Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Children's War and Other Poems
by Shaindel Beers

Shaindel Beers’ second collection, The Children's War and Other Poems, will be released February 15 from Salt Publishing. Three ekphrastic poems from the collection appear below, along with the children's artwork from which the poems derive and also praise from Marilyn Kallet and Okla Elliot.

About The Children’s War and Other Poems

In the first half of The Children’s War and Other Poems, Shaindel Beers views artwork by child survivors of war, and she creates the voices of the children, their families, and the humanitarian aid workers sent to help them. From there, the book opens out into an exploration of war at home and the war within ourselves, exploring violence in mythology, domestic violence, and wars that occur, sometimes, within our own bodies. The collection acts as a survival guide, showing that hope exists even in the darkest of places and that perhaps poetry may be a key to healing.

Ms. Beers is running a promotion on Facebook between now and February 15. For every 50 "Likes" on her Facebook author page, Ms. Beers will give away a signed copy. All you have to do to be entered in the drawing is click "Like" at Shaindel’s Facebook page. You may also order The Children’s War and Other Poems at Salt Publishing

Praise for The Children’s War and Other Poems

Shaindel Beers’ The Children’s War and Other Poems is a poetry survival kit. It offers beauty and balance, provides necessary news of how to survive the war against innocence, how to start over — from a child’s point of view, and from a woman’s. The poems lend perspective that is both global and intimate. The children’s war, as we keep finding out, goes on not just in alien lands. It is the war at home. Yet voice is strength, too, and a marvelous poem like “Azure” is the antidote, a way of seeing hope, as if for the first time.

—Marilyn Kallet, author of The Love That Moves Me, Director Of The Creative Writing Program, University Of Tennessee.

What Shaindel Beers offers us in this fine collection is a poetic humanizing and individualizing of the impersonal and ubiquitous violence that saturates the contemporary world. From a young Chechen girl who takes joy in the happiness she causes other passengers on the bus to a child drawing the cat she could not protect in the attack that killed her entire family, these poems show us unexpected reprieves from suffering alongside unfathomable new depths of horror. Given the ekphrastic nature of Beers’ project, we also feel something of the war journalist’s documentation in addition to the poetic humanizing effect. The combination is emotional and heady stuff. These poems are rare in that they have an aesthetic, emotional, and political impact in equal measure. You would do well to read them many times.

—Okla Elliott, author of From the Crooked Timber

Three Poems From The Children's War and Other Poems

From an Eight-year-old Darfurian Girl’s Drawing

The tank, bigger than the hut, fires
and all of the colors explode from the hut.
Why is this man green?
Because he is from the tank.
Why is this woman red?
Because she was shot in the face.
And why aren’t you colored in?
Because it is like I wasn’t even there.

After a 13-year-old Darfurian Boy’s Drawing

Women flee from their houses as smoke rises
like terrible angels and men in green herd them
like cattle. What are the men doing to the women?
Forcing them to be wives. Their houses are gone.
Yes, when you are thirteen,
to be a wife is having a house, a man.
But he is right; the women with the soldiers
are warm and brown; their hair flies around them
as they run. The women who will not be wives
are outlines, uncolored, upside down
in the foreground.

Painting by Azerbaijan War Survivor Sasha Morohov, age 9

The Red Cross nurse is smiling and beautiful.
The way I remember my mother in dreams.
The nurse is beautiful because she is not from here.
Nothing here is beautiful any more. Even the sun is sad.
So I did not paint it in the picture. Only its three rays
peek out. Two golden like the sand of Azerbaijan.
One red, like the nurse’s lips. Like the cross on her hat.
Her satchel. The sun’s rays reach out to touch her. Only her.
The sun does not even see me here, under it, crying.

Order The Children’s War and Other Poems
at Salt Publishing

Interview with Shaindel Beers

How did you come to write these poems and this collection?

The impetus for this collection was a article called “The Art of War” by Dr. Annie Sparrow and Olivier Bercault about artwork done by children in Darfur. The article delved a bit into the history of art therapy being used for children during war-time, and I was instantly hooked. I felt compelled to write these poems. Soon, I was not only writing poems about children’s artwork in Darfur but from WWI, the Spanish Civil War, the Holocaust, and many other wars and atrocities that have taken place since then. The images are so powerful, and it was fascinating to read the children’s accounts and those of the counselors and aid workers who were trying to get the children to tell their stories and heal through art.

How did writing these poems affect your recovery?

I feel like the artwork is part of the recovery process for these children, and I’m trying to help bring it to a larger audience, or maybe just a different audience. Some younger readers might not even know about some of these conflicts, so if they feel compelled to look up background information, they might get a history lesson. I’m a big believer in the adage that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.

War also disproportionately affects women and children, and I open the book with the quote by E.M. Forster, “I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars.” I know it’s naïve to hope that a single book of poetry can make a difference, but I hope that someone reads it and thinks about war from the children’s perspective – they are the least powerful, and yet the ones left the most bereft by war. If just one person thinks differently, then I will feel like I did important work in writing this book.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped these poems/this collection come to life?

This is the first project I can say I really became obsessed with. I looked at archives of artwork online and ordered books of children’s artwork and really tried to spend a lot of time with these pictures and with the stories of the children. When I felt like I wasn’t delving deeply enough, I took online writing workshops that gave me daily prompts and then directed my prompts to this project. I really wanted to make myself get these poems on the page and out there. I first started the project in 2008, and I’ve done a lot of twists and turns on the way, but the book is finally here.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

Richard Jackson was a huge influence on my work as far as poets I personally worked with as a student. I consider Anne Sexton and Eavan Boland my feminist forbearers, in a sense. There are so many great poets out there now, and I find a lot of them by being an editor and publishing them. Poets I’ve published fairly recently whose work I want to find more of and encourage others to find more of are Temple Cone, Anne Barngrover, Ronda Broatch, Hannah Stephenson, Karina Borowicz, Amy Groshek, and Rebecca Lehmann.

Shaindel Beers’ poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is currently an instructor of English at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, in Eastern Oregon’s high desert. A Brief History of Time, her first full-length poetry collection, was released by Salt Publishing in 2009. She serves as Poetry Editor of Contrary Magazine. Find her online at Shaindel’s web page. She lives in Pendleton, Oregon, with her partner Jared and their son Liam.

Order The Children’s War and Other Poems
at Salt Publishing

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