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Article: Book Review: War {N} Pieces

Book Review: War {N} Pieces

Book Review: War {N} Pieces

Leo Jenkins has done it again.

Jenkins, a former Army Ranger medic turned writer/poet/artist, has authored and co-authored several books of both prose and poetry, the themes of which include war, assimilation, travel, and philosophy, among other things. This time, he has teamed up with the publishers/writers/poets/podcasters at the venerable Dead Reckoning Collective to bring you his latest. Dead Reckoning Collective, run by the team of Tyler Carroll and Keith Dow, have already published volumes of poetry, both of their own and of others. To see their work, check out Fact & Memory, and the anthology In Love… & War.

Leo Jenkins’ first book of poetry, With A Pen, was an incredible first step into the genre of verse, rhyme and meter. His latest, war {n} pieces, shows a deeper excellence in the craft from one of the men who pioneered the reemergence of poetry for the GWOT veteran. Dare I say, RLTW?

war {n} pieces give readers a further look into the effect of war on the human soul, though this is not the only theme. Like his previous works, he does not play himself into the rut of being only a writer of war. The other themes of his latest include political divides among a supposedly united people, the intersections of love and pain, religion, racism, consumerism, and the rushed and unnatural living in the modern world.

Where Jenkins does write about war, it is not the glorification of the subject. Rather, he tends to put war into a room of mirrors to examine it from every angle, showing the unseen costs of what many of us have endured. For many of us, the Global War on Terror played out either like a spicier version of “The Office,” or even a Michael Bay movie. Reading Jenkins is like getting kicked in the nuts by an Oliver Stone film, which would show (often unwelcome) truths.

As a fan of his work since First Train Out of Denver, I expected nothing less than mind-blowing excellence. I was not disappointed, and as an occasional writer of poetry, I found myself examining the structure of his verses and asking myself, How did he DO that?!

What ifThis squabbling was designed,To keep us in line?What ifIt was sublime to be kind…

Apparently rhyming poetry is not the cool thing to do these days, but in true Jenkins fashion, he throws what is popular out to create something amazing. His rhymes are not forced, like you would read from a high schooler experimenting with poetry. His are effortless, and flow easily with the meaning of the poems. He plays with both rhyme and rhythm with the ease of a master creating his own rules while simultaneously mastering them. The poetry does not serve the rhyme and meter, but the other way around, playing with the conventions and rules of the genre like Anderson Silva fighting Forrest Griffin. They add to the meaning rather than distract from it.

Cafes boasting roasting beans, beckoning.A door opens in front of meleading to a garden green,where short white cups filled with energy,(sans calorie) entice productivity,a proclivity apparently transcendingnationality.

As with any book of poetry, there were a couple of poems I did not understand, at least right away. The difference between Jenkins and so many other poets is that he does not seem to write cryptic verses just to make himself seem like a deeper thinker. I never got the feeling that the writer was saying, “There’s a meaning, but you just wouldn’t get it,” and there are no unnecessarily enigmatic words only to stump the reader. Based on previous experiences with his writing, I knew that he always has a direction with his writing. A verse is worth reading again and again until you understand it, because you will, and it will be worth it.

My favorite poems include “Two Simple Things,” “What’s Heard,” “Looking Back in 20.20,” “& The Pantoum Rolls On.” My absolute favorite is “ILD,” which could be (and should be) the “Freebird” of GWOT poets in the years to come. In his last book, the phrase which burned into my mind was, “…a forever endeavor to be more than our war.” The poem from this book that does the same for me is, “ILD.” I will not spoil that particular bit of amazingness for the reader, but I will include an excerpt from his poem, “Dear War,” that hits particularly hard. 

What’s worse, War, you made them heroes. You made my friends bold – unafraid of death and consequence. If that wasn’t bad enough, God damn it War, you went and made them strong. Then sent them back to the weak, who outnumbered them 200 to 1.I watched so many of them shrivel to those odds, begging. Begging for employment. Begging for acceptance. Begging for another opportunity to share their worthy experience for the greater good.

Of course, dear reader, you are excited to buy and read Jenkins’ book, as you should be. When buying, you should go to instead of ordering through Amazon. As I have found out with my own book, Amazon takes a large chunk of the profits from the writer, whereas the awesome fellas at Dead Reckoning Collective are able to get all of the profits into the hands of the writers. It may be tempting to go to Amazon because you likely already have an app that does all of the work for you, but take those mere extra seconds required to better support an amazing artist and writer.

war {n} pieces is available now for pre-order, and the book goes live on 26 September.

Written By Cokie




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