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Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
Here, Bullet
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on 31 December 2007
I first learnt about Here, Bullet by way of a radio programme discussion. I was impressed with what I heard and immediately vowed to read it as soon as I could. Having read the book I must say that it fulfilled my expectations.

This collection of poems is set mainly in Iraq in the context of war. The author, Brian Turner, served 7 years in the US army part of which was served in Iraq as an infantry team leader. Although the experiences which Turner talks about in the collection are mainly set in the context of the Iraqi war, it would be a mistke to say that the whole collection is about war. In terms of conveying the human condition, the poems are far reaching.

The poems in this book are derived from the personal experiences of Turner. He has a keen eye for detail. He has the imagination to render his experience in lively images that made me feel as if I was there along side him directly partaking in his experiences.

Turner is a brilliant observer, he bears direct witness to events and actions. For example, in the poem, In the Leupold Scope Turner "travse the Halabjah skyline/scanning rooftops two thousands meters out" or in Observation Post # 71, Turner sees positive aspects of life even among the destruction of war. In the second stanza he tells us: "Each life has its moment. The sunflowers/ lift their faces toward dawn/ as milk cows bellow in a field of trash."

There is also the wanton destruction and waste of life nowhere better suggested than in the title poem Here, Bullet. This destruction and waste of life is conveyed through a powerful theme that runs through many of these poems. Turner reminds us that we are made of flesh and blood. He exposes us to the frailty of the human body in the arena of war. In poems such as Here, Bullet and the Hurt Locker, Turner graphically reveals how the body is shattered when exposed to the machines of war.

This collection of poems engaged me both intellectually and emotioanally. The poems Body Bags and A B Negative quite simply arrested me and made me pause to reflect upon what Turner was doing. These two poems superbly explores the harsh reality of death in war. In Body Bags, bodies: "look as if they might roll over,/ wake from a dream and question us/ about the blood drying on their scalps,/ the bullets lodged in the back of their skulls." Yet on the other hand, Turner recognizes that the arena of war is a test bed that sometimes brings out the humanity in us. I dare any sensitive reader to fail to empathize with the surgeon, in the poem A B Negative, who we are told end up as: "an exhausted surgeon in tears,/ his bloodied hands on her chest, his head/ sunk down, the nurse guiding him to a nearby seat and holding him as he cries."

These are accessible poems. They have a clear setting, they are time bound and we know the predominant subject. But they are not simple tales of war. Turner is perceptive, subtle, appropriately complex and sophisticated when he has to be. For example, some of these poems paint pictures for us. It's as if they set out to create a firm vivid picture in our minds. The second stanza of 16 Iraqi Policemen is like a surrealist painting. It is not too difficult to conjure up an almost unreal, unnatural scene.

If I have any criticism of the collection it is this, there is a tone of acceptance of the most destructive consequence of war - namely death. In many of the first person narrated poems the I of the poem, whoever that is, appears to accept his lot and death all too easily. In Here, Bullet the body as: "bone and gristle and flesh" is surrendered; in Repatriation Day, the narrator "wants to lie down among them,/ to be wrapped in sheets like the flags/ of nations, bonded in light and shadow."

I could go on singing the praise of this collection but I am restricted by word limit. I was touched; I was emotionally and intellectually engaged. This is an outstanding collection of poems - buy it, read it and marvel in the fact that there is a contemporary poet among us with something to say about war and says it brilliantly.
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on 30 August 2009
Here, Bullet Here Bullet is an exceptional collection of poetry, which was written by a soldier about soldiers and soldiering. It is immediately easy to relate to the pieces whether you have served or not but, as an ex soldier myself, I found the meaning of each poem as familiar as if they had been my own thoughts. I found one common trend throughout the poems and empathised with it. Please allow me to share some thoughts that were inspired by the book:

For me,the echoing sounds of war do not linger
They do not stay beyond the temporary ring in the ear.
The barked orders and screams remain imprisoned in the sand-filled Babylonian air.
The sounds of that troubled place are with me no more.
I have had no Dante-like journey through my own purgatorio.
I do not jump at the slamming door
or mimic the 'battle scarred' movie star who, sweating and startled, awakens from his 'flashback' nightmare.

But I hear the deafening roar of the silence my peace brings.
I feel the painful absence of brothers' shoulders that once brushed against my own.
I feel alone in this room full of friends,
they do not know me now or where I have been.

After too many nights watching ... guarding against enemies,
I find that I must, still yet, stand sentinel ...
'gainst the dark voices that have insidiously followed me home.
Voices that seek to whisper doubt in to my still vulnerable mind and say
that I did not do enough,
that I did too much,
that I was not good,
that I cannot be good ...
... that I can never again ... be good.
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on 25 June 2012
This is one of the most moving and profound collections of poetry I've read in a very long time. And it's certainly the best collection of war poetry since Wilfred Owen. He tells it as it is, without sentimentality or a conscious desire to shock. What we feel is the pity of war as well as the horror of it at a very personal level. As Owen said 'the pity is in the poetry'.

I particularly liked the quotes from Iraqi and Persian poets and the way the poet integrates what he is writing into their traditions as if having a conversation with them.

Everyone should read this. We might be less keen to send young men to be torn apart and psychologically maimed in the name of some grand political ideology.
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on 3 November 2016
This is the most hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking collection of poetry I have read in years. I return to it time and again. It is intelligent, sensitive and overflowing with humanity.
I thought poetry was virtually dead until I reread it recently. Is war poetry the purest, the most honest genre there is?
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on 31 March 2012
Western literature started with a war book: The Iliad. War literature is important. Not only for the stories it tell about war itself,
but also for what these books tell about its people - about the soldiers as well as the (other) victims.
War poems, short stories and novels may reveal the evilness of war much better than newspaper reports and videos.
More soldiers should write. Only thus, we can make the pen stronger than the sword. We need more books of this kind!
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on 6 September 2011
Brian Turner's intensely moving poems of the war in Iraq are finely observed,compassionate and questioning. He shows a appreciation and fascination for the culture of the people and the land as well as the tough camaraderie of the soldiers with whom he served. A soldier who saw active service in Iraq, these poems convey more deeply the brutal poignancy of warthan any news report. The language is direct, strong and compelling. This collection places Brian Turner in the company of the great war poets.
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on 25 May 2012
I first discovered Brian Turner's work after reading his essay in National Geographic magazine. What harrowing, heartbreaking scenes these poems conjure up!

Turner is a gifted writer, an observant and intuitive artist and, clearly, a very sensitive human being. His work is an important document and is as vivid and evocative as the best photojournalism.
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on 8 November 2014
A very good and rare poetic testimony of the Iraq War. To be read.
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on 13 January 2007
Brian Turner's 'Here, Bullet' ably demonstrates that Turner is the natural heir to Wilfred Owen. His wholly authentic, deeply compassionate poetry based in the world of modern conflict have the unmistakable ring of actuality, unsuprising since Turner is a serving soldier in the US forces. His use of language is rich, masterful and fluid, the tone calm and insightful. This is beautiful and lasting work; poetry of a type so seldom seen these days. I cannot recommend this book enough and have given copies as gifts to all my friends.

A superb collection.

Joolz Denby
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on 22 April 2010
Always you can feel the heat, both physical and mental. We see the soldier at rest and at war and all the time beautifully done even when he's technical. I would reccommend anyone to read this, not just those interested in war/poetry.
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