In the first half of The Children’s War, Shaindel Beers looks at artwork done by and about child survivors of war, embodying the voices of the children, their families, and the humanitarian aid workers sent to help them. From there, the book opens out into an exploration of the war at home and the war within ourselves, exploring violence in mythology, domestic violence, and the wars that occur, sometimes, within our own bodies.
These poems act as a survival guide, showing that hope exists even in the darkest of places and that perhaps poetry is the key to our healing.
‘Shaindel Beers’s The Children’s War and Other Poems is a poetry survival kit. It offers beauty and balance, provides necessary news of how to survive the war against innocence, how to start over — from a child’s point of view, and from a woman’s. The poems lend perspective that is both global and intimate. The children’s war, as we keep finding out, goes on not just in alien lands. It is the war at home. Yet voice is strength, too, and a marvelous poem like “Azure” is the antidote, a way of seeing hope, as if for the first time.’ —Marilyn Kallet, author of “The Love That Moves Me”, director of the creative writing program, University of Tennessee.
‘What Shaindel Beers offers us in this fine collection is a poetic humanizing and individualizing of the impersonal and ubiquitous violence that saturates the contemporary world. From a young Chechen girl who takes joy in the happiness she causes other passengers on the bus to a child drawing the cat she could not protect in the attack that killed her entire family, these poems show us unexpected reprieves from suffering alongside unfathomable new depths of horror. Given the ekphrastic nature of Beers’ project, we also feel something of the war journalist’s documentation in addition to the poetic humanizing effect. The combination is emotional and heady stuff. These poems are rare in that they have an aesthetic, emotional, and political impact in equal measure. You would do well to read them many times.’ —Okla Elliott, author of From the Crooked Timber
‘In the title sequence of The Children’s War and Other Poems, an atelier of ekphrastic lyrics based on artworks by children from Chechnya, Darfur, and other recent war zones, Shaindel Beers tells us “There are things that can happen that you can’t draw.” Yet with gem-hard language and heartrending imagery, she confronts us with the unspeakable reality of “children being scattered / like a broken strand of brightly colored beads.” Beers joins the ranks of Edgar Lee Masters and Ted Kooser with her portraits of ordinary Americans, many of them women, devastated by physical and emotional hardship, but she enters risky and breathtaking territory all her own with her intimate portraits of domestic abuse and of her fears, as a new mother, that “violence is the one tool / I have been given.” Yet for all their darkness, the poems find hope: in memory, in everyday beauty, in the bonds of love. “This isn’t much, but it’s the gift,” Beers assures students at a reservation, “the one gift, these stories, that can’t be taken away.” Shaindel Beers’ poems place a moral burden upon us, one that can’t be taken away, but they offer the strength to bear it up.’ —Temple Cone, author of No Loneliness