Archive for the 'War' Category

Seamus Heaney

May 9, 2007


Writes masterfully in meter and rhyme and is reticent and indirect
Paradoxes of work can be understood in the context of his historical situation as an Irish Catholic who grew up in the predominantly Protestant North of Ireland under Brithis rule
Is a political poet, but refuses slogans, journalistic reportage and ploitical pieties
Voice of conscience and remorse
Wrote elegies for people who were killed in the violence of Northern Ireland


Between my finger and my thumb/ The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound/ When the spade winks into gravelly groud:/ My father, digging. I look down
Till his strainging rump among the flowerbeds/ Bends low, comes up twenty years away/ Stooping in rhythm through potato drills/ Where he was digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap/ Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge/ Through living roots awaken in my head./ But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb/ The squat pen rests./ I’ll dig with it.


I can feel the tug/ of the halter at the nape/ of her neck, the wind/ on her naked front.
It blows her nipples/ to amber beads,/ it shakes the frail rigging/ of her ribs.
I can see her drowned/ body in the bog,/ the weighing stone,/ the floating rods and boughs.
Under which at first/ she was a barked sapling/ that is dug up/ oak-bone, brain-firkin:
her shaved head/ like a stubble of black corn,/ her blindfold a soiled bandage,/ her noose a ring
to store/ the memories of love./ Little adulteress,/ before the punished you
you were flaxen-haired,/ undernourished, and your tar-black face was beautiful./ My poor scapegoat,
I almost love you/ but would have cast, I know,/ the stones of silence./ I am the artful voyeur
of your brain’s exposed/ and darkened combs,/ your muscles webbing/ and all your numbered bones:
I who have stood dumb/ when your betraying sisters,/ cauled in tar,/ wept by the railings,
who would connive/ in civilized outrage/ yet understand the exact/ and tribal, intimate revenge.

-Punishment (in whole)

My father worked with a horse-plough,/ His shoulders globed like a full sail strung/ Between the shafts and the furrow./ The horses strained at his clicking tongue.
An expert. He would set the wing/ And fit the bright steel-pointed sock./ The sod rolled over without breaking./ At the headrig, with a single pluck
Of reins, the sweating team turned round/ And back into the land. His eye/ Narrowed and angled at the ground,/ Mapping the furrow exactly.
I stumbled in his hobnailed wake,/ Fell sometimes on the polished sod;/ Sometimes he rode me on his back/ Dipping and rising on his plod.
I wanted to grow up and plough,/ To close one eye, stiffen my arm./ All I ever did was follow/ In his broad shadow round the farm.
I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,/ Yapping always. But today/ It is my father who keeps stumbling/ Behind me, and will not go away.

-Follower (in whole)


Derek Walcott

May 9, 2007


The preeminent Caribbean poet writing in English
Born on Saint Lucia, one of the four Windward Islands
Background is racially and culturally mixed
Tries to embrace all his cultural influences
Asks how the postcolonial poet can both grieve the agonizing harm of Brithis colonialism and appreciate the empire’s literary gift
Has adapted various literary archetypes and forms
Has a great passion for metaphor
Currently paints and writes on the Northwest coast of Saint Lucia


A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt/ Of Africa. Kikuyu, quick as flies,/ Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt./ Corpses are scattered through a paradise.

The violence of beast on beast is read/ As natural law, but upright man/ Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.

I who am poisoned with the blood of both,/ Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?/ I who have cursed/ The drunken officer of British rule, how choose/ Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?/ Betray them both, or give back what they give?/ How can I face such slaughter and be cool?/ How can I turn from Africa and live?

-A Far Cry From Africa

Below bent breadfruit trees/ in the flat, coloured city, class
escalated into structures still,/ merchant, middleman, magistrate, knight. To go downhill/ from here was to ascend.
The middle passage never guessed its end./ This is the hight of poverty/ for the desperate and black;
climbing, we could look back/ with widening memory/ on the hot, corrugated-iron sea/ whose horrors we all

Afterwards,/ the ceremony, the careful photograph/ moved out of range before the patient tombs,
we dare a laugh,/ ritual, desperate words,/ born like these children from habitual wombs,
from lives fixed in the unalterable groove/ of grinding poverty. I stand out on a balcony/ and watch the sun pave its flat, golden path
across the roofs, the aerials, cranes, the tops/ of fruit trees crawling downard to the city./ Something inside is laid wide like a wound,
some open passage that has cleft the brain,/ some deep, amnesiac blow. We left/ somewhere a life we never found,
customs and gods that are not born again,/ some crib, some grille of light/ clanged shut on us in bondage, and withheld
us from that world below us and beyond,/ and in its swaddling cerements we’re still bound.


