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Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  433 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
The award-winning author of The Yellow Birds returns with an extraordinary debut poetry collection.

National Book Award finalist, Iraq war veteran, novelist and poet Kevin Powers creates a deeply affecting portrait of a life shaped by war. Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting captures the many moments that comprise a soldier's life: driving down the Texas highway;
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Hardcover, 96 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Little, Brown and Company
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Douglas
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
I must confess two reasons I can’t truly be fair in my assessment of this book.

1. I sort of have a man crush on Kevin Powers. In my defense, it would be difficult not to. Powers is a man’s man, and he writes like one. He enlisted in the army, served our country in battle, but instead of spinning in glory, he returned a poet and scornfully derided the war and violence through his work. That’s how it should be.

War is terrible, not to be entered into lightly. When a soldier exchanges battle for p
...more
Trish
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, war, mideast
What strikes a newcomer to Powers is his restraint. He is the matte black of soundless, reflection-less pitch in which a cry does not resonate. His screams are visual things, and we readers have had our eardrums burst.
"The truth has no spare mercy, see."
-–from "Death, Mother and Child"

I read Powers’ debut book of poetry first and then by Section Three, read his poetry concurrently with The Yellow Birds, Powers’ classic story of wartime Iraq. I found that although up to now I do not commonly re
...more
John
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is divided into 4 parts and contains 34 poems. Kevin Powers served in the US Army in Iraq in 2004-5 where he was deployed as a machine gunner. His poems are direct, their impact
immediate and lasting. His style is starkly beautiful, the beauty cuts like fashioned steel. I remember an old family saying which went something along the lines of “the toughest steel is proved in the fiercest fire”. Many of Kevin Powers’ poems are similarly proved.

The anger and sorrow is as unflinching as Wilf
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read2016, poetry, ebooks
I have not read Powers' notable novel The Yellow Birds, but feel I should. His experience as a veteran of the war(s?) in Iraq inform both the novel and these poems. I found these more moving than I expected. I'm actually not sure how I missed them when they came out in 2014.

Here is the title poem:

Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting

I tell her I love her like not killing
or ten minutes of sleep
beneath the low rooftop wall
on which my rifle rests.

I tell her in a letter that will stink,
when
...more
Jennifer
Jan 09, 2014 rated it liked it
“If this poem had wires coming out of it, / you wouldn’t read it. / If these words were made of metal / they could kill us all. But these / are only words. Go on, / they are safe to fold and put into your pocket. / Even better, they are safe / to be forgotten.” (p. 50).
I don’t think this collection will be forgotten any time soon. I won an ARC of Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting: Poems through a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you Goodreads and Little, Brown and Company. My copy arrived
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Courtney LeBlanc
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
I haven't read Yellow Birds so it's hard for me to understand the praise heaped upon Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting. Perhaps Kevin Powers' fiction is better than his poetry. I have to assume so as Yellow Birds was a National Book Award Finalist. But about this book of poetry.

It does so much telling and so little showing that I wondered about who his poetry mentors and teachers were. The one thing every poetry teacher/mentor/writer has always pounded into my head it was "show, not
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Rebecca
There’s a Hemingway/tough guy simplicity to Powers’s work that I think keeps me at an emotional distance from his writing about war. In place of artistry he goes for plain speaking and everyday metaphors. All the same, there’s some striking poems here; a favorite was “Photographing the Suddenly Dead.” Other stand-out lines include:

I appreciate the fact / that for at least one day I don’t have to decide / between dying and shooting a little boy. (from “Great Plain”)

Everybody knows / the number of
...more
LindaJ^
Apr 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, war
This book of poetry is divided into four parts. Parts one and two concern war -- before, during, and after. I thought these poems conveyed a sense of what it was like for a person to experience war. I was particularly struck by "Separation," which describes the reaction of a returned vet to "the boys at the end of the bar." That poem painted such a picture -- I could see the veteran, the bar, and the boys at the end, who had not a clue.

Parts three and four were, with the exception of "An Alterna
...more
Laura McNeal
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Manages to put a whole lot of silence into small spaces, and to reveal pain without self-pity. I loved many of the poems in this book, but "Blue Star Mother" most of all.
Paul Frandano
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, literature
Kevin Powers has given us a fine novel of interrelated stories, The Yellow Birds, and a slender volume of relentlessly somber poetry, Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting: Poems. Each complements the other: the poems read like a gloss on the novel, the novel - which I read first - seems in retrospect a commentary on the poems.

Powers' poetic project is foreshadowed in the first piece and expanded upon in the following two selections. I defy anyone to read these three short poems and not
...more
Caroline
Jan 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, war
I bought 'Letter composed during a lull in the fighting' in the spring of 2014 and for various reasons during the year, mostly to do with a lack of time was not able to do more than dip into it, selecting the occasional poem. I realised that was a hopeless approach and no way to treat someone's first collection. I I had to give the poems the time they deserved, to begin with the first poem and to carry on until I reached the end. Once I did this the poems came to life as a body of work.

