Thursday, September 26, 2013

Taps on the Wall

Taps on the Walls: Poems from the Hanoi HiltonTaps on the Walls: Poems from the Hanoi Hilton by John Borling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book. What can you say critically about poetry written by an pilot shot down and in an Hanoi war prison? All alone in a cell with a bucket, the only way to keep sane was to be mentally active. So he created poems and shared them by tapping them on the walls to the other prisoners. It is a great story in of itself. And the poems, with strokes of brilliancy here and there, are interesting enough. My main bone of contention is with the set-up. So many of the poems require insider knowledge of the airman's lingo and while there was a glossary in the back, it was a pain to constantly flip back and forth--plus there was no telling if a phrase was part lingo or poetry or what. It would have read MUCH better with footnotes. And, honestly, as much as I wanted to like and be inspired by his poetry, except for a few lines here and there, I was underwhelmed. I think it was more his incredible story rather than the merits of his poetry that got him published. But see, I feel like a cad even admitting that much...

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