Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Pushcart Prize Nom for 'FOB Haiku' Poet

The non-profit Veterans Writing Project publishes both an on-line and quarterly print literary journal titled "O-Dark-Thirty." Editors there recently included in their nominations to the 2018 Pushcart Prize a poem by Randy Brown. Brown's poem "Airman, Second Grade" was published in their Summer 2017 "O-Dark-Thirty"—a special edition that focused on a theme of "identity."

A digital copy of that issue can be accessed FREE as a PDF at this link.

The Pushcart Prize annually seeks the best poems, essays, and short fiction, as nominated by small press publishers and literary journals.

It is Brown's second Pushcart nomination. In 2016, his work "fighting seasons" was nominated by the War, Literature & the Arts Journal. That work also appears in his collection "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire."

The poem "Airman, Second Grade" regards the poet's experiences growing up in an active-duty U.S. Air Force family:
Airman, Second Grade

This is where
you ask me where I’m from.

And this is where
I tell you that my family and I
are in the Air Force.

Focused as a death-ray lens
on the playground ants below, you suddenly blaze
that my pants are on fire.

I do not understand why.
I know, just as the sky is blue:
My family is in the Air Force.

I have already moved four times
that I can remember. Each address
has been a new bicycle, and learning to pedal

through conversations like this one.
Kids can’t be in the Air Force, you laugh.

I burn, my face hot. My eyes sting.

But I get it now:
I am not from around here
and you are not

one of us.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

New War Poetry from Eric 'Shmo' Chandler

In a new collection of poetry about life and war as a pilot, parent, and outdoor sports enthusiast, Northeastern Minnesota author Eric “Shmo” Chandler delivers plenty in laughs and love—of family, of country, and of navigating one’s place in the world. Whether soaring at 40,000 feet, or carefully considering the flowers he encounters by the trail, his words are rich with insight and humor.

Published this week by Middle West Press LLC, "Hugging This Rock: Poems of Earth & Sky, Love & War" (116 pages, trade paperback) is now available in a $9.99 print edition, as well as a $5.99 e-book via Amazon.

A cross-country skier, marathon runner, and former F-16 fighter pilot, Chandler is also author of the 2013 collection of essays "Outside Duluth," and the 2014 military-themed novella "Down In It." His fiction, non-fiction, and award-winning poetry have appeared widely both on-line and in print. He blogs at:

Chandler is a two-time winner of the Col. Darron L. Wright Memorial Writing Award administered by the on-line literary journal Line of Advance. He is a member of the Lake Superior Writers organization, the Outdoor Writers Association of America, and the Military Writers Guild.

A 1989 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Chandler retired after a 24-year military flying career with the U.S. Air Force and the Minnesota Air National Guard. He is a veteran with three deployments to Saudi Arabia for Operation Southern Watch; three deployments to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom; and one to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. He flew over 3,000 hours and 145 combat sorties in the F-16.

Now a commercial airline pilot, Chandler lives in Duluth, Minnesota with his wife, two children, and a rescued dog named Leo.

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Poem: 'what sacrifice has been'

This poem by Randy Brown originally appeared in "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Vol. 1," published in 2012 by Southeast Missouri State University Press. It also appeared in "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire," Middle West Press LLC, 2015:

what sacrifice has been

in airports, well-traveled souls
confuse boots with heroes
and buy us sandwiches
while flat-talking boxes buzz

with bullet-lists and mug-shots of the fallen:
3-second shrines
to soldiers they will never know
like you

this war is on us,
they want to say
thanks for your service
have a nice day

they elevate our routine dead
with casual regard and separate
us from them
with unsustaining praise

they do not grasp our names are found
on medals and on stones
and on the lips of friends who’ve seen
what sacrifice has been

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Live Oak Review features Q&A with Haikuist

An extensive Q&A-style interview with Randy Brown, author of "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire," was recently featured on The Live Oak Review, an on-line literary journal that focuses on author interviews and book reviews of contemporary poetry, literary fiction, and creative nonfiction. Poet Stephen Sossaman, founder of Poets and War website, and a professor emeritus of English at Westfield (Massachusetts) State University, conducted the interview.

The interview can be read in its entirety on the journal's website here.

