Sunday, December 6, 2009

718. Standing Order (Poetry Assignment Number Ten)

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Friday, November 20, 2009

717. Sestina (Poetry Assignment Number Nine)

By: Dario DiBattista

Brief overview of the form:

In a sestina, you use the same six words as the end-words of the lines within six different six-line stanzas (sounds kind of devilish huh?). The positioning of those six words changes in each of the six different stanzas. A seventh stanza of three lines uses the six words yet again. As you can imagine, this form is pretty damn challenging. The metering is completed using an iambic pentameter grid (ie, unstressed beat then stressed beat times five for each line)

From Iraq: A Sestina to Home

I want to tell you loving friend about
The things that show my certainty of death
Here in the heartland of Sunni Iraq -
The desert region given to Marines
One year after Saddam Hussein’s steep fall,
When tough insurgents rallied up to fight

The foreign men who also yearned to fight.
You see: the War isn’t at all about
A weapon massed destruction; or the fall
Of the regime; Uday or Qusay’s death;
Uncouth and wild, whipped then unleashed Marines -
It is about shaping a new Iraq,

A warped republic framed from old Iraq.
This new nation won’t come without a fight -
A ceaseless war: Islam versus Marines.
If they could move beyond hatred about
The murdered Ali, Imam Supreme (death
By Sunnis, date Six-Sixty AD), fallen

Fighters could rest in peace with old ways fallen
Away, behind the rest of time. Iraq
Could be a land that worships life not death!
This fortune won’t congeal my friend, for fighting
Just seems to fit the fervent, mad about
Their lands becoming unpure with Marines.

I know that Jihad just angers Marines;
This War won’t stop; we’ll continue to fall...
On quiet nights, I often think about
If fighting never started in Iraq
If men didn’t know how to shoot and fight
What happens after I trade life for death?

I think the most about my life and death.
Will anyone respect a killed Marine -
Another death exchanged in futile fighting?
Will anyone remember where I fell?
What will become of a bloodied Iraq?
My friend, when my life ends, please tell about

The pointless deaths of the men who were fallen -
The dumb Marines who signed up for Iraq,
When no one knew what we should fight about.

Monday, November 9, 2009

716. On Patrol (Contemporary Nonfiction Assignment Four)

This blog has been removed since this piece will be featured in the Fall 2010 Connecticut Review!!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

715. Check Out Dario on Connecticut Public Radio!

Dario talks about his military experiences and how he uses writing to help him heal the wounds of war.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The First Battle of Fallujah Begins (from my book, Go Now, You Are Forgiven)

Blog post removed because of agency representation at Writer's House LLC.

From Fallujah to Chili's (from my book, Go Now, You Are Forgiven)

Removed because of publication in the Washington Post! Click here. :-)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

712. Hunter (Poetry Assignment Number Eight)

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

711. Sonnet for Killing (Poetry Assignment Number Seven)

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

710. Yusef Komunyaaka Profile (Nonfiction Techniques Assignment Number Three)

By: Dario DiBattista

Words are Bigger than Yusef Komunyaaka

Yusef Komunyaaka doesn’t return my emails. This confuses me. When I met the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet two years ago at a small house at the tiny Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, I thought I had made a positive impression. At the conclusion of his speaker’s engagement there, Yusef had even stopped me on the way out the door to shake my hand. When I queried him recently, he remembered this encounter and agreed to an interview. I am unsure why he doesn’t respond. But thinking about it now, I can piece together why.

On the day that I met Yusef, the rain fell intensely. Everyone was soaked from the short trip from the parking lot to the building. Most of the attendees were veterans; almost none of them brought umbrellas. Considering that many of them had survived monsoon seasons in ‘Nam, why should they get worried about a little rain? Yusef’s College appointed handler took a long time to introduce him -- there was a lot to introduce: a Bronze Star for service in the Army as an information specialist in Southeast Asia; three degrees, including an MA and MFA at respectable universities; a collection of eight published poetry books that boasts the Pulitzer Prize-winning Neon Vernacular; and all sorts of teaching accolades, most notably, English Professor at Princeton University.

