by Nomi Stone
A poet and anthropologist explores the surprising world of war games in mock Middle Eastern villages in which the U.S. military trains. With deft lyrical attention, these documentary poems reveal the nuanced culture and violence of the war machine—alive and well within these basecamp villages, the American military, and, ultimately, the human heart.
Forthcoming: February 1, 2019
Kill Class is based on Nomi Stone’s two years of fieldwork in mock Middle Eastern villages at military bases across the United States. The speaker in these poems, an anthropologist, both witnesses and participates in combat training exercises staged at “Pineland,” a simulated country in the woods of the American South, where actors of Middle Eastern origin are hired to theatricalize war, repetitively pretending to bargain and mourn and die. Kill Class is an arresting ethnography of American military culture, one that allows readers to circle at length through the cloverleaf interchanges where warfare nestles into even the most mundane corners of everyday life.
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“There is a door in every word of Nomi Stone’s Kill Class, a fierce book of poems that is a field report from the fake villages of a fictional country built in America, where U.S. soldiers and civilians of Middle Eastern descent dream-walk and role-play at war for military training purposes. This is the world of military technology fairs, the village in a box, the kill zone, where pretend Iraqi towns are brought to life—and death—in the language of a country / we are trying to make into a kinder country. Stone’s language sears through the simulation to the actual war, lighting a long fuse of image and utterance that detonates, finally, in the imagination of what we have become. This is a report from depths of the war machine. Are you writing this down? one of the soldiers asks. Yes. And we can be grateful she has done so. Kill Class is a rare achievement.” —Carolyn Forché
“Nomi Stone has a singular gift for excavating the magnetism between language and the physical bodies it signifies. In her extraordinary collection Kill Class, Stone makes poems out of the hubris and mistrust that make violence a human commodity. And through these moments of violence, she builds poem that are simultaneously archival and creative. She excavates lyrics that meditate on humanity without ever losing sight of the brutal transactions of war and their requisite dehumanizations, subjugations, and traumas. What an unexpected and absorbing book. .” —Adrian Matejka
“Kill Class is unsettling, arresting, essential. The poems insist we listen to war’s distant cry, its close sigh, to the wreckage of language, to the questions buried and excavated, to worlds lost, to faces “sent to sea,” to hearts incapable of translating other hearts. Nomi Stone is an invaluable voice.” —Nathalie Handal