Bomb shelters. Gas masks. Duck and cover drills. The Cold War was characterized a sense of impending doom. In my recently published poem, Headphones: A Brief History and Other Notes, this sense of foreboding is countered with the healing power of sound.
Modern research confirms our ancient knowing. Music heals. Brain scans show music calms the parasympathetic nervous system which controls the fight or flight response. This is why humming and singing relax the body.
The poem moves beyond this idea of music as a tool to heal the individual and considers the possibility of sound compounding in order to generate protective factors for humanity. It imagines what might happen if our voices accumulate in the atmosphere, create tension, and trigger change for the good.
Thank you the Hawai’i Pacific Review, the online literary magazine for the University of Hawaii, for publishing this piece and to the editor, Tyler McMahon, whose latest book One Potato will soon be available.
May has always calibrated the tension of transition as students wait for the last day of school and families converge to celebrate holidays. This May feels especially tight . Across the Atlantic body, Ukraine and Russia wage war and here, at home, bodies do what they have always done: tried to stay alive.
Lorde’s words, “Poetry is not a luxury,” are regal pines, green though every season. But for me, this May, they bloomed with truth. I needed a night of unfettered, playful writing to process and reflect on a busy month. Inspired by Dickinson’s Envelope Poems, I settled on a project to put the junk mail on my desk to good use. These are the raw poems from my evening of necessary poetry.
I was surprised by how the form influenced my writing. The deconstructed envelopes created space constraints that seemed to expand rather than limit my process and the plastic crunch of address windows dictated line breaks out of their noisy necessity. This necessity in structure and content echoed a common theme in my little collection of poems: preservation. Apart from discernment, preservation evolves into hoarding. Artful living and writing relies on the paradox of resistance, a dogged insistence on mastering the act of holding on while letting go. These poems are still in their infant form, but I sense they may mature into something more mature in revision.