In their conversation, Sossaman and Brown contrast the engines of today's war poetry with that of the Vietnam War generation; talk about whether the direct experience of war is necessary in order to write poems about it; about how social media has shifted the responsibility of mediating war experiences onto individual soldiers and family members; and about the roles of humor in poetry and in the military.

An excerpt:
Stephen Sossaman: My own guess is that your fine poem “night vision” might become the go-to poem about the war in Afghanistan, or maybe “dust bunnies and combat boots.” And for the complex feelings that most veterans experience after coming home, “Suburbistan” seems to me to be a very moving expression of disillusionment and nostalgia.

Randy Brown: “Suburbistan” still makes me laugh, every time my family hears helicopters overhead or small arms fire on Range Day. We don’t live in what you’d think of as a “military community.” I grew up in an active-duty Air Force family, and I’m familiar with the all-pervasive presence of a large military installation. Shopping at the commissary. Traffic signs flashing “low-flying aircraft.” Here, there’s just a small National Guard post nearby. You’d think we’d be insulated here, in the middle of the middle class in middle America, and yet we encounter reminders of war on a nearly daily basis. Not just reminders, but realities. Conex boxes staged at Starbucks. Convoys of ground vehicles delivering troops for training, or equipment for fixing. If people say they don’t know what’s going on in the world, they’re not looking very hard.
For more, visit The Live Oak Review here.

While there, be sure to also check out a review of war writer J.A. Moad II's play "Outside Paducah: The Wars at Home," in production through Oct. 15, 2017 by the Poetic Theater at The Wild Project, 195 E. 3rd Street, New York.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Veterans' Poems featured in F(r)iction No. 8

A special selection of Veterans Writing Project work, including "love sonnet to a new K-pot," is featured in the Summer 2017 issue of F(r)iction magazine, published by Tethered by Letters. Issue No. 8 is currently available for sale via the publisher in both electronic and print editions. Print editions are also currently available nationwide at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and independent booksellers. Look for it on newsstands alongside literary journals and writing magazines.

Other works appearing in the VWP special section, titled "Shrapnel Shell," are:
  • "From the Lumes Series" by Nichole Goff
  • "The Value of a Good Book" by C.R. McCarthy
  • "Elegy" by Michael McManus
  • "Around the World, Unseen" by Matthew Mobley
  • "Interrupted Sonnet, with my Girls" by T.J. Reynolds
  • "Thick Black Smoke" by Brandy Williams
Readers should also check out a poem titled "Blood Stripes" by a Iraq War veteran Aaron Graham, which appears separately in the same issue.

The Denver, Colo.-based F(r)iction magazine is a highly stylized synthesis of fine art, comics, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. As the editors describe it:
F(r)iction is different. The brainchild of a ragtag team of editors, artists, and writers, F(r)iction is the best of everything we’ve ever loved. F(r)iction is experimental. F(r)iction is strange. F(r)iction pokes the soft spots, touches nerves most would rather remain protected. F(r)iction is secrets and truths and most importantly—stories.

F(r)iction is weird, in every respect.
Veterans Writing Project is a 501(c)3 non-profit based in the Washington, D.C. metro area. The project teaches no-cost creative writing workshops to military service members, veterans, and family members; assists in medical research of expressive writing as a therapy at National Intrepid Center for Excellence (NICoE); and publishes the quarterly print and on-line literary journal "O-Dark-Thirty."

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.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Writer-Veterans Featured on 'Talk of Iowa'

Iowa Public Radio "Talk of Iowa" host Charity Nebbe (left) and Randy Brown (right) in studio during a program May 10, 2013.
The writer of "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire" appeared on a recent "Talk of Iowa" program on the topic of "Wounds, War and Poetry: Using Creativity to Heal." Randy Brown joined host Charity Nebbe and fellow Iowa veteran, poet, and author Dennis Maulsby on the program, which aired Tues., April 25 and is also available on on-line here.

After retiring from the Iowa Army National Guard with 20 years of service and a previous overseas deployment, Randy Brown embedded with his former unit as a civilian journalist in Afghanistan, May-June 2011. In addition to the poetry of "Welcome to FOB Haiku," he authored the 2016 journalism collection "Reporting for Duty: Citizen-Soldier Journalism from the Afghan Surge, 2010-2011." His poetry and non-fiction have appeared widely in literary print and on-line publications. As "Charlie Sherpa," he blogs about military culture at:

Brown had last appeared on the "Talk of Iowa" program May 10, 2013.

