Thursday, December 20, 2012

If the world ends, at least I'll have been in a book

A while back I wrote a poem. Or, I wrote something that maybe kinda sorta a little bit resembled a poem. (Hey, I write nonfiction. The extent of my poetic knowledge is Where the Sidewalk Ends. But sometimes content just begs to written in a different way.) On a whim, I submitted my poem-ish thing for publication in an anthology of veteran writing. And to my surprise, it was accepted!
Look! My name's in print!
Just before Veterans Day, my poem, as well as a short essay, were published along with the work of 60 other veterans in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors. I may be slightly biased, but it's a pretty amazing collection, featuring writing from both veterans and their families, spanning from World War I to Iraq and Afghanistan, covering the experiences of medics to infantrymen to staff officers.

I'm still reading through the pieces—I have to take war literature in small doses—but every essay, story and poem hits me in a deep, intimate way. Regardless of the era or the battlefield, there's a thread through each; a raw, emotional something I can relate to. It's once again a testament to the veteran connection. And to the power of art to bring people together. 

It's easy to feel isolated by your unique experiences; we need reminders like this to show that we're not so alone, after all.

Veterans and non-veterans alike, I encourage you to check out Proud to Be. It's available from the Southeast Missouri State University PressBarnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Since the rights revert back to me (and since I'm a shameless self-promoter), here's a sample of the content, my first published poem:

          The Soldier’s Two-Step
Barely five feet tall, she does not hunch under sixty pounds of body armor and supplies.The girls in rags run up to her, tell her she is strong. “No,” she says, “You are strong.” And she is right. And so are they.
She cries into a pink pillowcase she brought from home. For a son’s broken heart, a daughter’s birthday, an anniversary, missed. Dancing between two worlds; her partner the cold barrel of a gun, music the hollow tones of war and hollow, cheerful voices on the phone. This is the melody of loneliness.
The women ask why. Why the risk, the sacrifice? Why do you care? “All mothers are the same,” she tells them, “It doesn’t matter what language you cry in.”
The men don’t ask, they demand: more buildings, more money, more time. She carries the promise on her small shoulders; sharp-edged expectations of two countries. This is the burden of hope.
 In her absence, the broken heart mended, birthdays and anniversaries were celebrated. She is haunted by all that she missed and all that she left, unfinished, behind. The little girls’ faces in her little girl, the purse where armor should be.
From boots to high heels, from gun to spatula, from Humvee to minivan, she keeps dancing. Because they need her to. And because she is strong.

To celebrate the launch of the anthology, several contributors read their pieces for a packed house at a poetry center in St. Louis. Watch a video compilation of the event:

Check out these news stories, reviews and posts by contributors:
The Missouri Humanities Council publication announcement
review that quotes my poem! Legit!
Thoughts from the fiction contest winner Monty Joynes--who wrote his winning story, chronicling a medic's first days in Vietnam, 34 years ago!
Reflections on the anthology and launch by contributor Jan Morrill, who wrote about her uncle's World War II service

Proud to Be is the first issue of an ongoing anthology series. Submissions are now being accepted for Volume 2 in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, photography, and interviews with warriors. All military personnel, veterans and military family members are eligible. Send in your work now!

Proud to Be is published in partnership by The Missouri Humanities Council, Warriors Arts Alliance and Southeast Missouri State University Press.