Laventille is a hillside slum outside Port of Spain

Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?/ Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,/ in that grey vault. The sea. The sea/ has locked them up. The sea is History.

Sir, it islocked in them sea-sands/ out there past the reef’s moiling shelf,/ where the men-o’-war floated down;
strop on these goggles, I’ll guide you there myself./ It’s all subtle and submarine,/ through colonnades of coral,
past the gothic windows of sea-fans/ to where the crusty grouper, onyx-eyes,/ blinks, weighted by its jewels, like a bald queen;
and these groined caves with barnacles/ pitted like stone/ are our cathedrals,
and the furnace before the hurricanes:/ Gomorrah. Bones ground by windmills/ into marl and cornmeanl,
and that was Lamentations-/ that was just Lamentations,/ it was not History;

Then came the white sisters clapping/ to the waves’ progress, / and that was Emancipation-
jubilation, O jubilation-/ vanishing swiftly/ as the sea’s lace dries in the sun,
but that was not History,/ that was only faith,/ and then each rock broke into its own nation;
then came the synod of flies,/ then came the secretarial heron,/ then came the bullfrog bellowing for a vote,
fireflies with bright ideas/ and bats like jetting ambassadors/ and the mantis, like khaki police,
and the furred caterpillars of judges/ examining each case closely,/ and then in the dark ears of ferns
and in the salt chuckle of rocks/ with their sea pools, there was the sound/ like a rumor without any echo
of Hisotry, really beginning.

-The Sea Is History


Robert Lowell

February 12, 2007


Born in Boston, father was a naval officer
Cousin of Amy Lowell
Attended Harvard but transferred after two years, ending up at Kenyon College
Experimented with divergent styles, poems became ambiguous, Lowell was dissatisfied
Married novelist Jean Stafford after graduation, divorced and remarried Elizabeth Hardwick who he later divorced as well
Converted to Catholicism
Greatly disturbed by WWII, tried to enlist unsucessfully and slowly grew horrified
Attempted in middle age to break through his own formality and obscurity, tried to write about his own experience and more publicly
Gave up Christian symbols of early work, confronted important evens with courage and conviction, protested Vietnam War
Withdrew from political scene, moved to England and married writer Caroline Blackwood
Died in a taxi from New York’s Kennedy Airport
Poetry is confessional, presents himself as a unwieldy figure


‘The hot night makes us keep our bedroom windows open. / Our magnolia blossoms. Life begins to happen. / My hopped up husband drops his home disputes, / and hits the streets to cruise for prostitutes, / free-lancing out along the razor’s edge. / This screwball might kill his wife, then take the pledge. / Oh the monotonous meanness of his lust …. / It’s the injustice … he is so unjust- / whiskey-blind, swaggering home at five. / My only thought is how to keep alive. / What makes him tick? Each night now I tie / ten dollars and his car key to my thigh …. / Gored by the climacteric of his want, / he stalls above me like an elephant.’

-“To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage” (in whole)

“It is the future generation that presses into being byu means of these exuberant feelings and supersensible soap bubbles of ours.” -Schopenhauer
Perhaps spoken from the Wife of Bath in “The Canterbury Tales”

Nautilus Island’s hermit / heiress still lives through winter in her Spartan cottage; / her sheep still graze above the sea. / Her son’s a bishop. Her farmer / is first selectman in our village; / she’s in her dotage.
Thirsting for / the heirarchic privacy / of Queen Victoria’s century, / she busy up all / the eyesores facing her shore, / and lets them fall.
The season’s ill- / we’ve lost our summer millionaire, / who seemed to leap from an L. L. Bean / catalogue. His nine-knot yal / was acutioned off to lobstermen. / A red fox stain covers Blue Hill.
And now our fairy / decorator brightens his shop for fall; / his fishnet’s filled with orange cork, / orange, his cobbler’s bench and awl; / there is no money in his work, / he’d rather marry.
One dark night, / my Tudor Ford climbed the hill’s skull; / I watched for love-cars. Lights turned down, / they lay together, hull to hull, / where the graveyard shelves on the town…. / My mind’s not right.
A car radio bleats, / ‘Love, O careless Love….’ I hear / my ill-spirit sob in each blood cell, / as if my hand were at its throat …. / I myself am hell; / nobody’s here-
only skunks, that search / in the moonlight for a bite to eat. / They march on their soles up Main Street; / white stripes, moonstruck eyes’ red fire / under the chalk-dry and spar spire / of the Trinitarian Chruch.
I stand on top / of our back steps and breathe the rich air- / a mother skunk with ehr column of kittens swills the garbage pail. / She jabs her wedge-head in a cup / of sour cream, drops her ostrich tail, / and will not scare.

