Poetry $15

ISBN: 978-0-9882416-2-6





Winner of the 2014 Drunken Boat Poetry Book Contest, selected by Forrest Gander, Collier Nogues’ eighteen poems erase historical documents related to the development and aftermath of the Pacific War, especially on the island of Okinawa. The words could still be read, besieged by a jumble of contending values, all risky.


For the Americans in Japan, nothing could be more grateful to the eye than the beautiful white patterns falling between the red wet ground, their neighbourhood of flowers, a world which wakens faint. After the tempest, still the author wishes to hear, then to talk, and to matter to the listener. How to matter while you are not able to shelter anywhere between heaven and earth?


In a book of patriotic movements, a person, however great, is pre-formed—her centre formed with, formed by, the dark loud movements of war. The field of movement began to turn into the field, the hand, the leg—the men—into the field. “I was / the already formed approach of force” is the quietness breaking in his ear, the great nakedness in her forest. Back and forth, the work set to work preparing the ground, picked out the dead—eighteen—and gathered the ghosts.


In that battle-field is a modest base for another fight. There was a set of openings in the land, the steel ring of caves and overlapping fields of fire. Now camouflaged by vegetation, “the caves are protected from remem/bering” Nogues saw. “The peninsula here flowed in effluent/pools.” Exposure to a voluminous and graphic show will be the reminder of the war, the apology. (I think of graveyard warnings raking all along the hill.) A report might be made, a sort of half trunk full of whitewash.


So, in the editor’s introduction, teaching occupation, “I” marked the texts and rewrote the original materials. Rewriting textbooks is the nature of the beast. A legal fiction. Any writing of mixed authorship has a hazy power in reproducing Empire, so as to dissolve “me.” The general reader marks at once the “numerous small islands of safe / answer,” a ditch on each side.


I talk of sightseeing. Returning from church, I pass on the road my neighbour, a man who told me once he dreaded American children, acknowledgements, and authors. Regarding Japanese/US relations, Collier Nogues is nothing short of brilliant in this necessary book, which lights up the chronic trauma of surviving amid the dead. If we can see that, we can see Collier Nogues, who grew up on a U.S. military base in Okinawa. These poems desire—to erase—violence.