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ISBN 978-0-9573266-7-5
First published September 2013; 134 pp paperback with endpapers; 210 x 135 mm

Click here to read a pdf excerpt.
Click here to read CBe's blog post on why it is publishing this book.

Dan O’Brien is an American playwright and poet living in Los Angeles. His play The Body of an American, derived from the same material as War Reporter, was the inaugural winner of the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama; a London production was widely acclaimed in early 2014.

Dan O’Brien’s second poetry book, Scarsdale, was published by CBe in  2014. New Life, resulting from O’Brien’s cooperation with the war reporter Paul Watson, is published in October 2015.

Dan O’Brien  War Reporter
Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize 2013
Shortlisted for the Forward First Collection Prize 2013

Reprinted June 2022. For a limited period, Dan O’Brien’s New Life – continuing his engagment with the reporter Paul Watson – will be sent free with orders for War Reporter from this site.

‘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

      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.

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. 

‘In this gut-wrenching, hardboiled collection, poet and playwright O’Brien focuses on Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist and war correspondent Paul Watson, a witness to atrocities and violence in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Asia ... The language of the poems – most of which are persona poems written in the myriad of voices that Watson has encountered in his travels – is spare, adopting a journalistic tone seemingly as a means to cope with what is witnessed. In this context, war is the hell through which Watson, a kind of Virgil figure, leads the poet. “I see / it like a labyrinth,” the photographer tells the poet, “If you get the truth/ you get out. But you don’t, it just gets worse / you get more lost.” One gets the sense that Watson has been scarred not only by what he has seen, but by his own paradoxical role as a journalist who effectively profits from scenes of bedlam and horror, and who is both attracted to and repelled by them. “This is what / I've turned into,” Watson tells O’Brien in the final poem, “a mercenary and/ a desperate one at that.”
     – Publishers Weekly

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘This narrative collection reads like recent historical drama ... The horrors and ramifications of war are laid out throughout with no suggestion of hiding an ounce of truth ... War Reporter is a provocative examination of a life spent recording the ugly facets of a world filled with the unnecessary annihilation of human beings. O’Brien’s bold concept of using the literal in place of metaphor, without requiring regular illusory imagery, is a literary revelation that continues to transport the reader into the world of Paul Watson, with brutal honesty, long after you turn the final page.’
     – Robert Harper, Bare Fiction 

‘This is a complex collection. As Watson is haunted, so too is O’Brien and the affinity between them suggests that, to O’Brien, Watson is more than mere subject matter. Something in Watson resonates for O’Brien and, over the years, perhaps he is haunted by him. It is difficult to comment on O’Brien’s technique. The poems feel like bricolage, and whether a turn of phrase was crafted by O’Brien, or lifted straight from an email, it’s impossible to tell. Either way, these poems are fresh and loaded with eye-witness testimony. All of this adds up to the most visceral poems that you are likely to read. War Reporter offers the reader a journey into the heart of darkness.’
     – John Field, Poor Rude Lines

‘Dan O’Brien’s book is big, brave, important and challenging even in its imperfections.’
    – Martyn Crucefix, Poetry London

‘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