-Skunk Hour (in whole)

Dedicated to Elizabeth Bishop because “re-reading her suggested a way of breaking through the shell of y old manner”
“The first four stanzas are meant to give a dawdling more or less amiable picture of declinging Maine sea town. I move from the ocean inland. Sterility howls through the scenery, but I try to give a tone of tolerance, humor, and randomness to the sad prospect.”

ONly teachin on Tuesdays, book-worming/ in pajamas fresh from the washer each morning,/ I hot a whole house on Boston’s/ “hardly passionate Marlborough Street,”/ where even the man/ scavenging filth in the back alley trash cans,/ has two children, a beach wagon, a helpmate,/ and is a “young Republican.”/ I have a nine monts’ daughter,/ young enough to be my granddaughter./ Like the sun she rises in her flame-flamingo infants’ wear.
These are the tranquilized Fifties,/ and I am forty. Ought I to regret my seedtime?/ I waws a fire-breathing Catholic C.O.,/ and made my manic statment,/ telling off the state and president, and then/ sat waiting sentence in the bull pen/ beside a Negro boy with curlicues/ of marijuana in his hair.
Given a year,/ I walked on the roof of the West Street Jail, a short/ enclosure like my school soccer court,/ and saw the Hudson River onece a day/ through sooty clothesline entanglements/ and bleaching khaki tenements./ Strolling, I yammered metaphysics with Abramowitz,/ a jaundice-yellow (“it’s really tan”)/ and fly-weight pacifist,/ so vegetarian,/ he wore rope shoes and preferred fallen ruit./ He tried to convert Bioff and Brown,/ the Hollywood pimps, to his diet./ Hairy, muscular, suburban,/ wearing chocolate double-breasted suits,/ they blew their tops and beat him black and blue.
I was so out of things, I’d never heard/ of the Jehovah’s Witnesses./ “Are you a C.O.?” I asked a fellow jailbird./ “No.” he answered, “I’m a J.W.”/ He taught me the “hospital tuck,”/ and pointed out the T-shirted back/ of Murder Incorporated’s Czar Lepke,/ there piling towels on a rack,/ or dwadling off to his little segregated cell full/ of things forbidden the common man:/ a portable radio, a dresser, two toy American/ flags tied together with a ribbon of Easter palm./ Flabby, bald, lobotomized,/ he drifted in a sheepish calm,/ where no agonizing reappraisal/ jarred his concentration on the electric chair-/ hanging like an oasis in his air/ of lost connections…

-Memories of West Street and Lepke (in whole)

In 1943 Lowell was sentenced a year in New York’s West Street jail for his refusal to serve in the army. Among the other psioners was Lepke Buchalter, head of Murder, Inc., an dorganized crime syndicate, who had been convicted of murder.

The old South Boston Aquarium stands/ in a Sahara of snow now. Its broken windows are boarded./ The bronze weathervane cod has lost half its scales. The airy tanks are dry.

The stone statues of the abstract Union Soldier/ grow slimmer and younger each year-/ wasp-waisted, they doze over muskets/ and muse through their sideburns…
Shaw’s father wanted no monument/ except the ditch,/ where his son’s body was trhown/ and lost with his “niggers.”

Colonel Shaw/ is riding on his bubble,/ he waits/ for the blessed break.
The Aquarium is gone. Everywhere,/ giant finned cars nose forward like fish:/ a savage servility/ slides by on grease.

