Brian Turner is our 2021 selection. The event will be held March 11th, at 11 a.m. All are welcome.
We will continue past coordination with Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation on veterans’ issues and “Dialogues on War.” Turner’s poems are about the landscapes of war, labor, loss and fragmentation. In particular, we will make selections from My Life as A Foreign Country and Here, Bullet, a spring campus read.
Here, Bullet reflects Turner’s experiences as a soldier with lyric power compassion and sensitivity. His poem Eulogy is written to memorialize a soldier in his own platoon who took his life, as the military does not recognize soldiers who commit suicide.
Brian Turner is the author of two poetry collections, Here, Bullet, which won the Beatrice Hawley Award, the New York Times Editor’s Choice selection and the 2005 Beatrice Hawley award and Phantom Noise, which was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize in Poetry. He is also the author of a memoir, My Life in a Foreign Country, which made Powell’s Best Nonfiction list in 2014. He was a Guggenheim fellow in 2016. Prior to that he was deployed in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1999-2000 with the 10th Mountain Division. In his poetry and prose, Turner conveys both elegant and devastating portraits of what it means to be a soldier and a human being. In addition to his poetry and memoir, he is the editor of the anthology The Kiss (2018), a diverse anthology of essays, stories, poems, and graphic memoirs.
Thera“This poem is part of a book I’m working on called
All of Us Dying in Jack Gilbert’s Arms. This was written in
December of 2014, a year and a half after my wife, poet Ilyse Kusnetz,
was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. As I look back, I can see how
I was writing about what I feared most at the time—myself, alone, now
walking the path that Gilbert had worn along the side of his own
mountain, his arms filled with grief, elegy, celebration, love. —Brian
happens like this, on a blue day of sun, / when Private Miller pulls the
trigger / to take brass and fire into his mouth
the hurt locker / and see what there is of knives / and teeth. Open the
hurt locker and learn /how rough men come hunting for souls.
Every Soldier Should KnowIf
you hear gunfire on a Thursday afternoon, / it could be for a wedding,
or it could be for you. / Always enter a home with your right foot; the
left is for cemeteries and unclean places.
Life as a Foreign Country“It’s August. I’m leaning over a rooftop in Mosul, my
finger in the trigger housing, an American flag on my shoulder, a split
second decision echoing through my head: shoot the man standing in the
street with the AK-47. Or not. And the year is 2004. Or maybe it’s 2011.
It’s every night I spend circling in the drone aircraft over our bed. My
wife in her own dreams. Me, staring at the ceiling; staring down at the
landscape below us. The farms and countries laid side by side the way
bullets rest in their magazines.”
Served in Iraq, and American Sniper Gets It Right. But It’s
Still Not the War Film We Need.“This isn’t the defining film of the Iraq War. After
nearly a quarter century of war and occupation in Iraq, we still haven’t
seen that film. I’m beginning to think we’re incapable as a nation of
producing a film of that magnitude, one that would explore the civilian
experience of war, one that might begin to approach so vast and profound
a repository of knowledge. I’m more and more certain that, if such a
film film ever arrives, it’ll be made by Iraqi filmmakers a decade or
more from now, and it’ll be little known or viewed, if at all, on our
interview about Here, BulletHis book, Here, Bullet, reflects his war-time
experiences in graceful and unflinching poetry. Turner tells Steve
Inskeep about the military tradition in his family and why he joined the
Army when he was almost 30.
2008 VQR“I was against the war from the beginning and nothing
has changed since, other than a deepening and heightening of that
belief. To me it just seems like a huge tragedy on a scale that I can’t
fathom or understand completely because the numbers are beyond my
IndependentTurner recognises that the marriage of writing and
fighting makes for unique, if occasionally unsettling perspectives.
Soldier-writers don’t simply bear witness to war, they are implicated in
the violence they describe.
American Poetry“I began trying my hand at a series of haibun—a
traditional Japanese travelogue. Of course, I ended up mangling the form
and I’ve yet to figure out how to fully inhabit an English-language
version of the haibun form. That experimentation led me to an approach
to the essay that was far more fragmented than work I’d done in earlier
essays. I was beginning to learn how to trust the jump cut, the bright
turn from one thought to another—as well as the reader’s ability to
cross the wide synapses between disparate fragments.”
TimesThe memoir is divided into 136 short chapters or
vignettes, the shortest a single sentence, which chronicle Turner’s
wartime experience, from childhood to recruitment, deployment and
homecoming, as well as the accumulated memories given to him by his
family. Turner’s grandfather served in World War II, his father during
the Cold War and his uncle in Vietnam.
PostWith this education, and his father’s stories of
reconnaissance flights over Russia, his uncle’s stories from Vietnam,
his grandfathers’ from World War II, Turner enlisted in the military: In
his family, this is what it means to be a man. Yet Turner is also a
poet, and he cannot help but see the world, even the world of combat, in
terms of beauty, fragility and heartbreaking splendor.
RumpusIf you have ever had the opportunity to hear Brian
Turner read his poetry in front of a live audience, you might have
noticed a technique he uses. Between incredibly serious poems like
“Here, Bullet,” he will tell hilarious stories about his time in the
military and his life in general—stories that are hilarious at his own
Literary Arts Series