Why Poetry Matters: Poetry and Apocalypse —– September 2011.
Writing about web page http://nvwn.wordpress.com/
(Part of the NVWN newsletter).
In the wake of Hurricane Irene, people up and down the East Coast are left in awe at the incredible power of the wind and sea. Apart from the hurricane, there have been tornadoes, even an earthquake, and one can’t help feeling humbled at the chaos produced, worthy of a disaster movie.
Environmental destruction and ecological balance are at the heart of Neil Astley’s anthology_Earth Shattering_, which brings together over 200 poems to celebrate the natural world, lament its corruption, and consider how it might be preserved. When it comes to the power of nature and the possibility of apocalypse, however, one poem particularly struck me.
Working out of genres that he calls ‘Alternative Realism’ and ‘European Darkness,’ the Irish poet Matthew Sweeney imagines the breakdown of the civilized world in ‘Zero Hour’ (http://www.cstone.net/~poems/twoposwe.htm). As oil reserves slowly run low in this frightening, new society, Sweeney imagines cars left useless on the roadside and people attacking one another for the most basic goods. Sweeney’s scenario is one that we all doubtfully envision at times of crisis, and his final question is chilling:
out there could have predicted
this sudden countdown to zero hour,
all the paraphernalia of our comfort
stamped obsolete, our memories
fighting to keep us sane and upright?