Tuesday, May 1, 2018

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 2018 Col. Darron L. Wright awards. The award recognizes a new poem that unpacks the phrase "God willing," which is found in multiple languages.

Brown's poem, "Inshallah Mañana," explores the connections of language, as heard with the ears of a citizen-soldier. The soldier first encounters the phrase for "God willing" in his first year of junior high school Spanish, and again in Afghanistan. The phrase is a common one, used in both religious and secular contexts.

You can read Brown's poem in its entirety here.

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.

Other poetry recognized in this year's Wright awards included:
Prose recognitions included:
The annual poetry and prose contest is limited to U.S. military veterans, and named in memory of Col. Darron L. Wright. In addition to other assignments, 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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Wanted: Women-Warrior-Poets

U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Briana Popp donned her drill sergeant hat during a graduation ceremony at Fort Jackson, S.C. March 8, 2017. Popp earned the titles of Iron Female and Distinguished Honor Graduate and will be a drill sergeant with the 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training). Popp was the first female Distinguished Honor Graduate in the past six cycles and happened to graduate in March, which is Women's History Month. Coincidentally, Popp's graduation day was International Women's Day as well. Popp is married to active duty drill sergeant, Staff Sgt. Victor James Popp, Echo Company, 2-19 Infantry Battalion, 198th Infantry Brigade, at Fort Benning. (U.S. Army Reserve Photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato.) 
Listen, up, Maggots! It's still National Poetry Month!

Today's hip-pocket soap box is about how war poetry could be more inclusive!

U.S. Navy officer and fellow military writer Andrea Goldstein (@AN_Goldstein) asked recently on Twitter:
In 17 years, why is it that the post- 9/11 "warrior-poets", vets who earn well-deserved critical & popular acclaim are all white men? Women & [People of Color] are writing—and writing beautifully.

Who gets published? Whose story is considered "credible"? Whose is considered marketable?
Goldstein's query echoes those generated by an on-going personal poetry project of mine, light-heartedly titled the MOA21CWPL—the "Mother of All 21st Century War Poetry Lists." Of more than 40 individual poetry titles that regard 21st century wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, only a handful are by women who have served in uniform.

That's not necessarily to say that women and poets of color aren't generating poetry—but that such poetry seems difficult to locate in concentration. In collection. In books of their own.

Criteria for inclusion on the MOA21CWPL may be skewing the results in favor of male, white, middle-class, officer-centered voices. Potential reasons include, but are not limited to:
  • These listings are "published" (print and/or on-line) collections or anthologies. A typical collection comprises an estimated 50 or more individual poems. Collections and anthologies are "literary" venues that are traditionally white, and are often based on college campuses and in MFA programs.
  • They are published as written forms, rather than spoken, video, audio, or other, alternative poetic forms and formats.
It may be that women-veterans and other less-heard voices are still generating art—evidenced by work found in "veterans lit" and other journals—but have not yet generated sufficient quantities to collect as books. Or perhaps they just need some encouragement to submit their work to publishers as whole manuscripts.

Personal anecdote: I didn't realize that I had enough poems for a collection of my own, until someone asked me to put together some of the works I'd sent to Veterans Writing Project and other outlets. A folder of print-outs became a binder; the binder became a manuscript; the manuscript became "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire" (2015). I've been gratified at its reception by readers, and hope that it might inspire others to do likewise. Just because I wasn't a grunt, didn't mean that people didn't want to hear my story.

It may also be that artists are choosing to "publish" their work via means other than printed books or e-books. YouTube videos, for example. Or spoken-word events.

Still, in the following women-only extract of the MOA21CWPL, only a handful of titles appear to be works by women-veterans: Nicole Goodwin (U.S. Army, enlisted); Karen Skolfield (U.S. Army, enlisted); and Farzana Marie (U.S. Air Force, officer). There should be more.