Dennis Maulsby is a U.S. Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War era as both enlisted soldier and officer. He served for two years as a Russian-language voice-intercept operator. As a military intelligence officer, he served with the U.S. 25th Infantry "Tropic Lightning" Division. He received an honorable discharge in 1970. Maulsby is the author of multiple books, including most recently the poetry collection "Near Death / Near Life" and the short-story collection "Free Fire Zone."

Maulsby's "Near Death / Near Life" and Brown's "Welcome to FOB Haiku" each received a 2016 Gold Medal in Poetry from the Military Writers Society of America in 2016.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Listen Up, Maggots! It's National Poetry Month!

PHOTO BY: U.S. Army Sgt. Ken Scar
This post, written by the author of "FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire," originally appeared on the Red Bull Rising blog April 6, 2016.

When packing for one of my first training experiences with the U.S. Army, back in the late 1980s, I knew that free time and footlocker space would be at a premium. I could live without luxuries like my Walkman cassette player for a few months. I also wanted to avoid avoid too much gruff from drill sergeants. So I stuffed a paperback copy of Shakespeare's "Henry V" into my left cargo pocket, wrapped in a plastic sandwich bag, as my sole entertainment.

If nothing else, I thought, I'd work on my memorization skills. ("Oh, for a muse of fire-guard duty …") Little did I realize that so much of my brain would already be filled, starting those summer months at Fort Knox, Ky., with the nursery rhymes of Uncle Sam. Training was full of poetry. Sometimes, it was profane. "This is my rifle, this is my gun!" Sometimes, it was pedagogical. "I will turn the tourniquet / to stop the flow / of the bright red blood." There were even times that it was nearly pathological. "What is the spirit of the bayonet?! / Kill! Kill! Kill!"

These basic phrases connected us new recruits to the yellow footprints of those who had stood here before, marched in our boots, squared the same corners, weathered the same abuses. Every time we moved, we were serenaded by sergeants. Counting cadence, calling cadence, bemoaning that Jody was back home, dating our women, drinking our beer. We learned our lines, our ranks, our patches, our places as much by tribal story-telling than by reading the effing field manual. Even our soldier humor was hand-me-down wisdom, tossed off like singsong hand grenades. Phrases like, "Don't call me 'sir' / I work for a living!" and "You were bet-ter off when you left! / You're right!"

Nobody's quite sure why April got the nod as National Poetry Month. I like to think that it's because of that line from T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland": "April is the cruelest month." Because that sounds like the Army. Besides, in springtime, the thoughts of every warrior-poet lightly turns to baseball; showers that bring flowers ("If it ain't raining / it ain't training!"); and the start of fighting season in Afghanistan.

Poetry, I recognize, isn't every soldier's three cups of tea. Ever since I entertained my platoon mates with Prince Harry's inspiring St. Crispin's Day speech, however, I've enjoyed sneaking poetry into the conversation. Perhaps more soldiers would appreciate poetry, were they to realize the inherent poetics of military life:

Every time you go to war, you are engaged in a battle for narrative. Every deployment—individually as a soldier, or collectively as an Army or nation—is a story. Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. Every story is subject to vision, and revision. History isn't always written by the victors, but it is re-written by poets. Treat them well. Otherwise, they will cut you.

Every time you eat soup with a knife, you are wielding a metaphor. Every "boots on the ground," every "line in the sand," every Hollywood-style named operation ("Desert Shield"! "Desert Storm"! "Enduring Freedom"!) is a metaphor that shapes our understanding of a war and its objectives. If you don't understand the dangerous end of a metaphor, you shouldn't be issued one.

(There's also a corollary, and a warning: As missions change, so do metaphors. In other words, when a politician trots out a new metaphor for war, better check your six.)

Every poem is a fragment of intelligence, a piece in the puzzle. A poem can slow down time, describe a moment in lush and flushed detail. It can transport the reader to a different time, a different battlefield. Most importantly, a poem can describe the experience of military life and death through someone else's eyes—a spouse, a villager, a soldier, a journalist. Poetry, in short, is a training opportunity for empathy.

