Healing From Gun Violence: Taking Back The Power With Poetry

Survivors of gun violence find sanctuary in literature. The healing force of poetry is uniting readers and writers against this nation-wide adversity.

Poetry & Drama Recommendations
Book pages forming a heart shape

Trigger Warning: mentions of gun violence and graphic descriptions.

As a survivor of gun violence, I have found sanctuary in literature and writing. Experiencing such violence can make finding peace throughout the day an incredibly challenging pursuit. Though, like me, many readers and writers are finding a healing force in written expression. This mutualistic relationship has allowed for great advocacy for gun violence in America. 

America is a Gun By Brain Bilston

Graphic drawing of a gun with USA flag coming out

Brian Bilston criticizes the inaction towards gun violence in America by intertwining national identity and dark concepts in a nursery rhyme rhythm.

England is a cup of tea. France a wheel of ripened brie. Greece, a short, squat olive tree. America is a gun.
Brazil is a football on the sand. Argentina, Maradona’s hand. Germany, an oompah band. America is a gun. Holland is a wooden shoe. Hungary, a goulash stew. Australia, a kangaroo. America is a gun. Japan is a thermal spring. Scotland is a highland fling. Oh, better to be anything than America as a gun.

One Bullet, One Hundred Sets of Hands By Jamar Jackson


Jamar Jackson is in high school and grew up on the Southside of Chicago. His poem expresses his deep familiarity with gun violence in his area and its effects on individuals of all ages and the community as a whole. 

August’s summer reminisces of
A sweltering breeze of death
That creeps into the evening.
That hurls into the right side of my chest. That flows straight through and
back to St. Louis and drifts down to Baltimore.
That hurls into another brown boy’s leg,
That pounds into another one’s shoulder,
That hopefully won’t pierce another one between the eyes. The breeze lingers through the hole in my chest
As if it penetrated my brown skin One Hundred times,
Before long I’m slightly eased by the cold sweats
And I feel numb to the sweltering breeze. By the time the hole is tended to,
Ten Sets of Hands chase what’s left of the breeze through the city
While another Ten hold firmly to my wound,
Enduring the gusts emerging from the breeze’s work of art By the time the sweltering breeze has swung open the hospital doors,
Ten Sets of Hands frisk me, hoping to discover
Whether I ran with or against the breeze,
While another Ten lay me out on a stretcher
Hastily, so to outrun the cold sweats
Before they drain me of my last bit of life. By the time I’m inside the trauma bay,
Ten Sets of Hands have cut my clothes
And located the bullet hole,
Another Ten get my blood pressure and insert an IV,
While another Ten put me on a ventilator.
Nothing except the memory of the breeze lingers,
The whistle before it struck me,
The burning I felt,
The flash. By the time I’m able to speak,
Ten Sets of Hands pick my brain,
Ten Sets of Hands are preparing medication,
And the last Ten make a phone call,
Bracing the might of horrific shrieks and cries of anger and desperation. It astonishes me
That such a fatal breeze
Blows so much that
It’s almost like background noise

A Vain Eulogy and 21 by Michael Cappelli

Red and black abstract art of an angry man face and weapons

Another author to check out is Michael Cappelli. Cappelli, a poet, fiction writer, and occasional guitarist explores the dark reality of the relentless gun violence in America that is seen in many places. His short-lined prose is hard-hitting and addresses the hard subject with a robust and tender tone. 

A sense of unity is sewn through the reader and writers of these poems. People continue to find strength within themselves to overcome such tremendous adversities; and I, like many others, am inspired by their voice. In that, I stand with them – hand in hand – attacking each day with a heart full of compassion for the survivors, and passion to bring light to the darkness that is swarming schools, concerts, and city streets:

October 8, 2010 I.
Pick, pluck.
May I have one more moment?
Pick, pluck.
May I have one more breath?
Drop it, run.
It wasn’t ready.
Blood. Breathe. II. It was not finished. 
But it will have to do.
The bouquet, my bouquet
For the funeral of innocence
Blowing in the echoes of your decision
In a field in my hometown
Where magic is buried. 
Where I am buried
Under flowers that were too big for little hands. 

Poems like these are invaluable for understanding and coping. These writers are taking back the power, and using their talent to raise awareness about an ongoing issue in America. In Gun Violence Awareness Month, like many others, we are reminded of the power of the written word and free expression.

For more poems written about experiences with gun violence, check out Power Poetry’s gun violence section

For books on this topic, read here.