our feelings. To connect.

miguel sanchez
los angeles, ca USA - Thu Nov 8 19:48:11 2001

My book by Vincente Huidobro arrived today. It is titled "the poet is a little god". In it he writes "The poet must be a little God... This is what a poet ought to do, make something that is neither an imitation nor an exaggeration of reality". And finally "The biggest enemy of poetry is the poem". an example of his work:


The chestnut in the midst of the sky
Groping like a blind man

A bell has wept
over evil and good
The falling fruits are oval
And so are the hours

In the jail across the way
The captive dawns

Sang and moaned

When dying the hanged of centuries past
Glanced at the roads
Where others would travel

Forward Forward

Love exalts
Behind the filial lark of your throat.

miguel sanchez
los angeles, ca USA - Fri Nov 9 13:07:12 2001

I just read the eight poems that were submitted to the Poetry and Terror page; they were all abysmal. I'm certain that this sad fact has more to do with the respective abilities of the writers who submitted, so the argument could be made that my thesis of emotional distance has been neither proven or disproved.

Maybe these poems contributed in some way to the therapeutic healing of the writers involved. I certainly hope so, because none of these poems could be considered to be even passable additions to the canon of world literature. I think the best lesson to be learned from this unfortunate exercise is this: If a writer doesn't have the tools and experience to address the *big* topics, he/she should refrain from addressing those topics in public because an inept and ham-fisted treatment of a serious issue at times comes close to trivializing that subject.

I've read appalling forced rhymed couplet doggerel about the holocaust written by illiterate teenagers that should never have been shown to anyone. No one should have to read schlock like this unless they are being compensated monetarily.

Laurie Bichette
Bellingham, WA USA - Sat Nov 17 07:24:28 2001

In response to L. Bichette's comment above about the quality of the poems on the Poetry and Terror page, Laurie, as moderator of this board, I invite you to submit your brilliant poem on this topic. It's easy for you to sit back on the sideline and criticize others' writing. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, and are free to post it here.

At least the people who submitted poems on the topic of Poetry and Terror had the strength and the courage speak out, to pay witness to the event and their feelings about 9/11, and write something. Surely the poems on that page will not get nominated for a literary prize, but I can assure you, Laurie, that the authors of the poems that you so disparage, eagerly await your poem on the topic of Poetry and Terror.

And in your own word, no matter how "abysmal" your poem on the topic, Laurie, I guarantee you that I will post it. Or, of course, you can always click elsewhere.

Scott Reid
USA - Sat Nov 17 10:16:07 2001

We have wild turkeys on our property, too, Scott. In times of crisis, they act much like Ms Bichette--they bulk up their feathers and strut.

I, for one, am grateful to all the people who sent in poems so that innocent e-travelers will have at least some alternative to Scott's little green oil well collage.

Gobble, gobble!

Catherine Brown
Waco, TX USA - Sat Nov 17 17:43:51 2001

In response to L. Bichette's comment above about the quality of the poems on the Poetry and Terror page, Laurie, as moderator of this board, I invite you to submit your brilliant poem on this topic.

**Well Scott, as I told you in email, I haven't written a poem on this topic, and have no plans to do so at any time in the near future.

It's easy for you to sit back on the sideline and criticize others' writing. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, and are free to post it here.

**Thank you.

At least the people who submitted poems on the topic of Poetry and Terror had the strength and the courage speak out, to pay witness to the event and their feelings about 9/11, and write something.

**Oh my. Is this what you're teaching these people: that it takes strength and courage to post a poem on the internet? Given the choice of writing badly about a significant event and not writing about that event, don't you think a more noble course of action would be to not trivialize the event by indulging in a public display of ineptitude?

Surely the poems on that page will not get nominated for a literary prize,

**They would have all been rejected by my high school literary magazine. Mind you, educational standards were different twenty five years ago but I can assure you, Laurie, that the authors of the poems that you so disparage, eagerly await your poem on the topic of Poetry and Terror.

