Renowned Poet To Speak at Valencia’s Winter Park Writers Festival

If you think of poetry and immediately think of sonnets about lilies and love, you haven’t heard Brian Turner’s poetry.

Turner, a poet and memoirist who served with the U.S. Army in Bosnia and Iraq, has written about bullets, wounded civilians and soldiers and the many images he witnessed in Iraq: preteens rolling grenades into a room, men jumping out of taxi and spraying a street with bullets or the moments immediately after a Humvee is hit by a roadside bomb.

His latest book, “My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir,” has been called a “stunning war memoir” by the New York Times. His two collections of poetry, “Here, Bullet” and “Phantom Noise” have been published in 12 languages, while his poetry and essays have been published in the New York Times, National Geographic, Poetry Daily, The Georgia Review and the Virginia Quarterly Review.

Reviewer Joel Brouwer, in the New York Times, raved about Turner’s writing. “The day of the first moonwalk, my father’s college literature professor told his class, ‘Someday they’ll send a poet, and we’ll find out what it’s really like.’ Turner has sent back a dispatch from a place arguably more incomprehensible than the moon—the war in Iraq—and deserves our thanks,” Brouwer said.

Turner will read from his work and speak at the Winter Park Writers Festival on Sept. 24.

The Winter Park Writers Festival, which is organized by Valencia College, will be held Sept. 23-25. All events in the festival will be held at Valencia’s Winter Park Campus, located at 850 W. Morse Boulevard, Winter Park.

The festival’s first public event will be held on Sept. 24 from 1 to 2:30 p.m., when Turner will lead a master class in writing. The session will feature poetry reading, an opportunity for participants to share their work, and a question-and-answer session about the craft of writing. Participation is limited to 25 people. To reserve a seat, please email Rachel Gibson at

On Sept. 24, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., the community is invited to a reading by Brian Turner. The event will be held in rooms 237 and 242.

On Sept. 25, from 7 to 9 p.m., the festival continues in the Winter Park Campus courtyard with an open-mic poetry/fiction slam in the campus courtyard. The poetry slam will be hosted by There Will Be Words, and will open with a reading by Valencia College president Sandy Shugart, followed by a mini-slam. Finally, in the main event, community champion writers will clash in an epic repeat face-off between poets and flash fiction writers. Sign-up for the mini-slam is first come, first served at 6:30 PM.

Turner will serve as the featured speaker at this year’s festival.

Before serving in the U.S. Army for seven years, Turner earned an MFA from the University of Oregon and lived in South Korea for a year. He was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1999-2000 with the 10th Mountain Division. In November 2003, he was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. His first book, “Here, Bullet,” chronicles his time in Iraq.

He has been featured on National Public Radio, the Newshour with Jim Lehrer and the BBC. He has received a NEA Literature Fellowship in Poetry, the Amy Lowell Traveling Fellowship and a fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. Turner has taught English at Fresno City College.

For more information about the Winter Park Writers Festival, please call 407-582-6802.