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Someday they'll send a poet, and we'll find out what it's really like.

Some of you know I performed Benjamin Britten's War Requiem in March 2015. We are once again performing choral war poetry, and I think the poetry of Brian Turner (from the Iraqi war) is equally as relevant to his experience of war as Wilfred Owen's (from WWI). My inference with Britten's treatment of Owen's poetry was of angels and demons fighting over human souls, but with Jake Runestad's setting of Turner's poetry, it's definitely human vs human. I think it is ineffable that both these men felt the need to write poetry to express the atrocity of war.

Jake Runestad has created an incredible orchestral setting for Turner's poetry. I am proud and honored to announce that Naxos will be recording our concerts, but I don't yet know the context of the release. The composer will also be in town the entire week of our performances. The music he has created is dissonant and disturbing and perfect.

And I keep telling myself that if I walk far enough
or long enough, someday I'll come out the other side.

If a body is what you want
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta's opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you've started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel's cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue's explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends every time.

There is this ringing hum this
bullet-borne language ringing
shell-fall and static this late-night
hiss and steam this wing-beat
of rotors and tanks broken
bodies ringing in steel humming these
voices of dust these years ringing
ringing these children their gravestones
their limbs gone missing
this eardrum this rifled symphonic this
ringing of midnight in gunpowder and oil this
threading of bullets in muscle and bone this ringing
hum this ringing hum this

It should make you shake and sweat,
nightmare you, strand you in a desert
of irrevocable desolation, the consequences
seared into the vein, no matter what adrenaline
feeds the muscle its courage, no matter
what god shines down on you, no matter
what crackling pain and anger
you carry in your fists, my friend,
it should break your heart to kill.

And I keep telling myself that if I walk far enough
or long enough, someday I'll come out the other side.

Poetry by Brian Turner excerpted from:

  • Wading Out
  • Here, Bullet
  • Phantom Noise
  • Sadiq

The performances next weekend are in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords.
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