**I sense Retribution in the air.

And in your own word, no matter how "abysmal" your poem on the topic, Laurie, I guarantee you that I will post it.

**Why on earth would I want you to post one of my poems on this website? Or, of course, you can always click elsewhere.

**Yes I can, and often do. Laurie

Laurie Bichette
USA - Sat Nov 17 17:55:10 2001

This is a poetry workshop. It is supposed to be a place where people can feel comfortable to learn and discuss. Terrorizing people with harsh opinions whether they are true or not is counter to a safe learning environment. Do you starve until you learn how to cook? How many got on their bicycles for the first time and kept going? Do you reprimand a child for bringing home finger painting and not Picasso? And so what if none of the poetry is good. We put in front of us our goals and take aim. I cannot stand the clap after everything poetry scene. Yet I would never want it criticized out of existence. You know its like tv and free speech if you dont like it change the channel dont listen. Criticism can be a kind of censorship depending on its intent. And terror is not just a suicide bomber and people should never be afraid to express themselves.

miguel sanchez
los muertos, ca USA - Sat Nov 17 18:30:12 2001

Re: "Terrorizing people with harsh opinions whether they are true or not is counter to a safe learning environment."

* *

Unfortunately, there are a handful of educators who agree with you. Thankfully, the majority of educators do not agree with you.

Laurie Bichette
USA - Sun Nov 18 10:12:46 2001

Saying that people write bad poetry is "terrorizing" them? Good lord. What are you people smoking? Andrea

USA - Sun Nov 18 18:38:03 2001

I read the posted poems a while back and conflated Michael Kutzen's with John Raub's, but looking at them again, I see why. They captured the sense I had of the weirdness of the sudden juxtaposition of horror with the everyday. The problem with the global village is that we mostly participate at one remove. I loved the images of adjusting the clothing, as if attending to details could bring back normalcy. But I also liked the Tarot reader--in fact, the reference said the same thing to me as the watch image in the other poem. We believe we are in control of time and mortality, but we are not.

Catherine Brown
Waco, TX USA - Mon Nov 19 19:22:56 2001

I am one of the writers that this Laurie person chose to disparage. I am not terrorized by her -- she comes across as a complete buffoon.

Any reader is certainly free to like, or to dislike, any poem that I have written. If someone dislikes my poetry, I encourage them to contact me with concrete suggestions for improvement. I also think that criticism should be done privately -- every writer's e-mail address, complete with hyperlink, is attached to the poet's submission. This is a far classier method of offering criticism than a histrionic public denunciation of EVERY poet who chose to participate in a forum.

As a practicing attorney, I certainly believe in free speech. It's just a shame that Laurie chooses to exercise her 1st Amendment rights to spew vitriol and nothing else.

Michael S. Kutzin
Scarsdale, NY USA - Wed Nov 21 14:10:48 2001

By the way, Laurie also chose to disparage Maya Angelou by comparing her to Jewel and Rod McKuen. To my knowledge, there are only two poets who have been invited to speak at a Presidential inauguration -- Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. I don't think that a poet whose only peer is Robert Frost can be easily dismissed. Laurie, on the other hand ...

Michael S. Kutzin
Scarsdale, NY USA - Wed Nov 21 15:17:44 2001

Well, Mike whoever you are, since you set the boundaries of histrionics here, I pity your clients if your logical processes choose to place Angelou in the same category as Frost based solely on their respective appearance histories.

Yikes. Develop some emotional distance from your work. You wrote a bad poem, it's not the end of the world. Maya Angelou is widely regarded as a hack; no one with even a rudimentary understanding of poetry could ever possibly place her in a league with Frost. I'm not even a big Frost fan. Go find an anthology.

laurie bichette
USA - Wed Nov 21 16:34:05 2001

If a "great" poet were to write a poem immediately after a terrorizing event, it reasons that the poem would (at least) be "good." (But, would a great poet post on an online workshop? What would be the point?) I don’t even consider myself a mediocre poet . . . but I do write, read, and enjoy, poetry. And, I know why (or why not) I like a particular poem or poet.

