2014 T. S. Eliot Prize Finalist
Former Marine Michael Miller, who did his tour of duty from 1958 to 1962, compares the struggles of soldiers in the Vietnam conflict with those of soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, and juxtaposes soldiers’ combat experiences with the other war they face when they come home. In The Different War, Miller’s sixth poetry collection, the voices of Marines convey with exceptional understatement the sounds of suffering, whether in combat or in recurring dreams of the maimed and the dying: “His eyes closing upon the charred remains / Of what had been his glory.”
Miller has written well of memories of war, if not his own then surely of imagined memories that could be true.
The Different War is a harrowing journey through the lives of veteran soldiers from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam, memorable characters with names like Tidwell, Renzio, Torres, and Tucker, privates, corporals, sergeants, and lieutenants, all working together toward the same goal: survival, all living with the nightmares survival exacts. We see one touch his uniform, “creases like knife-blades, ribbons of blood,” another stepping from a plane “wrapped in flame…a burning cocoon,” and back home, “light seeps through a wound in the curtain,” and the moon is “a white hole in a black sky.” These are not easy poems, but they are necessary and true.
—Dorianne Laux, 2014 T.S. Eliot Prize Judge
Miller has been able to find the right expression to convey the grunt horror of war and the grim reality of it that survivors have to live with. His is not pretty poetry, not self-indulgent I-saying. These poems are stark narratives, at times almost lyrical but always short as a rifle burst and yet understated, though filled with the blood, guts, and confusion of war.