Soldiers like to say that the enemy gets a vote, so it's worth noting that the enemy writes poetry, too. Like reading doctrine and monitoring propaganda, reading an enemy's verse reveals motivations and values. Sun Tzu writes:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
Every time you quote a master, from Sun Tzu to Schwarzkopf, you are delivering aphorism. I liken the aphorism—a quotable-quote or maxim—to be akin to concise forms of poetry, such as haiku. In fact, in my expansive view, I think aphorisms should count as poetry. In the world of word craft, it can take as much effort to hone an effective aphorism than it does to write a 1,000-word essay. Aphorisms are laser-guided missiles, rather than carpet bombs. We should all spend our words more wisely.

Reading a few lines connects us to the thin red line of soldiers past, present, and future. Poetry puts us in the boots of those who have served before, hooks our chutes to a larger history and experience of war. The likes of Shakespeare's "band of brothers" speech, John McRae's "In Flanders Fields," and Rudyard Kipling's poem "Tommy" continue to speak to the experiences and sentiments of modern soldiers.

I am happy to report that more-contemporary war poets have continued the march.

Here's a quick list to probe the front lines of modern war poetry: From World War II, seek out Henry Reed's "The Naming of Parts." For a jolt of Vietnam Era parody, read Alan Farrell's "The Blaming of Parts." From the Iraq War, Brian Turner's "Here, Bullet." In this tight shot group, modern soldiers will no doubt recognize themselves, their tools, and their times. Here is industrial-grade boredom, an assembly line of war, punctuated with humor and grit, gunpowder and lead.

Want more? Check out print and on-line literary offerings from Veterans Writing Project's "O-Dark-Thirty" quarterly literary journal; Military Experience & the Arts' twice-annual "As You Were"; the "Line of Advance" journal; and Southeast Missouri State University's "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors" annual anthology series.

Finally, you can buy an pocket anthology of poetry, such as the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets edition of "War Poems" from Knopf, or Ebury's "Heroes: 100 Poems from the New Generation of War Poets." Stuff it in your left cargo pocket. Read a page a day as a secular devotional, a meditation on war. Or, pick a favorite poem, print it out, and post it on the wall of your fighting position or office cube. Read the same poem, over and over again, during the course of a few weeks. See how it changes. See how it changes in you.

Remember: It's National Poetry Month. And every time you read a war poem, an angel gets its Airborne wings.


Randy Brown embedded with his former Iowa Army National Guard unit as a civilian journalist in Afghanistan, May-June 2011. He authored the poetry collection Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire (Middle West Press, 2015). He is the current poetry editor of Military Experience and the Arts' "As You Were" literary journal, and a member of the Military Writers Guild. As "Charlie Sherpa," he blogs about military culture at:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

War Poet to Speak at DMACC-Boone

Helping to raise funds for veterans charities via the "In My Boots 5K" student organization, 21st century war poet and Central Iowa journalist Randy Brown will present words, pictures, and lessons-learned from a 2010-2011 deployment to Afghanistan 7 p.m., Thurs., March 30, on the Des Moines Community College (DMACC) campus in Boone, Iowa. The public is invited.

"Des Moines Community College has a history of helping Iowans put knowledge, experience, and service together in creative ways," says Brown. "I'm hoping to share how and why our citizen-soldiers made history in Afghanistan, and how we can engage each other in conversations and stories about war.

A freewill-donation spaghetti supper will start at 6 p.m., with Brown's presentation to follow in the college's auditorium at 7 p.m. A number of related books will be offered as door prizes, as well as for purchase.

In 2009, Brown started blogging as a deploying citizen-soldier, writing under the pseudonym "Charlie Sherpa" about his family's experiences in preparing for war. The 2010-2011 deployment of Iowa's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division was billed as the largest call-up of Iowa troops since World War II. The 2-34th BCT is headquartered in Boone, with battalion and company headquarters located across the state.

When he was dropped off the deployment list just days from federal mobilization in 2010, Brown retired from the military and then went to Afghanistan anyway, embedding as civilian media with his former "Red Bull" colleagues.

Brown is author of 2015's "Welcome to FOB Haiku," an award-winning collection of often-humorous war poetry; and editor of the recently published "Reporting for Duty," a 668-page collection of journalism generated by the 2-34th BCT while deployed to Afghanistan. He is also a former cast member of "Telling: Des Moines," a veterans' storytelling performance that was staged at DMACC-Ankeny campus in 2012.

