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The poet has checked out.
August 26, 2005 4:53 AM   Subscribe

The poet has checked out. Thomas Strickland died on August 15, 2005, in Al Mahmudiyah, Iraq, after several harrowing ordeals. He left behind his journal and numerous war poems, such as "Cheers to suicide! So Where's my Martini?" and "Terrer be a Cancer Today", parts one and two. Could he be the Wilfred Owen of the Iraq War?
"Humanity, I think, is what fills the little gaps between all the broken shit, all the breaking, and all the plans, schematics, graphics and orders. Its the sand slipping out of grasping fingers. Its our instinct without progress as a motivator. It's who we are when we concentrate on being more than doing."
posted by insomnia_lj (30 comments total)

 
"There are no heroes in war. Only people that make it home, and people who don't."

Here's to one (yet another one) that won't:

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posted by three blind mice at 5:01 AM on August 26, 2005


Also from Thomas Strickland's journal:

"I spent about two hours cleaning and inspecting my three main weapon systems, a M2 HB .50cal machinegun, a M-4 carbine, and an M-9 pistol so that I may face the enemies you all have placed me in proximity of . . . All this scares the shit out of me. I've never been shot at...or blown up...or done the shooting and blowing up. And i want you to know that I'm disappointed that you have sent me here. Thanks. But not really. I'm not the first trooper you've sent to do your dirty work . . . I'm trying to calm my hands, shaking all palsy-like. And so i clean. I prepare. I shower. I write. I'll meditate. Any suggestions? No, I can't go to the driving range. I don't think I'm the first soldier to be nervously twitchy about doing what I've agreed to do. And I hope it doesn't stop really. And I hope there are others like me. And I hope you understand that war needs people like me...who can't dehumanize your enemy. I hope you want me here. But not really."
posted by insomnia_lj at 5:09 AM on August 26, 2005



posted by insomnia_lj at 5:15 AM on August 26, 2005


What a class act. Reading that tears my heart out.
posted by Tuatara at 5:17 AM on August 26, 2005


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Oh, and Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.
posted by alumshubby at 5:32 AM on August 26, 2005


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He may be like Wilfred Owen, but I don't think he's got quite the same literary chops.
posted by OmieWise at 5:39 AM on August 26, 2005


Cheers to a human being...

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posted by moonbird at 5:40 AM on August 26, 2005


While he may not be as literary, his writing is much more American. It's no surprise that he was a fan of Woody Guthrie, as he had a bit of that in his work and his writing.
posted by insomnia_lj at 5:47 AM on August 26, 2005


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posted by paperpete at 5:48 AM on August 26, 2005


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(And these headlines still make me shudder involuntarilly ... 'cause, well, that's my name, too.)
posted by grabbingsand at 5:48 AM on August 26, 2005


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posted by Floydd at 6:06 AM on August 26, 2005


@OmieWise: He may not have the same literary chops because he was born in 1977. That means he died at the tender age of 28.

Wilfred Owen died at 25, but in an age (WWI) in which a literary education was much more common -- memorization of, and exercises imitating, masters of poetry was SOP English lit education then.

Now, we're lucky if we get "In Flanders Fields" in 5th grade.

If either of these folks had been a medic instead, as was Walt Whitman -- well, they would have then had their entire lives to become poets of that calibre.

/tarin
posted by tarintowers at 6:20 AM on August 26, 2005


He may be like Wilfred Owen, but I don't think he's got quite the same literary chops.

Some would say the same thing about Wilfred Owens, Omniwise.

Siegfried Sassoon had a profound effect on Owen's poetic voice, and Owen's most famous poems (Dulce et Decorum Est and Anthem for Doomed Youth) show direct results of Sassoon's influence. Owen's poetry would eventually be more widely acclaimed than that of his mentor, which has led to the misconception that Owen was naturally the superior artist. (from the wikipedia entry)

At least they waited until his body was cold before slagging him.
posted by three blind mice at 6:47 AM on August 26, 2005


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Let's hope all remaining soldiers and the civilians who's countrys they occupy are returned to peace and safety sooner than later.
posted by mk1gti at 6:57 AM on August 26, 2005


am I the only one who feels a bit ghoulish reading through all that?
posted by shmegegge at 7:07 AM on August 26, 2005


"I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men"

-- Johnny Cash
posted by johngoren at 7:21 AM on August 26, 2005


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posted by cerebus19 at 8:12 AM on August 26, 2005


An interesting FPP but asking for a comparison with Owen makes it difficult to respond without sounding critical of the person effectively been eulogised.

