Benjamin Hertwig’s debut collection of poetry, Slow War, is at once an account of contemporary warfare and a personal journey of loss and the search for healing. It stands in the tradition of Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” and Kevin Powers’s “Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting.” A century after the First World War, Hertwig presents both the personal cost of war in poems such as “Somewhere in Flanders/Afghanistan” and “Food Habits of Coyotes, as Determined by Examination of Stomach Contents,” and the potential for healing in unlikely places in “A Poem Is Not Guantánamo Bay.” This collection provides no easy answers — Hertwig looks at the war in Afghanistan with the unflinching gaze of a soldier and the sustained attention of a poet. In his accounting of warfare and its difficult aftermath on the homefront, the personal becomes political. While these poems inhabit both experimental and traditional forms, the breakdown of Language channels a descent into violence and an ascent into a future that no longer feels certain, where history and trauma are forever intertwined. Hertwig reminds us that remembering war is a political act and that writing about war is a way we remember.
Benjamin Hertwig is a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, a painter, and a PhD student at the University of British Columbia whose writing has recently appeared on NPR, in the New York Times, and won a National Magazine Award in 2017.
?In his quiet way, Benjamin Hertwig shows us the terror and wonder of being alive. Slow War is a powerful exploration of violence, longing, and the before and after of “time and war and other old gods.’ A profound and beautiful book.” Deborah Campbell, winner of the 2016 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for A Disappearance in Damascus
"We are occasionally lucky enough to encounter a writer we need, like Benjamin Hertwig, who offers solidarity while challenging our assumptions, who illuminates and shades our lives in surprising ways. After reading these poems I can’t imagine a world without them." John K. Samson, musician and editor, author of Lyrics and Poems, 1997–2012
?I know of few books that deal with the experience of combat in such a humane and almost tender way. Benjamin Hertwig’s Slow War is a powerful and moving work of art.” John Skoyles, poetry editor of Ploughshares, author of Suddenly It’s Evening