Veterans of Life Write and a Mighty Contribution to April's National Poetry Month

Combat boots, dog tags and the flag of the United States

Formerly held at SJSU's Burdick Military History Project, VeteransWrite shifted location to King Library in 2017 and was later renamed Veterans of Life Write at the Library. Meeting the first Friday of each month, Veterans of Life Write has gone virtual since the pandemic. All are welcome. All are supported in their quest to share their lives in poetry, and prose - both fiction and non. This monthly gathering of Veterans of Life Write has become a cherished interlude, a time to gather safely within a community of friends and express the joys and pathos of unfolding history. All are invited. Supported by SJPL, Poetry San José and SJSU's VetConnect, Veterans of Life participants have shared their stories in film, presented their poetry live (*BP) and virtually and have just published a book, Veterans of Life Write, which is now available at all San José Public Library locations. Please, check out a copy today.
(*BP = Before Pandemic)

Samples of the Poems Within:

Just for Today (by Carol Coughlin)

The past is a hermit crab shell 

By the time we find it 

Its occupant has already moved on 

To bigger and better things 


But my past is piling up and threatens to explode 

If I don’t give voice to it fast enough 

A bulb planted in cold autumn ground 

Now bursting out of myself at the first sign of spring 


Have I outgrown my past 

Is there time to expand once more 

Before the autumn harvest 


I remember the past 

It is a sacred act that reawakens 

The moments and feelings 

Of the miracles I have seen 

I relive them once more in reverie 

Before letting them go 


At times I have endured the past 

Used up time or thrown it away 

Only now to discover 

The present holds its own holiness 


No more piling up 

There is no need even to speak 

For now it is enough 

Just to sit and bloom 



Secret Wedding (by Carol Steele)

Before deployment to Iraq, my grandson

married his high school sweetheart

in Hawaii where she was stationed.

They must have been striking together

each with their raven-colored hair.

I think of all the soldiers who married

before shipping out for World War 11.

My parents, both in uniform, 

first saw each other waiting for a bus.

I was twenty-one when I married an airman

just home from Vietnam.

Didn’t have any idea what I was in for.

Are they like peonies cut early from the plant?

The heat of war forces their bloom:

they’re beautiful, but how long will they endure?


At the Wall, 2018 (by Doug Nelson)

I will not be visiting you at the Wall today, my brothers 

To search out your names, John M. Casey, Christopher Schramm 

to think of the many others we didn’t know 

Or to see my face reflected in black marble. 


Nor will I march, with army trucks, flags 

And little half-dressed girls carrying toy rifles. 

I don’t march any more, 

Not because of my bad knee, 

But because of bad faith.  

My country feeds the names of the dead to the hatchling harpies of future war,  

nurturing and applauding them as we celebrate past wars with gloating. 


Today, many miles from the Wall, 

I need to feel I’m alive, 

to feel sunshine as it warms me through the shoulders of a black wool sweater, 

a brisk walk, a picnic lunch, 

the warmth of this woman’s hand and her voice. 


Captain Casey, Christopher 

I think you’d understand. 


Book cover of "Veterans of Life Write"
Book Jacket of Veterans of Life Write

Attend a Gathering

Veterans of Life Writes - the Virtual SJPL/SJSU Gathering Meets the First Friday of Every Month (public holidays, the exception) Open to all veterans, veterans of life, and veteran family members of any age, any military background, SJSU students and non-students. All levels of writing experience are welcome in this small group setting. Writing sessions include fiction, nonfiction, writing exercises, guidance, and group feedback (if desired) guest speakers and much more. You will always be welcomed.

Blog Category
Adult Fiction
Adult Nonfiction

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