By RU Rob
In case you haven’t noticed, there has been a noticeable lack of quality art engendered by the wars over the last thirteen years or so. The music has been mediocre at best, the movies and books have been mostly politically charged and partisan, and the poetry has been almost non-existent.
World War One gave us soldiers inspired to write immortal words like, “In Flanders fields the poppies grow…” What do we have now? “We’ll put a boot in your ass, It’s the American way.”
Which is why Aftermath is so refreshing, if poetry about war can ever be called refreshing. It makes a contribution to an otherwise barren landscape.
The concept of is Aftermath unique and simple; two brothers, one a combat veteran and one a civilian, provide their respective views on war and conflict. It is meant to be a raw, unfiltered look at how each brother experienced and dealt with conflict in their own lives. It is meant to be accessible, that is, a simple way of talking about the stuff most combat veteran’s, or their families, can’t talk about.
J.E. was an interrogator in the Marine Corps, and his combat experience in Iraq is clear in every piece, whether as impressions or images. Andrew writes about the conflicts he’s experienced, and sometimes reflects on how he’s watched his brother reintegrate (or not) to civilian life.
It’s poetry, but it isn’t Shakespeare or Wordsworth, there’s no awkward meter or complex rhymes. You could call it modern poetry, but without the navel-gazing that has become somewhat of a hallmark of much of what is called poetry today. No lengthy pieces that go on and on until you forget what it was you started reading. Just short, to-the-point works that don’t try to hide what they’re talking about.
Aftermath is a work about all the things you think about after the experience is over, whatever that may be. For many of us it’s war. Or love. Or friendship. Or all of the above and all together.
Above all, Aftermath is an honest, take-it-or-leave-it approach to poetry that will challenge you to examine your own conflicts. It speaks for a lot of combat veterans, and tells civilians some of the things they need to hear.
You can purchase Aftermath on Amazon and through the brothers’ website: http://www.sweetwater.press/
Here are a couple of excerpts from the book:
I wish I’d died out there
and the desert
Are far more forgiving
Of my flaws and failings
— J.E. McCollough
One of my masks broke today
I am not sure which one, I have three and
I can’t see them from inside.
There is the one in the mirror,
the one carefully worn outside among others,
the one carelessly given by others,
all translucent, fragile, variegated and worn together.
I found the colored shards on the bathroom tile
this morning and I don’t know
if I am naked now,
or I will be outside,
or if they will finally see my face
and tell me what I look like.
— Andrew W McCollough