|Gold Star Monument, "I gave my best to make a better world,' Nashville, Tennessee.|
This is one of those columns where writing it was the easy part. The daylong trick was cutting it from 1100 to 679 words. There was the poetry aspect and the head trauma aspect and the VA botching its job aspect, with the very quotable Dawn McGuire saying things such as "I feel like I'm married to Wittgenstein" of her time getting her masters of divinity at the Union Theological Seminary. It wasn't on point, but how often do you get to use a line like that?
I somehow managed. If you want more of McGuire, do get her new book, American Dream with Exit Wound, which I've read and recommend, or her previous one, Aphasia Cafe. You can hear her reading a heartbreaking and smart poem from it, "Aphasia Breaks the News," originally published, mirabile dictu, by the American Academy of Neurology Journal, by clicking here.
|Dr. Dawn McGuire|
Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology, publishes papers on brain science with titles like "Vesicular acetylcholine transporter defect underlies devastating congenital myasthenia syndrome."
It also, marvelous to relate, prints poetry. And yes, the poems are peer reviewed.
In 2012 it published "Poems from the Aphasia Cafe," from a book by Dawn McGuire, a San Francisco neurologist and poet. McGuire's poems echo her work with shattered minds, particularly wounded veterans — "aphasia" is a term for loss of speech through brain injury. McGuire, who grew up in Appalachian Kentucky and studied at Princeton and Columbia, does not mince words when talking about the vets under her care.
"They come back and are expected to reintegrate without any attention to the fact they are often very young men who have been asked to really split their psyches and do things that the culture and family they grew up in would find abhorrent," she said. "There's nothing like boot camp for reintegration, where they can see they've been split by these experiences, by what they've done, what's been done to them. There's no way for vets to re-enter the regular community."
Boot camp for returning vets is a great idea. We put soldiers through intensive training before they serve, but they're left on their own when they come home and often need help most.
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