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ISBN 978-1-909585-10-2
First published October 2015; 132 pp paperback with endpapers; 210 x 135 mm

Dan O’Brien, author War Reporter (CBe 2013; winner of the Fenton Aldeburgh Prize for a first collection of poetry) and Scarsdale (CBe, 2014), 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, won the Horton Foote Prize, the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama and the PEN Center USA Award for Drama, and had its European premiere in London in 2014. He is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow in Drama and Performance Art.

Dan O’Brien  New Life

             Forgive me, just understand

       I don’t want to do this. No. We have to

       do this. Yes. We have to do this until

       we don’t.


‘These poems are gorgeous and ironic and heartbreaking and angry and uplifting and tough-minded and compassionate and completely amazing. New Life is a triumph. Art wins, war loses.’

Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried


‘These are powerful and original poems. I don’t know anything like them. They are terrifying and beautiful. Sometimes terrifyingly beautiful. Don’t leave this book on a doily in your parlor. Instead, nail it to the door of every church, mosque, temple, and government office in the world. This is the poetry of courage.’

– Thomas Lux


‘With a reporter’s zeal, in poems marked by crisp speech and a piercing, melancholy humor, O’Brien reminds us that the facts of war, suicide, illness, family, and much else remain largely unintelligible until they are redeemed for us by poetry’s living truth.’

– David Yezzi



War Reporter (2013) – described in the Guardian as ‘a masterpiece of truthfulness and feeling, and a completely sui generis addition not just to writing about war but to contemporary poetry’– was the fruit of a bond between the poet Dan O’Brien and the war correspondent Paul Watson that demanded of each an extreme degree of self-exposure. In New Life the scope of that bond is both deepened and broadened, taking in not just the Arab Spring and its aftermath in Syria, Libya and Egypt but Afghans on the tourist trail in Canada, meetings with Hollywood producers, and changes in the personal lives of the war reporter and poet. Nothing is off-limits. This is a way of writing unique in contemporary literature. 

‘Auden, in his introduction to a collection of poems by Cavafy, declared that one duty of the poet is to bear witness to the truth, and words of witness, it goes without saying, are too precious to waste. O’Brien, a prize-winning playwright, poet and recent Guggenheim recipient, understands this, as his latest collection, New Life, makes devastatingly clear.
    Part of what makes this volume so strong is that though there is an unforced order to the pieces, and a basic coherence, each stands alone, demanding, without being a harangue, to be heard, to be absorbed, and not to stand idly by in our world so in need of informed citizenship. Each one of the poems here is more necessary than the last.’
     – Barbara Berman, The Rumpus

From reviews of War Reporter:

‘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

‘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. It’s a distinguished achievement.’ 
     – Andrew Motion

This book of poetry is powerful, inventive, and utterly original in the way it plumbs the numbing horror of being a witness to war. A collaboration between O’Brien and Canadian war reporter Paul Watson, who won the Pulitzer prize for his photograph of a dead U.S. soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, War Reporter is visceral, disturbing, at times consoling, and always honest. O’Brien’s work is an incredible achievement. Anyone who cares about how we go to war – and how we return – must read it.’
    – Slate