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Brian Turner

Brian Turner was born in Visalia, California. He received a BA from Fresno State in 1994 and an MFA from the University of Oregon in 1996. He is the author of the poetry collections Phantom Noise (Alice James Books, 2010), which was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize, and Here, Bullet (Alice James Books, 2005), as well as the memoir My Life as a Foreign Country (W. W. Norton, 2014). A veteran of the US Army, Turner is known for his writing about the Iraq War. He is the recipient of numerous honors, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He directs the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College and lives in Orlando, Florida.

By This Poet


Phantom Noise

There is this ringing hum  this
bullet-borne language  ringing
shell-fall and static this  late-night
ringing of threadwork and carpet  ringing
hiss and steam  this wing-beat
of rotors and tanks  broken
bodies ringing in steel  humming these
voices of dust  these years ringing
rifles in Babylon  rifles in Sumer
ringing these children their gravestones
and candy  their limbs gone missing  their
static-borne television  their ringing
this eardrum  this rifled symphonic  this
ringing of midnight in gunpowder and oil this
brake pad gone useless  this muzzle-flash singing  this
threading of bullets in muscle and bone  this ringing
hum  this ringing hum  this


We were all Jack Gilbert’s lovers, not in the world
but in the poems, in the world of the poems, dying
on the rocky broken spurs of hard islands in a blue
country across the sea, lovers carried in his arms
for decades sometimes, more, the wind a character
that refused to lift the center of the word pain, where
vowels fall into the letter n the way the summer,
wheat-blazed and feral, pours into the cold weeks
of November, winter in its bones to come. Jack
loved us, not as a god or a devil, however nuanced,
but as one who must attend to the difficult harvest
of a life, to the losses and the simple grain that we might,
if we listen beyond the howling in our own hearts, hear 
him singing about as he carries us up the dead mountain.