PTSD south beach
Chapbook, Puneet Dutt, 24 pgs, Grey Borders Books, greyborders.com, $5
A finalist for the 2016 Breitling Chapbook Prize, Puneet Dutt’s is a fine collection of poems, coherently selected to straddle both a politically informed and nostalgically personal perspective. As the post-traumatic stress disorder of the title would suggest, PTSD south beach projects organized violence, war, as a given, but then filters it through the harrowing experience of the individual.
An immediate positioning of the first person in relation to combat, the chapbook’s first poem “what do i know of war?” introduces a climate of omnipresent aggression; no one is safe; a person can innocently leave home in the morning to end up in “a blue body bag.” In a world of guns, drones, forces, troops, military, screams, fighting… the insistence on measuring extremity through the personal both counteracts the danger of desensitization and inserts a lyrical voice into the poems. In “coordinates,” a poem about separation, the distance between locations is quantified through “how far / from daughter / from mother / from herself she will be / from me.” The sad irony is, of course, that although “there is always war,” “no one ever” wants to be affected by it.
A significant formal choice, Dutt cuts out, cuts up and leaves scars throughout her writing. For example, she insinuates a political agenda, but doesn’t articulate a stance, rather expecting the reader to interpret the innuendo of blanks: “blogs read: Washington’s Uneasy Partnership With Tehran / or _______” Similarly, she syntactically disintegrates a moment of violence: “scarring the seams of our backs / ask / can we this our own sun give.” Through excision and confusion, Dutt is able to poetically convey the force of extremity. (Klara du Plessis)