Saturday, July 28, 2012

If You Don't Read, You Don't Write

Writing is a funny thing. It's not like basketball or football where it is most essential that you actually play the game to get better. Yes, to be a good writer, you must write often, but you have to read too. You should be reading often and what you read the most is what you're going to sound like. Unfortunately for me, I read news too much, but I also read poetry and novels.

Now, many writers groan at the thought of reading poetry. But how about great contemporary poetry that is in beautiful but plain-as-day language? Have you read that? The reason that I'm asking is that I enjoy poetry more than other writing because it is a read that can be picked up and put back down again every 15 minutes because it takes that long or less to read a poem. Instead of me convincing you, I think you you should consider spending $7-15.00 checking out these well-established veteran writers and poets of Vietnam.

1. Preston H. Hood

An ex-Navy Seal from Team Two who fought in Vietnam writes about war and life and family and more in his book Hallelujah of Listening. His book is a "bucket list" kind of thing. You don't want to miss out and with lines like this one from the Poem, "Opening in the Sky," Before the dead crawl out, I stitch it up/ with the white line of my thinking/ and watch the sunrise. It's hard not to fall in love with his book. And at only 7.00, well, it's one hell of a bargain. I've read it three times already.

You can grab the book here:

2. W.D. Ehrhart.

Ehrhart is on of the most prolific and genuine writers you'll ever meet. He's got some twenty books out there from collections of essays to Memoirs, and I for one am going to get "Busted." I know "Busted" is about the Coast Guard taking him down for marijuana after Vietnam, but like any good book it's about so much more. I've been reading his poetry, and I don't need to take you past page one of the beautifully put together, Sleeping with the Dead. The poem "What Better Way to Begin," on page 9 of the book is a brilliant introduction to the book. It's about the author taking his daughter to the biggest firework show in Philly, and he knows he's gonna pay in flashbacks for it, but he's going anyway because he knows it will mean so much to his daughter. Her's a little of his poetry, so you can get the ease of style that is Ehrhart's.

What Better Way To Begin

You can just keep your rocket's red glare.
And as for the bombs bursting in air,
with all that noise and fire and smoke
there has to be plenty of jagged steel
looking for someone to hit.

It's the light sarcasm that I love in Ehrhart's poetry. His voice is refreshing where so many other's poetry are too heavy and serious. The book is one great and fast read and the book is a letterpress book that really is gorgeous, like a display piece for your coffee table to horrify unwanted guests the significant other brings over.

You can grab the book and many others by Ehrhart, here:

and you can read more about Ehrhart here:

3. Dave Connolly

I did not get to read Connolly's book, Lost in America, in it's entirety, and I hear the book is out of print but can be bought on Amazon. Terrific writing. That's what i can say. Much of it is prose poetry in a way that could save the genre. The language, the way it's being told, is the same as if Connolly was speaking to you. He's from South Boston, born raised and there for most his life, so you can imagine what he sounds like when he talk--there's force. Every piece of his that I read was fast and at the end, a gut wrenching punch that is rarely pulled off so well and so well accompanied by a suddenly changed view of the world.

One of Connolly's poems takes us through his first kill in wartime. Then ending lines pack a punch and ring with truth.

Corporal Thach: First Confirmed NVA Kill

Your last reflex
killed the man next to me
but it's your death
I remember.
There's no pride, no regret,
no way I'll forget
your death until mine.

The book can be found on Amazon, here:

Apparently the book can also be bought here:

1 comment:

  1. This is interesting. I recently read that if you read too early in life, you can lose other skills having to do with non-verbal communication, and it eventually hurts you in reading and writing.