02 October 2013

Each 'O-Dark-Thirty' Packs Punch, Prose, and Poetry

In the current literary terrain, there are dense, fine-printed journals that cover war and themes of war. There are also imposing anthologies of war fiction and fact. Also combatting for the public's attention are war novels, memoirs, and journalistic explorations and exposés.

Whatever the genre, however, too few of these are easy for readers to infiltrate. By force of page-count alone, too many tomes seem ready to overwhelm or intimidate—often driving away civilians who are, ironically, often considered the high-payoff targets of military writing.

Not so, however, the Veterans Writing Project's journal "O-Dark-Thirty."

Launched in 2012, the print journal is published quarterly by the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit, along with occasional on-line dispatches of additional prose and poetry, essays and interviews. As the journal's mission statement reads:
In our seminars we give participants the skills and confidence they need to tell their own stories; O-Dark-Thirty is the platform to put those stories and others in front of readers. This is not a peer-reviewed professional journal, nor is it a judged literary contest. Our editorial style is more curatorial than other journals. [...]
Each print edition averages less than 100 pages, and provides a brief burst of covering fire from each category of writing. It's accessible and approachable, easy-to-digest. It can also be indelible, however ... unforgettable.

In short, it's short. A quick hit of literary adrenalin. A mini-bottle of inspirational Tobasco. Each issue debuts new voices, demonstrates the versatility of each writing form, and depicts the military experience in new and provoking ways. Then, it disappears into the night.

Consider the most recent, Summer 2013 issue, for example:
  • Graduate student Elizabeth Sherman writes an unflinching essay about hooking up with a combat veteran on campus.
  • Former combat engineer Samuel Chamberlin writes a poem that captures one of the little-explored frustrations of life on the FOB. It reads, in part:

    Within the wire you can't shoot back, the
    Katyushas start to mangle the CHUs carelessly
    crashing within the perimeter, fists clenched
    in unreciprocated rage, later, when 

    The smoldering fiberglass ceased to smoke [...]
    you think about the bottle rocket tipping over, the
    plastic bottle melted into the Virginia
    crabgrass, a burnt patch forever remains.
Stick a copy "O-Dark-Thirty" in your right cargo pocket, or hand it off to a brother or buddy. Better yet, use a subscription as a regular reminder to keep writing. A 4-issue subscription costs only $30; individual copies are $10.


A 2012 e-mail interview with Veterans Writing Project founder Ron Capps appears here. Also, click here for additional background on the group's useful differentiation of writing-as-therapy and writing-as-expression.

For submission guidelines to "O-Dark-Thirty,"click here.

The Veterans Writing Project's Fall 2013 writing seminar is Oct. 26-27 in Washington, D.C. The seminar is free to veterans, service members, and adult military family members. Participants must provide their own transportation, lodging, and meals. See the calendar for information on how to apply.

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