After reading Phantom Noise and almost being able to feel a heartbeat through the words that help set up Brian Turner’s tone, it wasn’t hard to notice the change in that tone in the last couple of poems. I especially loved the last two poems “In the Guggenheim Museum” and “The One Square Inch Project” because they end Turner’s collection not with a pretty conclusion that wraps up a “and-they-lived-happily-ever-after” story, but with a sense of calm and closure glinted with hope. Phantom Noise is focused on PTSD and Turner doesn’t pretend the story of PTSD is one that ends wrapped up in a pretty bow, but he still uses these two poems to leave his readers and fellow veterans with a sense of hope.
A quote by Edward Byrne’s review called “Walking Among Them” really struck me and forced me to take a deeper look into Turner’s second to last poem, “In the Guggenheim Museum”: “readers are given an image of the speaker in a poem aware that he is walking among evidence of the dead and his own mortality; however, the recognition of life and the necessity of taking advantage of all living offers, especially an opportunity for love, are emphasized in the work’s italicized final word” (Byrne 8), which is the word alive. We already know the definition of the word “alive” but Turner does more than find a way to define it through metaphors, he shows us that it’s packed with power and value.
My favorite quote from the entire collection of poems in Phantom Noise comes from the last poem, “The One Square Inch Project” (Turner 93). It says:
“Because there is not one thing I might say to the world
which the world does not already know.”
So what else can we do but keep moving forward and learning more from the world? In an interview about his first book of poetry called Here, Bullet, Brian Turner was asked to describe his work in 5 words or less, he replied with: “It recognizes love. Witnesses loss.” And I think that description carries over well in Phantom Noise. In the last stanza of “The One Square Inch Project,” the narrator admits he finds himself a changed person after his return, but he’s “gifted” now to see and hear the world in another way.
Byrne, Edward. “Walking Among Them.” Rev. of Brian Turner’s Phantom Noise. Valparaiso Poetry Review XI.2 (2010). Valparaiso Poetry Review Contemporary Poetry and Poetics. Valparaiso University, May-June 2010. Web. 16 Mar. 2012
Turner, Brian. Personal Interview. http://www.arts.gov/artworks/?p=8166. 11July2011.
Turner, Brian. Phantom Noise. Farmington: Alice James Books, 2010. Print.