The award-winning author of The Yellow Birdsreturns with an extraordinary debut poetry collection. National Book Award finalist, Iraq war veteran, novelist and poet Kevin Powers creates a deeply affecting portrait of a life shaped by war. Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting captures the many moments that comprise a soldier's life: driving down the Texas highway; waiting for the unknown in the dry Iraq heat; writing a love letter; listening to a mother recount her dreams. Written with evocative language and discernment, Powers's poetry strives to make sense of the war and its echoes through human experience.
Just as The Yellow Birds was hailed as the "first literary masterpiece produced by the Iraq war," this collection will make its mark as a powerful, enduring work (Los Angeles Times).
U.S. Army veteran Powers, who won acclaim for his Iraq war novel The Yellow Birds, returns to those scenes and to his rural South, in this clear and at best haunting poetic debut. Powers starts in the desert, "the vast unending waste/ of Texas," but soon enough we are in the Middle East, where "war is just us/ making little pieces of metal/ pass through each other." More than about the experience of war, though, these poems of demotic American free verse describe the experience of coming home after a war, and feeling lost: "I can't remember/ how to be alive," one page admits, and on the next the poet imagines himself deceased: "seeing/ my shadow on the ground/ I tried to outline in/ in chalk." Though no innovator, Powers does just enough to the spoken language. Beginning one poem "We are born to be makers of crude tools," he compares another poem to a tool that kills, the infamous "Improvised Explosive Device": "If this poem had wires coming out of it,/ you would call the words devices,/ if you found them threatening in any way." Powers seems confident in his sounds and able to speak to a literate public that knows he has something to say.