Wednesday, August 2, 2017

'MadPadre' Muses on War, Art & Memory

In a "taxonomy of war writing" published earlier this summer, the well-read Canadian chaplain and mil-blogger "Mad Padre" field-stripped such literature into the following categories:
  • Remembrance as Epic
  • Remembrance as Mimesis
  • Remembrance as Comedy and Satire
  • Remembrance As Soul Work
  • Remembrance as Art
MadPadre calls the latter category "most challenging aspect to war literature of any generation." He asks, "What distinguishes a soldier's memoir or a journalist's account of war from that of a poet or novelist? What are the standards by which we can assess the craft of war literature from the content?"

In his consideration of remembrance as art, MadPadre graciously mentions "Welcome to FOB Haiku":
Prose writers like [Phil] Klay, [Kevin] Powers and [Brian] Castner offer many examples of well-worked prose, the result of long hours and revisions. Some memoirs have a highly poetic quality to their prose; Benjamin Busch's "Dust to Dust" (2012) is a particularly strong example. However, poetry per se invites our attention both for the quality of the craft and whatever hard-earned truths the poet has brought back from war. Randy Brown's 2015 collection, "Welcome to FOB Haiku", is a series of near-virtuoso uses of the haiku form, but also draws on classical English forms such as the sonnet, as well as free verse. Brown moves easily between modes, from low-mimetic comedy
You'd think the poo pond
would attract more mortar rounds,
but they can't hit sh--.
to an Owenesque closing couplet that evokes the gulf of experience between civilian and veteran:
they do not grasp our names our found
on medals and on stones
and on the lips of friends who've seen
what sacrifice has been
Brian Turner's 2005 collection of poems, "Here Bullet," based on his experience in Iraq, has a different quality than Brown's often colloquial tone, more formal and perhaps more introspective.  Turner's work is beautiful and haunting, and shows, as [Adin] Dobkin notes in his [Los Angeles Review of Books essay titled "The Never-Ending Book of War"], how war literature can create strains of empathy which complicate and even overcome the enemy's Otherness. In Turner's ''In the Leupold Scope'', a rifleman is suddenly connected with an Iraqi woman on a distant rooftop, hanging laundry.  In the soldier poet's mind, that woman becomes a muse channeling the countless war dead through her billowing clothing, creating a powerful sense that the soldier is an interloper, complicit in an eternal tragedy.
She waits for them to lean forward
into the breeze, for the wind's breath
to return the bodies they once had,
women with breasts swollen by milk,
men with shepherd-thin bodies, children
running hard into the horizon's curving lens.
You can read MadPadre's essay in its entirety here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Ranger-Poet Reviews 'FOB Haiku'

Former U.S. Airborne Ranger and Private Military Contractor Jonathan Baxter, author of the 2016 poetry collection "The Ghosts of Babylon," recently reviewed Randy Brown's "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire" at The Havok Journal military blog.

"Brown presents a different side of the Afghanistan conflict that makes this book required reading for anyone trying to truly understand the nature of America’s longest war," Baxter writes ...
[…] "Welcome to FOB Haiku" provides an original perspective into service in the modern military. Brown takes the 99% of the military experience, the boring, tedious, and mundane aspects that are so rarely chronicled, and elevates them through subtle, skillful literary devices. Poetry enthusiasts will appreciate his wordplay, metaphor use, and uncanny ear for the occurring poetry of the military vernacular. Veterans will recognize their experiences overseas and appreciate this new take on the deployment lifestyle. Anyone seeking fresh insights into military service during our current conflicts will appreciate this outstanding anthology.
A link to Baxter's full review is here.

A link to a Red Bull Rising military blog review of Baxter's "The Ghosts of Babylon" is here.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Poet is Finalist in Darron L. Wright Awards

Randy Brown, author of the 2015 collection "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire," was recently named a poetry finalist in the Second Annual Col. Darron L. Wright awards, for a new work that explores the connection of a World War II-era movie actress, and the technology used in modern wireless and data communications.

Administered by the Chicago-based on-line literary journal "Line of Advance," and underwritten by the Blake and Bailey Foundation, the awards commemorate a U.S. Army leader who was killed in a September 2013 parachute training accident.

Brown's poem, "the frequency hop," mentions actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr, who first conceived of a way to prevent enemy forces from jamming signals to radio-controlled torpedoes, and a popular quote about actress and dancer Ginger Rogers:
"She did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels."
The quote is attributed to cartoonist Bob Thaves.

You can read the poem in its entirety here.

In addition to other assignments, Darron L. Wright served as battalion operations officer for 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo., with whom he deployed to Iraq from 2003 to 2004. Wright was next assigned as brigade executive officer with 4th Brigade, 4th Inf. Div., Fort Hood, Texas, with whom he deployed to Iraq from 2005 to 2006. He commanded the 1st Battalion, 509th Parachute Inf. Reg. at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La. in 2007. From 2009 to 2013, Wright was assigned as deputy brigade commander for the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Inf. Div., with whom he deployed to Iraq from 2009 to 2010.

A graduate of the U.S. Naval War College, Wright authored "Iraq Full Circle: From Shock and Awe to the Last Combat Patrol in Baghdad and Beyond." in 2012.

Wright's full biography appears here.

"Darron L. Wright was a larger than life Soldier’s Soldier. He was a physically imposing, direct, and skilled warrior," the Line of Advance editors wrote when the award was first launched.
He was also witty, hilarious, generous, kind, and wholly consumed with love for his family. He will certainly be missed but he will never be forgotten. His intellectual curiosity, boundless optimism, and untiring work ethic, allowed him to reach heights he could only dream of as a young boy growing up in Mesquite, Texas. It is in this spirit that the Darron L. Wright Award was created, to inspire fellow military writers and poets to aspire to become better and more accomplished at their craft and at telling their story.