Two respected academic journals feature big time talents as guest editors of recent issues given over to war literature. Prairie Schooner invited Brian Turner to assemble an all-star collection of writers on contemporary war for its winter 2013 issue, and Turner has delivered the goods. Elyse Fenton, Siobhan Fallon, Roy Scranton, Benjamin Busch, and Colby Buzzell are familiar names who have contributed stories, poems, and essays to the issue. Turner, always alert to non-American perspectives, also includes entries by foreign authors and writers on wars other than the Iraq and Afghanistan ones. A complete version is not available on-line, and I don’t have a paper copy yet, but a roster of authors and titles can be found here.
I am honored to participate in a Prairie Schooner roundtable electronic discussion titled “On War Writing.” Other participants include Donald Anderson, Doug Anderson, Matt Gallagher, and Marilyn Nelson, whose work I have read, and Sam Hamill and Stacey Peebles, who are unknown to me but whose work I am looking forward to getting to know.
Benjamin Busch has selected and introduced a collection of Iraq and Afghanistan war poems for the winter 2013 issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review. In “From the Desert Wars: Introduction,” Busch writes, “…these are words chipped out of the dirt by survivors exploring themselves and their war, all of them leading you to the monster. It as though each poet carefully laid out his field notes, searched them for connections to the immensity of human conflict, and found the least amount of language possible to send us messages. This is what is left, just these words, each poet sifting the battlefield for evidence to compose a truth.”
I am not familiar with the poets, all veterans, Busch has chosen to publish but will honor their names—Bruce Lack, Hugh Martin, Clint Garner, Patrick Whalen—and look for ways to talk about their poems in more detail in later posts. Busch contributes two poems of his own. One, titled “Girls,” wonders what female Iraqi or Afghan children must make of the American soldiers in their midst. Two lines:
We pass because we must, slow and reptilian,
unable to pretend we mean no harm.
I’ll quote another, titled “Subtext,” in its entirety:
“This is not about that”
It is too obvious
to write about, an occurrence
long with disappointment.
But it is over.
Uneven mud brick walls,
burnt plastic wind, diesel exhaust,
dust in the sky, children running,
the curiosity of goats
and men with sticks.
Body heavy with bullets, soil thick with bone and bleeding,
face rough with salt.
The war occurs
in everything now,
is about that.
Busch is also in electronic print in The Daily Beast with this review of Lone Survivor. I haven’t seen Lone Survivor yet, but will soon and look forward to writing about it, too.