Oh Say Can You See: War Poems

Arlin Buyert
Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
May 11, 2015

Arlin Buyert’s latest collection, Oh Say Can You See, opens with "Big Brother", a poem that exposes the aftermath of a spirit ravaged by war. It is a candid poem that ensnares the reader in raw emotion, a poem of spare words, grounding details and a haunting and unforgettable metaphor: “someone else came home:/quiet and brittle as a dead tree.” By the end of the poem, I felt as if Bobbie was my big brother.

Perhaps Buyert’s greatest poetical gift is his ability to always leave the door open to his memories. Somehow, as the poem is read, the reader becomes more than someone reading the poem – they start to live the poem as well, and by the end of the poem, feel as if they have become a thread in the fabric of Buyert’s memories. Each poem is a snippet of memory with a metaphor-cloaked secret that is surrounded by concrete details and language that is both blunt and inviting. Humor sneaks in here and there in poems like ‘Right Rudder,’ a memory detailing a student and instructor’s obscenity-laced interaction.

While the topics of war or poetry may sound daunting to you, Buyert’s poetry immediately erases any apprehension with its simple, open-door approach of sharing emotionally-charged moments of his life and making you feel as if you are welcome to these memories any time Oh Say Can You See, or his other books, Family Photos or Where Shadows Take Their Places are opened and shared. 

Reviewed by Hannah Jane W.
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