A man looking at the camera and smiling

Poem: War and Peace

23rd June 2022

Tim Shanks' powerful poem about learning to accept his stammer.

War and peace

By Tim Shanks

I was a child soldier when I enlisted in the war
In terror of my stammered words
Those broken sounds wounded me
It was painful for them to pass my lips

With my dysfluent speech
I was scared to go 'over the top'
Across the dangers of fluent man's land
Into the battlefield of life

I fought the battle for fluency for over half a century
With the therapeutic weapons of mass destruction —
Slowed speech, block modification and avoidance reduction
But my stammered words refused to surrender

I thought my careless stammered talk
Would cost me my life
But it only rendered my feelings comatose
when I really wanted to be more bellicose

I was scared of my stammered talking that I didn't want to hear 
So I attacked, captured and incarcerated it
My stammers were now silent prisoners of war in my mind
— from where they imprisoned me all my life

I became a stammerer who does not stammer
An imposter with a lot to hide
However my stammers continued their covert operations
An underground resistance that continued to sabotage my peace of mind

I have now recognised the miscarriage of justice
My stammered words were always innocent
They died imprisoned inside me and
Gave me an 'interiority' complex

I have learned to communicate more by writing
I have wanted my words to have the right to be heard
My thoughts and feelings have managed a great escape…
There is no stammer in a written word

If I had my time again I would want to be friends
With my stammered words and feelings
They would not be enemies in my life
I would not be at war with my words

I would be a pacifist regarding stammering
And conscientiously object to fighting for fluency
I would be a deserter and face the firing squad
A stammering war poet who found peace.

Tim has also written articles for Your Voice about his long journey towards stammering acceptance: 
'I have stopped trying to be perfect'
'Say no to fluentism'

Do you have a poem about stammering you'd like to share? Or would you like to write about your experiences? Email or visit our Share Your Story page for details.

Two women in running outfits holding flags and looking at the camera
Tayo & Bhupinder
A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

Become a member

It's free

Join the movement to change how people understand and react to stammering.

Sign up

Campaign. Fundraise. Connect. Meet. Vote. Talk.

Your Voice