|Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize 2013
Shortlisted for the Forward First Collection Prize 2013
‘I commend this work for its great originality, courage and humanity.’
– Fergal Keane
‘A masterpiece of truthfulness and feeling, and a completely sui generis addition not just to writing about war but to contemporary poetry’
– Patrick McGuinness, Guardian
‘As Wallace Stevens once wrote, poetry has to “think about war / And it has to find what will suffice.” Dan O’Brien knows this in his bones. He has dug into American history, into our perpetual war, and found sufficient words – words that meet the people of his time with language adequate to their experience. I can’t speak highly enough of these poems. The book is superb, subtle, memorable, and of a piece. It sings and cries. It consoles. It is a gift to readers of poetry.’
– Jay Parini
Let’s watch some more TV. Let’s drink some more wine.
As long as I’m safe I don’t need to do
anything. See, this is why I don’t talk
to people. People ask me these questions
they don’t want answers to.
‘The subject of this book is war and the pity of war – distilled into very powerful poems that are all the more affecting thanks to their clever and restraining use of personae. At once direct and detached, they make the whole notion of “response” as much a focus of their attention as the facts of conflict.’
– Andrew Motion
‘Dan O’Brien has discovered the poetry in the most harrowing of war stories, and made music of the ways in which we share in each other’s guilts, doubts, and triumphs. Meanwhile, the poet’s identity bleeds into that of war reporter, photographer and reader. This is a tragic book about the human comedy.’
– Mary-Jo Salter
‘War Reporter is an edgy, heartbreaking amalgam of memoir, dramatic monologue and poetic intensity, in which war reporter Paul Watson’s complex personal struggles are seen against the backdrop of political violence.’
– Alan Shapiro
Paul Watson won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1993 photograph of a dead American being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu; he has since reported from the Balkans, Rwanda, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria ... Deriving from correspondence between poet and war reporter and their eventual meeting on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, and from transcripts and Watson’s own memoir, these poems bear unsparing witness to the incalculable damage inflicted by contemporary warfare.
‘The poems are stylistically colloquial; the to-some-degree-fictionalised Watson tells his anecdotes casually, and horrors slide up unanticipated amidst his everyday routines, his love life, the demands of his Editor. This combination of memoir and dramatic monologue frames the poems as profoundly human: but whether “human” is at heart a terrible beast, or has grounds for a shaky hope, is undecided. There is no real “making beautiful” of either of these experiences – the loss of a child, the horror of war – perhaps there is only the honesty to look hard, to face them.’
– Anna McKerrow, Booktrust