A note on this diary
Mar 1, 2014
This diary was begun in the autumn of 2008 as a digital calling card. I needed to be able to present something to the infantrymen who were landed with the task of looking after me, feeding me, sheltering me, protecting me, teaching me, and who were totally bewildered as to why a poet was in their midst instead of a real artist, one with brushes and pencils and sketchpads!
Thanks to my genius web designer, Michael Gravel, we had the site up and running by the time I hit Shilo and my first military exercise. It was at Shilo, the first stop on my long road to war and back, that I was able to say to the boys, “check out my website and you’ll see what I’m up to.” Inevitably, they’d run to a blue rocket or a tent and google me and be able to read my online diary and see I wasn’t being an asshole journalist” to use the vernacular – they didn’t like journalists because they’d been taken out of context too often I suppose.
My promise to them and to myself was to be as transparent as possible. I decided early on to show all my rough sketches, my really bad work, my failures, my dead-ends. I then wanted to record and post audio because I believe they liked to hear my words. As for photographs. I have thousands of them and slowly will show some. I wanted to wait until the boys were a long time home before I published any.
My number one consideration was not to judge them. I think that’s why they felt comfortable with me. They knew I wouldn’t judge them. And I sure the hell hope they don’t judge me.
Well it’s been 5 years of writing this. I’ve quit a few times but I’ve been urged by readers to keep writing. To date I’ve had over 126,000 visits, and thousands of emails. I can’t believe that many people would drop by. Of the thousands of emails, I’ve only had a few squirrelly ones. One from a crazy, jealous woman who wrote to me not once but eleven times (I only read one!). One from a religious fiend, and I quit reading once I got to the ‘evil one’. And one from a really angry medical officer with PTSD who accused me of being a war tourist and for appropriating the soldier voice. One thing I’ve always said is that I could not, nor would not speak for soldiers. In the end, the officer and I became friends, and last time I heard from him, he’s doing much, much better, having participated along the way, in our poetry project.
99.9999% of the emails and messages that I have received (a few thousand) have thanked me for acting as a translator of sorts, a voyageur, into this other land known as war and army. It’s been, to quote that Dickens fella, ‘the best of times’ and ‘the worst of times’. This work has led me to receive big awards, travel to incredible places, meet amazing people, most notably the next of kin with whom I’ve had the profound experience of standing shoulder to shoulder with, and now, hopefully, to complete a long-held dream, my PhD.
Thanks boys (which includes women of course), it’s been a hell of a ride.