I like Jewel--as a poet and a person--I like what she has to say. Also, I enjoyed Michael K.’s poem of the towers; his perspective was interesting. Remember John Gacey’s horrible paintings? What made them so repulsive? HE could be seen in them! How could a poem (or any creation) be more--or less--than the poet (or, creator)? Laurie, whether you really exist, or, are just a ploy, created for turbulent conversation, YOU would no doubt, show up in your poetry . . . and it wouldn’t matter how ingenuous the topic or impeccable the form--THE FLAW would be sensed . . . by more than a few.

If you are not misrepresenting yourself, your cry is, unwittingly, one for help (look at all the attention you are receiving), and your "destruction" is not so hard to forgive. But, if otherwise, your "purpose" is, much more, sinister. If we want a peaceful, loving, nurturing, world--it’s gonna have to be made up of peaceful, loving, nurturing people. If we don’t mind one of deception, arrogance, & strife, we should already feel quite at home. How should we respond to 9/11? What would be the sense of rules, or even suggestions, of how one "should" "respond"--as poet or otherwise?

Wanda Kay
USA - Mon Dec 17 07:21:39 2001

Deconstructing deconstruction.
Poetry made with scissors.
Making nonsense of the news.
What do newspaper headlines of September 12th reveal?

ed ackerman
montreal, pq canada - Tue Dec 18 15:21:51 2001

This board is in place for the discussion of one topic only: How should we as poets of the world community respond in our poems to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.? Any future postings not conforming to this subject will be deleted.

Scott Reid
USA - Tue Dec 18 20:14:57 2001

If a writer doesn't have the tools and experience to address the *big* topics, he/she should refrain from addressing those topics in public because an inept and ham-fisted treatment of a serious issue at times comes close to trivializing that subject. I've read appalling forced rhymed couplet doggerel about the holocaust written by illiterate teenagers that should never have been shown to anyone. No one should have to read schlock like this unless they are being compensated monetarily.

laurie bichette
USA - Thu Dec 20 15:19:18 2001

I have been in two plane crashes, one on-board fire, while serving in the Coast Guard. I have done search and rescue for ten years with them. I have had the engine outside my window burst into flames upon landing in a commercial plane. I witnessed a horrific crash at LAX when a 727 landed on top of a turbo prop plane. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what those last moments might have been like for those on 9/11 and then the life time of memories for those left behind.

I think it is difficult to write when you are close to a subject like this and is even more so when your witnessing it through television.

For most Americans, terror is a relatively new experience. Unless you grew up with anti-union gun thugs or the KKK. Perhaps some historical perspective would help or is it terrifying to sleep homeless on the street at night... as a woman.... with children.

Is terror the act or the fear the act fosters? Or both? Terror: An overwhelming impulse of fear, extreme fright or dread.

Terrorism: The act of terrorizing. A system of government that seeks to rule by intimidation. I don't know of many governments that don't have some kind system that causes terror.

On a lesser degree, and I am not comparing the two, but don't we, most people, use some fear inducing tactic to discipline their children. To keep them out of trouble real or perceived.

Is the training camp at Fort Benning Georgia a terrorist training camp? That's the former School of the Americas now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

For me these events have brought more questions than answers. We are all connected, the labor and materials that went into the luggage, clothing, airports, food, planes, buildings, bombs, and weaponry involved in the events of today has come from around the world. The gifts and food and drink and the cars we use to get us to the houses where we will celebrate religious holidays from another land are all connected and connect us to the world. For some this will bring joy and for others, fear. Peace.

miguel sanchez
los angeles, ca USA - Sat Dec 22 08:37:22 2001

I wonder why it is that no public official or politician has been able put into words, eloquently and intelligently, what happened on September 11th. Not on the day or since. I feel it is really up to the poets to not let this moment in time, in history, go by without doing so. I am afraid that the decadence evident in political expression might also reflect the general public's decadence. I hope not.