It's National Poetry Month. As a consumer and reader and sometime poet, I'm pleased that there is so much recognition in the poetry marketplace of wartime narratives other than those involving traditionally "male" domains. (Women-in-war narratives have, after all, always been with us, just as war has always been with us.)

Still, I would like to read more poetry by sailors, soldiers, Marines, and others who have worn the uniform in defense of their countries. And I'm sure I'm not alone.

(I know of at least one that is actively pinging for poetry collections of less-heard voices of military experience, regardless of geography.)

We've been at war for 17 years. Women veterans, fellow citizens, where are your musings of fire?

*****

WAR POETRY COLLECTIONS WRITTEN BY WOMEN:
ANTHOLOGIES FEATURING WAR POETRY BY WOMEN:
FREE! ON-LINE MIL-POETRY JOURNALS:
  • "Collateral" magazine. Stories from perspectives of those affected by others' military service.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

New War Poetry Offers Humor, Insight


In her second electric collection, "Permanent Change of Station," poet, mother, and U.S. Marine Corps spouse Lisa Stice lovingly interrogates and illuminates life in a modern military family. The 96-page trade paperback is available for $11.99 U.S. purchase via Amazon and other booksellers worldwide. A $5.99 U.S. Amazon Kindle edition is available as well. Via Amazon's "MatchBook" program, a bonus Kindle copy is available FREE for instant download to purchasers of the print edition.

Here's what people are saying about Lisa Stice's "Permanent Change of Station":
"Lisa Stice's new poetry collection [...] is spare and lovely. Shadowed by deployments and military moves, Stice demonstrates how the smallest, most tenuous moments in life can illustrate a family’s larger joys and fears."
Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone and The Confusion of Languages

"By using a language [...] that plays philosophically with the meanings of military terminologies, Lisa Stice produces a cartography of domestic space that is riddled with loss. [...] Stice celebrates the moms and kids who 'hold down the fort' back home, expressing awe at all the ways they find to survive and thrive."
Lynn Marie Houston, author of the poetry collections Unguarded and The Mauled Keeper

"The experiences [Lisa Stice] writes of—the losses and realizations—are part of a military life that often feels simultaneously impenetrable and inescapable. Absence, isolation, and relocation become habit we don’t often read about, because part of us breaks in every move we do not choose, every uncertainty we are told to sustain […]"
Abby E. Murray, author of the poetry collections How to Be Married After Iraq and Quick Draw: Poems from a Soldier’s Wife
Together with her toddler daughter and little dog Seamus, Stice explores the in-betweens of separation and connection, and the quest for finding one's place in the world—whether child or adult.

Stice's signature style is open and accessible—this is poetry for people who think they don't read poetry.

Frequently, for example, she borrows phrases from texts she finds readily at hand around the house, including quotations from Sun Tzu's "The Art of War," and Dr. Seuss's "The Sneetches."

In another point of entry, the family's beloved Norwich Terrier often appears as a sentry, companion, and guide.

In one poem, "The Dog Speaks," Stice writes:
He says, I can't leave.
This place is mine—
I claimed all the trees
.

I say, There will be more.
After all the temporary homes
and all the stops in between,

this whole country
will by yours.
Lisa Stice is the author of a previous poetry collection, "Uniform" (Aldrich Press, 2016), in which she explores her experiences as a military wife. A former high school teacher, she volunteers as a mentor with the Veterans Writing Project; as an associate poetry editor with 1932 Quarterly; and as a contributor for The Military Spouse Book Review. She received a BA in English literature from Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University), Grand Junction, Colo., and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. While it is difficult to say where home is, she says, Stice currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, her daughter, and Seamus, a Norwich Terrier.

For a Red Bull Rising review of Stice's previous book, click here.

For a "5 Questions" Aiming Circle interview with poet Lisa Stice, click here.

Middle West Press LLC is a Central Iowa-based editor and publisher of non-fiction, fiction, journalism, and poetry. As an independent micro-press, we publish one to four titles annually. Our projects are often inspired by the people, places, and history of the American Midwest, as well as other essential stories.