Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Charles Olsen’s essay in Cordite responds to the Christchurch mosque attacks

On Being Sanguine: Two Years of Panic and a Response to Terror in Christchurch


Self-portrait by Charles Olsen in Wellington, NZ (1991)

One Sunday, when I was an art student in London, I got on my bicycle and left my parents’ vicarage in Surrey for my room in Murray Mews, going along the River Thames and through London’s parks: Bushy Park, Richmond Park, Hyde Park and Regents Park. I was stung by a bee or wasp somewhere around Shepperton which got my blood up and I raced towards the city, perhaps a little too fast for my own good; a reaction to adversity.

*I didn’t know how to respond to the Christchurch shooting. It was so out of the blue. By chance a few days after the attack happened to be the launch in Wellington of a collection of poems by migrant and refugee poets in New Zealand called More of Us from Landing Press. It includes my poem ‘When you least expect’, about a series of terrorist bombings near places I was staying in London, Cairo and Madrid. The most devastating for me was back in 2004 where I live in Madrid, about six months after I’d moved to Spain. A series of explosions on the local train network during the morning rush hour killed 193 people and injured around 2,000. I was on a train heading out of Atocha station as the backpacks containing the bombs were abandoned on packed trains heading towards Atocha. I must have heard one of the explosions in the distance lost in the noise of the train but it was only when I arrived at 8.00am at the company where I gave English classes and found my students huddled around the radio and online, searching for the news, that I learned what had occurred. They were surprised I’d managed to get to work. We didn’t have the class that day and I made my way into Torrejón de Ardoz and found where to catch a bus back into Madrid.

Charles Olsen, 1 May 2019

 

Read the whole piece here

 

‘”I didn’t know how to respond to the Christchurch shooting. It was so out of the blue. By chance a few days after the attack happened to be the launch in Wellington of a collection of poems by migrant and refugee poets in New Zealand called More of Us from Landing Press.”

 

 

 

 

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