Wilfred Owen died at 25, but in an age (WWI) in which a literary education was much more common -- memorization of, and exercises imitating, masters of poetry was SOP English lit education then.

How quickly did Owen come to be recognised though? I would have assumed that the establishment (i.e. the one's providing the literary educations) would not necessarily have been rushing to pick up anti-war poetry. Was this influenced by veterans returning to become teachers?
posted by biffa at 8:30 AM on August 26, 2005


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posted by docgonzo at 9:04 AM on August 26, 2005


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posted by bardic at 9:08 AM on August 26, 2005


Well, to pick up on a meme from George Carlin...

WWI veterans were called shell shocked. They came back scarred by not only technology and violence, but by a war that was ended by the flu epidemic. People died off in millions, of a virus. That may have something to do with it. It was also a war that seemed to have a "right" and "wrong" side, and Allied veterans were welcomed home as heroes -- who if they wanted to say war is hell, were kind of encouraged to. It was noble, in the days of hand-to-hand combat, to come home with battle scars and to recommend, once educated by war, against returning to war.

Now that it's clear that our own weapons are sending our vets home horked, there are names even longer than "post traumatic stress disorder" to describe the condition known as "shell shocked," most casualties are caused by helicopter crashes and friendly fire, and no one is sure anymore hey, ho, what we're fighting for.

Even veterans, in this DoublePlusUngood era, are discouraged from --- well, from existing in public! John Kerry -- castigated for protesting a war he fought in? Why wasn't he allowed the same due?

Because it was a moral thicket. Same deal here.

In past wars we were to speak honorably, and frequently, of the war dead. Here, TV is prohibited from broadcasting pictures not only of coffins, but of funeral wreaths or folded flags.

That, my folks, is fucked.

Honor our war dead by picking among the fallen for their poet. This guy seems like he has chops enough -- meaning his poetry is both funny and accessible, while talking about serious shit. Give him a chance to grow on you, the way the dead will do.

(Jeez. I ddin't know I cared...)

/tarin
posted by tarintowers at 10:09 AM on August 26, 2005


PS: The best way to support our troops is to bring them home, swiftly and safely.
posted by tarintowers at 10:10 AM on August 26, 2005


Well put, insomnia_lj.
posted by fatllama at 10:12 AM on August 26, 2005


/salute.

A good poet indeed. Though closer, in my mind to Eliot than Owen. A nihilistic existentialist, in his own words. I sincerley hope he is remembered.
posted by mnemosyne at 10:23 AM on August 26, 2005


It is the way of things that the young get to go off and die for us and, as with all death, we who are left behind are the ones most cheated. We destroy our future for little or nothing; the poets who die do make it all seem more poignant though.

Poetry isn't to us what it was 90 years ago -- it hasn't been used to encourage people to go to war or to react to the war in the way it was for the War to End All Wars. I think the saddest "WWI poet" is Rudyard Kipling who encouraged everybody to go off and get killed, only to have the scales fall from his eyes too late when his own son died.

Even if you could imagine a modern poet as a pro-war establishment figure, can you imagine any modern high profile hawk writing:

COMMON FORM

If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
And...
A DEAD STATESMAN

I could not dig: I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?


Both from Kiplings Epitaphs of the War
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 11:24 AM on August 26, 2005


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posted by longdaysjourney at 1:10 PM on August 26, 2005


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posted by Pallas Athena at 1:21 PM on August 26, 2005


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And, while we're at it, what's the best way to find links to soldier blogs? From what I've seen, they tend to get shut down a lot (presumably by the brass). I've seen some messages encoded as GIFs to prevent them being googled.
posted by foozleface at 2:35 PM on August 26, 2005


Most soldier's blogs are not blogs, in the traditional form, but more along the line of diaries or journals. They're ways to communicate back home primarily with friends, and they often do not have a lot of readers.

For every wellknown milblogger, there are many more practically unknown ones, posting during their spare moments so that they can keep in touch, rather than trying to call at 9 am so that they can actually reach someone back home.

There is no easy way to find these blogs outside of extensive searching -- I have found over 100 such weblogs on LiveJournal alone, but it took me about a year to make such a list. If these soldiers were regularly visited by a whole horde of readers, then the brass would crack down on them, so I don't make a list available of the ones I know, as it could be hard for the soldiers in question.
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:58 PM on August 26, 2005


I'm sorry.
posted by atchafalaya at 4:09 PM on August 27, 2005


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