Mosaic of Ashes: Poetic Responses to 9/11

Abstract: By challenging and problematizing the definition of 9/11 as ‘the event,’ the article examines the extent to which the official discourse on the attacks, exemplified in speeches given by government representatives and based on preestablished binary symbolism, shaped poetic representations of 9/11. This article, by focusing on three anthologies of poetry, analyzes the diversity of poetic responses to 9/11 and the ways in which they engage with and respond to the government’s interpretation of the event and its impact on the redefinition of the sense of belonging to the national collective. The poetic heterogeneity testifies to the multiplicity of nonconsensual interpretations of the event, demonstrates its impact, and unveils the impossibility of providing any stable and shared definition of ‘the national collective.’ The attacks do not contribute to the creation of one uniting national narrative but signify multiple subjective experiences and, thus, elicit numerous distinct and discordant responses and memories of them.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, encapsulated in the word-symbol ‘9/11,’ transformed national and international politics. In the immediate aftermath, “[they] were widely described as a moment of historical rupture [...] that drew a clear line through world history, dividing what came after 9/11 from what went before” (Holloway 1). Similarly, in “The Spirit of Terrorism,” Jean Baudrillard argues for a redefinition of the term ‘the event’ in order to outline and respond to the scale and nature of the attacks. In a highly metaphorical way, he describes 9/11 as “the ‘mother’ of all events, the pure event uniting within itself all the events that have never taken place” (4). The exceptionality of 9/11, as emphasized by Baudrillard, can, however, have problematic political implications, which are not sufficiently dealt with in his essay. Apart from an open condemnation of the “mindlessly military, technological war” (34), his text does not suggest any alternative state response.

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