I hope that poets and artists everywhere take the necessary risks to express this moment and that it doesn't become lost in the mendacity of our comfortable pursuits or confused by the delusion of our daydream. We have been given, through the abortion of our eyes, thoughts and dreams, an opportunity to be born again. We don't have to get in that SUV and go on a joy ride with that wealthy Texas frat boy. We know were it's going.

miguel sanchez
los angeles, ca USA - Mon Dec 24 16:47:30 2001

I am not sure "how" we as poets should address the events of 9/11, because as Wanda Kay noted, the question itself assumes that there are set rules to be followed.

Our obligation is to follow our inner Muse, and to address the issues, feelings and events that have both personal and universal impact. It is obvious that the attack on our country had a profound effect on us because it shook the very sense of stability that had been a foundation of our national identity. We were used to personal tragedies, to the extent that you can ever become "used" to tragedy, and the occasional larger scale horrors, such as an airplane crash or natural disasters.

But the 9/11 attack was, for Americans, fundamentally different because it was an attack on all of us, in our homeland, and with real and symbolic devastation.

It is precisely because the attack is so "different" for us that its impact on our souls cries out for artistic expression, much as Babi Yar cried out to Yetvushenko and Guernica cried out to Picasso.

"How" we should address it is personal to each of us -- and for some of us, there is no "how" as it may not ring out to everyone's Muse as a subject for artistic expression.

Michael S. Kutzin
Scarsdale, NY USA - Thu Dec 27 03:53:24 2001

I just read some of the poetry and comments ref terror. It seems we as poets are Stepping away from the creative nature of our talent. We as poets have only a few Lines to create and hold the attention of the reader, as an author can create his Story in say 300 pages.

So it is critical we use our words in such away that they Conjure up an immediate image for our reader to visualize. For example an author Writing about "the front line" would use an average of a 1000 words but as a poet We have to use less, so I would write "the butterfly held the soldier's heart as The cannons roared their thunderclap".

Expressive and to the point, leaving the Reader to conjure up his own images. As poets we only bear witness, as our Readers would experience our subject.

kevin j. randall
tadley, hampshire United Kingdom - Sat Jan 12 11:20:51 2002

I believe September was a big tragedy and it should of never happen. I feel for the families and all the victims who lost there lives. There in my prayers everyday. I honor the fire crew and police officers who lost there lives trying to help people. My heart also goes out to all those people that are trying to make a difference by raising money to help families.

Also my thoughts go out to the people trying to get ground zero cleaned up and trying to find personal belonging of the victims. I feel for the people that are at the landfill sorting through the rubble as its brought in trying to find clues on identifying these people. They are all doing a great job and everyone is thinking of them everyday.

Joseph Eaton
Lawrence, Ma USA - Sat Feb 2 10:33:58 2002

When events occur that are beyond the power of speech to describe, the world looks to poets to speak the words that need to be said. Each poet, and each poem, is as different as each person. If we call ourselves "poets," we have a responsibility to respond to the world's call to name the nameless, to find language that will capture the inexplicable. All we can do is try!

Ann M. DeVenezia
USA - Tue Mar 26 19:30:51 2002

Poetry, as well as poems are a blessing..whether they are being read aloud, silently or being penned....Nowadays matters that SHOULD be priority and are of the upmost sincerity a lot of the times go without much notice. Do you enjoy traveling? Well use your mind 4 one moment..NOT to plan your days meetings or what have yous...but use the imaginary side...began to creative...There are no limitations...There is No one around to judge or critic your thoughts.....Now fly, soar, skip, love ....whatever comes to mind....Isn't that escape from reality invigorating.......Well that is exactly what poerty allows one to do....Have tranquility where none formerly existed....Appreciate peace of mind and the simpler things...

