Sunday, 24 July 2016

Utoya, Paradise Profaned

Albeit necessarily selectively, I try to keep a record in my poems relating to events of particular significance and/or tragedy (as well as celebratory events) worldwide. On July 22nd 2011, there was a bomb blast in Oslo, Norway, and related massacre of nearly 70 young people at a summer camp on the nearby island of Utoeya by a lone gunman. Sometime afterwards, a reader contacted me and asked me to repeat the poem - a villanelle - that I had written.

The reader says, ‘When a loved one dies, every day is an anniversary of happy times that will never come again. The world, too, needs to remember…’ The reader asks, 'How can we move on when every day brings as many tears as the day before...? I have no answer for that. I only know, from my own experience, that moving on does not mean leaving anyone behind. Do we not owe it to loved ones we have lost to live our lives to the full, as much for them as for ourselves?

Sadly, remembering does not always mean the likes of such tragedies will not strike again… just about anywhere around the world in these troubled times. All the more reason, surely, to make the most of our life and be sure to make time for those happy memories that may yet help see us through its darker moments? No two words in the English language cause more pain than, 'if only...'

Bergen architects 3RW's intervention, The Clearing, was created as a memorial for the events that took place on 22 July 2011. Gunman Anders Breivik opened fire on members of the Workers' Youth League (AUF) camping on the island, after detonating a bomb outside a government building in nearby Oslo, which killed a further eight people.

The Clearing memorial (Photo from the Internet)


Stark images of death and terror
(alien to any aspiring paradise)
stalked young people on Utoya

A dream blasted into nightmare
in any decent person’s eyes;
stark images of death and terror

Poison masquerading as a flower
(reason warped by prejudices)
stalked young people on Utoya

Grief, disillusion and fear torture
all victims of world injustices;
stark images of death and terror

Be it son, daughter, sister, brother,
a sick inclination to terrorise
stalked young people on Utoya

Long may a humanist ethos endure
in Norway and all democracies;
stark images of death and terror
stalked young people on Utoya

[London: July 23rd 2011]

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

[Note: I included this poem in my collection, Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012; rev. ed in e-format in preparation.]

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