'Do you want to talk about it?' by Wolfgar is Write Out Loud Poem of the Week
The new Write Out Loud Poem of the Week is ‘Do you want to talk about it?’ by Wolfgar, a poem about PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) that appeared on Write Out Loud during Mental Health Awareness Week. The poems talks of “strobe-flash memories” and “grotesque visions” and “a frozen fear that keeps me here in hell”. Wolfgar is the first person to have won Poem of the Week for a second time since it began in April 2016. We asked him to talk about his poem a little more:
This poem sparked quite a reaction on Write Out Loud this week, including a poem in response. Do you want to say anything more about your poem's background?
I can't help but see the irony in me responding to that question, considering the title and the nature of the piece. The truth is that it has only been by talking about my PTSD that I have ultimately rid myself of its intrusive visitations, that and some excellent people (friends and professionals) who supported me through difficult days. I think for many sufferers of mental health conditions it isn't that they don't want to talk but that they have difficulty expressing how they feel, that and a fear of the consequences. I hope that in light of a more open-minded approach to mental health these days, the fear of talking may in some way have diminished. Regarding the poem’s background, the text to me represents a picture board of memories across an extended period of time. I wouldn't want to be any more specific than that.
Why do you think it struck such a chord with some? Was it just a coincidence that you posted it during Mental Health Awareness Week?
I was conscious of it being mental health awareness week but hadn't purposely set about writing the poem for that reason. I think it may have struck a chord partly due to the fact that although there are some universal symptoms of suffering, the individual experiences of living with mental health issues are often extremely varied. Maybe people wanted to address and express that in their own way. I feel this was highlighted by Laura’s response in her own poem. I was so pleased that she posted what she did and am very grateful to her for doing so.
You have alluded before in comments and conversations on Write Out Loud to your experiences in trouble spots around the world. Do you want to, or are you able to say anything more about them?
I can say that during my military service I had no choice about where or when I served; at the time I had no particular problem with that. I was a young man seeking adventure and wasn't particularly thinking of my future. Having completed my service I realised that although I had accumulated a wealth of experiences and learned much about others, and myself I had a very narrow set of transferable skills. On the very day I left the Army I flew to Kabul to work for an organisation which was staffed almost completely by my former colleagues. Occasionally I wish I had changed direction; it is often easier to stick with what you know, but it’s not always the best thing to do. If I was to advise my younger self now, I might suggest seeking adventure without being a tool in the armoury of others. That said I probably wouldn't listen to myself.
How you feel about your own poetry? Do you think its style has changed in any way since you first started blogging on this site?
I’m not too sure about how my style has changed - I suspect others would be better placed to comment. I get frustrated by being drawn back to familiar subjects. When that does happen I try to write about it differently or dismiss it altogether. People are inevitably going to write about what they know. I do attempt to vary my writing style and the things I write about, I’m not really sure how successful I am at doing that. I think readers have the upper hand - writers can’t choose their readers, it’s very much the other way around.
How do I feel about my poetry? Honestly, sometimes I feel it’s indulgent, selfish tripe, sometimes I think I’m worthy of washing Dylan Thomas’s socks, but most of the time it makes me feel that I’m attempting to engage with what it is to be human.
DO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT?
Trauma like a black hole
into which everything is drawn,
where merely to survive you must believe
it gets dark before the dawn.
And in strobe-flash memories
grotesque visions you will see,
and it gets dark before the dawn
don’t trust yourself, hear me.
Devils have your interests
and a special place for you,
a paradise of loathing
a heaven pure and true
where you can thrash your broken body
and torture your own mind,
seeking corners of the forgotten
where there’s fuck all left to find.
Where the blows and beatings merge
into frequencies of sound,
that the human ear won’t register
as the fists and head-butts pound.
So when you ask and I don't hear
I hear you all too well,
but I’m silenced by a frozen fear
that keeps me here in hell.