This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit disabilityarts.online.

Disability Arts Online

Look backing through the Dao archives and rediscovering Peter Street's war poetry / 14 February 2014

We're continuing to reflect on the last ten years of Dao and part of that process has been pulling out highlights for David Hevey who is coordinating the next stage of the heritage bid to build a disability arts archive. 

I could never resist Peter Street's poetry (there is rather a lot of it on Dao). I first met Peter at a Survivors' Poetry conference in Coventry in the late nineties. As I recall it was not long before Peter pushed himself to realise an ambition to become a war poet. The story went that he got himself to Bosnia at the height of the conflict in the 90s. By bluffing his way through his connections with the local BBC radio station he hitched a lift with a relief unit…

For Peter it was the most devastating thing he'd ever done in his life. For Poetry he did a massive service, crafting incredibly powerful and totally overwhelming descriptions of what he witnessed. 

Trauma

An ex-serviceman
rattles his big tin
under our consciences.
I slit in some change,
confess to him that I've seen action.
“Good man!” he smiles.

Walking home
I feel my stitches, holding those scars
of war, burst. At first the traumas are
tight,
stubborn, like trying to blow a cricket ball
down your nose.

Then everything pouring out; snipers
and that wall splashed crimson,
where bits of bone and brain
clung like wool to a barbed-wire fence
and that camera-man who left me
when those guerrillas pulled out their
daggers.

Guilt spills and restlessness splashes
the pavement.

Peter Street's collection Still Standing contains all the war poetry he wrote about his time in Bosnia.

Please click on this link to find a selection of Peter Street's war poems

Comments

Wendy Young

/
13 May 2014

Fantastic poem and, ditto, "like trying to blow a tennis ball down your nose" superb line!

Joe Shann

/
11 May 2014

Bloody hell that's an awesomely powerful poem! What an image: "like trying to blow a tennis ball down your nose" - how can anyone ever resolve the experience of war? This is a poet speaking on a universal level about the longer term impact of war on the psyche.