“Consequence is a new literary magazine focusing on the culture of war in the twenty-first century,” writes editor George Kovach. While this first issue includes some previously published work, future issues will feature new writing by “witnesses and survivors, soldiers, scholars and writers compelled to speak the truth about war.” The inaugural issue includes the work of fifteen poets, an essay, two interviews (one with poet Brian Turner and one with “an Army wife and mother”), a memoir, and three visual artists, one of whom, Viet Le, also contributes several poems.
One of the most arresting pieces is Le’s “Succeed or Quit,” a series of photographs that combine “recognizable images” and “anamorphic images” (the image appears as a blur when encountered face forward but reveals itself when viewed on its side), preceded by the artist’s explanatory note. The photographs constituted a “search for the ghost of my mother” three decades after Le and his mother escaped by boat from Vietnam. The photos (“Beach,” “Face,” “Beach Stretched,” “Lad,” “Young American,” “Agent Orange Stretched,” “Temple,” and “Face Collage”) are mesmerizing, capturing instances that stand in stark contrast to each other and appear to narrate multiple stories. These are followed by several poems, which center on many of the same themes (“Ghosts are not what you imagine,” begins “Haunting”) I found this work to be thoughtful and thought provoking.
Another particularly fine contribution is “Sadiq,” nine short lines from Brian Turner, whose book Here, Bullet was published by Alice James Books in 2005:
It should make you shake and sweat,
nightmare you, strand you in a desert
of irrevocable desolation, the consequences
seared into the vein, no matter
what god shines down on you, no matter
what crackling pain and anger
you carry in your fists, my friend,
it should break your heart to kill.
Mark Pawlak’s “Regime Change” and Kevin Bowen’s “Red State, Blue State: Notes from a Lost Campaign” are long, ambitious poems. The former is framed by fragments of “official communications” regarding Afghanistan and Iraq, the latter is a narrative unraveling the landscape of a country and a people “on alert,” in distress, and desperately seeking their center:
At Red’s Peanut Bar.
“Only American Beer sold here,” its sign says.
The vet from the homeless shelter, pulling his felt hat
down over his eyes, singing “Secret Agent Man”
on the Karaoke.
Later, the whole bar singing together “Sweet Caroline.”
“Art that addresses the consequences of war wants to make us see what we’d rather turn away from,” Kovach says in his introduction. In the absence of decent and responsible journalism, photos of the devastation and death (civilians and soldiers), and property (not to mention ideals), and public protest (which has all but disappeared in the last year), we certainly must rely on artists to help us see.