92Y

Brian Turner opened his reading at the 92nd Street YMCA in New York City with “To Sand,” the last poem in his collection Here, Bullet.  No explanation up front, just….

“To sand go tracers and ball ammunition. / To sand the green smoke goes….”

Later, he wrote in my copy of Here, Bullet, “Let’s keep doing what we can to make sure the sand doesn’t wash over.” Poised between need to remember and need to let go, he searches for new poetic subjects even as the old ones remain vital and compelling.  The problems the old poems speak to have only intensified.

He mentioned that 18 veterans commit suicide daily.

He informed us that the SSG Bales, accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians, served in the exact same Fort Lewis platoon that he himself had served in some seven years ago.

Imagine that:  the war’s most sensitive poet and its most psychotic killer from the same platoon.   They didn’t know each other or overlap, but still.  Make sense of it if and as you can.

Next to read was Kevin Young, a young African-American poet.  I know his work from a few years back when I studied at Indiana-Bloomington, where Young was a creative writing professor.  But this was the first time to hear him live.  His poems are not about war, they are about connection, spirituality, and resistance. Transcendent black survival tactics. Pain, despair, and outrage are there, but so too are resilience, determination, forgivingness, and humor and joy.

After the reading, I purchased The Grey Album:  On the Blackness of Blackness, Young’s new collection of essays about the great African-American musical tradition that has always been so central to our culture.  We spoke for a few minutes and then I asked him to sign my copy.  His inscription was pitch-perfect:

“For Pete.  Peace and Music.  -Kevin.”

Indeed.

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5 Responses to “92Y”

  1. anvi hoang Says:

    Peter, great post! Not so many words yourself, but the thinking and the imagination are on us!
    Special relations and connections you have as mentioned above are precious. What is the chance for one to go to a reading and feel or find some slight connection to the author, given one already knows and adores him/her in the first place to show up at the reading!

    • petermolin Says:

      Thanks, Anvi. The truth is I went for a sparse, elegiac tone in the post because ultimately that’s the mood the poetry generated. But it was actually a fun, loving night, full of crazy stuff, lots of laughs, and good company and good eating. Imagine that! Or maybe I’ll write a “92Y, Part II” and tell the rest of the stories…. -Peter

  2. Huw Evans Says:

    Hello Colonel,

    After hearing about another suicide attack in Khowst City I was looking on the internet for any information on it and for more information on past incidents, when I came across your article ”15 month Adventure”. As I read it it brought a smile to my face when I saw the photo of you at the tea party, and remembered the time when you comented to me when I put milk in my tea, ”How very British that is”. I have to say it was a pleaseant surprise to read something about that day, one thing that stuck in my mind to this day was the civilian casualties. It was also good to read about the fantastic job those two medics done. At the time that day for me, was just another event in Afghanistan, I don’t think you realise how it affects you untill you look back on what you went through. Anyway it was nice to see you and read your article, I hope things are going well for you.

    Regards
    Huw Evans.
    (Colour Sergeant Evans, at that time)

  3. Peter Molin Says:

    Colour Sergeant Evans–Good to hear from you, and thank you for your service that day and all others! Check out the post “Bronze Star with V Device” and “12 May 2009 Redux” (among others) for more accounts of our big battle in Khowst. There’s plenty of other posts about more things you should remember, too. All is well here–I hope the same is true for you, too. -LTC Molin

    • Huw Evans Says:

      Hi Colonel

      Sorry it’s taken so long to reply, I read the posts you mentioned it was great to see that Staff Sergeant get recognised for his actions, it is a shame I’ll never get to shake his hand. Anyway I noticed in one of your posts that you say there are not many books about the War at present. If your interested there is a book that has been around for a year or two now called ”Dead Men Risen” by Toby Harnden ( a journalist for the New York Times). It’s a hard hitting account about the British fight in Helmand, and is a very good read if your interested. Anyway hope your well and apologies again for taking so long to reply.

      Huw.

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