27 January 2016

'No, Achilles' Introduction Explores 'Night Vision' Poem

Published last fall by WaterWood Press, Austin, Texas, "No, Achilles" is a 75-page poetry anthology, collecting 64 poems witnessing the experiences of war. As defined in the original 2014 call for submissions, the book focuses on war poems of witness—all places and times, but excluding poems about the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The book includes my poem "night vision," which was inspired by "Operation Bull Whip" and other air-assault missions, conducted during the 2010-2011 deployment of the Iowa Army National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division to Eastern Afghanistan. The poem also appears in my 2015 collection of snarky military-themed poetry, "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire."

In his introduction to the anthology, Peter Anderson of Austin College, Sherman, Texas, explores possible implications of "night vision," as well as other poems:
To [James Hillman, author of "A Terrible Love of War"], actual war may be the most lyric experiment in any life, too intense to be captured except by the literary imagination. Here, poetry is, as it were, more logical a choice than logic. Take "night vision" by Randy Brown. Fraught with a sense of peril, of waiting with bated breath, and therefore a certain taut excitement, the poem places us right at the edge of the action:

Our Afghan brothers cannot see past the ramp
into the black wide open that is
only feet away beneath the turn of our rotors.

Our goggle eyes paint the dark
green with spinny lights and ghosts [...]

Vivid at this point is the painted darkness, the bobbing, smeared and luminous green that makes specters of the figures below. It is this seeing, and the image, or the after-image, of this which will remain part of our inner experience of war. It seems, then, that the strength of "No, Achilles" consists not only in its set theme of pathos, but also in its ability to run counter to its own theme. For a moment, in a poem like "night vision," we are able to touch into the ecstatic dimension of war, the vortex of its thanatoctic allure.
"No, Achilles" is available by mail for $15, plus $1 per book for shipping and handling. Orders by check or money order can be sent to:
WaterWood Press
47 Waterwood
Huntsville, Texas 77320.

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