In the cut and thrust of writing, especially where there’s a living to be earned, it’s sometimes easy to forget what writing is really about. The words on a page (or a screen) convey ideas, imagination, emotion, information and much more besides. Sometimes they reach out to us, sharing someone’s story and touching people that the author themselves will never meet. Words can also convey the shadow side of life that might otherwise unknown and unchallenged. Sometimes, even in tiny ways, they change lives.
‘Words of a Wolf – Poetry of a Veteran’, is a book written by a friend of mine, which lifts the lid on his experience of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was asked by Wolf to write a foreword to his book and I’d like to share that with you now. Details of how to purchase the book can be found at the end of this blog.
The thing that stood out for me, from my very first meeting with Wolf, as he walked around the room in his baggy shorts, was an intensity that bordered on unsettling. It was as if he was struggling with some inner turmoil that he couldn’t describe. What drew us together – then and now – was a desire for social justice. I didn’t know at the time just how personal a mission it was for him or what lay at the heart of it. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was just something I’d vaguely heard of and associated with the two world wars.
He can be a man of extremes – insightful and wise one day, brooding and defensive the next. What you see is what you get – there’s not much filtering going on. I’ve seen him in good spirits when his laughter shakes the room. And I’ve seen him in difficult times, pacing up and down like a trapped animal, unable to express the pain and pressure that bursts through in aggression or confrontation or hopelessness. I’ve watched and felt inadequate – not knowing what to say or what to do. So I’ve learned to listen without judgement – as he’s revisited old wounds or asked questions that neither of us could answer. In those times he’s always anxious to understand why situations have recurred or unravelled, and even more anxious to avoid those same experiences in the future.
But, as Villayat has told me himself, knowledge will only get you so far – it doesn’t change the instincts, moods and thought patterns that govern much of our behaviour. The kind of healing that reaches that deep takes time, space and professional care. It’s something only the sufferer can instigate by daring to reach out and trust. This book is part of that process for him and I salute his courage.
In his writing you’ll find a rawness and honesty that we’re not used to in society, as well as some uncomfortable truths. Stick with it though because the reward is a deeper understanding of the lives of ex-servicemen and women – about what can happen when the parades are over and the uniform comes off but the damage is still there. It will give you an insight into their relationships and family dynamics too, and maybe why so many of them fall apart.
Villayat’s quest for meaning, healing and peace of mind has led him to the traditions and practices of Native American culture. It may not be your path but you are welcomed here as an honoured guest, without judgement. I trust you’ll treat my friend’s invitation and his personal truth with the same open-mindedness and respect. And I hope you’ll remember that – like so many other sufferers – PTSD continues to affect his life and his relationship with family and friends on a daily basis.
Derek Thompson 2010
Copyright 2010 Villayat SnowMoon Wolf Sunkmanitu
Words of a Wolf – Poetry of a Veteran ISBN: 978-0-9564885-0-3