Review of poetry for the absence vol. 1

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Brendan Donaghy
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Review of poetry for the absence vol. 1

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[Following is an official review of "poetry for the absence vol. 1" by Abel Conlget.]
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2 out of 4 stars
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Poetry for the Absence Volume 1 is author Abel Conlget’s memories and reflections on the time he spent serving in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army and the period immediately following that. The book is put together from a journal he kept at that time. It’s a short book, running to about 130 pages of prose, poetry, photographs, and illustrations. The pattern is, for the most part, a page of prose followed by a poem which also may be accompanied by an illustration. The poems are short; the longest is a dozen lines long, while many consist of only two or three lines.

Disillusioned with his studies at Fresno City College, the author took the radical decision to enlist in the military. He found basic training tough but, as he puts it, ‘I finished, and I passed, and I did it with a smile.’ (Page 18) A year after leaving college, he was posted to Afghanistan. His story gives us a taste of the fear, chaos, and brutal reality of life under enemy fire. It provides a glimpse of the camaraderie that exists between soldiers at war. The author describes how he left the military and returned to civilian life. In some ways, that proved to be as tough as his time in the army. Alongside his prose accounts, the author gives us a series of poetic and philosophical reflections on his experiences.

I particularly enjoyed reading the prose parts of this book in which the author writes about his time in Afghanistan. Few of us (thankfully) ever get to experience what it’s like to fight in a war zone. It is illuminating, therefore, to read the story of someone who has walked that path. I also thought that the descriptions of his life after he had left the army were excellent. His attempts to pick up his relationships with his girlfriend and family prove difficult, as does the business of finding a new direction for himself. It takes him a while to realise that the traumatic events he has witnessed in war have taken their toll. He writes: ‘The me that was a school guy and an artist was lost.’ (Page 108)

There were two aspects of the book I wasn’t so thrilled about. The first is that the book has not been professionally edited. The grammatical errors and typos start on page one and continue through to the end. The second disappointment for me was that I felt that the author could have written so much more. For example, he writes lines that hint at a difficult family background that may have been instrumental in his decision to join the military. Similarly, he writes only briefly about his PTSD, his descent into serious substance abuse, and the difficulties these things caused in his relationships. I wanted him to say more about these things, to tell us about the experiences that shaped his life and his philosophy.

Even though I enjoyed reading this book, I am awarding it only two stars out of four. I am deducting one star because of the many minor errors I found in the text. I am deducting a second star because I finished the book feeling dissatisfied; the author got me interested in his story but left much of it untold, in my view. Hopefully, there’ll be a second volume.

This is an adult story that contains accounts of violent death and drug-taking, so it’s not suitable for children. I recommend it to those who enjoy reading the memoirs of combat veterans.

poetry for the absence vol. 1
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Patty Allread
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Post by Patty Allread »

I am under the impression that many military veterans have similar stories, especially the parts about PTSD, becoming a drug abuser, and feeling that their former hopes and interests are no longer viable. At least this author found a way to express himself, and I hope he continues working at it.
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Post by Gwrites208 »

I'm a fan of anything memoir. It's great that the author shared his experiences. But I regretted how he left you dissatisfieded, as he left some part untold.
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