Culture Military

The Gun and the Scythe: Writing poetry and delving inward

“The Gun and the Scythe” is an upcoming book of poetry written by Army veteran Luke Ryan, based on his experiences in the military and his four deployments to Afghanistan.

I’ve always played around with poetry in its various forms — I played music in my high school years and wrote countless songs that might make you cringe so hard you’ll implode like a submarine collapsing on itself underwater. I’ve written limericks here and there for my own amusement, and various structures of poems over the years (a sonnet here, a haiku there).

As I’ve long suspected, I have a lot of dormant emotions and ideas from my time in the military, and they’re all sort of whirling around in some dark corner of my brain. I figure most veterans feel that way, in some form or another, and I felt like it would be healthy for me to explore those feelings. “Delving inward” is an important part of the human experience, and it’s a practice shared by warriors of old from the Lakota Native Americans to the ancient Samurai. So why not the modern warrior?

However, I didn’t want to sit around and regurgitate war stories. I have always been apprehensive about telling specific tales of combat in the public sphere — I’m not sure why, and I don’t have a problem when other people do it, but it’s just not for me. My mind is more often on fiction or, as I have recently found, poetry.

Poetry has allowed me to sort through the emotions and experiences from my military service in the raw; it’s all about unfiltered feeling — its goal isn’t necessarily to tell a simple story, rather, it’s to convey simple ideas.

In order to do that, I had to go through the annals of my brain and till up all those old feelings and emotions and clarify them to myself. I had to boil down ideas to their simplest form so that they could be conveyed by a few words on a page. I have to say, I learned more about myself than I realized I would.

You don’t have to write poetry to do this. You don’t have to write anything, though I would recommend jotting down thoughts and putting them somewhere physical. You might be surprised at what materializes before your eyes.

In our warrior culture, there are some that consider it “weak” or lame to take the time to journey inward. Having a conversation with these people on the subject for longer than a few minutes is almost impossible; they’ll laugh and shrug it off, say it’s unnecessary and that you need to just chill, all the while trying to nonchalantly (and yet hurriedly) to change the subject. Shunning vulnerability isn’t as outright as it used to be — it now sounds more like “nah man, don’t bother with all that,” a dull blade that dulls the soul over time, rooted in a fear of what lies beneath. And yet, those who would shy away from such reflection contradict a myriad of warrior cultures and philosophers who have encouraged the opposite over the centuries.

Taking on this journey, one will quickly find that their reflection isn’t limited to their time in the military, and it doesn’t end — ever. Wisdom is never attained in its entirety; it’s an ongoing process that only grows more beneficial and more beautiful as time goes on.

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Mason
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Mason

Luke, going inward to understand how you tick, is a matter of maturity, and survival. You looking inward is a great source of thoughtful material here and elsewhere. Thanks for your approach, and introspection.

Miche
Member
Miche

Love this. (1) Even non-warriors benefit from same. (2) I’m digging what seems to be a play on both Isaiah (“and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”) AND the imagery of the Grim Reaper. On so many levels. Well done.

rynosbucket
Member
rynosbucket

Well said, Luke. Can’t wait to read it!

Mic-Mac
Member
Mic-Mac

I look forward to your book of poetry Luke. Generations of warriors would have benefited greatly had they used the pen to come to terms with their feelings. I find it interesting that as I read books about our founding fathers and other famous Americans who I admire how often it is mentioned that they write poetry and/or read poetry. Thank you for sharing.

Susan B
Member
Susan B

Writing poetry definitely forces you to expand the vocabulary and dig deep into your own experiences as well as those intimately learned through others in order to clarify and image your thoughts onto paper. Many can follow the mechanical recipes for creating poetry, but it is the true storyteller that can capture the magic of imaging an idea. When I see someone that can capture it, I am envious. I have written my share during and after a college poetry course I elected to take. I rarely share it with anyone but it has often been cathartic just to gather… Read more »

GsGirl
Guest
GsGirl

Luke…you have been one of my favorite writers, for a long damn time! Not only a writer, but a great photographer. Thank you for giving us your gift. It is a humble man who can become a poet. Especially when he is a Warrior!!! God Bless You, Luke!!!

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