Shanise Baldwin
Triangle, VA USA - Thu Mar 28 10:59:40 2002

Dear Wanda Kay,

My hat's off to you. I am not a professional poet. I'm untrained in poetic terminology and all that goes along with it. I wonder about the poet that is not moved by emotion. What music would Francis Scott Key have produced if he had waited a month or so to avoid writing under emotion?

It's been 4 decades since studying Joyce Kilmer, so correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't they find "Trees" in his shirt pocket when he was killed in WWI? He did not wait.

I was amazed at the rude, abrasive critiques on another forum, but the irony was that the well-written, relatable, emotional poems, that was so stringently critiqued, were the poems that garnered the most appreciation from just the every-day reader. I'm in no way saying that punctuation, grammar, good English, etc are not important, but the power in poetry is that when people read it, they can see it. Words have to paint a picture, and all that comes from touching the reader's emotional soul.

Merriam-Webster's definition of poetry reads: "metrical writing, writing that formulates concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific e m o t i o n a l response through meaning, sound and rhythm...poet's intent is conveyed by the graphic patterns of letters, words, or symbols rather than the conventional arrangement of words."

So, emotionally, September 11th made me mad and the poem I wrote reflects that; it rhymes, but it is straight from the heart. Barb

Oklahoma City, OK USA - Thu Apr 11 19:19:54 2002

i just wanted to say that i think it's sad when people have no sense of the real world and get lost in poetry . poetry is a means of expression. if you are going to write your poFetry for others to read than make sure at least some of them can understand it. i hate it when people try to be so cryptic that they end up not making sense. about the terrorism... let it go. yes, it was a tragic event, yes, many people died, yes, i'm not pleased about it. but stop blaming people. especially muslims. the towers were blown up by fanatics. just like abortion clinics are blown up by fanatic christians. they are the exception, not the norm.

USA - Sun May 19 12:14:23 2002

This posting is in response to the topic of this discussion page - "How should we as poets of the world community respond in our poems to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.? "

However we want to. Regardless of whether anyone else thinks it (the poem) is of "good" or "bad" quality, and even if the person who doesn't like your work is standing on the shoulders of a thousand respected and recognized people who feel the same way.

There has been discussion on this page about whether the writer should have emotional distance from the subject... and I propose that "shoulds" don't exist in art.

Some incredibly moving, skilled, and poignant poems were written in the midst of cataclysm. There are some wonderful collections of WWI and WWII poems, some written by men who died in foxholes and never had the opportunity to step away from their situations.

Lastly, I'd like to address those who have called the poems on these pages "schlock." I admittedly haven't read any of them... I found this discussion board by chance. But why not offer some constructive criticism rather than denigrate the work of others? Isn't this a workshop?

New York, NY USA - Fri Jun 14 11:18:01 2002

Me again. I thought I might also throw in this comment in response to an earlier speculation on this message board that "poetry is not therapy." Anne Sexton began writing poetry as a psychologically therapeutic activity, on the advice of her therapist. I stand on those shoulders.

New York, NY USA - Sat Jun 15 22:50:06 2002

The issues discussed in the forum were interesting. As a Muslim, I feel divided. Here is an event that is 'supposed to be a victorious occasion for Mulims all over the world.

I totally disagree. September 11 was a tragedy. A loss of innocent lives and great sadness to their friends and families. It was not suppose to happen. I simply don't understand why it should happen at all. Islam is a peaceful religion. The holy struggle of 'Jihad' has been interpreted too narrowly.

'Jihad' is not totally about war and killing non-muslims for religion. Jihad is the struggle for Muslims all over the world to reform and better themselves.

However, some divisions of our faith took it too extremely by committing themselves to a struggle that is not the proper way to establish themselves as good Muslims. I don't know. I really don't know about the state of Muslims today. We are part of the global society that is dominated with modern values so different from ours.

I hope that Muslims and people of other faiths or beliefs can live together with tolerance and equality. 'Fighting is no good. Someone always get hurt'-Mr Miyagi, Karate Kid Movie. Arif Azman. Gombak. Malaysia.

