Review: William Conelly's Uncontested Grounds

William Conelly’s wonderful new poetry collection, Uncontested Grounds (Able Muse Press, 2014), includes five war poems well worth our attention. Conelly is a veteran of the United States Air Force, although the war poems here come not from his personal experiences but from his imaginative understandings.

“R & R” imagines the state of mind of a soldier on a shore expecting some healing that does not occur. “The Lead Man” tells of the death in Viet Nam of an Air Force pilot, apparently a real person who flew missions as he once played football at the Air Force Academy. “Ernest in Elysium,” imagines the suicide of Ernest Hemingway.

“No Civil War” is a more contemporary or universal story that will sound familiar to anyone who reads world news about low intensity conflicts, civil wars, insurgencies, road blocks, ambushes, rag-tag militias, armed amateurs, and the grim little death surprises of war. “Remembering War” is a fine reworking of a centuries-old Arabic poem, and I hope that Conelly does more of these.

Some of the other poems in this collection will likely draw readers back again and again, for their graceful and subtle formalism, for their nuance and suggestiveness, and for their fundamental rightness about family relationships, aging, nature, and the imagination.

This review first appeared on in 2015

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