Catching up with New Voices Spotlight
Updated: Apr 4, 2022
Chautauqua featured emerging writer and USMC veteran Jason Arment in our New Voice Spotlight in Volume 12 (2015). Arment served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Machine Gunner in the USMC. That issue, “Privacy & Secrets,” included Arment’s lyrical essay, “In Defense of Suicide,” a raw and unflinching piece explaining the deep despair experienced by Arment and many combat veterans. He described the terrifying nightmares he experienced both during and after his tour of duty in Iraq. I recently caught up with Jason to find out where his writing journey has taken him.
Dorsey: How are your nightmares?
Arment: My dreams are ever-changing and evolving, but a great deal of them turn out to be bad dreams. Sometimes the facets and features of my day-to-day life show up in a night terror, which is always a grim reminder of how PTSD doesn’t go away.
Dorsey: Arment coordinates the Denver Veterans Writing Workshop, created as a safe space for veterans to share their stories. I asked him if his writing is a personal tool for healing.
Arment: I don’t write to heal. Some people do, but in my humble opinion, there are places that facilitate healing, such as therapy, and ways to heal, such as meditation and keeping a journal, that don’t involve reopening old wounds. Not that there isn’t any therapeutic value in bloodletting and inkshed; it’s just not where I go for healing.
Dorsey: Arment’s essay for Chautauqua, “In Defense of Suicide,” has many stark moments within it that left me breathless. I asked Arment to discuss his process of identifying dark, interior places and crafting them within a story.
Arment: As writers, we must confront what many turn away from. This Herculean and Sisyphean task leaves us transformed, and it should also leave the reader transformed. As a writer immerses themselves in the narrative, the standout moments bubble up, and out, of the subconscious.
Dorsey: Many writers—not just veterans—have stories that feel too hard to tell. I asked Arment what advice he had for getting a challenging story “unstuck” during the writing process.
Arment: Write it out. Be determined, steadfast, and tenacious. Approach it methodically.
Dorsey: Arment continues to write powerful essays, poetry, and a memoir, Musalaheen, about his tour of duty in Iraq. Jason’s work is honest and hard-hitting, offering his readers an unapologetic glimpse into the experience of serving in combat. I asked Arment about his journey as a writer and where it has taken him.
Arment: I think I’ve done a good job thus far of taking my writing places. My writing really challenges people, pushes them to the bounds of their belief systems. Cognitive dissonance, as we know it in the U.S. of A. in 2021, can be a powerful thing.
Jason Arment earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Rumpus, ESPN, the 2017 Best American Essays, and The New York Times, among other publications. His memoir about the war in Iraq, Musalaheen, stands in stark contrast to other narratives about Iraq in both content and quality. Jason lives and works in Denver. For more information about Jason and to read much of his writing, visit jasonarment.com