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2014 Reading Selection
About Here, Bullet
by Brian Turner (2005, Poetry)
A harrowing, beautiful first-person account of the Iraq War by a soldier-poet. Adding his voice to the current debate about the US occupation of Iraq, in poems written in the tradition of such poets as Wilfred Owen, Yusef Komunyakaa (Dien Cai Dau), Bruce Weigl (Song of Napalm), and Doug Anderson (The Moon Reflected Fire).
Iraq war veteran Brian Turner writes powerfully affecting poetry of witness, exceptional for its beauty, honesty, and skill.
Based upon Turner's year-long tour in Iraq as an infantry team leader, the poems offer gracefully-rendered, unflinching description but, remarkably, leave the reader to draw conclusions or moral lessons.
Here, Bullet is a must-read for anyone who cares about the war, regardless of political affiliation.
Praise for Here, Bullet
Poems from 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
—from Here, Bullet
The ghosts of American soldiers
wander the streets of Balad by night,
unsure of their way home, exhausted,
the desert wind blowing trash
down the narrow alleys as a voice
sounds from the minaret, a soulful call
reminding them how alone they are,
how lost. And the Iraqi dead,
they watch in silence from rooftops
as date palms line the shore in silhouette,
leaning toward Mecca when the dawn wind blows.
—from Here, Bullet
Frequently Asked Questions
What is this book all about?
It is a part of the Richard M. Smith Common Reading Experience which is an integral part of the William Atwell Brown, Jr., and Mary Brown Vacin First-Year Experience Program at Albion College.
How does the Common Reading Experience work?
It's pretty simple: we give you a book that a group of stellar students, staff, and faculty thought was pretty amazing, and you read it.
Why did that stellar group of students, staff, and faculty choose Brian Turner's Here, Bullet?
All of the members of the committee, most of whom are not poetry readers as a matter of course, found Tuner's poems beautiful, easily accessible, and relatable. They were struck by Turner's incredible ability to humanize the experience of war for everyone who is involved and to represent a range of cultures with deep respect and sensitivity. His poems made them feel as though they were surrounded by the world of the Iraq war in all of its complexity.
When do I read it?
You read the book this summer before you get to Albion in August. Your First-Year Seminar professor and student mentor will expect you to have finished this book by the first time they meet you.
What happens with this book once I get here?
Starting at your orientation, this book will be common ground for you to stand on with your classmates. You will engage with that book in class and out of it. You will be a part of discussions about it in your First Year Seminar and around campus; you will watch films and hear speakers who will help us all think about the complicated fact of war in our world. You will even get to meet the author and hear him talk about his experiences in Iraq and his work with words. You may even have access to an advance copy of his new memoir, though that's still up in the air. Keep your fingers crossed.
Letter to Incoming Students
from Tess Haadsma, ’15
Dear Class of 2018,
Welcome to Albion, and congratulations on making the decision to become a Briton!
If you are reading this letter, that means you have picked up Brian Turner's Here Bullet, this year's Common Reading Experience book. Turner's book is many things: fairly short, easy to read, beautiful and, to be completely honest, terrifying.
Turner fought as an American soldier in the Iraq war and so saw what I (and I suspect you) have never seen first-hand: war.
Until I read Turner's poems, everything I knew about war I learned from newscasts or history classes or the movies. Turner's book of poems, though, makes an entirely different aspect of the war tangible – it is not the glory or the violence, so much as the human experience – the implications, the impact that war has on those caught in its crosshairs.
For those of you who have never picked up a book of poetry before in your life, don't be afraid. Poetry can be scary, yes, but these poems are different than the poems you've probably read in school. His language is our language, and the poems make a world that is so far away—in many ways—feel right here.
So the next time you go to the beach or need something to read on your lunch break, pick up Turner's book of poems and bring it with you. I think the poems will surprise you. They certainly surprised me.
Tess Haadsma, ’15