I'd come
...more
Roger DeBlanck
Apr 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Kevin Powers’s poems are often constructed like long sentences. This type of structure can be interesting and effective at creating flow and accessibility. However, many of the pieces had line breaks that seemed too inconsequential, which made many of the lines themselves feel like fillers. The best poems in the collection are rooted in his experiences as a soldier in the U.S. Army during the Iraq War in 2004-2005. In fact, several pieces are outstanding. Their impact is so immediate and memorab ...more
Chad
Aug 01, 2014 rated it liked it
If I'm honest, I don't feel as if I have adequate tools with which to assess contemporary poetry. William Carlos Williams was as contemporary as I've gotten in school and the rules seem to change often. Nonetheless, I will endeavor to do my best here. Powers is very talented, having previously written a highly acclaimed novel which I greatly enjoyed. This is a small collection of his poetry written about his experiences, many of which have to do with the Iraq War. His most insightful, searing, a ...more
Thing Two
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I don't review poetry, as a rule. It's a personal experience, an individual read. The experience of reading poetry can be different for me depending on my mood, my surroundings, heck, even depending on the weather. But in reading this collection by Kevin Powers I feel I got to know the man. It occurred to me in reading these poems that poetry is much more personal than fiction writing. To critique a person's poetry is to arbitrarily assign two or three or four stars to his or her life, and who a ...more
Bonnie
I won a copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway.

I'm not a big fan of contemporary poetry so I was surprised by how many of these poems struck a chord with me. Written by an Iraq war veteran, these poems give a unique perspective on the war and on a soldier's life. Some of the standouts for me were Improvised Explosive Device, After Leaving McGuire Veterans Hospital for the Last Time, and Blue Star Mother.
Liz DeWitt
Apr 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
This collection was very difficult for me to read, as my 21 year old son is a US Marine.
This admirable life changing, heart wrenching collection of poetic release gives
clarity to just what war can do to our military and their families.
As in Powers previous book "Yellow Birds", it was a wonderful window into my sons world...
One that I cannot bury my head in the sand and choose to ignore.
Natalie Homer
Feb 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
I'm obviously in the minority but I felt this collection was so. . . empty. He's writing about incredibly powerful stuff and yet there was zero connection / emotion for me as a reader. I have to wonder if this book got where it is more because of the subject matter than the poetry itself.
Jenny's
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fantastic talent! My favorite was the last poem "Grace Note" I really enjoyed Douglas Feil's review on this one. I don't think I would have read it otherwise. Im looking forward to reading his other book "The Yellow Birds".
Superstine
Jan 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010-2020, poetry, usa
Tre og en halv stjerne. På sitt beste helt fantastisk, men for ujevnt til at jeg føler jeg kan gi fire.
Anna
Nov 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Really lovely. I'm glad I set to it on a day when I was feeling especially attentive. It deserves full attention. Might do a long review later.
Emily
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, poetry
Really sharp. I was especially struck by "Separation;" I'll keep coming back to it.
Frederick Gault
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military, poetry
". . . war is just us
making little pieces of metal
pass through each other."
Mitchell Kukulka
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing

I want the boys at the end of the bar
to know, these Young Republicans
in pink popped-collar shirts, to know
that laughter drives me mad
and if one must be old
before one dies, then we were
old. Nineteen or twenty-three
and we wee old and now
as the fan spins and the light
shines off their gelled hair and
nails, I want to rub their clean
bodies in blood. I want my rifle
and I want them to know
how scared I am still, alone
in bars these three years later when
I notice it is gone. I want the boys
at the end o
...more
Erin Britton
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting is a thoughtful, occasionally harrowing, debut poetry collection from Kevin Powers. While the title poem may not actually be the strongest in the collection (I think that honour might go to ‘After Leaving McGuire Veterans Hospital for the Last Time’ or ‘Improvised Explosive Device’) it is good and certainly sets the tone of this volume dedicated to lyrically expressing the experience of going to war and then surviving to make it back home. This is an ...more
Cameron
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Just as gut wrenching as Yellow Birds - poetry about our obsession with "making little pieces of metal pass through each other" and "the weight of what remains / as residue..."
Larry Olson
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A remarkable debut volume of poetry captures the struggle to survive before, during and after the war.
Anne
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
poignant, haunting and moving, so beautiful in its simplicity
Mugren Ohaly
May 05, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Some of the poems in parts 1 and 2 are moving. The rest, however, lack any emotion.
Teya Z
Jul 02, 2017 rated it liked it
I've never read this genre of poetry before. Wonderfully done but I feel like I didn't appreciate it as much as I should/could have
Carlos Diaz
Jan 13, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm NOT a Yuuuuuuuge fan of poetry unless I'm reading the works of Andrew Marvell or Christina Rossetti, especially their masterpieces "To His Coy Mistress" and "Goblin Market," respectively. Nevertheless, I gave this piece of poetry a chance because it was written by a poet who used to be a soldier. Kevin Powers writes with such lush beauty, employing the most eloquent words in our vast vocabulary to paint a picture that is pristine and painful to view. In this collection of poetry, Powers capt ...more
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Kevin Powers was born and raised in Richmond, VA. In 2004 and 2005 he served with the U.S. Army in Mosul and Tal Afar, Iraq. He studied English at Virginia Commonwealth University after his honorable discharge and received an M.F.A. in Poetry from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin in 2012.