Do You Hear the Bells A-Ringin’?

Phantom Noise by Brian Turner was interesting to me for really only one reason–Turner is an ex-soldier who served in Iraq. I’m not so much interested in the fact that he served, as the effect that it had on his writing. I love that he had his MFA before he was sent away because it allowed him to provide a more polished perspective of what war can do to a person. Don’t get me wrong, I love the raw emotion which can be found in the poetry written by someone who is not a professional or has not taken writing courses, but it was nice to experience what Turner had to offer in the way that he offers it.

Many of these poems deal directly with PTSD (, and there is a definite connecting theme of PTSD throughout Phantom Noise, but, because I’m sure that is a common thread which is easily traced, I would rather discuss one of the poems specifically–the poem which lends its title to the name of the collection of poems–“Phantom Noise”. The first thing that I did when I began to write this post was to look up to what exactly the title is referring. Titles are always intentional and this title was definitely interesting because it refers to the ringing that is often heard in one’s ear.

“Usually the odd sounds started after an auditory trauma, like being exposed to noise loud enough to injure the ears, and many sufferers also had some hearing loss in the ear that had ringing or buzzing.” (Carroll)

The choice to refer to this phenomenon in regards to war was quite brilliant on Turner’s part. The poem “Phantom Noise” speaks directly towards this definition.

“There is this ringing hum  this

bullet-borne language  ringing

shell-fall and static  this late-night

ringing of threadwork and carpet  ringing

hiss and steam…” (Turner 35)

I found this poem to be so interesting because it captured what a phantom noise was quite effectively. Turner’s choice to leave out the punctuation also struck me–I found this small, yet effective, form choice to help illustrate the point on the page. Phantom noises occur often and, in my own experience, can be accompanied by an eerie silence. The lack of punctuation acts as the eerie silence to which I am referring. The worst part about the phantom noise in this poem is that it serves as a constant reminder of the unnecessary and indisputably traumatizing damage the war has caused.

Works Cited:

Carroll, Linda. “Turning Down the Phantom Noise Inside the Head.” New York Times 21 08 2001, n. pag. 0.

Girl Holding Her Ears. Digital image. Healthy Hearing., 21 Dec. 2010. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <;.

Parrish, Bub. “Ordering Information.” Military Veterans (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) PTSD Reference Manual. Infinity Publishing, May 2008. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. <;.

Turner, Brian. Phantom Noise. Farmington, Me.: Alice James, 2010. Print.



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