War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Writing May Day

A few thoughts on writing this project in response to some remarks made to me either in person or by emails from my readers.

Warpoet is my public site for this project. It is my sketchbook of ideas and work in progress. It is raw, unedited beta material. When I say unedited, I mean formally edited – I have no official editor. Having said that, I am very lucky to have a few careful readers who point out errors, grammatical or otherwise, and for this I’m grateful.

Warpoet consists of a number of projects in actuality. May Day is a series of fictional letters from someone named S to a fictional WO, M, who is serving in Afghanistan. May Day started as an online project with the MayDay poetry project, the genius of Winnipeg poet Ariel Gordon, who kindly allowed me to participate.

Ariel’s May Day project invites a few poets from across Canada to write a poem a day for the entire month of May, and post them for critique and enjoyment. Last May I started my own May Day series spontaneously as my contributions. My fellow poets seemed to really like the letter format and indeed one of them wrote how much fun it was to “read someone’s mail”! I have ‘borrowed’ the title, May Day, for my own project as a working title because I find it fitting, a call for help of sorts I suppose, from my main character, S. I asked Ariel’s forgiveness in using the title before I asked her permission and thankfully, she said it was okay. Still, I need/want to acknowledge her creative and generous genius once again.

With May Day, I’m exploring the contemporary military experience of Canadians at war, and the civilian response to it, in a very personal way. Through M, we get a direct account of what’s happening overseas. Through S, we see her perception/interpretation of the ‘life’, and through the young Lt. J, we begin to see the effect of the war on someone suffering PTSD. Another dynamic is that M, being slightly older, with 20 years in, gives us insight into the “old” army, whereas J, a young 26 year old officer, represents the “new”. S is 32, almost half-way between the two soldiers in age.

Typically when writing May Day, I will take a concept or bit of information that I’ve learned while with the troops or read about, e.g., Notional or NVGs or the Rawa Tander Battle, and will think about it for a day or two or even a few months, and let it percolate until one day I sit down and the story spins out. I never know what’s going to happen with my characters, it just does. I don’t know if J will return to Afghanistan, or what happened to him over there (at least not yet), nor do I know whether M will return, or if S will dump him or ? This is the great fun of the writing.

How much comes from my life?

Well I dance flamenco but after 8 years am only a raw beginner. I have just started solo work. I certainly did not dance on New Year’s Eve at an all night party (although I did sing!) As with all fiction writers though, I have “stolen” some dialogue and fragments of character from my life, from my friends’ and family members’ lives and from newspaper stories.

Is there a WO M or a Lt J?

No. But there are elements in both taken from men I have met both within and without the military. And S? She doesn’t exist either.

And why are their names only initials? I want them to be anonymous I guess. I want them to be ‘everyman’.

Is it poetry?

Not really. Is it prose? Who cares? It is what it is.

As for the annoying lack of punctuation and the weird little stops and starts, this is intentional. I mean for it to be breathy, jerky, temporary and unpolished. Life is breathy, temporary and unpolished.

·

Writing May Day

A few thoughts on writing this project in response to some remarks made to me either in person or by emails from my readers.

Warpoet is my public site for this project. It is my sketchbook of ideas and work in progress. It is raw, unedited beta material. When I say unedited, I mean formally edited – I have no official editor. Having said that, I am very lucky to have a few careful readers who point out errors, grammatical or otherwise, and for this I’m grateful.

Warpoet consists of a number of projects in actuality. May Day is a series of fictional letters from someone named S to a fictional WO, M, who is serving in Afghanistan. May Day started as an online project with the MayDay poetry project, the genius of Winnipeg poet Ariel Gordon, who kindly allowed me to participate.

Ariel’s May Day project invites a few poets from across Canada to write a poem a day for the entire month of May, and post them for critique and enjoyment. Last May I started my own May Day series spontaneously as my contributions. My fellow poets seemed to really like the letter format and indeed one of them wrote how much fun it was to “read someone’s mail”! I have ‘borrowed’ the title, May Day, for my own project as a working title because I find it fitting, a call for help of sorts I suppose, from my main character, S. I asked Ariel’s forgiveness in using the title before I asked her permission and thankfully, she said it was okay. Still, I need/want to acknowledge her creative and generous genius once again.

With May Day, I’m exploring the contemporary military experience of Canadians at war, and the civilian response to it, in a very personal way. Through M, we get a direct account of what’s happening overseas. Through S, we see her perception/interpretation of the ‘life’, and through the young Lt. J, we begin to see the effect of the war on someone suffering PTSD. Another dynamic is that M, being slightly older, with 20 years in, gives us insight into the “old” army, whereas J, a young 26 year old officer, represents the “new”. S is 32, almost half-way between the two soldiers in age.

Typically when writing May Day, I will take a concept or bit of information that I’ve learned while with the troops or read about, e.g., Notional or NVGs or the Rawa Tander Battle, and will think about it for a day or two or even a few months, and let it percolate until one day I sit down and the story spins out. I never know what’s going to happen with my characters, it just does. I don’t know if J will return to Afghanistan, or what happened to him over there (at least not yet), nor do I know whether M will return, or if S will dump him or ? This is the great fun of the writing.

How much comes from my life?

Well I dance flamenco but after 8 years am only a raw beginner. I have just started solo work. I certainly did not dance on New Year’s Eve at an all night party (although I did sing!) As with all fiction writers though, I have “stolen” some dialogue and fragments of character from my life, from my friends’ and family members’ lives and from newspaper stories.

Is there a WO M or a Lt J?

No. But there are elements in both taken from men I have met both within and without the military. And S? She doesn’t exist either.

And why are their names only initials? I want them to be anonymous I guess. I want them to be ‘everyman’.

Is it poetry?

Not really. Is it prose? Who cares? It is what it is.

As for the annoying lack of punctuation and the weird little stops and starts, this is intentional. I mean for it to be breathy, jerky, temporary and unpolished. Life is breathy, temporary and unpolished.

·

Welcome to MayDay

MayDay is a series of letters in prose, poem, txt, email, of a young woman to her infantryman lover serving in Afghanistan.

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