It’s an honor to have someone read one’s work carefully, so I am thankful to Anna Robinson, poet/historian, who reflected thoughtfully on my poem, “Sarajevo” in her book review of the groundbreaking anthology Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History.
Anna Robinson looks at a recent anthology of poems about historical events and considers what we can learn from poetry about ways of exploring the past.
Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History editors Claire Trevien and Gareth Prior http://rewiringhistory.com/ ISBN: 9781908058973 £9.99
What makes this anthology different is that previous attempts at “rewiring history” in poetry have tended to have a class, ethnic or gendered agenda, whereas the histories discussed in the poems here don’t all do that. Some of the poems approach aspects of “big” history: Sarajevo, the English Civil War, the French Revolution. They “rewire” by presenting, in various ways, the frighteningly chaotic nature of war and its often seemingly random violence. ‘Sarajevo’ by Diana Norma Szokolyai, presents us with an almost alienated tone, as if it were a translation; and this hits the reader – giving them a small flavour of that experience. Lay your body down in rags/ Let your streets drink vinegar! ‘After Naseby’, by Ross Cogan, does something similar in considering the slaughter of around 100 women accompanying the defeated Royalists in the English Civil War. The world / clatters away to iron as I pick / a stumbling passage through the luscious dead. Here the text is more straightforward, but the tone is a voice in shock; and that broken lineation contributes to give us a flavour of what that might have been to experience.