"Willie" is Kesler's undisguised alter ego - a Vietnam combat vet whose deck is stacked with rabid trick-or-treaters, nuclear terrorists, and grumpy VA hospital volunteers. Funny, touching, and uncannily relevant in light of current events, these poems remind us that the soldiers we send to fight our wars may go on fighting them for the rest of their lives.
These Willie poems are deceptively simple, often pointing as much to what is unsaid as to all that is. At times, the humor of these poems seems to be driven by a quiet current of real pain, real yearning, but this is always offset by the playful mischief in the voice, which invites us to enjoy Willie's gentle lunacy and to see in him some of our own goofy quirkiness. An escape into Willie is a worthwhile excursion.
- Tim Seibles
author of Hammerlock
The Book of Willie, like Willie's hair, mirrors the renegade soul of one late-20th century, Bible Belt denizen who refuses to pretend life is simple. It reads like the anecdotes in smalltown newspapers, and haunts like the stories that don't make it into the small-town paper, the stories overheard in beauty parlors and at domino tables about the men who came back from Vietnam, but didn't come all the way back. Charles Kesler knows Willie's story well, and when you're finished reading his book, you'll want to repeat the stories, too.
- Brian Clements
author of Essays Against Ruin