This event brought together three great authors–Brian Turner, Siobhan Fallon, and Benjamin Busch–to speak about their efforts to portray the turmoil of war. As each of them had been profoundly affected by the war in Iraq, it seemed fitting a decade and a month after the invasion to ask about their whereabouts in March 2003 and then have them describe when the war became manifest in their art. The remarks subsequently ranged over many subjects, but focused most specifically on the damage enacted on individuals and relationships by deployment and exposure to death and killing.
Asked to read selections from their works that generated strong audience reactions, Turner read “At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center” from Phantom Noise, Fallon read from her story “Leave” from You Know When the Men Are Gone, and Busch read passages from Dust to Dust that described his decision to join the Marines and his first few days of training at Quantico.
Later, each of the authors read passages or poems that had been written pre-2001 that had influenced them then or seemed important now. Siobhan Fallon read from Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” Benjamin Busch read Joe Haldeman’s Vietnam War poem “DX,” which he had copied into a green military-issue notebook and carried with him in Iraq. Finally, Brian Turner recited from memory Israeli poet’s Yehuda Amachai’s “The Diameter of the Bomb”—an especially appropriate poem in light of last week’s Boston Marathon bombing:
The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters, with four dead and eleven wounded. And around these, in a larger circle of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered and one graveyard. But the young woman who was buried in the city she came from, at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers, enlarges the circle considerably, and the solitary man mourning her death at the distant shores of a country far across the sea includes the entire world in the circle. And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans that reaches up to the throne of God and beyond, making a circle with no end and no God..
Exit12 performed two dances: “Aggressed/This is War” consisted of two solo pieces that together depicted the story of a returned vet struggling to reintegrate into peacetime life. “Yarjuun,” which means “We hope” in Arabic, was a piece written by Exit12 director Roman Baca in Iraq in collaboration with an Iraqi dance troupe. Both dances were in turn playful, sad, sexy, and politically-charged, with inspired music, props, and choreography that dramatized the effects of war without being either too obvious or too elusive.
I had a hand in organizing this affair so I definitely want to thank the artists, all those in the audience, and all those helped make it happen. Wish everyone reading could have been there, too!
Below left to right: Siobhan Fallon, Brian Turner, Benjamin Busch:
Exit12 below–Adrienne de la Fuente, Joanna Priwieziencew, Roman Baca, Chloe Slade, and Paige Grimard: