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October 10, 2017

Lecture series features war memoirist-poet

Award-winning poet and memoirist Brian Turner will present a public reading and discuss the complexities of crafting art from memory on Friday, Oct. 27 at Florida Gulf Coast University.

This is a photo of writer Brian Turner
Brian Turner

“The Palace of Memory: An Evening with Brian Turner” will begin with a 6 p.m. reception followed by the reading at 6:30 in Edwards Hall, Room 112. The event is part of the College of Arts & Sciences Lecture Series supported by a generous grant from the Seidler family. The series aims to enrich the intellectual life of FGCU and the greater Southwest Florida community by bringing prominent local and international thinkers to campus and encouraging open discussions of important ideas.

Although admission is free, guests are encouraged to register online.

An Iraq War veteran, Turner has published two poetry collections, “Phantom Noise” and his debut, “Here, Bullet,” which won the 2005 Beatrice Hawley Award, the New York Times “Editor’s Choice” selection, the 2006 PEN Center USA “Best in the West” award, the 2007 Poets Prize, and others. Turner’s work has been published in National Geographic, The New York Times, Poetry Daily, Harper’s Magazine and other media.

His 2014 book “My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir” retraces his war experience — pre-deployment to combat zone, homecoming to aftermath. His account combines recollection with the imagination’s efforts to make reality comprehensible. Across time, he seeks parallels in the histories of others who have gone to war, especially his taciturn grandfather (World War II), father (Cold War) and uncle (Vietnam). Through it all, Turner paints a devastating portrait of what it means to be a soldier and a human being.

Tim O’Brien, author of the bestselling Vietnam War novel “The Things They Carried,” said Turner’s book “ranks with the best war memoirs I’ve ever encountered — a humane, heartbreaking and expertly crafted work of literature.”

Turner, who lives in Orlando, earned an MFA from the University of Oregon before serving for seven years in the US Army. He was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. Prior to that, he deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the 10th Mountain Division (1999-2000). His diverse resume includes stints as a machinist, a locksmith’s assistant, a convenience store clerk, a pickler, a maker of circuit boards, a dishwasher, a low-voltage electrician, a radio DJ, a bass guitar instructor and more.

He now directs the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College and serves as a contributing editor at The Normal School.