Like a resting lion, Yusef sat hunched over while she spoke. He leaned on the large, square table, using his folded arms as a brace. Although he let his head droop, he arched his neck upward. For the next four hours, he never deviated much from this position. Even despite this odd posture, his eyes seemed to rise above the others around the table. When he finally did speak, his voice was magnetic and bold yet almost inaudible -- like a distant explosion. He didn’t want to say much; he didn’t want to be the center of attention. “All literature is about creating dialogue,” he told the group after just a couple of open questions. Implicitly he was saying, “So let us talk then.”

Fifteen years ago when he won the Pulitzer Prize, Yusef didn’t have much to say then, either. In one of two New York Times profile from the time, he didn’t even expect to become a household name, a prediction he expressed no concerns about. "I'm uncomfortable with the focus on the poet and not on the poem,” he was quoted as saying. He didn’t even want to accept praise from colleagues and students at Indiana State University where he taught at the time. He would bow timidly or gesture mild acceptance with his hand. “I’m happier about the process of writing,” he told the paper.

Yusef started that writing process for the group of us at Trinity College by recalling a vivid memory from his childhood in Louisiana. At semi-annual family engagements, his great uncle -– a professional gambler and World War One veteran -– would not be allowed inside until he obliged a certain tradition. Yusef’s grandmother would block the entrance, a cloth unfurled in her outstretched hands. When the great uncle would step up and hand over his pistol to her, she would wrap it up, put it in a box, and only then would he be allowed to enter. Inside the house, whiskey would be passed around. Intrigued by this man, a young Yusef asked him one night, ignoring the family taboo, “what he did in the war?” His great uncle, drunk from the celebration, replied with no inflection that he was responsible for burying and then exhuming the bodies of dead GIs.

“Are we responsible for what we saw?” Yusef then asked the group of veterans, his words reverberating back to World War II and forward to the Iraq War. This question ignited fierce conversation in the group. Suddenly, just like he desired, everyone had started to talk. At one point, a former Army Sergeant hugged an Army Medic. “I never got to thank one of you guys for saving my life,” he said through tears. We were all abuzz about sharing our wars, unwittingly inspired by Yusef’s stories and aura.

Today, I know that he was right. All literature is about dialogue; it’s about recollecting the past and proceeding confidently into the future. There were mistakes -- there will be mistakes -- we must learn and move on.

In July 2003, Yusef’s wife at the time, poet Reetika Vazirani, killed herself and murdered their two-year-old child. At the funeral, Yusef just sat while a friend of his read a poem that Yusef had wrote for his son. The poem began, “I am five,” an age his son would never reach. With poetry, only the words are what should be important, not the person behind them.

Despite this overwhelming loss, Yusef still teaches poetry. He still writes poems (Warhorses: Poems is his most recent book, released in paperback just this month), and he has even written a play about Hurricane Katrina called “The Deacons.” I think he doesn’t respond to my questions and queries for follow up interviews, because the world is huge, and when discovered through language, it is much bigger than the nuances of his life.

I think he would prefer it, if instead of writing this article, I just wrote some poetry, too.

All written content ©Dario DiBattista 2009. All posts are for display purposes only and not to be considered published.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

709. Sonnet for a Girl (Poetry Assignment Number Six)

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Friday, October 16, 2009

707. The Contagion Update

3,433 words completed as of tonight. The goal is 60,000 words or more. Wish me luck!

706. Preparing to Breach (Poetry Assignment Number Five)

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

705. Seconds After a Suicide Bombing (Poetry Assignment Number Two)

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

704. The Hill

This personal essay is available to own for free on!



Thursday, October 1, 2009

703. Nurturing Death (Contemporary Nonfiction Assignment Number Two)

This is an earlier version of "A Beautiful Passing", a profile of a female mortician. This will be available to own for free on soon. Thank you for your patience.



702. First Blogger Blog! The Turret Gunner Approaches (Poetry Assignment Number Three)

This poem sucked. So I deleted it. Never to return.