To commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of World War One and the launching of the bloodiest century in human history, I have published a new volume of poems and essays, entitled Charles Sorley’s Ghost. Who was Charles Sorley, you might ask, and why is his ghost so restless? Charles Hamilton Sorley was one of those who have become known as soldier poets, a title attributed usually but not exclusively to British poets who served during World War One. Most of these poets came from upper class families are were commissioned officers. Given the structure of that war, those officers often were in front of their charging men, leading them onward. A disproportionate number lost their lives, among them Charles Sorley. Quickly disillusioned by the nature of this terrible war, Sorley the poet wrote crisp and unsentimental poems that were mature beyond his years. He died early in the war, in 1915, during the Battle of Loos, at age 20. Robert Graves described the battle in which he was killed thus: “It had been another dud show, chiefly notorious for the death of Charles Sorley . . . one of the three important poets killed in the war.” But there were more than three: I found 57 who were killed and more who served and survived.
It is easy to forget the horrors of war. Most of us have not experienced them, and hopefully never will. But because we have no direct kinship with War, we tend to ignore, forget, or overlook its rumblings. 187 million human beings have been exterminated in one form or another during the Twentieth Century, and the fighting goes on deep into the 21st. Wilfred Owen said, “All the poet can do is warn. That is why True Poets must be truthful.” With that in mind, and to honor Owen, Sorley and the rest, I offer this volume. It is, I hope, enlightening and thoughtful, and I hope the essays provide information that serves as a jumping off point for each of you. Who cares about people who died so long ago? It is the nature of their deaths that calls to me, and the fact that so many railed against that nature, but surrendered to it anyway. Wilfred Owen was killed on November 4, 1918, seven days before armistice was declared.
So, please support me, and pay tribute to them, by purchasing Charles Sorley’s Ghost on Kindle for just $2.99. I hope to have a paperback version available soon, and will post its arrival. This particular project is very important to me, as much for what I learned as for what I wrote, and also for what it all brought me to feel, helping me define my own sense of self on my finite journey across this planet.
This is a day of reflection for me. There are days of introspection, when my thoughts turn inward toward my own Self as a writer, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle, and a friend. There are other times, like today, when the thoughts turn outward to events in the world that deserve comment -- for whatever it is worth. Sometimes, the only worth to what I say is in the saying -- getting it out of my system so I can move on. I am among the virtually powerless in the world, and I recognize that. But, together, we have power to make a change (I still believe that) and individually, I have the power to resist. I resist evil. I do not go to battle zones and refugee camps to pass out food and water, I am not that strong. I do not stand in front of a moving tank in order to stop it, I am not that brave. I do scream in unity with those who do.
The events in the Ukraine and in Israel have demoted the events in Iraq to barely a squib on the national news. The missing kidnapped girls of Nigeria have been all but forgotten. And once again people are being killed -- innocent people are being butchered -- by soldiers and so-called soldiers who play at war. It is a fact that the hundred years since the beginning or World War One (the anniversary of which, by the way, is next Monday) has been the bloodiest in human history. We are good at killing each other, and getting more efficient every day. We long ago stopped having to see our enemy to kill him, making his death more and more abstract, unreal, forgivable and forgettable. For Americans, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were remote to the Nth degree, with barely one percent of the populace actively engaged in military activities, and they all volunteers. It is also a fact that fighting goes on somewhere in the world every day, like man-made forest fires threatening to burn down a handful of buildings but no major towns. Who cares? Who really cares?
The consequence of war is loss, at least for its victims. Yet someone profits from it, uses it as a tool for gain: usually, power, be it political or economic. The axiom, "follow the money," almost always applies. For us, where there is oil, there are we. Where there is none, there are our diplomats. Yet was is illegal. It was so declared in 1928 by the League of Nations, after the French and Americans put together the Kellogg-Briand Pact. But the League had no teeth: one of the two major craftsmen of the Pact was not even a member. And, besides, how do you enforce such a law? It is easier to accept war as a part of human nature, sort of a rutting ritual for our young men, than as something evil to be overcome. I have watched the world for most of my 64 years with keen interest, and studied human history with a particular eye toward the wars that seem to dominate that story. And I want to believe that we can evolve. I know that we should.
But what will it take? There is no easy or practical solution, the issue is more complicated and widespread than gun control in the United States. And the United Nations, successor to the League, itself has no balls, even with the United States as a major member. So I propose the UN grow a set and act in an impractical way: declare universal disarmament. Take away the weapons of war, and there is a good chance you take away war. But, of course, sitting up here in my home near Flathead Lake, tranquil, warm, and well fed, it's easy for me to say. And, being an American I realize that disarmament begins at home.
Help a starving writer get home! It’s easy: if you have a Kindle or a Kindle app for your PC, tablet or phone, you can download a copy of the novel, Amber Waves, by Roy Blokker, for only $2.99! I guarantee it is a great summer read, filled with Gods and warriors and three thousand year old whores and four talking vultures and very interesting people! Here’s the link:
Now that the business end is out of the way, here's the news that's fit to print. CharleeRose is doing her job, which is to grow. She is one month and four days old today, and already shows the good gene pool on both sides (Am I bragging? Yes I am!). Her big brother Xander is enjoying his new role, though sometimes he has to be too quiet for too long, so Opa and Oma give him the chance to be the rambunctious six year old that he inevitably is. Nik and Holli are getting a rhythm and the baby, as she gets bigger, is getting more reasonable on her feeding schedule. Meanwhile, our grandson to be Chase is almost fully cooked; we head to Los Osos in less than three weeks! And of course I am delighted because we are flying -- we try to get one airplane ride (round trip) every year and have done, mostly, since 2001. I am still looking for a job where I travel from airport to airport just to review the airports, but I haven't found it yet.
Finally, watch for more writing news, and thanks for being there for me!
I was born in Holland in 1950. My parents immigrated to the US when I was two. I have many close friends and family on both continents. My wife Diane and I have been happily married since 1974. I have four children and one grandchild (two more are on the way). I love writing and sharing what I wrote most of all..