Here, Bullet by Brian Turner

Here, Bullet by Brian Turner, who served in the U.S. army for seven years after receiving his MFA and was a team leader for one year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, won the 2005 Beatrice Hawley Award and was printed by Alice James Books — a nonprofit cooperative poetry press.  (The title poem, Here, Bullet,” was recently profiled in the Virtual Poetry Circle.)  The collection is broken down into four sections, and each section is preceded by a quote relevant to it, with some even quoting the Qur’an.  Turner is adept at illustrating the violence of war, but also the humanity that accompanies it.  From the startling nature of rockets going off over head to the silence of bullets as they enter the body, he provides a keen eye into how those instruments of war impact both sides of the battle equally psychologically, physically, and spiritually.

Soldiers who craft wartime poetry have generally either fallen into the category of using graphic violence to shock and awe the reader or using quieter imagery to bring about reader understanding about psychological impacts of battle.  There also are those that have political poems that are heavy on criticism or propaganda, but those would fall less into the wartime poetry category.  Turner combines both violence and peace in his imagery, but in a unique way that has violence silently creeping into the lines and shocking readers.  For instance, in “Eulogy” (page 20), readers may hardly notice the suicide of Private Miller because he takes “brass and fire into his mouth,” but once the birds fly up off the water by the sound, it is clear the brass and fire are from a gun.  While outright, violent images can be eye-opening for readers, the quiet power in some of Turner’s lines are that much more lasting.

From “Katyusha Rockets” (page 32), “Rockets often fall/in the night sky of the skull, down long avenues/of the brain’s myelin sheathing, over synapses/and the rough structures of thought, they fall/into the hippocampus, into the seat of memory–/where lovers and strangers and old friends/entertain themselves, unaware of the dangers/headed their way, or that I will need to search/among them.”  These poems not only pay tribute to soldiers on all sides, but the civilians, the heroes, and a soldier’s fears and his regrets.  Some poems are infused with deep sadness, while others are steeped in great pride.

Here, Bullet by Brian Turner and the title poem are a testament to war and all of its trappings.  Readers will enjoy the quiet power these poems hold and the deft hand with which Turner paints the humanity of both sides in war.  The collection also contains moments of observation that will have readers thinking about war in the greater context of our own “supposed” morality as espoused by the Bible and the Qur’an, noting in “Dreams From the Malaria Pills (Turner)” (page 46), “He knows the Qur’an and the Bible/have washed page by page to the shore,/their bindings stripped loose, their ink/blurred into the sea.//”

About the Poet:

Brian Turner is a soldier-poet who is the author of two poetry collections, Phantom Noise (2010) and Here, Bullet (2005) which won the 2005 Beatrice Hawley Award, the New York Times “Editor’s Choice” selection, the 2006 Pen Center USA “Best in the West” award, and the 2007 Poets Prize, among others. Turner served seven years in the US Army, to include one year as an infantry team leader in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. Prior to that, he was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1999-2000 with the 10th Mountain Division. Turner’s poetry has been published in Poetry Daily, The Georgia Review, and other journals, and in the Voices in Wartime Anthology published in conjunction with the feature-length documentary film of the same name.


This is my 48th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.



This is my 22nd book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

111th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 111th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2011 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Please contribute to the growing list of 2011 Indie Lit Award Poetry Suggestions, visit the stops on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour from April.

Today’s poem is from Brian Turner‘s collection, Here, Bullet; the title poem from page 13 as read by Turner himself, plus the text below the video:

Here, Bullet

If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.

Let me know your thoughts, ideas, feelings, impressions. Let’s have a great discussion…pick a line, pick an image, pick a sentence.

I’ve you missed the other Virtual Poetry Circles. It’s never too late to join the discussion.

Mailbox Monday #137

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  This month our host is Life in the Thumb.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.  Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

From Borders, which is the only local book store in my town and had the best employees who had great recommendations every time I went in; it also was the only store with a good three-to-four shelves of poetry near me and outside the immediate D.C. city:

1.  The Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund, which I bought for my mom’s birthday (good thing she doesn’t read the blog).

2.  Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1 by Stephenie Meyer and adapted by Young Kim

3.  Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan, which I bought to complete the Ireland Reading Challenge and because I just missed out on the TLC Book Tour.

4.  Ideal Cities by Erika Meitner; yes, this is just one of the books I snagged from the poetry section.

5.  The Broken Word by Adam Foulds

6.  Here, Bullet by Brian Turner

7.  Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea by Nikki Giovanni, which I picked up because I loved her selection of poems in (Hip Hop Speaks to Children (my review)

8.  Ballistics by Billy Collins

9. Falling Up by Shel Silverstein

10. Don't Bump the Glump! by Shel Silverstein

11. Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein

12. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

13. Peter Rabbit's Tale by Beatrix Potter

14. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss; our version says its made with recycled paper.

15. Dr. Seuss's Circus McGurkus 1,2,3! (plush)

From Anna for Wiggles:

16. Winnie the Pooh and Piglet's Book of Opposites

17. Winnie the Pooh All Year Long

18. Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox by Tim Ostermeyer

And books that came in the mail for review:

19. The Tree It Was by Sandra Fuhringer

What did you receive this week?