Arts, Culture & Media

Poetry of war in the Caucasus

Places like Northern Ireland have similar ethnic and religious tensions. (How do those tensions bubble to the surface?) One classic example is a family which was murdered from the grandmother down to the grandson by a family of different ethnicity which lived 100 yards away, and then there was a revenge killing a week later. I saw displaced people moving back into an area, reestablishing a school, and then the school would be burnt down. I wrote a poem about these events, and one poem which brings up the sense of this is called �Children of War� and it relates to the burning of the school. It talks about how the children, whose parents have been killed in the tensions, listen quietly to their teacher as she reads a book. It talks about shell holes in the walls of the school and in their playgrounds. (It's rare for a professional soldier to be a poet, and as a soldier at times you have to put this natural empathy to one side to carry out your duties. Did you ever find a conflict there?) Not at all, a job is a job and you have to know you're doing the right thing. But you have to reconcile what you're seeing, such as seeing a boy step on a mine, and it's useful to put these words down into context. (Are you worried the past week could lead to future problems?) The problems of today already are here, so it's going to be a way of continuing to exist with these tensions. It's a cycle, and it's not going to go away just because a peace deal is reached.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

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