Monday, September 17, 2007

Fick on Poetry and War

Nathaniel Fick's recent review of war poetry on the Poetry Foundation website features some old chestnuts (Randall Jarrell) as well as the recent poetry on the Iraq War from Kent Johnson (Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz), Iraq War veteran Brian Turner (Here, Bullet), and Iraqis Sinan Antoon and Dunya Mikhail (The War Works Hard).

Fick is a man of great feeling and intelligence, a soldier who reminds us of the humanity of soldiers in spite of what they face and are called upon to do. His words remind me of an old friend, poet and Marine Joel Poudrier. Joel is still (and will always be) Semper Fi...yet my first encounter with him was through his poems. As the editor of the college literary journal, I and my editorial staff were blown away by his real world adventures narrated in his poems. I tracked him down to interview him and ask him for poems.

My only struggle with Fick's review was his rather blithe statement about the egalitarian nature of war in Antoon's verse: "We stood on opposite sides of a chasm: I was a combatant, and he was a civilian. But Antoon understands war’s egalitarian nature: that it often doesn’t matter which end of the gun we’re on." That soldiers (particularly ones of an occupying foreign power) are incredibly vulnerable is very true. But the "often" of Fick's phrase gets larger, the closer you are to actually being on the wrong end of a gun. Having had an Uzi pointed at me, I can say that I felt very little of the egalitarian nature of war.

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