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Poet Brian Turner uses writing to examine his military service

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Photo courtesy of Brian Turner

Brian Turner is a poet and a US army veteran who served in Iraq and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Intersection’s Matthew Peddie spoke to Turner in 2015 about his autobiography, ‘My Life as a Foreign Country’ and about how veterans respond to his writing. 

Turner says one of the reasons he wrote the book is to answer a question he’s often asked at poetry readings: why did you join the army?

“I had the sort of sketchbook answer, which I would say, I come from a long line of military tradition in my family. But in the book, I need to in part of the process of writing, I believe, to ask those next series of questions and open the doors that then unfold behind that first door.”

“What did I learn when I was a kid that made me want to carry a weapon and go through the test of fire, you know, the old heroes narrative? Is it a pathology? Is it something to revere? Can it be all of those things sort of mashed together?”

Turner says the book brings some clarity to the question, even if it doesn’t provide an answer.

“I don’t wrap things up easily in here. And also, there’s some things I think, that are part of a lifelong process. Joining the military, on its surface is a simple answer to that question. But in reality underneath it, it’s a lifelong thing I’m trying to learn about.”

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About Matthew Peddie

Matt Peddie