“The day of the first moonwalk, my father’s college literature professor told his class, ‘Someday they’ll send a poet, and we’ll find out what it’s really like.’ Turner has sent back a dispatch from a place arguably more incomprehensible than the moon—the war in Iraq—and deserves our thanks…” —The New York Times Book Review
“As a war poet, [Brian Turner] sidesteps the classic distinction between romance and irony, opting instead for the surreal.” —The New Yorker
“Here, Bullet is a book of poems about the war in Iraq, written by a veteran whose eye for the telling detail is as strategic as it is poetic.” —Globe and Mail
“With Brian Turner’s Here, Bullet, we have the first war poetry since Yusef Komunyaaka’s Dien Cai Dau that matters.” —Rain Taxi
“Here, Bullet conveys the pain, the sadness, the fear, the loneliness of armed conflict with eloquent words and vivid descriptions. In a few words he can conjure up the dramatic aftermath of a bomb in a market place that most newspapers can’t capture in a dozen paragraphs.” —The Progressive
“Brian Turner writes as only a soldier can, of terror and compassion, hurt and horror, sympathy and desire. He takes us into the truth and trauma of the Iraq war in language that is precise, delicate and beautiful, even as it tells of a suicide bomber, a skull shattered by a bullet, a blade in a bloodgroove.” —Andrew Himes, editor of Voices in Wartime Anthology
“Brian Turner’s poems are indispensable not only for their craft and their penetrating lyric power, but for the circumstances under which they were written. No book of poetry since Yusef Komunyakaa’s Dien Cai Dau brings us as close to the realities of combat as this, but the realities are uniquely Iraq’s. Reader, take note: 21st century poetry, as such, may well begin here.” —T. R. Hummer
If a body is what you want
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.
“With courage and an uncommon willingness to see the world as it actually is, Brian Turner returns in Phantom Noise with a bullet-borne language in which helicopters hover like spiders over a film of water. His poem Al-A’imma Bridge alone proves his mastery, and joins him to the tradition of Wilfred Owen and David Jones, for he is their descendent, his poetic gifts detonated into a spray of lyric force that will mark what is possible in poetry for years to come, a chiseling of agony onto paper and a poignant cri de Coeur to the republic of conscience.” —Carolyn Forché
“There is the war we know—from Hollywood and CNN, about dirt-smeared soldiers disarming IEDs and roaring along in Humvees and kicking down the doors of terrorist hideouts—and then there is the battleground of the mind, the war that Brian Turner carried home with him like a rucksack full of dynamite…. We might be able to change the channel, to turn the dial on the radio, to skim past a disturbing article, but Brian doesn’t have that luxury: because the news is in his head, the ghosts of Iraq have followed him home and he brings them to life with a staggering arsenal of talent.” —Benjamin Percy
“It’s hard to think of a better way around ideology than poetry like this. Turner shows us soldiers who are invincible and wounded, a nation noble and culpable…He brings us closer to our own phantom guilt and speaks the words that we both do and do not want to hear.” —The Washington Post
“Staring hard through a calibrated sight, this former infantry team leader…reveals the particular music of death and violence and military service, and these poems unfold with his effort to find meaning, to be decent, and to be alert to the suffering all around.” —ForeWord Reviews
“Turner fascinated and unsettled many with his first collection, Here, Bullet, …this volume continues his mission…in sharp, straightforward, yet lyrical language, Turner exposes the many costs of war.” —Library Journal
“Turner’s debut, Here, Bullet (2005) was likely the most discussed debut of the decade… It’s a hard act to follow, but Turner manages well…” —Publishers Weekly
“Phantom Noise is an enlightening and intriguing contribution to contemporary poetry that reaffirms the talent readers first observed in Brian Turner’s debut book. This rich and resonant new volume proves Brian Turner now has firmly earned a position as one of the nation’s more valuable poets.” —Valparaiso Poetry Review
Mohammed Trains for the Beijing Olympics, 2008
In the 69 kilogram weight class,
the Bulgarian, Boevski, is the world
record-holder. He cannot be beaten.
At least, not by Sawara Mohammed.
Mohammed, at 26, has shoveled cement
longer than he cares to remember. In Arbil,
in Kurdish northern Iraq, he strains hard
to lift the barbell with its heavy plates,
round as the wheels of chariots—then, muscles give
and the wheels bounce in dust before him. No,
he cannot defeat the Bulgarian.
The problem is in lifting weight over distance.
It isn’t a matter of iron, or of will.
In Beijing, Boevski’s records will go
unnoticed, because Mohammed is training now
to lift the city of Arbil, with its people;
his quadriceps and posterior chain
straining, the muscles tremoring to lift
the Euphrates and Tigris both, mountains
of the north, deserts of the west, Basra,
Karbala, Ramadi, Tikrit, Mosul,
three decades of war and the constant suffering
of millions—this is what Sawara lifts,
and no matter what effort he makes, he will fail
completely, and the people will love him for it.