Writing

The Journey, Part Two

I am doing final editing of Seeking Quan Am and there were days – heck there were weeks and months – when I never thought I would be able to say that. It is making me humble and grateful. I’ve written acknowledgements to those who supported the life of this book, but now I want to acknowledge those authors who profoundly influenced this project, a list that constitutes the second part of The Journey in a Book List. Over the course of this project I have read or dipped into a small library of books, but there are a few that I just keep coming back to, for different reasons. (more…)

The War Against the Land

Many of the soldiers who fought in Vietnam saw it: the extraordinary beauty of the land they had come to destroy. They took note of the rich natural diversity, lush growth, and dazzling colors – and then called in napalm, dioxin-laden defoliants, and bombs so massive they lifted the tops of mountains. Such measures were “necessary,” it was said. Collateral damage. Acceptable loss. (more…)

Writing War

A year ago I sat on a folding chair in an ordinary meeting room listening to poetry. The room had a table with the usual hospitality contributions – bottles of juices and water, crackers, a tray of vegetables and hummus. Another table held books for sale and a third a display of paper made from the pulped uniforms of veterans.

The event was a reading to celebrate the launch of Sound Off: Warrior Writers NJ, a volume whose unassuming size gave little hint of the explosion of power within. Some of the poets were already friends – Vietnam veteran Jim Murphy, Iraq veterans Kevin Basl and Nate Lewis. Others were names I had known for decades but had never met. Jan Barry and W.D. Ehrhart I knew from their work in Winning Hearts and Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans, published while the war was still raging. Dayl Wise, co-founder of Post-Traumatic Press, Walt Nygard, Everett Cox were names I picked up along the way and, listening to their poetry, glad of it. (more…)

Collaboration

10703518_4717179543178_3291343549720035313_nMark and I have been assembling, discussing, ordering, and editing his writing about his two tours in Vietnam for a little over a year now. We have taken care of the thorniest problems, come to agreements about what to leave in and what to delete, and now it is mostly a question of me working my editing magic on the rest. (more…)

Method Editing

Seeing things from a soldier's point of view. Dong Nai River, Feb. 10, 1969.  Photo by Mark Smith

Seeing things from a soldier’s point of view.
Dong Nai River, Feb. 10, 1969.
Photo by Mark Smith

Years ago when I worked for a publication of the American Indian Program at Cornell, I frequently had the responsibility of editing the transcription of an oral talk by a Native speaker for print. Listening and reading are very different cognitive processes and they are also different cultural forms. I wanted the readers of a journal published on a university campus to sense the ¬†cadences of a Native speaker for whom oral communication is primary. (more…)

Coyote’s Advice

drink45-hurricane-and-barcardi-splashI hadn’t talked to Coyote in a while, not about the blog anyway. He still hung around, looking over my shoulder when I was writing in that annoying way he has and harrumphing occasionally. In a more successful ploy to get my attention, he made me a drink – passionfruit juice mixed with an aromatic and evocative rum he knew I would recognize.

“So what do you think I should do?” I asked. The heat of the day stirred memories. Upstate New York wasn’t Saigon but it was doing its best. (more…)

Scary Stories

“I don’t know how Stephen King does it,” I said, looking up from my notebook.

“Does what?” Coyote asked. He was mixing a drink. I’m not sure what was in it but the bottle he was using had a faint green tinge. At least from where I was sitting.

“Keep writing all those scary stories that everybody loves so much,” I said, eyeing the bottle.

“Well, I didn’t think much of Cujo,” he said, looking through the liquor cabinet for something else.

“Oh?” I wondered why there was only one glass.

“Lacked subtlety,” he said, opening the fridge. “Do we have any limes?”¬† (more…)