Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry
While stationed in Iraq in 2004, Brian Turner wrote the title poem to his debut book of poems, Here, Bullet, folded it up, sealed it in a Ziploc bag, and put it in his left breast pocket, where he kept it for the remainder of his year as an infantry team leader with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. “Caravan” and Eulogy” are two of the poems from that collection.
Since its publication, Here, Bullet has been promoted by Veterans for Peace and like organizations, and has been adopted for courses at the US Air Force and Naval Academies, the US Military Academy at West Point and the Virginia Military Institute. We might not expect Turner’s poems to speak to members of peace organizations and military academies, but the poems in Here, Bullet are part of a long tradition dating back to the ancient epics.
It has been said that history is written by the victors, but the true story is written by our poets. Whatever we know about the brutality of war in Ancient Greece we’ve learned from reading Homer’s Illiad. Walt Whitman’s “The Wound Dresser” and “Reconciliation” are only two of his many poems that put a human face on our own Civil War.
Turner’s attempt to right the wrong of the erasure of Private First Class Bruce Miller’s name from the official record reminds us of the human cost of the wars of our own time. It is a sad fact of history that our poets need to keep reminding us.
The Winter Solstice, Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa celebrations all emerged as festivals of light and hope held during the darkest time of the year. In this dark time when we find ourselves embroiled in two of the longest wars in our history, let’s take a few moments to remember Private Bruce Miller and the many young men and women stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and make a New Year’s resolution to give our poets fewer reasons to write war poems.
Poetry Fridays will be on holiday hiatus until the New Year.
Be sure to return for upcoming Poetry Fridays, when we will feature many poets from past Dodge Poetry Festivals in the weeks ahead, including Jorie Graham, Tony Hoagland, Taslima Nasreen and others.