From the opening pages of Amalie Flynn’s debut book, you are pulled in to its elegant intimacy. The fateful moments of September 11th unfold, Flynn’s words vividly capturing disbelief and awe in equal turn. After, in exploring her husband’s deployment and transition, she turns philosophical, endeavoring to understand his story as well as her own. This is Wife and War: the Memoir, Flynn’s intrepid lyrical memoir born out of two previous blog projects.
You must miss him.
Everyone says that, says you must miss him.
And I always say I do, how I do, I miss him.
But the truth is this. Deployment is hard. And deployment can be easy.
My husband has been gone for over a year, now. And, yes, I miss him. But
some days I don’t. I don’t miss him.
This is deployment. It is the pain of missing him. And it is the pain
of not missing him. Some days I forget about him. Because it has been so
long, too long, this separation.
(Reprinted with permission of Amalie Flynn, Wife and War: the Memoir, pg. 170)
I asked Flynn, via email, about her writing.
When did you start writing?
I have always been a writer. I received my MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama in 2001. In 2010, I started two blogs. My September Eleventh blog was a one-year project leading up to the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, where I posted one poetic piece each day about my experience witnessing the terror attacks while standing on a corner in lower Manhattan. My Wife and War blog is where I post poems about my experience as a military wife, and about war and what war does.
I am inspired by my experiences, of witnessing 9/11, of being a military wife, of facing war, and of my husband’s experience of going away to war and coming home. I am inspired by American soldiers who go to war and come home and by their spouses who wait. I am inspired by Afghanistan, the Afghan people, the men and women and children who live in war each and every day. I am inspired by all of the people around the world who wake up to war each and every day. War compels me to write, to write about war and what it does.
My Wife and War poetry has appeared in The New York Times and Time and my September Eleventh blog has received mention from CNN and The New York Times. This has given me a global audience and allows me to engage in the greater, global discussion of war and peace.
What attracted you to creating a memoir of poetry?
I consider Wife and War: the Memoir to be a poetic narrative. It is a hybrid of poetry and narration and it weaves the two forms together so that they intertwine. I feel that a poetic narrative fits the story that I am telling in Wife and War: the Memoir because it responds to the content, this collection of my memories which are colliding against one another or coiling around one another to create meaning.
What was your process in compiling this book?
Wife and War: the Memoir grew out of my two blogs: September Eleventh and Wife and War. My purpose in my writing is to say something about war and what war does and to say something about humanity, the humanity we all share. So much of the news about soldiers coming home from war focuses on joyful reunions—or the opposite, the very tragic consequences of war such as death, lost limbs, TBI, PTSD, and veteran suicide. War is all of these things and these things deserve as much attention as possible.
My husband and I were lucky to not have to face these horrible challenges. And yet reintegration was hard. I say in my book that being at war is hard but coming home can be harder. And I really believe that is true, not just for my husband and I, but for so many military couples. Reintegration can be hard because war creeps into the most intimate moments of daily life.
Ultimately, in Wife and War: the Memoir, I am expressing a reality of war, of how even in its most graceful or kindest form, war leaves its mark. It leaves its mark, here, in America and it leaves its mark abroad, in countries where war is waged, and where people with families and relationships and hopes and dreams, not too different from our own, live in war and wake up each day in war-torn countries with violence all around them. This is what I want to convey. I want to convey war and what war does, the death and destruction and disconnection. But I also want to convey hope, the hope of our shared humanity, a feeling of connection between all of us, and the sense that some of what war disconnects may be connected again.
Has writing allowed you to better connect with the military and civilian communities? With other military spouses?
Wife and War: the Memoir is my story, my story of witnessing the terror attacks on 9/11, of years later, marrying a man in the military, of how we survived his 15-month deployment to Afghanistan, and then how we endured the aftermath, when war followed my husband home and created battlefields we did not expect. But Wife and War: the Memoir is more than just my story. It is our story. In a time when war covers the globe, Wife and War: the Memoir is our story because it is about our shared humanity, the experiences we all have, the connections we all make, and how these connections can be severed or disconnected by war and conflict.
Many military wives tell me that I am giving a voice to their experience. Many soldiers tell me that my work resonates with them on a deep level. And so many other readers find themselves in my writing as well. My Wife and War poems are read by readers in over 90 countries, many of them non-military and non-American. These readers tell me that what I am saying speaks to a truth in their own lives. That my writing resonates so broadly and across so many divides tells me that my writing is about more than the military experience. My writing is about humanity, the universal experiences we have, the connections we all make in our own lives, how fragile they are, how they can be disconnected by conflict, and what it takes to mend them. This is really my intent, to show how, despite war and what is does, we are all connected to one another, because of the humanity we share.
This Q&A has been edited and condensed.