Slow War

A poetry collection by Benjamin Hertwig.

Benjamin Hertwig

A century after the First World War, Benjamin Hertwig presents both the personal cost of war in poems such as Somewhere in Flanders/Afghanistan and Food Habits of Coyotes, as Determined by Examination of Stomach Contents, and the potential for healing in unlikely places in A Poem Is Not Guantánamo Bay. This collection provides no easy answers — Hertwig looks at the war in Afghanistan with the unflinching gaze of a soldier and the sustained attention of a poet. In his accounting of warfare and its difficult aftermath on the homefront, the personal becomes political.

While these poems inhabit both experimental and traditional forms, the breakdown of language channels a descent into violence and an ascent into a future that no longer feels certain, where history and trauma are forever intertwined. Hertwig reminds us that remembering war is a political act and that writing about war is a way we remember. (From McGill-Queen's University Press)

From the book

skunkmusk and alfalfa

drive-thru teenburgers

the long straight line

through fields and barbed wire fenceposts

grain elevators

swimming in clover

asphalt and glass under

the city's halogen halo.

homesmell up till midnight

finishing Harry Potter

and the Prisoner of Azkaban

sitting on your bed

wondering if you

   will be afraid

when you see blood

and if you die

   will you be saved

and the girls at school

   will like you more

for having gone to war.

From Weekend Leave, Wainright to Edmonton by Benjamin Hertwig in the collection Slow War ©2017. Published by McGill-Queen's University Press.

Explore the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry finalists: