Readers of Jehanne Dubrow’s work already know that she is a master of the craft, an artist whose lines explore the emotional interior of our lives to reveal the difficult and beautiful all at once. With this latest collection, Civilians, Dubrow has charted the warrior’s journey home through a home-front lens. What do we learn when the war comes home? At its core, Civilians is a study of love and intimacy, separation and distance. Dubrow has written a book that adds to the literature and offers us all a clear-eyed vision into the workings of the human heart.
—Brian Turner, author of Here, Bullet and Phantom Noise
However wide-ranging our belletristic responses to the American War in Viet Nam have been, we have not done well enough in terms of expressing the aftermath of war, which, even unlike combat, never ends, until now. Jehanne Dubrow’s poems collected in Civilians embrace war and its consequences from a different kind of front line than we’re used to seeing in books about war. The spouses and families of warriors from both sides were slowly forced into their own quiet cells of trauma, mostly forgotten, until now. I cherish this book as a great gift. These poems are ruggedly beautiful, and enduring.
—Bruce Weigl, author of The Abundance of Nothing
In one of the more haunting poems in Jehanne Dubrow’s newest collection, Civilians, the speaker recounts the “obedient” American plane passengers applauding “the military / and their families.” As a military spouse, she can’t decide whether to “receive their gratitude” or if, she reflects, “I’m trying to unhear— / they’re not so much clapping / as brushing the war, its fine, / metallic shards from their hands.” In a country where citizens can blithely “brush” America’s post-9/11 wars from their fingers, Dubrow’s book is a necessary interrogation of this applause and its larger implications. Drawing on myth—the poems invoke, for instance, Penelope and Andromache to make sense of contemporary war—Dubrow probes, with urgent and stunning imagery, how wars invade the domestic spaces of military spouses and, as one speaker puts it, that fragile “little nation / of our marriage.” In a poem where “Odysseus / lays down his weapons,” the speaker asks, “And what then? What then?” Civilians boldly confronts these questions. This is a brilliant, unforgettable book from one of today’s most important American poets.
—Hugh J. Martin, author of In Country and The Stick Soldiers