Thursday, September 20, 2007

2 < 33

When tragedy strikes, there are often words that follow. Words of sorrow, of anger, frustration or guilt. There also comes a silence or at least the ineptitude to adequately verbalize.

Kelli yesterday posted a link to an article from the Roanoke Times about a poem by Bob Hicok, poet, and Virginia Tech English professor. In the poem, Hicok writes about shooter Seung-Hui Cho and the professor's feelings of guilt for not doing something to stop his former student who on April 16 took 33 lives including his own at Virginia Tech. Hicok was of several professors in the department to voice concerns about Cho after reading a play the student wrote in Spring 2006 about a student who plans a mass school shooting. Nothing came of their expressed concerns.

This and other incidents and in some cases non-incidents have sparked a debate about where one crosses the line in writing literature between artistic expression and cause for concern.

Paradoxically I see this in Hicok's own poem with a painful examination. In a most powerful twist, these words ring out of his poem titled "So I Know"

Maybe we exist as language and when someone dies
they are unworded. Maybe I should have shot the kid
and then myself given the math. 2 < 33
I was good at math. Numbers are polite, carefree
if you ask the random number generators.
Mom, I don't mean the killing above.
It's something I write like "I put my arms
around the moon."

There is something to be said for putting our arms around the moon.

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