Connor Crawford / Managing Executive Editor

On Veterans Day, November 11, several veterans shared powerful poems by other veteran poets from the Civil War to present day as well as their own work. This was a Zoom event held on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. that included multiple veteranpanelists.

Terry Farish served with the American Red Cross in Cu Chi and Qui Nhon during the war in Vietnam. She said, “Our program title is ‘Veteran Poets Reading Veteran Poems.’ We’re reading our own poems and poems from others about WWI, WWII, wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and the homefront.  I’m honored to read a poem by a young U.S. poet, Do Nguyen Mai, whose family came to the U.S. as Vietnamese refugees.”

Farish is also a writer. She’s the author of the novel in verse, The “Good Braider,” as well as the YA novel, “Either the Beginning or the End of the World.” She said, “Many of my books have been about new Americans who come to the U.S. as immigrants and refugees. My first job out of college was in Vietnam during the American war there.  I worked for the Red Cross to support U.S. soldiers during their tour,  and my first novel was about a young Red Cross worker in Vietnam.”

Kyle Potvin, part of Home Front, was another panelist speaker. She has written poems that have appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Whale Road Review, Tar River Poetry, Ecotone, The New York Times, and others. She said, “From Walt Whitman to Khadijah Queen, poets who have served in the military have illuminated the complex and ambiguous experiences of service to the country while recording damages of war. I am participating as the only non-veteran on the panel, representing the Home Front. This is an opportunity to remember and honor the sacrifices of our veterans and their families.”

Karen Skolfield, another panelist speaker, is a U.S. Army veteran and teaches writing to engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst; she’s the current poet laureate for Northampton, MA. She said, “I’ll be reading two of my own poems, plus poems from Bruce Weigl and Khadijah Queen, both veterans. I’m an Army veteran and served as a photojournalist from 1986-1993. I teach writing to engineering students at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. If you’d like more details from my writing bio it’s easiest to go to my website: www.karenskolfield.com.”

COVID-19 has created new challenges for our entire planet, including the poetry industry. Most, if not all, events are now virtually coordinated over zoom. However, it has persevered. Farish said, “Rodger [Martin] and Kyle [Potvin] with Rodney [Obien] have been key to the organization of this event on a virtual platform. We’ve met many times by zoom to plan, read aloud, critique, and revise.”

Potvin said, “The poetry world quickly pivoted to virtual readings during COVID-19. One of the joyful surprises is that often attendance at virtual readings is higher than in person as people can join from outside the immediate area. While we miss being together in person, a virtual gathering still demonstrates the power of poetry.”

Skolfield said, “I’m kind of getting used to virtual readings, but I miss both having an audience and, if I’m attending someone else’s reading, being in the audience. I love the energy of people in the room, edging forward to hear a poet read. But, we persevere. I’m looking forward to a time when COVID is more or less in our rearview mirrors. Until then, we soldier on.”

 

Harrison Paletta can be contacted at:

hpaletta@kscequinox.com