Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
August 20, 2014
Poetry and war are both ancient forms of human interaction and communication.
The poet W.S. Merwin had no idea whether poetry written about the Vietnam War inspired positive results but he felt not making the attempt was unthinkable. He said that people who have a unique use of language are somewhat obligated to write about such things.
Linda Beeman is a poet who has taken up that banner. In her most recent book of poetry, “Collateral Damage,” the award-winning Whidbey Island poet speaks through the voices of those who are actively involved in combat or dealing with the aftermath in the form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Suicide, domestic violence, addiction, problems with intimacy, avoidant behaviors and paranoia are only a few ways PTSD can manifest. “A ripple of pain” is what Beeman calls the ensuing chaos that can occur.
Beeman is reading from her latest work during a time that coincides with the passage of legislation intended to improve Veterans Administration procedures for service delivery. In part, this legislation would expedite treatment for veterans who are experiencing combat-related stress. It would also enable veterans to receive medical and mental health treatment from providers of their choice, as opposed to the current requirement of traveling to Veterans Hospitals. This obstacle alone can be an insurmountable challenge for those who are often reluctant to seek help.
To better understand the difficulties facing veterans, I spoke with Dr. Steve Ironhill, a psychologist in private practice serving Island County. Dr. Ironhill has treated many patients with combat-related trauma and explains that there is no way to erase people’s experiences of traumatic events. “To lessen the impact of the memory—to recognize it for what it is and take away the power it wields—is the goal of treatment,” he said.
Dr. Ironhill is encouraged by current new strategies being developed to determine who may be vulnerable, training techniques that can prepare people who are likely to experience trauma, and new treatments for those currently experiencing PTSD.He added that PTSD does not just run its course—the longer it exists the worse it gets.
“Poetry, War and Resources” is a program authored by Beeman and retired Colonel Greg Stone to support and respond to the needs of those affected by these issues. It will be offered at the Oak Harbor Library at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 21 and at Clinton Community Hall at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23. The poet will read selections from her current book and give comments. Books will be available for purchase and signing.
Colonel Stone, president of the board of directors for the Whidbey Veterans Resource Center, will explain the mission of the organization and resources available for veterans. The WVRC is an emerging organization that serves as a hub to help link veterans with appropriate service providers.
Beeman is passionate about her message in support of a population who may be unable to voice their suffering. She is an advocate for all those whom she has addressed as “Collateral Damage,” and ends her book on what is a light of hope: “pelicans balanced in mid-air, stationary on their current, take my breath…..these volts of beauty….bring me home, steady the vortex, lurch me towards solace. “
Image at top: Linda Beeman, author of “Collateral Damage” (photo by Martha McCartney)
Martha is a poet, photographer, mixed-media artist, persistent gardener and candle-maker. She has never really gotten over not being photographed for a Richard Brautigan book cover. Currently she is learning to navigate by using her inner compass, which she keeps pointed towards her own true north.
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