The Fractured World
by Chaz Aguilar
The Fractured World (Main Street Rag, 2008) is a collection of poems broken down into three sections: “The Fractured World,” “Suite Norman,” and, “Smoke Dissolving in Wind.” Scott Owens, the author, speaks openly about his experience with child abuse and how that experience affected his view of mankind. I do not have much experience in poetry, but this book resonates with me as an abused child myself. Loneliness and abuse are emotions that most people know about but do not understand fully. This book walks the reader through some of the author’s tough times and can give some perspective to those who want to understand, comfort for those who have experienced abuse personally, and insight to those who see abusive potential in themselves.
Tim Peeler, a NC poet and educator, referring to the first section of the book in his review says, “Poetry should disturb us; it should create an uneasy feeling in our stomachs” (1). I believe the author accomplishes this; for instance, in the first poem, “Fates Worse than Death,” the author takes a look at some of the possibilities in life that are worse than dying: blindness, isolation, and torture. The poem “Sunday Afternoon, Atlanta Fulton County Stadium” is about a man who surrounds himself with other people but never takes any action to make contact with the world around him. This anonymous man sits alone in total isolation. One of my personal favorites, “The Man in the Bottle” shows a man contorting himself into a bottle, seemingly desiring to be isolated and alone, cut off from his surroundings. Loneliness, isolation, and death are frequent in everyday life, and though the subject may be dark, the theme is familiar to most.
Scott Owens said in an interview, talking about themes in his book, “In The Fractured World it was the gnawing sense that until we understand the relationships between poverty, abuse, and powerlessness, we would only continue to create them” (2). This theme is most powerful in the second section of his book, “Suite Norman.” These poems are a narrative of Norman, a father, an abuser, and drinker, who is coming to grips with his weaknesses and the person he is becoming. The character is a compilation of people Mr. Owens knew, his father, his stepfathers, and a little of himself. In “Norman Learns How Not to Cry”, Norman tries to contain his emotions because it is unacceptable to show them; it is not how a man acts. Norman has to come up with excuses when he breaks that rule. In “Self-Awareness,” Norman is older and abusive to his family, but he is fully aware that they enjoy, even look forward to, the time he is not around.
“Norman in the Window, His Eyes Like Shattered Glass” is the turn for the worse for Norman. This is when he first acts out in rage. Norman always knew the anger was in him, but is very surprised when the anger comes out. All he could do is stand motionless and watch his family leave, his children crying and his wife’s face swollen. Abuse is never to be taken lightly, and in The Fractured World, this fact has not been overlooked. Reading these passages, I could feel the abuse the author was enduring: the pain, suffering, and fear that come with abuse. Having written over 800 published poems, the author’s experience, both as a writer and abuse victim, really comes out on the page (3).
In the third section, “Smoke Dissolving in Wind,” Owens’ book gets a bit lighter in tone. In “The Days I am not My Father,” the author realizes the joy in not repeating his father’s mistakes. His son is happy to spend time with him, without fear of repercussions. “Foundings” shows how it felt the first time he was close to his step-son. The apprehension within him is revealed when consoling a child that is not his own when the child’s mother is out.
Even with my own experiences with abuse and loss, I have not been through everything the author experienced, but he paints a perfect picture with words, describing in detail his feelings and experiences. I recognize myself in some of the situations and some of my reactions. I can see what he went through; feel those moments that I would not be able put into words. The words of the author seem to me to be a brave act, reliving those memories for others to learn from and change their perspective on life with abuse.
Generally, I agree with the author; this book is about loneliness, being powerless, poverty, and death. Just because the subject is dark, it should not deter others from reading this collection. The stories are powerful because they are true; the theme is painful because life itself is, and the book should be read by everyone. The concepts are familiar to everyone because life is not simple; in fact, the painful areas are easy to understand because abuse, poverty, and death are everywhere and are completely connected to everyone’s life.
In an interview, Mr. Owens said, “I think writing poetry has simply become one way in which I engage with the world” (4). I have changed my point of view on poetry itself. Creative expression does not have to revolve around butterflies and leaves, but can be powerful. Most importantly for me, I now recognize that I am not alone in my experiences with abuse as a child. Others have been through the same experiences I have been through. I recommend this collection for everyone, but highly recommend this book for anyone who has been through the same so they know that they are not alone. I would say to Mr. Owens to keep on engaging the world, for these are the painful subjects that need to be discussed, for myself and for all of the abuse victims in the world.
1. Peeler, Tim. redroom.com. Summer 2008. 2 April 2011.
2. Diskin, Bill. redroom.com. 25 June 2010. 2 April 2011.
3. "Scott Owens." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 Mar. 2011. Web. 8 Apr. 2011.
4. Benitez, Sandy Sue. Flutter. 2010. 2 April 2011.