The Different War

Michael Miller

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2014 T. S. Eliot Prize Finalist

Former Marine Michael Miller, who did his tour of duty in Vietnam, juxtaposes his experiences in that conflict with the struggles of soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.


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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.

—Jim Barnes


Part 1

Spring Offensive

Lance Corporal Maylins

Hostile Territory

Private Dyars

Lieutenant Wilcox

Sergeant Tucker

Private Renzio

Corporal Torres


Private First Class Holt

Sergeant Toland

Part 2

Coming Home

Part 3

Parris Island

Part 4

The Veteran

Semper Fidelis

The Pilot

After Afghanistan

Ten Years Past Iraq

The Visit

Part 5

Dead Of Night

Corporal Billy Lee Confer

The Different War

About the Author


Born in 1940, Michael Miller served in the Marine Corps from 1958 to 1962. A native New Yorker, now he lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, The Kenyon Review, Ontario Review, The Sewanee Review, Raritan,The Yale Review, The Southern Review, and other publications. A shorter version of his poem “The Different War” was the 2014 first prize winner of the W.B. Yeats Society Poetry Competition.



Miller writes in a straightforward, unadorned style that seems a good match for the blunt stories he tells.

—Steve Pfarrer, Hampshire Life,
December 25, 2015

Each compelling and articulate poem is a literary gem and this particular anthology is very highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Poetry collections.

Midwest Book Review, December 2015

My advice is for everyone to buy this small book of poetry and read it. Buy it for any young friends who are considering joining the military. Especially the Marine Corps. It is a thought provoking book.

The VVA Veteran, David Willson, July 14, 2015