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Best of 2009 poetry: "The Looking House" by soldier-poet Fred Marchant

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If it's true that every country gets the leader it deserves, perhaps it is also the case that each era gets the poet it needs. In a year when American soldiers are fighting in at least two different countries, the poetry of Fred Marchant – who, during the Vietnam War, became one of the first US Marine officers to become a conscientious objector – has special resonance for US readers.

"The Looking House," Marchant's fourth volume of poetry, has been selected by BarnesandNobleReview.com as one of the five best volumes of poetry of 2005. (The site's other picks include: "If I Were Another" by Mahmoud Darwish, "Sonata Mulattica" by Rita Dove, "Hollywood & God" by Robert Polito, and "Apocalyptic Swing" by Gabrielle Calvocoressi.)

Marchant's own experience as a soldier in Vietnam seems to inform much of his work. One poem in "The Looking House" recalls Marchant reading about Agamemnon (who led the Greek forces during the Trojan War), as he worked on a farm in Ireland shortly after leaving the military, seeking balm as he milked cows and tended hay.

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