Arif Azman
Gombak, Selangor Malaysia - Fri Jun 28 03:28:29 2002

Poetry is a balm to the hurting soul that is traumatized by terror. we live with terror each moment that we will not measure up etc, but real terror comes when our personal safety is at risk.

No more are we safe
the enemy has wounded.
we are open game for
who ever wants to kill us.

we are women who raised
daughters so ungrateful to
leave a mother on the

All that we fear will
come if we do not make
peace withourselves and

lela m. cannada-puckett
knoxville, tn USA - Wed Jul 31 03:35:35 2002

People are numb after September 11th. It's just such an impossible concept, that much evil directed at anyone. The ancient Greeks knew the cathartic power of drama and poetry, which allow us to release our emotions in a safe way, away from work and children and spouses.

Even in America, the concept of public grief and shared grief is still difficult. We are taught to "put a good face on it." And so we should. As Rodgers and Hammerstein said, "When you fool the people you fear, you'll fool yourself as well." We had to go on living. And laughing.

What is important in the face of these attacks is to not just go after the al-Qaeda. As poets, we have a responsibility to address the hate and ugliness in our own backyard. Yes, nothing can equal such a monstrous event, but the best way to combat the suffering of 9/11 is to reach out more and be brave in our own communities. Do not tolerate hatred against Muslims, blacks, Jews, gays, lesbians, and even that hated class, the white male.

Do not tolerate children being failed by our school system. Do not tolerate dreams dying like raisins in the sun. Do not tolerate lack of understanding. Do not tolerate the worst poverty in the world---the poverty of spirit, of hope, of intellect, of joy. Sing out loud! Sing out strong!

Palm Desert, CA USA - Sat Sep 7 15:39:41 2002

Poetry and Terror

I know not much about poetry
One thing I know about terror
Just falls like a big tree
Scarring many a warrior.

alfred kongnyu Njamnshi, while in Seoul, South Korea. I would like to submit my poem entitled: "In Times Such as These", written last year after the September 11 events. Thank you

Alfred Kongnyu NJAMNSHI (Dr)
Yaounde, Cameroon - Fri Sep 13 04:34:24 2002

Poetry has the right to view the event as seen through the eyes of the poet. Sometimes it may not be popular, but it is still the view of the poet.

Jack Emory Jason
Grantville, Ga USA - Tue Sep 17 15:03:16 2002

Response is of utmost importance concerning 09/11/01. By responding through our literature we are remembering. These written memories will be documents of a crucial time.

A time of disaster, fear, loss but also a time of awareness and reconstruction, of our buildings and of our priorities and of our lives. We should respond in a way that embraces the pillars, the people, the heroes and the day. It is our responsibility to also show courage, readiness and willingness in regards to our country. To display in words a vision hope and dreams. a vision of tomorrow.

victoria eisenlohr
buffalo vly, tn USA - Thu Sep 19 14:58:33 2002

I feel we should respond in a way that immortalizes those that died in the attacks. The innocent victims as well as the heroes that went in there to save as many as they could before the buildings collapsed.

I was fortunate not to be impacted directly by the attacks, but have been indirectly impacted. My family waits knowing but not wanting to admit that come next year I more than likely will be in the desert as we take out one more support in the world of terror. My unit here is getting ready for as our commander likes to say, "In case we deploy". He like the rest of us though are betting that we are. Here is one of my additions to the remembrance of Sept 11 2001.

I call this one Heroes. Heroes don't look for applause or praise. They are normal people in all ways. Some are rich some are poor. Doing what they consider normal nothing more. Their feats they perform with out fear. Not caring if there is an ear to hear. Does the hero want or care, How many people are there? No, they see the need and don't stop to stare. But run and offer their help and care. Many have been saved from their plight. Because the hero was there within sight. They were there on that hellish September morn. When the twin towers by planes were torn. They ran into the smoky fiery hell. To save before the buildings fell. Many died on that saddening day. But in our hearts they will forever stay.

