Britain’s modern day soldier poet launches poetry competition

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By Cara Sulieman

A POETRY competition designed to raise awareness of Remembrance Day among children was launched with the backing of Britain’s own modern day soldier poet.

Lieutenant Colonel J.B. Brown attended the launch of Poppyscotland’s poetry competition today (mon) to inspire school kids to write about war and remembrance, so others never forget.

Lt Col Brown has been in the army for 22 years – serving in Northern Ireland, the first Gulf War, the Falklands and Iraq.

He is currently commander of the 7 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps based in Germany, and says it is the variety of places that he has been and things he has seen has helped inspire his work.

“Resonance and memories”

And he said it was those real life experiences that inspired his writing, saying: “My second tour of Northern Ireland in 1993/4 has to be the one that has impacted the most on me.

“It was mainly because we lost a soldier, Private Edwards, and had a lot of men injured by direct IRA action.

“But to be honest with you any operational tour has its own resonance and memories that stick with you.

“In terms of inspiring me to write, the tour I did in Baghdad last year when I was embedded with the American army really sparked my poetry and I wrote a lot about what I saw and what I experienced.

“Since then I have written a lot more generalised war poetry.”

“Run wild”

He is keen to get children involved in poetry from a young age, and thinks it is important for them to start to think about war and the impact it has on servicemen and women across the country.

He said: “The kids are using photographs of Iraq by Robert Wilson to spark off their poetry. I don’t think that you need to visit somewhere to write about it, just let your imagination run wild.

“Paint the picture in your mind with the words and it will take the reader to wherever you want them to go.

“I am in some of the pictures so Poppyscotland asked me if I wanted to get involved.

“When I heard it was all about promoting the understanding of Remembrance I knew I wanted to get involved – Poppy Day is a part of my life and something I believe strongly in.

“And anything that gets kids writing and reading and sparks their imagination is something I want to be involved in.”

“Painting a picture”

He added: “I write about life; about love and religion, and to me war is part of life.

“I feel I can only write about what I’ve seen and done and war moves me to write about it and capture the emotions that come from it.

“My grandfather had me reading and writing poetry from a young age and really inspired a love of poetry in me.

“It is a way of painting a picture for people who cannot be there.”

Lt Col Brown will be on the panel to choose the winner of the competition which is open to schoolchildren from primary and secondary schools across the country.

Creative

The main aim of the project is to highlight the importance of Remembrance Day and to make the kids realise that war isn’t something in the past; it is still going on today.

Ian McGregor, Chief Executive of Poppyscotland, said: “It is vital that young people know about conflicts, remembrance and the role of veterans in their communities.

“The poetry competition will enable pupils to learn in a way that is both creative and engaging.”

Prizes for the various winners include a digital SLR camera, compact cameras and a poetry workshop.

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