-For the Union Dead

“Relinquunt Omnia Servare Rem Publicam.”: “They give up everything to serve the Republic”
Describes a monument depicting Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the first African American regiment organized in a free state, who was killed in the assault his troops led

Edna St. Vincent Millay

October 10, 2006


Major poetic voice of the rebellious Jazz Age
Hailed as the greatest female poet since Sappho of ancient Greece
Wrote for the American mass-media culture of newspapers, magazines, radio, live stage, and the national lecture circuit
Served as the personification of “The New Woman” of European-American bourgeois society
Flaunted Victorian conventions of femininity while serving as a flapper heroine and political rebel icon
Became the first woman poet to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry
Robert Frost viewed her as his most serious competitor: feared she would be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters ahead of him
Raised in Maine by a single mother
Educated at Vassar College
Not only a gifted poet but also a talented playwright and actress
Gained fame for public poetry readings
Master of traditional forms, sonic effects, and memorable images and phrases
Frankly expressed her sexual independence: conducted many love affairs with both men and women
Married Eugen Bossevain, widower of the great suffragist Inex Milholland
Valued for strong and accomplished voice in the traditionally male-dominated genre of sonnet, sometimes painful inward probings, and for her eloquent and outspoken assertion of her political and social beliefs


I shall forget you presently, my dear, / So make the most of this, your little day, / Your little month, your little half a year, / Ere I forget, or die, or move away, / And we are done forever; by and by / I shall forget you, as I said, but now, / If you entreat me with your loveliest lie / I will protest you with my favourite vow. / I would indeed that love were longer-lived, / And oaths were not so brittle as they are, / But so it is, and nature has contrived / To struggle on without a break thus far, – / Whether or not we find what we are seeking / Is idle, biologically speaking.

-I shall forget you presently, my dear (in whole)

Only until this cigarette is ended, / A little moment at the end of all, / While on the floor the quiet ashes fall, / And in the firelight to a lance extended, / Bizarrely with the jazzing music blended, / The broken shadow dances on the wall, / I will permit my memory to recall / The vision of you, by all my dreams attended. / And then adieu, -farewell!-the dream is done. / Yours is a face of which I can forget / The colour and the features, every one, / The words not ever, and the smiles not yet; / But in your day this moment is the sun / Upon a hill, after the sun has set.

-Only until this cigarette is ended (in whole)

We were very tired, we were very merry- / We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry. / Itwas bare and bright, and smelled like a stable- / But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table, / We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon; / And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.
We were very tired, we were very merry- / We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry; / And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear, / From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere; / And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold, / And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.
We were very tired, we were very merry, / We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry. / We hailed, ‘Good morrow, mother!’ to a shawl-covered head, / And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read; / And she wept, ‘God bless you!’ for the apples and pears, / And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

-Recuerdo (in whole)

Based on her late-night perambulations through New York City with her fellow poet Salomon de la Selva
Recuerdo means remembrance, recollection, or souvenir in Spanish
My reflect the native language of de la Selva
Makes a point of the liberated, cosmopolitan lifestyle of Jazz Age New York and the joys of heterosexual romance
Also suggests the quiet suffering of those left behind by the economic boom

I, being born a woman and distressed / By all the needs and notions of my kind, / Am urged by your propinquity to find / Your person fair, and feel certain zest / To bear your body’s weight upon my breast: / So subtly is the fume of life designed, / To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind, / And leave me once again undone, possessed. / Think not for this, however, the poor treason / Of my stout blood against my staggering brain, / I shall remember you with love, or seas / My scorn with pity, -let me make it plain: / I find this frenzy insufficient reason / For conversation when we meet again.

-I, being born a woman and distressed (in whole)

Struggle between bodily impulses and rationality of the mind
Biological and social implications of being a woman

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why, / I have forgotten, and what arms have lain / Under my head till morning; but the rain / Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh / Upon the glass and listen for reply, / And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain / For unremembered lads that not again / Will turn to me at midnight with a cry. / Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree, / Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one, / Yet knows its boughs more silent than before: / I only know that summer sang in me / A little while, that in me sings no more.

-What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (in whole)

My candle burns at both ends; / It will not last the night; / But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends- / It gives a lovely light!

-First Fig (in whole)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand: / Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

-Second Fig (in whole)

Was it for this I uttered prayers, / And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs, / That now, domestic as a plate, / I should retire at half-past eight?