I hope you enjoy, I have already had a few of my buddies ask for a copy.

Galen Beesley
Ft Leonardwood, Mo USA - Fri Oct 11 10:19:43 2002

I was living outside of NYC during the attack and remember the moment I turned on the t.v. and saw what was happening that awful day. There is no one single emotion to describe my feeling, I was sick, angry, sad, vengeful and so on. I recently moved back to NY, and the first thing I did was visit ground zero.

All those feelings came rushing back, though it was also inspiring, all the messages written on the boards around the disaster, the little shrines and monuments and mementos people from all over the world left at the site. Ever since the day it happened, I have had a need to and have been trying to write about it, but I am having great difficulty doing so.

While my feelings about the disaster come through, the writing itself becomes sub-par. I am glad there are other poets, including those who have posted their poems here, who have been able to record the events more aptly, as poets are also historians that are capable of delving deeper than mere stolid facts.

When our children read of September 11th in school textbooks they will know what happened, when they read about it in poems, they will feel what happened.

Jason Daniel Smith
NY, NY USA - Tue Oct 15 13:30:55 2002

I was at work when the 911 buildings came down. I was at work at a nursing home, I experienced horror to find out that some of my residents had friends and even relatives who got killed that day (I WAS FLOORED) and saddened for these people... I even went home not knowing I did not know anyone who got killed.

Being mad and frustrated, I sat down and started pouring my heart on paper Because I thought I could do something to bring out what I felt to maybe someday help these innocent people out. I helped at car washes to send money, I even did a tribute at work so people could see my dedication for all who suffered and for those who helped in the cleanup effort. one day I sat down and wrote a song! a beautiful song it tells about everything as it was heard, I went up town and deliberately took pictures of how my community responded to this also!

IT was The most wonderful thing I saw; America sticking together, Thriving, Working as one helping each other So it is true Goodness does come out of tragedy. Writing songs help to heal and if it can help one at least it is helping... words help! if you needed help you would talk to someone if not show someone you care it will bring the world to you other wise you would be no different then the guys who took those buildings down.

The song I wrote is called: America Is Strong!!! and that is what we have to do (Be Strong) for those who went through this horror. We need to let the Terrorist know we are here and not going let them take our future away... One line I have in my song is to this respect...

American's don't like the sound of war,
and we don't want to be invited,
But when there are threats to our homes and our families,
American's Stand United.

Bridge--America is strong,
becuase we always stick together,
We will never give up,
and our America is better then ever!...

This is only a part of my song, and I would like to someday produce a video for dedication for all who went through this terror... Especially our Firemen, the Police, the Victumes, the search dogs, the families, and all who helped in this effort. Thank you with respect.

Diane lLuchterhand
Spencer, Wisc USA - Sat Nov 2 13:27:21 2002

First off...Laurie is awesome. Just wanted to get that out of the way. I don't want to suggest that I am choosing a side in the argument(s) that she was involved in. But I do believe that it would take far greater skill than I certainly have as an amateur to approach the Sept. 11 theme, and, by attempting to exceed my bounds as a poet, I would surely create something either monstrous, or wretched, or both.

We are, as poets, as obliged as others to feel a sense of personal responsibility in the face of disaster. But we must recognize, unfortunately, how small a role we can play as poets. As a brother, son, and soldier, I can do far more for my people and my nation.

Dwayne Stephenson
Ft. Belvoir, VA USA - Tue Dec 31 18:35:44 2002

I quickly passed over the postings.... very enlightening folks! I must say I don't do this often and now I know why, there is so much anger in this world and so much more in our words. For me poetry just is. That's all like the individuals that we are so is our poetry. In between the lines of the poem your will find the character and emotion of what the author feels at the moment. And in life it is the moment that captures it all. Peace SnoCat

C.R. Bullington
Big Lake, AK USA - Fri Jun 20 18:10:19 2003