Press Page Links
Red Bull Rising's Book Review:
VOX Magazine, Veteran Special:
KOMU News, September 11t, feature:
One Stop Poetry interview:
Music interview for Junior's Cave Online Magazine:
Fox 4 news:
Blog review of acoustic music:
Blog review of poetry win:
“So I Was a Coffin” printed in Oregon newspaper at Salem news:
Something dangerous happens when the incomprehensible destruction of
war is packed into the small intimate space of poetry. The line itself
is a short history of volatility. 'First the spear and then the fire,'
writes Euripedes, with the unblinking eye of one who has witnessed the
strafing arrows of history. In Gerardo 'Tony' Mena's debut collection,
the speaker is inseparable from the war--he is the spear, he is the
coffin, he is the fire. 'When I awoke,' Mena writes, 'I was Iraq.'
Indeed, these lines are all front lines. Mena takes us to the alleyways
of Fallujah, the burning minaret, the confrontation with insurgency and
urgency in the deserts. The language here is bald, beautiful and
reckless. It is loving and sad. It is the eye-witness account of heroism
and suffering we cannot fathom, because this warrior poet has shielded
us with his body. But he has given us his heart and his mind in
frighteningly present, intimate forms. This is bravery of the highest order.
-D. A. Powell
Gerardo Mena's first-prize poem, "So I Was a Coffin," personifies objects from the battlefield—flags, weapons, bandages—as metaphors for dutiful and doomed men. An instrument in the hands of others, the soldier does his best at an impossible mission and takes the blame for its failure. Mena's measured, elegiac lines combine a solemn respect for his comrades' sacrifice with quiet outrage at the exploitation of their naivete.
- Jendi Reiter, Winningwriters Vice President and Poetry Judge
"Baring the Trees" shows great economy of language, a sure sense of line and rhythm, and features a timeless voice. It is a highly memorable poem--in the tradition of Carl Sandburg's "Grass" and Matsuo Basho's "Summer grasses--/All that remains/Of soldiers' visions." This is wisdom poetry, the poetry of warning, in the vein of the Hungarian poet Janos Pilinszky's, "Harbach, 1944." It is a poem of recognition, of desolation, of resignation--one in which the use of repetition and tone color underlines the poem's theme at a musical level. I look forward to reading more of this poet's work in the future.
- Brian Turner, Award-Winning War Poet and National Veteran Writing Contest Judge
Chautaqua Spotlight - "Chautauqua is especially happy to introduce readers to Mena's non-fiction writing. His essay, 'I Was a Heisman Trophy,' recounts one experience after he returned home from Iraq. While the dangers of the war zone are more obvious, 'normal' life is fraught with danger as well. He shares, 'She actually gave me a gift. She opened the flood valves on my veins and let my body wash anew with adrenaline.' Gerardo Mena's voice is strong and clear. Chautauqua is pleased to share it with you."
“Breaking Hallelujahs” reinvents Leonard Cohen’s ballad with startling relevance. King David and the biblical context of the original “Hallelujah” is replaced here by a man singing, with honesty and hard-earned transcendence, beyond the present-day battlefied of Iraq. Stick around until the two minute fifty second mark of “Breaking Hallelujahs,”and feel the gift of shared emotion: what most art can only aspire to. I haven’t been moved by a piece of music like this in a long time, and I am grateful for Tony Mena, and his song.
- Zachary Greenberg, Nashville Review Music Editor
If you want to thank a vet, a good way to start is by going out, seriously listening to some of Tony's music and sharing it with friends. It is that good. It is that powerful. Not only are the lyrics beautiful, but the guitar playing is solid, the melodies haunting and tied together with great singing.
- Aldon Hynes, The Orient Lodge Review
Thank you so much for this lesson as I believe it is extremely important for teenagers to realize that the war in the world is a reality and not just something that happens to others.
I even had a young lady who has been out of touch with her father currently serving abroad say that she felt bad because she hasn't attempted to talk to him in about a year. I think this inspired her to get back in touch.
Thank you again for this. It is highly effective in the high school classroom. They too often think poetry has to be about lovey dovey emotions and teenage girl angst. This is an eye opener for a lot of them.
- Nicole Schupp,English Teacher, Branson High School, attended Gerardo Mena's Break-out Session at the 2011Write to Learn Conference