Wednesday, March 8, 2017

It's raining lightly this morning, and I glimpse a row of eiders swimming beside the jetty. The gulls are noisier than usual, and in singles and in pairs they are muscling purposefully toward the east. Someone down on the docks must have opened a box of bait.

Last night I braised pork loin in milk, Marcella Hazan style, and served it with fresh spinach and roasted fingerlings. Today I have no cooking plans, at least not yet. I do, however, have a library plan . . . to investigate what it's got for Vietnam-era poetry and a good basic history of the war. I have been editing a scholarly book about soldier-poetry, which has given me some names and sources. And I am wondering if it's about time for me to start seriously dealing with family history and the war. For my whole life, I've pussy-footed around my uncle's death in a "I'm just a niece, I was just a baby, what do I know?" kind of way. On the other hand, I named my son after him. And I'm a poet. So clearly I've got obligations.

So we'll see. I've been wondering what my next project might need to be.


Ruth said...

You just wrote something that made me realize why I am so passionate about teaching poetry appreciation and writing to my current students and also to all those classes in the past. "And I'm a poet. So clearly I've got obligations." Perhaps more than any other genre, poetry has an obligation to tell the truth, or at least a truth. I need to think more about how this has worked over the years.

Dawn Potter said...

Yes, I've been thinking a lot about WHY a person feels a sense of obligation. Where does the urge toward duty come from? It's different for all of us. But for me, naming myself as a poet has also meant naming my responsibility to speak.

Maureen said...

Your editing of that book and your possibly forthcoming subject on the Vietnam war, which so defined my generation, are intriguing, Dawn.

My eldest brother served an extended tour in Vietnam and I used to write letters to some of the men in his company. My brother made it out but has never been the same (he was also exposed to Agent Orange, which has caused innumerable health problems); a number of those he served with did not live to see their loved ones again. My brother used to drive the APCs (armored personnel carriers), the forerunners, I suppose, of Humvees.

I've always regretted not interviewing my father about his service in the famous Merrill's Marauders that fought in China, Burma, and India in WWII. In 1990, age 73, he died suddenly one day while visiting me. Unfortunately, because my brother suffers from PSTD, he cannot talk about his experiences. I don't know that he's ever been given an opportunity to express his experiences through art.

There have been some very fine poets (e.g., Brian Turner) who have written about the war in Iraq.

Dawn Potter said...

I am devoted to the Vietnam poems of Michael Casey, and I'm looking forward to exploring more work from the war . . . and also of spending time with some basic histories. When you're a child, you hear the news around you, you comprehend the loss and the fear, but you don't have much of a concept of why or how. I was only 4 when my uncle's barracks were blown up. I remember the sense of disaster, and I remember him as a human being . . . my fun young uncle, who played with me boisterously in my grandparents' very un-child-friendly house. That's because he was a kid too, of course. And kids recognize each other.

I'm sure you've pondered many possibilities for helping your brother. Art and writing can be helpful, but I think a lot hangs on whether or not the facilitator and the participant can develop a bond and an environment of safety. You might do some research with the staff at the Joiner Center at UMass, Boston. Maybe they could offer guidance on some art or writing groups in your brother's area.

David (n of 49) said...

Hoping it's not inappropriate to say I'm sorry for Maureen she never had a chance to speak with her father about his service in the 5307th. It is for sure legendary and individuals too often get lost behind the name and the legend. And I too can vouch for Brian Turner. As for brief histories of the Vietnam Wars (French and American), this looks like it might suit:

I'd be very interested too in whatever you ultimately write about it all.

Dawn Potter said...

Maureen meet David, David meet Maureen! David is, among other things, a student of 19th- and 20th-century European and American war history. And Maureen is a poet who also has considerable expertise in the visual arts. David, I'm thrilled that you recognized Maureen's father's unit!

David (n of 49) said...

You meet the darndest people on this blog... ;)