College of Liberal Arts: Department of English: Everett Southwest Literary Award: 2008 Judge

About the Judge

Brian Turner, poet

"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


Brian Turner is a soldier-poet whose debut book of poems, Here, Bullet, won the 2005 Beatrice Hawley Award, the New York Times "Editor's Choice" selection, the 2006 Pen Center USA "Best in the West" award, and the 2007 Poets Prize, among others. Turner served seven years in the US Army, including one year as an infantry team leader in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. Prior to that, he was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1999-2000 with the 10th Mountain Division. Turner's poetry has been published in Poetry Daily, The Georgia Review and other journals, and in the Voices in Wartime Anthology published in conjunction with the feature-length documentary film of the same name. He earned an MFA from the University of Oregon and has lived abroad in South Korea.

Brian Turner's Here, Bullet is a harrowing, beautiful first-person account of the Iraq war. The poems in this remarkable collection reflect Turner's experiences as a soldier with penetrating lyric power, compassion, sensitivity, and eloquence, while deploring the violence and acknowledging the grief and terror of war. One poem, "Eulogy," was written to memorialize a soldier in his platoon who took his own life. Adding his voice to the current debate about the US occupation of Iraq, in poems written in the tradition of such poets as Wilfred Owen, Yusef Komunyakaa (Dien Cai Dau), Bruce Weigl (Song of Napalm) and Doug Anderson (The Moon Reflected Fire), veteran Brian Turner's affecting poetry of witness is exceptional for its beauty, honesty and skill. These gracefully-rendered, unflinching poems make Here, Bullet a must-read for anyone who cares about the war, regardless of political affiliation.

"The poems on the pages of Here, Bullet, with their immediacy of impact, their universality of theme, their blend of cultural and historical insight, and their many-tiered reverberations of the aftermath of gut wrenching violence, make for a powerful reading experience....The relationship Turner establishes with the reader is not dialogue but a tidal insistence on reflection, that if there is meaning in loss, there must be meaning in what precedes loss, in what is related to loss. There is no harm in such reflection, argues Here, Bullet, but, rather harm stems from the lack of it."
- The Franklin Journal


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