Brian Turner and the Poetry of War

By Adam Kampe

Brian Turner. Photo by Kim Buchheit, courtesy of Blue Flower Arts.

In support of our recent issue of NEA Arts, we're featuring a fresh perspective on war by another artist, poet Brian Turner. It's no secret that writers, playwrights, and poets have been capturing the wartime experience since the inception of war. From Sophocles to Walt Whitman, the devastation of war has driven writers to paint a picture in words of what it looked like, what it sounded like, what it smelled like, how it hurt. And that's what Turner does in his tough book of poetry, Here, Bullet. Reading his poems is as visceral an experience as watching scenes from former NEA grantee Kathyrn Bigelow's gripping film, The Hurt Locker. [In fact, that's the title of one of Turner's poems.] He served in the U.S. Army for seven years, but before that Turner earned an MFA from the University of Oregon. It's no easy task to strain an experience, to boil it down to an economical and lyrical wordpunch to the gut. But that's what Turner---like his predecessors---has done. Here are three poems as read by the poet* from his time as an infantry team leader with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Iraq.

Want to learn more about Brian Turner? Here's the Art Talk we did with him back in July 2011.

*I have to point out that Brian Turner generously recorded these poems himself in a small machiya, or traditional Japanese wooden townhouse, in the old part of Kyoto. Thanks, Brian!

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