Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday Muse: Vietnam Vets' Poems & Stories

"Coming into Country"
Photograph Courtesy of Troy "Butch" Gudger*

Long involved in literary projects for veterans, former North Carolina Poet Laureate (2012-2014) Joseph Bathanti spearheaded the establishment and 2016 launching of the Appalachian Veterans Arts & Humanities Collective at Appalachian State University, where he is a professor of creative writing. The collective is a working group of ASU employees and students who partner with other veterans groups and departments across ASU's campus to provide educational opportunities to veterans and, in particular, to develop arts and humanities workshop and programs for veterans and their families in surrounding counties and state-wide. Vietnam War veteran Bruce Weigl, a poet and memoirist and recipient of numerous awards, including the 2001 Cleveland Arts Prize for Literature; Iraq War veteran Matt Gallagher, a novelist and a finalist for the 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize; and Carol Tyler, a graphic novelist, are among those who have hosted readings and workshops for the collective.**

After helping to initiate a writing program and assuming the position of Writer-in-Residence at Charles George VA Medical Center, Asheville, North Carolina, Bathanti began working with Vietnam veterans to help them find their voice and write down and present the stories they have carried with them for decades. Professor and students meet in what is affectionately referred to as Classroom B—what Bathanti describes as "an out of the way room in the basement" of the medical center. For two years now, Bathanti and the veterans have gathered to write every Wednesday. 

Recently, Classroom B's writers announced a new event to highlight the poems and stories they have been writing and polishing.

"The Brothers" Today

On Wednesday, April 19, at 7:30 p.m., with the collective as host, the veterans are presenting a staged reading of Brothers Like These, a compilation of stories and poems, all produced in Classroom B, that received their inaugural reading last August at the Asheville Community Theatre. Nineteen authors and poets, who served in the Marines, Air Force, or Army during all periods of the Vietnam War, from as early as 1965 to as late as 1972,  will be on hand to read their work. 

A reception is planned to follow the event, which is free and open to the public, and guests will have an opportunity to purchase a copy of the book of the same title, which is being published by St. Andrews University Press.

For complete information about Brothers Like These, including a list of the writers and event-site and parking information, please see the collective's events page. A Brother Like These poster also is available to download from that page.

* One of "The Brothers". Troy "Butch Gudger, Weaverville; United States Marine Corp, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Vietnam, 1969-1970

** I wrote about the collective's launch in 2016; read "This and That in Poetry". For additional information about the collective, see the sidebar on the events page.)

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