Seduced by war

Brian Turner has given us the best poems imaginable out of the heart of hell—the war in Iraq. The Central Valley native (born in Visalia, raised in Fresno) served in the U.S. Army in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Iraq; his first collection, Here, Bullet won the Beatrice Hawley Award, and he’s been raking in accolades since. With Phantom Noise, his poems deal with the aftermath of war, and the title poem is an auditory hallucination of post-traumatic stress, a heard version of the amputee’s phantom pain. Whether it’s the way a broken-open box of double-headed nails in a Lowe’s elicits firing pins and shells raining on Baghdad; or his compassionate poem, “Insignia,” about the female soldier most traumatized by the sexual assault of her own commander, Turner continues to use language to illuminate rather than obfuscate. When it comes to war, “We, like Aphrodite, are seduced.”