-Grown-up (in whole)


Siegfried Sassoon

October 4, 2006


Born into a wealthy Jewish family: lived the pastoral life of a young squire; fox-hunting, playing cricket, golfing and writing romantic verses
Being an innocent, Sassoon’s reaction to the realities of the war were all the more bitter and violent: went public in his protest against the war and thought insensitive political leadership was the greater enemy than the Germans
Sassoon earned the nickname “Mad Jack” for his near-suicidal exploits against the German lines — in the early manifestation of his grief
Authorities were convinced he was suffering from shell-shock and he was sent instead to the military hospital at Craiglockhart where he met and influenced Wilfred Owen (the two were rumored to have had a relationship)
Known as a writer of satirical anti-war verse during WWI, and later won acclaim for his prose work
Spent thirty years reflecting on the war through his memoirs; and at last he found peace in his religious faith
Critics found his later poetry drastically different from war poems: Sassoon stated in response to these critics:

“My development has been entirely consistent and in character.  Almost all of them have ignored the fact that I am a religious poet.”


Everyone suddenly burst out singing; / And I was filled with such delight / As prisoned birds must find in freedom, / Winging wildly across the white / Orchards and dark-green fields; on- on- and out of sight.
Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted; / And beauty came like the setting sun: / My heart was shaken with tears; and horror / Drifted away . . . O, but Everyone / Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

-Everyone Sang (in whole)

Groping along the tunnel, step by step, / He winked his prying torch with patching glare / From side to side, and sniffed the unwholesome air.
Tins, boxes, bottles, shapes too vague to know, / A mirror smashed, the mattress from a bed; / And he, exploring fifty feet below / The rosy gloom of battle overhead.
Tripping, he grabbed the wall; saw some one lie / Humped at his feet, half-hidden by a rug, / And stooped to give the sleeper’s arm a tug. / ‘I’m looking for headquarters.’ No reply. / ‘God blast your neck!’ (For days he’d had no sleep.) 
‘Get up and guide me through this stinking place.’ / Savage, he kicked a soft, unanswering heap, / And flashed his beam across the livid face / Terribly glaring up, whose eyes yet wore / Agony dying hard ten days before; / And fists of fingers clutched a blackening wound.
Alone he staggered on until he found / Dawn’s ghost that filtered down a shafted stair / To the dazed, muttering creatures underground / Who hear the boom of shells in muffed sound. / At last, with sweat of horror in his hair, / He climbed through darkness to the twilight air, / Unloading hell behind him step by step.

-The Rear-Guard (in whole) 

I knew a simple soldier boy / Who grinned at life in empty joy, / Slept soundly through the lonesome dark, / And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum, / With crumps and lice and lack of rum, / He put a bullet through his brain. / No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye / Who cheer when soldier lads march by, / Sneak home and pray you’ll never know / The hell where youth and laughter go.

-Suicide in the Trenches (in whole)

Why do you life with your legs ungainly huddled. / And one arm bent across your sullen, cold, / Exhausted face? It hurts my heart to watch you, / Deep-shadow’d from the candle’s guttering gold; / And you wonder why I shake you by the shoulder; / Drowsy, you muble and sigh and turn your head… / You are too young to fall asleep forever; / And why you sleep you remind me of the dead.

-The Dug-Out (in whole)
See Poetry Archive

Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land, / Drawing no dividend from time’s tomorrows. / In the great hour of destiny they stand, / Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows. / Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win / Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives. / Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin / They think of firelit homes, clean beds, and wives. / I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats, / And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain, / Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats, / And mocked by hopeless longing to regain / Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats, / And going to the office in the train.

-Dreamers (in whole)

Rupert Brooke

October 4, 2006


British poet known for his idealistic poetry written during WWI
Friends with the Bloomsbury group of writers, some of whom admired his talent, while others were more impressed by his good looks: W.B. Yeats called him the “handsomest young man in England”
Belonged to literary group known as the Georgian Poets, and was the most important of the Dymock poets
Toured the United States, Canada and islands in the South Seas to write travel diaries: he may have fathered a daughter with a Tahitian woman
Struggled with his sexuality his entire life: wrote often about his attraction towards his own sex
Unable to feel either truly homosexual or heterosexual, Brooke was often unsatisfied with his romantic life
Entered the army as an officer, as befitted his social class, and took part in the Antwerp expedition in  1914: sailed with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force
Died of septic pneumonia from an infected mosquito bite
Since Brooke’s death, the name Rupert has been used as a term of mockery for any young Army officer with a public school education


