This book, which won the John Cairdi Prize for Poetry, selected by B. H. Fairchild, is inspired by historical situations and accounts letters, oral histories, news reports, etc., of individuals from both sides of the Pacific theater of World War II, including the home fronts. Barnstone writes that he intends Tongue of War as ''a love letter to the World War II generation.'' But he explains, ''I see the sequence as a history in verse in which I allow the readers to inhabit multiple and warring perspectives on the War in the Pacific, including the Pearl Harbor attack, Hiroshima, and the conflict in between.'' Pulitzer-prize-winning writer Robert Olen Butler writes, ''Barnstone has revealed humankind's capacity both for evil and for redemption with a power that few writers have ever achieved.''
Tony gives an overview of the book:
White Pig, Dark Pig
I didn’t rape the women, didn’t lust
for their dark flesh not like you think. I dreamed
of food, not sex. A man does what he must
to live. I ate dark breasts and brains. It seemed
normal, almost. I met some soldiers near
the camp. They carried a cooked human arm
from a white pig (that is, a prisoner
from the West). They were lucky, with a farm
of endless white pigs to roast up. But we
had to track down the dark ones hiding, and
we starved. At last we drew lots, and the one
who lost we’d eat. The loser tried to flee.
He’d been my friend. I shot him with my gun,
then wept. I got his leg and his left hand.
(Japanese Soldier, New Guinea, 1942-1944)
He never drank a lick before the war
but he came back a fall-down drunk. He said
they’d cook up home brew from potatoes or
from fruit and then get bombed among the dead.
He started slapping me around, and changed
to someone moaning to himself at night,
oh God, oh Mom, a silent man, deranged
inside, his spirit bottled up. One night
last year I woke up with his hands around
my throat. His mouth was moving. He was dreaming.
I thumbed him in the eyes till he came round
and when he understood he broke down weeping.
He put his medals in a box. It’s done,
he said, and got a drink. It wasn’t done.
(Woman, Evansville, Indiana)
I was born in Middletown, Connecticut, into a very unusual family. My father, Willis Barnstone, was a young professor at Wesleyan University at that time. When I was two, we left Connecticut to live in Spain on a Guggenheim Fellowship my father had been granted, and so my...
Beneath the electric bill, discarded beer caps and spilled ashtray in the disaster I call my car, Impure-a collection of poetry by Whittier College prof and local poet Tony Barnstone-beckons days...
"Antonyms" is the most technically interesting of the death/breath poems. It's built like Herbert's "Easter Wings," starting with a pair of four feet per line and decreasing by a foot...