08 March 2017

Stone Canoe, Wrath-Bearing Tree & Three Hoarsemen

At risk of sounding like an old Hair Club for Men TV commercial, I try not only to encourage veterans, service members, and family members to share their stories of military experiences through art and writing, but to do so myself, through my own work. So I hope you'll bear with me today—I'd like to share a few publishing success stories, in hopes that you'll consider sharing your stories with others, too.

Bonus fact: It's only 20 days until U.S. National Poetry Month!

Another bonus fact: I maintain a list of veteran- and military-friendly literary and art markets here!

I was thrilled to have a poem published in this year's issue of Stone Canoe. The YMCA Downtown Writers Center in Syracuse, N.Y. is the publisher of Stone Canoe, an annual literary journal now in its eleventh year. While the journal mostly focuses on the work of upstate New York writers and artists, its editorial mission notably includes an annual call for work by U.S. military veterans, regardless of geographic location or origin.

The poem is titled "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot," and was based in a conversation I overheard while waiting to purchase movie tickets to the 2016 Tina Fey comedy. It's my first poem on veterans' suicide, a topic I've tended to avoid in my past literary writing. I won't go into all the reasons why, but this was a time I felt compelled to get something down on paper. And I won't spoil the conclusions of the poem here, partly because I'm still wrestling with them. This excerpt sets the scene, however, and the poem's interior battleground:
All I want is a bag of popcorn
and some getaway laughs on a Friday afternoon,
and darned if the guy in line behind me
starts chatting up the stranger behind him.
First Guy is starting O.C.S. tomorrow, he says.
Buddy of his, another Mustang, committed suicide
earlier this week, and the funeral is Sunday.
Second Guy has drill this weekend. Remembers
after he last got home from active duty, his sergeant
called a few weeks later, said that one of the platoon
had first shot his wife and then himself.

I do not turn.
I do not engage.
Even though I know the password:
the name of the deceased. Instead, I hunker down
in my green fleecy hat.
The woobie I wore in Afghanistan.
The type that sergeant major hated. […]
Submissions for the 2018 issue of Stone Canoe open March 15, and will close in July. More information and guidelines here.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of the 2017 Stone Canoe, click for information here. The direct PayPal link is here. Total cost, including shipping and handling, is $21.17). To coordinate purchase of multiple copies, e-mail: stonecanoe AT syracuseymca DOT org

Back issues of Stone Canoe are available for $10 plus shipping and handling (total of $13.50). Click here.


The Wrath-Bearing Tree blog has recently launched into poetry and fiction. Editors there are seeking work about economic, political, and other forms of violence found in society—not just work on military themes. They plan to post new poetry and fiction the first Friday of each month. I was pleased to have four of my poems recently featured on the site. The poems included a selection of aphorisms; a reflection on COP Najil; a war sonnet; and a set of three Japanese-style tanka.

The tanka is similar to haiku form. I follow the syllables-per-line pattern of 5-7-5-7-7. Here's one of those short poems, inspired by the Mother's Day send-off ceremony of a buddy's Iowa Army National Guard unit last year. With any luck, he'll soon be home so I can share it with him directly:
With ceremony,
Old Man assembles his troops.
It is Mother’s Day;
sons and daughters are leaving
in order to sustain war.
You can read them all FREE here at this link!

A submissions page is here. Or e-mail the editors at: wrathbearingtree AT gmail DOT com


Much to my delight and surprise, there was a quick shout-out to my 2015 poetry collection, "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire," on the most recent episode of "The Three Hoarsemen" podcast! While the well-read gentlemen there discuss mostly science fiction, fantasy, illustrated story, and related genres, they also occasionally cast about for leavening literary fare. At the 45-minute mark, fellow military veteran Fred Kiesche briefly mentions his enjoyment of the "FOB Haiku" book!

As a bonus, a little earlier at the 39:45 mark, co-host John E.O. Stevens offers some great insights into what he affectionately calls Chinese hermit poetry. At his podcast recommendation last year, I purchased "The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain"—a recommendation he repeats in this episode—and I share his enthusiasm for Zen-Taoist poetry that features, as he describes it, "old guys complaining about sunrises."

Sounds like a first sergeant I once knew!

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