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Little Wars by W. Luther Jett

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 32 pgs.
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Little Wars by W. Luther Jett (full disclosure: we are in a poetry work-shopping group together) begins with “Recessional” a poem-like hymn in which a poet realizes that he works on a poem in night as many men before him have done and that they are all connected to one another in infinite time and space and that all of these poets are these poems. This poem sets up the rest of the collection’s theme of universality and how the little wars we wage with ourselves and others have come before and likely will continue, but for the hope that we can change and be more peaceful. The slivers of light, the blue of the sky, all of these images provide us the glimpse of hope on a distant horizon.

From "Storm Bear" (pg. 14)

...With great claws,
it scattered sand, wiped away the line
we'd drawn between desire
and circumstance. Roaring,
the storm fell upon us, ... 

Wars can begin just like that; a tipping point of rage that wipes it all away, moving into the unchecked desire (for more power, for revenge, etc.). The trembling of these battles whether in the past or far from us still can be heard, if we listen close, like the narrator of “Poppies” — the reverberations remain — the consequences spiral out and are an influence on today, this moment. “We didn’t know there are no/little wars–no distance/we cannot reduce to nothing.//” (“Vanishing Point/Ach Du” pg. 17)

And “A War Story” explains just how we, ourselves, can be reduced to nothing by war — the war itself may seem large and incomprehensible, but the impact is very real, very personal. “Epitaph,” which follows it, is equally devastating in its truth about praising the dead as heroes when they would more than likely prefer to be alive and left unpraised for doing simple things you’d do normally without war at your doorstep.

Little Wars by W. Luther Jett reminds us of all the costs of war and that “we choose” to make them. What would happen if we chose another path? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

Mailbox Monday #630

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

ALERT: We’re looking for a new host to help us with MM — if you have experience with WordPress or Mr. Linky, feel free to apply.

Here’s what we received:

Little Wars by W. Luther Jett, which I purchased from Kelsay Books.

You have in your hands poems of a mournful witness-nearly all evoke a tone of bitterness over the devastation and trauma of endless wars. The book’s ironic title is a purposeful oxymoron: “there are no / little wars-no distance / we cannot reduce to nothing.” Luther Jett’s poetry voices itself in precise diction and nuanced rhythms that grab hold of your attention and do not let go.

-Merrill Leffler, Author of Mark the Music

Compassion-both its presence and its absence-interests W. Luther Jett. His previous collections Not Quite: Poems Written in Search of My Father and Our Situation explored trauma and healing. Little Wars digs for the roots of pain in the twentieth century’s geopolitical conflicts, from World War II to Bosnia. The people in these poems go about their daily lives as the bombs fall, trying-and too often failing-to retain their human connection, deepening “the wound we make of breathing.” Jett’s sorrow pours out in the tones of an Old Testament prophet or catches, choking, in his throat. In this raw-edged, lyrical collection, Jett absolves no one: the fault is ” . . . ours, ours, and ours alone, our making / because we refuse to make stars / out of the coals / that burn in our hearts.”

-Katherine E. Young, Author of Woman Drinking Absinthe and Day of the Border Guards , Poet Laureate Emerita, Arlington, VA

Little Wars is a moving and deeply disturbing series of poems. From the poppies symbolizing the dead soldiers of World War I to the destruction of the Mostar Bridge in the Bosnian War, Jett recounts “the cities leveled and the fields / upchurned” in war’s path. The ubiquity of current combat, ever rumbling, is in these poignant pages too, and the survivors always left “waiting / for the siren’s blast, the tramp / of boots along the stairs.”

-Kim Roberts, Author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC

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