Kevin Powers

  • Winner of the Guardian First Book Award

    THE YELLOW BIRDS by Kevin Powers

    Iraq veteran and poet Kevin Powers' unforgettable depiction of the psychological impact of war has won the Guardian First Book Award. Editor Drummond Moir says: 'It's a wonderful moment for Kevin and everyone here is absolutely thrilled.'

Kevin Powers

Kevin Powers was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. A former soldier who served with the US army in Iraq in 2004-5, he studied English at Virginia Commonwealth University after his honorable discharge and received an MFA in Poetry from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. His debut novel, The Yellow Birds, won the Guardian First book Award, the Hemingway Foundation/Pen Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. His first collection of poetry, Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting, was published in 2014 and was shortlisted for both the TS Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize.
Sceptre

The Yellow Birds

By Kevin Powers

WINNER OF THE GUARDIAN FIRST BOOK AWARD 2012

WINNER OF THE HEMINGWAY/PEN AWARD 2012

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST

AN AMAZON EDITOR'S PICK: BEST BOOKS OF 2012

A NEW YORK TIMES TOP TEN BOOK OF THE YEAR

A TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR

AN INDEPENDENT BOOK OF THE YEAR

A TLS BOOK OF THE YEAR

AN EVENING STANDARD BOOK OF THE YEAR

A SUNDAY EXPRESS BOOK OF THE YEAR

A GUARDIAN BOOK OF THE YEAR

A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR

A SCOTSMAN BOOK OF THE YEAR

A SUNDAY HERALD BOOK OF THE YEAR

AN IRISH TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR

An unforgettable depiction of the psychological impact of war, by a young Iraq veteran and poet, THE YELLOW BIRDS is already being hailed as a modern classic.

Everywhere John looks, he sees Murph.

He flinches when cars drive past. His fingers clasp around the rifle he hasn't held for months. Wide-eyed strangers praise him as a hero, but he can feel himself disappearing.

Back home after a year in Iraq, memories swarm around him: bodies burning in the crisp morning air. Sunlight falling through branches; bullets kicking up dust; ripples on a pond wavering like plucked strings. The promise he made, to a young man's mother, that her son would be brought home safely.

With THE YELLOW BIRDS, poet and veteran Kevin Powers has composed an unforgettable account of friendship and loss. It vividly captures the desperation and brutality of war, and its terrible after-effects. But it is also a story of love, of great courage, and of extraordinary human survival.

Written with profound emotional insight, especially into the effects of a hidden war on families at home, THE YELLOW BIRDS is one of the most haunting, true and powerful novels of our time.

'THE YELLOW BIRDS is the All Quiet on the Western Front of America's Arab Wars.'
(Tom Wolfe, author of The Bonfire of the Vanities )

'Kevin Powers has conjured a poetic and devastating account of war's effect on the individual.'
(Damian Lewis, star of Homeland and Band of Brothers )

'Inexplicably beautiful'.
(Ann Patchett, Orange Prize-winning author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder)

