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Monday, 17 June 2013

Books - Pink Mist by Owen Sheers

Star rating - 9/10

There's something about the medium of poetry that brings the full horrors of war into sharp relief so well. The brilliant First World War poems of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, for example, are some of the most poignant and tragic verses I have ever read. 

And now Welsh novelist and poet Owen Sheers has chronicled modern warfare in Afghanistan in the same gut wrenchingly electric way in his new book of poems Pink Mist. But rather than separate poems, it is a book telling a tale in verse - the story of three young Bristol lads - friends who sign up by a mixture of accident and design. It is a very short book - around 80 pages - of the most honest and heartbreaking words you will ever read.

There are different reasons for Arthur, Hads and Taff enlisting - a poorly paid apprentice plumber's job; a hunger for some excitement; or just because the other two had. And the terrible outcomes for each of them are very different too. 

Taff sums up the horrifying phenomenon of being killed by someone from your own side in stark terms:
They used to call it 'friendly fire',
but not any more.
Too close to the bone.
So no, it's 'blue on blue' now.
That's the words they use,
to describe what happened that night.
Blue on blue.
Blue on blue.
Blue on blue.
However much I say them though,
they don't.

This is a stunningly well written and memorable book. It does not carry a blatant anti war message, but it does lead to much pause for thought about what we ask these young men and women to do in our name, what becomes of the ones who return, and the effect it all has on their loved ones. Highly recommended - even if you don't do poetry, I assure you, you will do this one. 

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