PTSD and cathartic writing

The theme of many poems in Brian Turner’s collection Phantom Noise is the mark left on soldiers by the horrific realities of war. Poems such as “At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center,” “Perimeter Watch,” and “Phantom Noise” all give concrete imagery to the abstract concept of PTSD, which is difficult to understand without experiencing it.

By putting his experiences into words (like fallen nails turning firing pins at a Lowe’s, or staring out into the night around your yard like a sentry on guard duty), Turner takes ownership of them. I don’t know if any of these poems are autobiographical, but even if their stories were composed from things he heard from buddies, even if they were fabricated for the sake of the poetry, they still establish something for a PTSD-suffering veteran to relate to.

A couple of years ago, NPR did a story about the use of Greek tragedies like The Iliad and Ajax in a sort of group therapy session for soldiers with PTSD.

“The plays can reassure a soldier, [says Brigadier General Loree Sutton], ‘that I am not alone, that I am not going crazy, that I am joined by the ages of warriors and their loved ones who’ve gone before me, and who have done what most in society have no idea our warriors do.'”


2 thoughts on “PTSD and cathartic writing

  1. I love how he relates every day experiences to those that he had in the war such as the nails falling on the floor. I saw Turner read a few years ago and he said that some of it is biographical but a lot of it is from a “buddy’s” point of views (if I remember that correctly). I was skeptical when I first started to read Turner because I was afraid that he would be a one trick pony-writing only about war, but I really don’t care. I love his poems. He has a knack for making the grim beautiful and it lets the every day person relate to what a soldier feels, which i never hope to experience first hand.

  2. I see from this post all the good that comes from war. It seems like war leaves emotional scars and a lot of sides hating each other. I do want to know how anyone can benefit from war. People are just getting hurt a lot and have trauma lasting the rest of their lives. Others suffer a great deal of loss that they do not deserve.

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