Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"What We Sign Up For" Poems by Lisa L. Siedlarz

Buy at Amazon.

I strongly encourage readers to buy and read "What We Sign Up For," Poems by Lisa L. Siedlarz. These poems are moving and pertinent. Siedlarz's brother served with the US military in Afghanistan. Her sisterly love for him inspires these poems that bring home to the reader the average soldier's, and the military family's, experience.

Siedlarz's style is accessible. People who don't normally read poetry will respond to these poems, and find much of worth in them. Siedlarz uses everyday language to talk about war experiences, experiences from which most of us are sheltered.

Siedlarz's concrete, everyday vocabulary does not equate a disinterest in creating art. Her hard-hitting, merciless style serves her subject matter. In an Amazon review, Michelle B. Buhr wrote, "The rhythm of the poems is uneven and staccato – almost like gunfire – and you're never quite sure what is going to happen next." That's exactly right.

While reading the poems, I felt as if I were overhearing bits of passing conversations in a public place, like a supermarket, where most of the shoppers were sisters and mothers and fathers and brothers of American active-duty military personnel. These discontinuous bits of conversation offer a warm-blooded, politically incorrect, grittily realistic take on war.

You can't help but think, while reading this book, how sheltered we Americans are to the realities and consequences of America's military adventures in the age of the drone assassination and the volunteer military. I live most of my life never giving a thought to the soldiers fighting and dying in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Without the draft, we all know that neither we nor our loved ones will be sent by force to Iraq or Afghanistan. So, we can just ignore the whole thing. We can ignore the vets coming home with brain trauma from improvised explosive devices. We can ignore the mourning families. I'm personally grateful to Lisa Siedlarz for doing her part to put these realities in front of readers' eyes.

Siedlarz's brief poems, in a short book, span the military experience: a sister learns that her brother has enlisted; he is in a training camp with cockroaches so large one is a "pet," in derelict buildings that had been slated for demolition but recruited back into service for soldiers; soldiers have intimate encounters with host country nationals, some of whom provide the warmest hospitality they can under Third World conditions, including cleaning a drinking glass with spit, and begging the Americans to stay; dead and dying bodies; casualty notification officers, military personnel whose job it is to inform families of their loved one's deaths.

In the first poem, "Song of War," Siedlarz's brother, a GI plumber, "looks up from a clogged toilet during live feed of a second plane." She's referring to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, but does not say so explicitly. Subsequent poems follow this style. World historical events are seen through the details of average people's day to day experiences.

Siedlarz's details are the details that would only be found only in a book by someone intimate with the military experience, including vivid details about wounds, slang, and camels. "Soldiers write home for queen-sized pantyhose to stave off sand fleas and sores." "Moisture-wick clothes melt to skin from the heat transfer of bullets." Of a hospitalized bombing victim, Siedlarz writes, "Where's his foot? … Still in the traffic circle." Exposed human flesh can resemble tenderloin. "Anti-Taliban forces are the most macho fighters we know, and the gayest … women are for children, men for love." Newspaper headlines take on a new, ridiculous tone to someone whose brother is in uniform: "Marines trade gunfire with Taliban." Is this like trading baseball cards? The most beautiful line in the book: "Bury me in the sand and I will envy how clouds move on like breath."
Lisa Siedlarz. Source.

1 comment:

  1. It seems quite interesting and emotional. Definitely I will go through the poems to find more about the information. Thanks!


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