'As war novels go, THE YELLOW BIRDS is a triumph, mining the conflict in Iraq to investigate universal questions of the extent to which we are in control of our lives; the degree to which we are capable of exercising free will. As debuts go it's better yet, with an opening as arresting and beautiful as any I have recently encountered'Remarkable for its intensity of both feeling and expression. In this book about death, every line is a defiant assertion of the power of beauty to revivify, whether beauty shows itself in nature or (later) in art. Graves, Owen and Sassoon would have recognised this war and the strange poetry it has bred.An extraordinary novel . . . remarkable . . . stands with Tim O'Brien's enduring Vietnam book, The Things They Carried, as a classic of contemporary war fiction . . . brilliantly observed and deeply affecting.A stunning achievement, visceral [and] poignant.A masterpiece ... a classic.THE YELLOW BIRDS is a wonderful, powerful novel that moves and terrifies.Tautly written and unforgiving in its depiction of the human cost of war.I found in THE YELLOW BIRDS by Kevin Powers a vivid, poetic account of modern warfare. Powers joined the US Marines at 17, going on to serve as a machine gunner in Iraq, and each line bleeds hard-fought truths.Powers has written a compassionate, poetic evocation of war and its legacy which has already been hailed as a classic of its genre.One of the best war novels for years.'Harrowing, inexplicably beautiful, and utterly, urgently necessary.''Kevin Powers has conjured a poetic and devastating account of war's effect on the individual.'Extraordinarily well-written . . . brilliant . . . he's just a really, really beautiful writer . . . everyone will be reading it.Reaffirms the power of fiction to tell the truth about the unspeakable ... a superb literary achievement. I urge everyone to read it.Written with an intensity which is deeply compelling.'This is a novel I've been waiting for. THE YELLOW BIRDS is born from experience and rendered with compassion and intelligence. All of us owe Kevin Powers our heartfelt gratitude.'. . . One of those books that knocks your perceptions into new alignment permanently.'THE YELLOW BIRDS is the All Quiet on the Western Front of America's Arab Wars.'[Powers] has forged a harrowing, enormously powerful first novel . . . Powers' writing is also attentive to nature and landscape, and he manages to entertain contradictory notions of beauty and horror. Wasn't that Fitzgerald's definition of genius?Kevin Powers' lyrical account of war's deep impact on the individual is an important addition to the tradition of American war fiction and perhaps the first great novel to emerge from the long, intractable conflicts in the Middle East.A stunning read . . . beautiful [and] devastating.Thus far the definitive novel of our long wars in the Middle East; this book is certain to be read and taught for generations to come.And then I heard this . . . an extraordinary novel - honest painful, poetic. Powers's exquisitely drawn portrait of three young soldiers struggling in their own way to make sense of their situation gives you the real human story.Kevin Powers' poetic, grievously sad debut novel captures one young man's experience of the war in Iraq . . . Powers is clear-eyed and dolorous, observing the damage done, but alive to the beauty of the landscape, and the details that cement friendship in a world dominated by violence and fear.Page after page yields unforgettable images . . . undeniably, this is an important novel by a formidable talent.A novel about the war in Iraq might not usually top your reading list, but make an exception for this one . . . it's an intense, brutal and yet lyrical tale . . . Novelists from Ann Pratchett to Colm Toibin have praised its harrowing beauty. It's an elegant literary treat.'The most recent war is much like the most ancient, torn bodies, cracked psyches, the emotional roundelay of pride, pain, confusion and sorrow. In THE YELLOW BIRDS, Kevin Powers has delivered an exceptional novel from the war in Iraq, written in clean, evocative prose, lyric and graphic, in assured rhythms, a story for today and tomorrow and the next.'We haven't just been waiting for a great novel to come out of the Iraq War, our 21st century Vietnam; we have also been waiting for something more important, a work of art that illuminates our flawed and complex and striving humanity behind all such wars. At last we have both in Kevin Powers' THE YELLOW BIRDS.In the great tradition of Hemingway and Tim O'Brien, Kevin Powers's exquisitely written THE YELLOW BIRDS draws us in to the combat zones of Iraq: the watch, the wait ("Stay alive, Stay alert"), the bungle, the slaughter and the irreparable aftermath.'THE YELLOW BIRDS is a superb novel. Call it a war novel or a first novel or whatever you'd like. Powers has created a powerful work of art that captures the complexity and life altering realities of combat service. This book will endure. Read it and then put it way up on that high rare shelf alongside Ernest Hemingway and Tim O'Brien.'Short, taut and eminently readable. With a John Updike-like hypersensitivity in rendering the mundane extraordinary . . . an extremely impressive debut - Kevin Powers is a name to watch.THE YELLOW BIRDS skulks along, detached and undemanding, until all of a sudden you turn a page and find yourself weeping.Elegiac, sober, and haunting.It is a novel about the horrors of war made beautiful by the author's poetic language which is like handsome ironmongery, delicately strong but not overwrought . . . At one stage in the book, there's a bravura passage of stream of consciousness that may well be among the most effective lines ever written about a soldier trying to come to terms with what he has seen and done. For that alone Powers deserves a medal.Intense, painful, excellent . . . Bartle tries to piece it all together, and his torment, which must be akin to the author's, feels like a gift.The author's status as a veteran of the war, and therefore a curio in the American literary world, provides an unimpeachable veracity to the novel . . . It is quite clear that he is major talent.[An] unforgettable debut novel . . . [Powers has] written fiction that seems more real than the "real" thing.'Powers' poetic gifts render the experience of Americans in Iraq with great emotional intensity. War has been a subject of literature ever since The Iliad. The best books transcend their time and circumstances to say something enduring and truthful about war itself. THE YELLOW BIRDS belongs in that category.'Terrific . . . vivid [and] gripping. A very much needed book.What happens to soldiers at war? THE YELLOW BIRDS delivers answers that should rightfully unnerve us, if we're still willing - ten long years into Iraq and Afghanistan - to contemplate 'our little pest of a war.' The human cost is surely beyond any comprehensible measure, but in this haunting, unflinching crucible of a novel, Kevin Powers gives us the essence, with all comfortable, corrupting illusion and rhetoric burned away.Beautifully written . . . This is a harrowing and pitiful story of the sad waste of war.'This book epitomises the power of the written word; the language is at once poetic and brutal, vivid and sparse. A stunning, timely and engrossing novel.'What impresses most here are the mournful and melodious refrains which manage to cultivate beauty and pathos from the smothering chaos and dust.A book that will make you look good on the bus . . . a powerful tale.From an opening that suggests The Waste Land to a closing that echoes The Great Gatsby, Kevin Powers has crafted one of the most beguiling and beautiful war novels of recent times . . . its soul spills out over every poetic page.That it horrifies with beauty and numbs by way of sensuality is Powers' big achievementIf you're looking for one of the first great novels of the Iraq war, this may be it.It's a sad and deftly written story - and one that can stand tall with the great war novels that preceded it.'By turns shocking, philosophical, frightening and elegiac, it was deservedly nominated for a National Book Award.'Extraordinary . . . beautifully accomplished. The mark of an artist of the first order . . . a must-read book.Next to The Forever War by Dexter Filkins, it is the best thing I've read about the war in Iraq, and by far the best novel. Powers is a poet first, so the book is spare, incredibly precise, unimproveableAn unforgettable depiction of the psychological impact of war, by a young Iraq veteran and poet, THE YELLOW BIRDS is already being hailed as a modern classic.Written by a serving Iraq veteran and acclaimed poet, a unique publicity angle.Advance quotes from Chris Cleave, Colm Toibin and Philipp Meyer describing this as an instant classic and comparing the author to Ernest Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy.Major pre-empt within hours of submission, beating off seven other publishers.Lead title: aim is to get this into the bestseller list, and make it one of the literary highlights of the year.Does for the war in Iraq what All Quiet on the Western Front did for WWI and Catch-22 did for WWII.With its profound insights into war's effects on families, THE YELLOW BIRDS is a rare war novel that appeals as much to women as men.Foreign rights have sold in sixteen territories.
Sceptre

