The Personal is Political

Brian Turners collection of poetry,Phantom Noise is a great example of the personal is political. I have read a lot of confessional poetry, but I must admit I have not read any war poetry other than the iconic works such as “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae that I was taught in middle school. The way that Turner blends the deeply personal confessional style of poetry with the insurmountable theme of war is what makes this collection so powerfully political. War is something that I will probably never be able to understand. No matter how much time I spend thinking about it, I will never understand why humanity has always been so eager to kill each other and find ways to pretend that it is ok. With that said I often tend to dislike reading novels and poems that are about war. Regardless of whether or not I like reading about war, I thought Turner’s collection was very powerful and an effective way to give people like me a little more understanding.

In poems such as “The Whale” on page 10, there is no direct mention of war, if looked at separately from the context of the collection as a whole this poem seems like an innocent account of a childhood event. However, with the context of war that surrounds this book this poem becomes a haunting depiction of war through the extended metaphor of the whale. The images of the people shielding themselves from the blast, “the local news reporter dropping to his knees/to cover his head with a clipboard/while the cameraman does the same,/my mother shielding me with her torso/turned away from the blast” call to mind most poignantly the image of war and bombings.

By depicting the atrocities of war with the personal Turner makes his writing more politically powerful because it is easier to relate to. Turner also turns something that can easily be thought of as inhuman to something that is heartbreakingly human.

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




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