Meeting the Bar: The Unfathomable


“Catastrophe is indeed already the condition of language, the condition of the ruins of time.” Harold Bloom

In the midst of catastrophe we can become silent, shocked by events, withdrawing into our grief. Most of us empathize greatly with the suffering of others. As poets we may then wish to express our solidarity through words. To write what is unspeakable, unfathomable, and incomprehensible. As such the poetry of disaster is often fragmented. Catastrophe rarely leaves us with clear narrative and an understanding of causality. The suffering of thousands or millions can overwhelm our ability to find a voice with which to cry out.

Poets have always written of disaster, personal and global, performing a tightrope act. As Nicole Cooley asks in “Poetry of Disaster”, ‘what work can poetry do in the world in the face of disaster?’ In the end she posits that poetry creates a necessary space in the…

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