A Shout in the Ruins

Kevin Powers
Authors:
Kevin Powers
Sceptre

Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting

Kevin Powers
Authors:
Kevin Powers

Shortlisted for the 2014 TS Eliot PrizeShortlisted for the 2014 Forward Prize for Best First CollectionPoetry Book Society ChoiceIn this remarkable debut poetry collection, National Book Award finalist and Iraq war veteran Kevin Powers creates a startling, affecting portrait of a life shaped by war. LETTER COMPOSED DURING A LULL IN THE FIGHTING captures the many moments that comprise a soldier's life: driving down the Texas highway; waiting for the unknown in the dry Iraq heat; writing a love letter; listening to a mother recount her dreams. Written with honesty and insight, these poems strive to make sense of war and its echoes through human experience.Just as THE YELLOW BIRDS was hailed as the 'first literary masterpiece produced by the Iraq war,' (Los Angeles Times) this collection will prove to be a powerful, enduring classic.

Sceptre

The Yellow Birds

Kevin Powers
Authors:
Kevin Powers
The debut novel by Kevin Powers

Reviews for THE YELLOW BIRDS

Read a selection of reviews for the stunning debut novel by Kevin Powers.
The story is invented, but there's a definite alignment between his emotional and mental life and mine.

Kevin Powers

Interviewed in the Guardian

Kevin Powers' official website

Visit Kevin Powers' official website to find out more about the debut Sceptre author and his work.
Chapter One

THE YELLOW BIRDS by Kevin Powers

Read the first chapter of Kevin Powers' THE YELLOW BIRDS - described by the Guardian as 'a must-read book'.