Kevin Powers’ LETTER COMPOSED DURING A LULL IN THE FIGHTING (and some random thoughts on poetry)

9781444780819Poetry is not one of my strong suits. High School pretty much killed any joy there possibly could be in poetry in the way we were forced to study, dissect and apply the curriculum’s appreciation of poets and poetry.

However I did have a brief period where I started to get into the form. I was/am a massive Nirvana fan and one of the things I really like about their songs are Kurt Cobain’s lyrics. I was fascinated by the structures he used, his word choices and word play, the imagery he used and the way he loved to use contradictory language. Lyrics are still  one of the most important parts of any music for me.

I got into a bit of John Lennon’s poetry and after reading Regeneration discover Siegfried Sassoon, who I could relate to a lot more than Wilfred Owen (another poet school seemed to suck any proper appreciation out of). But the poet I really got into was Jim Carroll. I loved The Basketball Diaries movie and wanted to find more. I of course read both his books, discovered he had a band via the very cool movie soundtrack and then discovered his poetry. His poem “8 Fragments for Kurt Cobain” blew me away.

Poetry is not a strong section in my bookshop. It barely gets a shelf and we mostly sell what is on the HSC list. I’m not sure how poetry is taught in school at the moment but I’d guess it hasn’t changed much in the 15 or so years since I finished. Which is unfortunate because it is a wonderful literary form and there is so much great poetry out there. There are also so many great mediums for poetry to be now be used; YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, smart phones, tablets – where the constrictions of the page and the book can be removed and poetry can be more to more people. For me hearing a poem performed, especially by its creator, immediately gives the poem more relevance, more immediacy, more shape. The words come alive more on the page for me and I can appreciate the poem more as whole rather than its parts.

When I received a copy of Kevin Powers’ collection of poetry I was quite apprehensive. I definitely wanted to read the collection as The Yellow Birds was beyond amazing. It still resonates very strongly with me everytime I think about it and Powers’ poetry background really comes through in his writing. But I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to have the same feelings and get the intensity from his poems, and if I did, I wasn’t confident in being able to review or talk about the poetry collection in the same way I am comfortable in doing so with prose.

Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting by Kevin Powers

A post shared by Jon Page (@bitethebook) on

Kevin Powers first poetry collection is divided into four parts. The first part I definitely enjoyed the most which helped me greatly. The first two parts of the collection deal mainly with his experience as a soldier in Iraq and for the most part are quite short and sharp. The title piece is amazing but the other poems are all powerful in their own different ways. Part two is made of up of slightly longer pieces and begin to move away from the war, although not completely. Improvised Explosive Device that ends part two is probably the most emotionally charged piece in the book and my favourite line ends After Leaving McGuire Veterans Hospital for the Last Time:

You came home
with nothing, and you still
have most of it left.

The rest of the collection varies in form and subject and my lack of poetry experience, understanding and confidence began to disadvantage me.

There is no doubt Kevin Powers is an extraordinary talented writer. War brings out the best and worst in humanity and Powers writing is able to funnel that into beautiful words and devastating emotions. The war poets of World War One were the only ones who could truly convey the horrors of the trenches to those who were not there. Since then other forms of words and pictures have taken over showing those at home what happens during war. However there are more sides to war than the battles and there are more casualties of war than those who are physically wounded or killed. To be able to convey these many sides in a succinct form with strong emotional intensity is rare a precious gift indeed.

ISBN: 9781444780819
ISBN-10: 1444780816
Classification: Prose: non-fiction
Format: Hardback (216mm x 135mm x mm)
Imprint: Sceptre
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Publish Date: 3-Apr-2014
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

3 thoughts on “Kevin Powers’ LETTER COMPOSED DURING A LULL IN THE FIGHTING (and some random thoughts on poetry)

  1. ‘Poetry is not a strong section in my bookshop. It barely gets a shelf and we mostly sell what is on the HSC list.’ Really hope we can change this – at least a little! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s