The annual "In My Boots" 5K walk, run, and ruck event annually raises funds for veterans-related charities. This year, proceeds will be directed toward Paws & Effect, a Central Iowa non-profit that raises and trains psychiatric service dogs for military veterans and others. The 2017 "In My Boots" event will take place April 15 in Boone's McHose Park. On-line registration is available here.

DMACC-Boone's Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society chapter will also be holding a food drive during the race.

A Facebook page for the "In My Boots" student organization is here.

A Facebook event page for the March 30 event is here.

For information, contact:
  • Jared Neal, president, "In My Boots" student group: jdneal AT dmacc DOT edu
  • Julie Roosa: 515.433.5215; jkroosa AT dmacc DOT edu
  • Nancy Woods: 515.433.5061; nawoods AT dmacc DOT edu
  • Sean Taylor: astaylor AT dmacc DOT edu
To make on-line monetary donations to "In My Boots," visit here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

'Best Defense' Blog: Pro-Tips in Haiku Form

The Thinker on the Butte de Warlencourt,
watercolor, 1917, William Orpen
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Tom Ricks, who writes the "Best Defense" blog for Foreign Policy magazine and who has been a long-time supporter of the Red Bull Rising blog, is currently running a micro-essay contest (150-word maximum) on the theme: "What should a military professional profess?"

"It isn’t as easy as it sounds," he writes. "It can’t be just 'patriotic,' because it should have application to the militaries of other countries. […] I’m asking this now because I suspect we will see some tests of military professionalism in the coming weeks and months."

Read his full pitch here.

The contest, which is likely only for professional-bragging points, will run through the end of February. Any "winners" (defined as the "best or at least most interesting") will be posted in March. In the meantime, Ricks is occasionally featuring responses he's received so far. You know, to help people get the creative juices flowing.

Those familiar with my work in the award-winnng collection "Welcome to FOB Haiku" will not be surprised that my own attempt to address Ricks' question was a series of pithy, Japanese-style poems.

One of my favorites:
Your moral compass
should be red-light readable
for work in the dark.
You can read them all here on Ricks' blog.

Send your own micro-essay entries to: ricksblogcomment AT

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

MWSA Gold Medal Awarded to 'FOB Haiku'!

Book reviewers at Military Writers Society of America (M.W.S.A.) recently announced that "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poetry from Inside the Wire" (Middle West Press, LLC) has been awarded a 2016 Gold Medal in Poetry.

The award takes place after a 2015 MWSA rules revision. Under a new system, panels of three judges considered approximately 80 military-themed or -authored fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and other literature. According to the association: "The already stringent requirements were toughened further. Three judges read every book submitted and scored them based on content, visual, style, and technical criteria. The three scores were then averaged. To receive a medal, a book had to reflect MWSA's exacting technical standards as well as a high total score."

In a companion review to the award, author and Gold Star mother Betsy Beard described "Welcome to FOB Haiku" as "fresh, profound, illuminating." She continues:
[T]his is a must-read poetry book. It logs the humor and joy as well as the pathos and tragedy that comes as a result of serving in the American military.

The poetry is divided into several sections titled Basic Issue, Getting Embed, FOB Haiku, Lessons Learned, and Homecoming. A final section titled Notes contains valuable definitions as well as pronunciations for the ever-present military acronyms. Information in this section is critical to the understanding of how the poetry is to be read, since many of us do not know how to pronounce DFAC or TOC. My advice is to read the notes for each section before you read the poetry in that section. I think it will deepen the experience as well as allow you to get the meter that the poet intended.

One poem in particular changed the way I think of my son's service in Iraq, where he was killed in action. "Hamlet in Afghanistan" enabled me to realize more than I had allowed myself to think that "nothing we can ever do will change that day in the village." Heartrending, but true.

Not everyone in America understands the military culture. But for those who lived it, this book will bring remembrance and affirmation. For those who are families and friends of service members, this book will help you gain new understanding of your loved ones. For those without experience in this field, you may end up with a fresh look at what it’s all about.
"Welcome to FOB Haiku" can be purchased via on-line booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more. For more information, visit: