Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

BATTER MY HEART

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Trauma victims talk in terms of before and after, when there is no turning back. This morning we got up early, raced through the good news in the newspapers and headed to Silvercity for the Metropolitan Opera's Dr. Atomic, the story of Los Alamos.

The Manhatten Project, conceived as the apotheosis of human intelligence that we now know to be the threshhold of End Days, the gospel according to Sarah Palin, was the wrong turn on the road to now.

How is it, we wondered as we watched this powerful production of John Adams' minimalist opera, that the same adaptation that has produced magificent art, architecture, music, and poetry, has become such a powerful engine of destruction?

What have we unlearned since we first formed communities based on social integrity? In the words of soap opera comedian Jennifer Anniston, "Whither went the sensitivity chip?"

In a libretto borrowed from government documents, Tewa songs, and the poetry of John Donne, Muriel Rukeyser, Beaudelaire and the Bhagavad Vita, Adams composed a contrapuntal dialectic that rolls relentlessly across the Pacific to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

The fallout is still with us.

The conflict of good and evil that exists in every man and woman drives this narrative, which is one of the most powerful pieces of theatre I have ever witnessed. Donne's Holy Sonnet IV, "Batter My Heart Three Personned God," sung by a conflicted Oppenheimer is a right hook to the chest. Where do good men go wrong?

It is amazing that metaphysical poetry written three hundred years ago by a conflicted theologian would be as fresh today as it was the day it was written.

For me at least, this production, which I think should be seen by everyone, particularly Americans who have watched and lived the perversion of their articles of faith, defines the argument for the politicisation of art. Every human interaction is political and it is an artist's responsibility to seek truth in beauty and ugliness.

Mr Harper, are you listening? Art is the conscience of our civilisation. We demand permission to ride our chariots of fire and light up night skies contaminated by mushroom clouds, the debris of greed, and the cries of the unjustly punished.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Linda Rogers

Linda Rogers is the author of the novels Say My Name (Ekstasis Editions, 2000), Friday Water (Cormorant Books, 2003) and The Empress Letters (Cormorant Books, 2007). She has also published several collections of poetry, including Love in the Rainforest (Exile Editions, 1996), Heaven Cake (Sono Nis Press, 1997), The Saning (Sono Nis Press, 1999) and The Bursting Test (Guernica Editions, 2002).

Go to Linda Rogers’s Author Page