War, What Comes After

Poetry - General
178 Pages
Reviewed on 11/13/2020
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Foluso Falaye for Readers' Favorite

Brendan S. Bigney, known as the Nuclear Cowboy from his days in the Marines, is no stranger to war and its aftermath. His book, War, What Comes After, is a reflection of his experiences and that of the many individuals he interviewed, who have witnessed and lived through the darkness of war. The outcome is a revealing, thought-provoking collection of poems that explores varying themes exposing the realities of war and what veterans face: brotherhood, freedom, heroism, sexual assault, pettiness, stigmatization, and much more. The poems all have deep messages embedded in them. Smalltalk is about finding it hard to partake in conversations that seem to be focused on unnecessary things. Hands explores the good and bad that men do, including building and destroying. And How Deep questions the depths one has to reach to truly know someone.

When strong emotions and memories are expressed through art, you get a multilayered, soul-baring richness. Each poem in War, What Comes After has its unique appeal and a revelation deep enough to fill up a whole book. Some poems are specific and narrative in nature while others are abstract and suggestive. The eleven sections in the book result in a neat reading experience and make it easy to navigate through. I loved every poem but was mostly touched by Where Brotherhood is Forged: a relation of brotherhood and war; I had a mix of emotions and a revelation about how beauty can be found in the ugliest situations. War, What Comes After is recommended to anyone who appreciates outstanding creativity and art in its purest, sharpest form.

K.C. Finn

War, What Comes After is a work of collected poems exploring the experience and effects of military conflict and was penned by author Brendan S. Bigney, also known as The Nuclear Cowboy. This unique poetic work splits its many verses into twelve clear sections, offering ‘chapters’ to the journey as the experiences form a story arc and build upon different themes introduced along the way. From the prospect of imminent and future death through to the proposed ideas of glory, victory and peace, this is a frank and emotive discussion of what war truly is, told through the eyes of someone who has really experienced it.

Author Brendan S. Bigney aims to offer poetry ‘for non-poets’, in the sense that his verses strip away much of the flowery language and imagery associated with traditional verse, instead offering deep realism and straight-talking truths. He achieves this feat throughout the highly emotional journey of his collection with short, sharp verses that jab hard at the heart for all the right reasons. Some of the shorter works have such poignancy even from the opening lines, for example, the stark realization of ‘The Highest Level’, discussing ideas of passing on the legacy of training and influence prior to death. Nevertheless, the wordplay is poetic in its construction and sense of rhythm, offering both those new to poetry and old hands in the artform much to admire from his brevity. Overall, War, What Comes After delivers a lot more than first meets the eye: a stellar collection of deep and resonating truths.

Lesley Jones

Many of us are outside spectators to the harsh realities of war so what is it really like to serve behind enemy lines? This collection of undiluted, honest, and powerful poetry, War, What Comes After by Brendan S Bigney, gives us the honor of briefly stepping into the shoes of the military. Discover what thoughts, feelings, and values drive them to become fearless in the face of such dangerous situations. The camaraderie between soldiers and the essential core beliefs they must hold to execute their mission successfully. Brendan also examines many other subjects including life and death, relationships, and the true meaning of achieving your life's calling. Discover what issues face the military once they have completed their service to their countries such as employment, judgments from others, and mental health problems. How do they readjust to society when they have experienced such treacherous situations?

In War, What Comes After, Brendan S Bigney writes with so much passion and vision that you instantly feel a connection to his work. This is certainly a raw and poignant insight into the lives of those who protect us. However, I thought a great deal of the subject matter could easily be related to anyone who wants to improve their lives. Whether that is struggling to make tough choices or trying to overcome feelings of fear and self-doubt. Brendan's attitude to achieving greatness is truly an inspiration to us all. His words are soothing and encouraging and I found a great example of this in The Road Of Ambition: 'The ground is there to catch you so that you may fall no lower And the dust is there to wrap you in its arms and help you in your rise.' His ability to capture your imagination and make you ponder life's meaning is incredible. Sometimes he achieves this with just one poetic sentence, for example, Freedom's Trapping. There are some emotional poems regarding how expendable our military is, the view towards their enemy, and how we have perceived misconceptions about our soldiers. The observations in the poem Civilian Friendly really made me giggle. The one poem that really summed up the harshness that comes with a life in the military, for me, was Freedom. An excellent must-read for everyone.

Asher Syed

War, What Comes After by Brendan S Bigney is a compilation of original poetry that the author has written, all with the underlying theme of conflict and what follows in its aftermath. Bigney pulls stories and inspiration from a multitude of sources, including his own experiences and the experiences of others who have also served, and most interestingly, have been deployed into combat zones around the globe. Bigney—or the Nuclear Cowboy, as he's also known—writes his poems in free form, occasionally working rhyme schemes into his pieces. Some poems, such as The Killer Instinct, have a storytelling narrative with verses that cover several pages. Others, such as Baboon and Something To Live For, are single verses with as few as two to four stanzas, whereas work like Man's Tail elicits more the tone of prose.

Brendan S Bigney does well in transporting a reader into the psyche of military service members in War, What Comes After. It's interesting to see the poems broken up and categorized into parts. Given the highly subjective nature of poetry and the reliance on alliteration that will often take a moment to absorb, having the pieces carved out into spaces we can be certain of allows a reader to focus on the words themselves. My favorite poem is called Equal Opportunity, which offers a clear perspective of what some might call the great equalizer; soldiers who are all red meat in the eyes of the enemy, and nothing beyond which side someone is on determines whether they are a target or not. It would have been nice to know who inspired which poems and a little bit about the person Bigney wrote, at least in part, about. Regardless, this is a wonderful compilation.

Sarah Stuart

War, What Comes After is divided into twelve parts. The first is the introduction, which includes a telling summary – War divides. War devastates – and the author signs himself Brendan S Bigney, The Nuclear Cowboy. His poetry is one of those most intriguing of varieties: freestyle that often has the appearance of rhyme, and words occasionally do, but they are not easy to spot; the rhythm tricks the mind into assuming all are formal verse, so – “This is her cause This is our cause We all have our own flaws She doesn't need applause But to the crowd All she asks Is a little bit of respect”. Other poems are unashamedly freestyle and tend to be both profound and challenging. The Nuclear Cowboy invites his readers on a unique, but bumpy, ride!

Did I find favorites in War, What Comes After by Brendan S Bigney? It invariably happens when I read good poetry. Metamorphosis is very short at only three lines: it sums up death as succinctly as many other poems clarify the meaning of life, the choices, the aims, the reactions. Freedom’s Trappings – “Freedom is merely the ability to choose the chains by which one is bound.” Something to Live For is a misleading title; it holds a twisted echo of John Lennon’s Imagine. War of Land and Sky conjures pictures of armies and navies in action – wrong! War, What Comes After by Brendan S Bigney is a poetry book that turns readers’ expectations upside-down – a must-have for poetry lovers and likely to convert those who are not – yet!