Parrhesia is a Greek word that means “to speak candidly or to ask forgiveness for so speaking.” It first appears in Greek literature in Euripides. It implies freedom of speech, as well as the obligation to speak the truth for the common good, even at personal risk.
The pages Timothy M. Bagwell’s Parrhesia (Anti-War Press, 67 pp.), are very different looking; they’re coil bound and are printed on “card stock.” It is beautiful and profusely illustrated book and contains a couple of dozen poems and many photographs
Bagwell is a Marine Corps veteran of the war in Vietnam. He was in Vietnam seven months, from January-July, 1969. He had enlisted in the Marine Corps at 17 in June of 1968 and was out of Vietnam by age 19. “I do not believe war is anything but human choice embedded in lazy acquiescence,” he writes in this unusual book.
It is not easy to find a typical Bagwell poem to use as an example of what sort of poetry Bagwell has produced for this book. But here is one example: part of “I died in Vietnam”:
I don’t know what day, what time, what killed me.
I didn’t know I died.
No blood spilled.
No pain screamed
No medic came.
No NVA bullet touched me.
No shrapnel broke my skin.
Jungle rot? Yes, to the bone on both shins.
I died in Vietnam.
I can name it now—forty-four years later
Because I write hard poems recalling the foul film
My five senses seared deep inside my skull.
I died in Vietnam.
I used to think I had escaped.
I used to think I had survived—I didn’t.
This is one of Bagwell’spowerful, accessible poems that hit hard and take all readers as prisoners. You won’t be unscathed by this reading experience.
Near the end of this book is a full page photo of Tim Bagwell. He is an old man with a huge, fluffy white beard. He’s wearing a black beret, and is surrounded by artifacts and shelves of books. He looks like I wanted him to look—wise and grim and beyond war.
Good for him. Thanks, Tim Bagwell, for a great book.
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