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Brian Turner Recap!

PS Intern Nisha Patel on the poet's visit

The final poet of Prairie Schooner’s Visiting Writer Series, Brian Turner, read selections from his books Here, Bullet and Phantom Noise in the Great Plains Museum last Wednesday. He began by encouraging the audience to add his phone number to their cell phones (so they could text him feedback) before diving into the first poem. The namesake of his first book, “Here, Bullet,” portrayed what PS Editor-in-Chief Kwame Dawes called a “disturbing urgency” in his introduction of the ex-Army poet. Turner himself stated he didn’t know what the poem was about and “that’s why I come back to it, I keep reading and reading.”

The need to understand became the segue to his next poem, “2000 lbs.,” a poem describing the effects of a suicide bomber on a citizen, on the National Guard, on a husband and wife, an old woman—the devastation of a man just pushing a button. Seemingly out of nowhere, Turner began to ask the audience if they knew how to say “hello” and “goodbye” in Arabic. “What does it say,” Turner asked when no one answered, “about a country that can put so many in the ground—cover them with dirt—and know nothing about them?” He brought up his phone number again and urged the audience to use it. If anyone had a project for helping the Iraqi or Afghani vets, or even the civilians, “I will roll up my sleeves to help,” he promised.

His following poems emphasized facts many people in the United States are afraid to talk about: the earthquake in Japan, sexual assault in the military (against both women and men), and the torture at Abu Ghraib. He reminded us that what’s great about living in America is that we have a voice—politics happen in places like the kitchen or the bus stop and we should encourage communication overseas. “When the British invaded, they brought guns…but they also brought poetry…they spoke to us… How do we step down, pull up a chair, and talk about poetry, beauty, and the human inside us?”