This article was originally published in the spring 2013 Harker Quarterly.
In late February, the Harker Speaker Series hosted an event by Silicon Valley Reads titled “Invisible Wounds of War: Poetry from War.” The event featured poets Brian Turner and David Sullivan, who each read selections from their works, inspired by the Iraq war. The discussion was moderated by Parthenia Hicks, Los Gatos poet laureate emerita.
The discussion began with Turner, who spent seven years in the United States Army, one of which was on a tour in Iraq. Turner talked about how he was first exposed to poetry in his youth and how he took poetry classes in college in hopes that it would help him write lyrics for his band, which never took off.
He kept a journal during his time in Iraq, which he later used to write “Here, Bullet,” his latest collection of poems.
Turner went on to read selections from “Here, Bullet,” including the titular poem, and “Dreams From the Malaria Pills,” which describes the vivid and often bizarre dreams caused by pills that soldiers were required to take. He interspersed the frequently emotionally intense reading with stories from his tour in Iraq.
The conversation then turned to Sullivan, whose latest work, “Every Seed of the Pomegranate,” explores the lives of not only United States and Iraqi soldiers, but also civilians in both countries being affected by the conflict. A teacher at Cabrillo Community College in Santa Cruz, he taught Iraq war veteran students who were “struggling to figure out how to reintegrate with a culture that says it honors them but didn’t really want to hear many stories.”
Sullivan later met Turner, who encouraged him to continue with the project. Using information gleaned from Iraqi poets, documentaries and blogs by Iraqi citizens, he wrote “Every Seed of the Pomegranate.”