If I should die, think only this of me: / That there’s some corner of a foreign field / That is for ever England. There shall be / In that rich earth a richer dust concealed; / A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, / Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, / A body of England’s, breathing English air, / Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away, / A pulse in the eternal mind, no less / Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England give; / Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; / And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, / In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

-The Soldier (in whole)

Contrasted with Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’
Parts were adapted for the contingency television address that would have been read by President Richard Nixon in the event the Apollo 11 astronauts became stranded on the moon
Brooke died within the year he wrote ‘The Soldier’
Generations of British school children would be taught the opening patriotic lines

Sara Teasdale

October 4, 2006


Sarah Trevor Teasdale
Known as Sadie in her family
Raised in the “Genteel Tradition” of her time, in which she was educated at home until she was nine, and then sent to girl’s schools
Teasdale was sheltered and thought to be frail by her family, and was made to rest and retreat from the world when stressed: over the years, she developed illness as response to stress and enervating experiences, and her preoccupation with death stems from an early age
Learned early to submerge her feelings under a placid, nice exterior
Poetry spans the tradition of women’s poetry of the middle and late nineteenth century to the sometimes shocking, to her, twentieth century
Wrote of her emotions, her emotional response to the world and people around her: major themes were love, nature’s beauty, and death: seen as primarily a love poet
Was courted by two admirers: poet Vachel Lindsay asked her to marry him, but though she had deep feelings for Vachel she instead married Ernst Filsinger, a shoemaker, for financial reasons
Committed suicide: overdosed on sleeping pills and fell asleep in a bath
According to Teasdale biographer William Drake:

“Nowhere else in our literature has such a transition been recorded so clearly and articulately. She spoke for all women emerging from the humility of subservience into the pride of achievement, recognizing that her art sprang from the conflict of forces that pulled her in opposite directions.”


There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground, / And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night, / And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire / Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one / Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree / If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn, / Would scarcely know that we were gone.

-There Will Come Soft Rains (in whole)

Does the poem belittle the effects of war by showing that the earth will heal itself in the end, or does it warn humanity of its ability to destroy itself by contrasting the apocalyptic war to the peacefulness of nature in its constant rebirth? 

We walked together in the dusk / To watch the tower grow dimly white, / And saw it lift against the sky / Its flower of amber light.
You talked of half a hundred things, / I kept each hurried word you said; / And when at last the hour was full, / I saw the light turn red.
You did not know the time had come, / You did not see the sudden flower, / Nor know that in my heart Love’s birth / Was reckoned from that hour.

-The Metropolitan Tower (in whole)

With the man I love who loves me not, / I walked in the street-lamps’ flare; / We watched the world go home that night / In a flood through Union Square.
I leaned to catch the words he said / That were light as a snowflake falling; / Ah well that he never learned to hear / The words my heart was calling.
And on we walked and on we walked / Past the fiery lights of the picture shows- / Where the girls with thirsty eyes go by / On the errand each man knows.
And on we walked and on we walked, / At the door at last we said good-bye; / I knew by his smile he ha dnot heard / My heart’s unuttered cry.
With the man I love who loves me not / I walked in the street-lamps’ flare- / But oh, the girls who ask for love / In the lights of Union Square.

-Union Square (in whole)

Isaac Rosenberg

October 4, 2006


Born into a working-class Jewish family
Major poet of WWI
While others wrote about war as patriotic sacrifice, Rosenberg was critical of the war from its onset
Suffered from chronic bronchitis: tried to cure himself by moving to South Africa
Hoped to make a career as a portrait artist but failed
For financial reasons, Rosenberg returned to England in 1915 and joined the Bantam Batallion of the 12th Suffolk Regiment, 40th division
Some critics suggest that, had he survived the war, he might have been an outstanding poet, equalling Pound and Eliot (both admirers of his work) in reputation
He was killed at dawn on April 1, 1918 while on night patrol : there is a dispute as to whether his death occurred at the hands of a sniper, or in close combat


Earth has waited for them / All the time of their growth / Fretting for their decay: / Now she has them at last! / In the strength of their strength / Suspended- stopped and held.
What fierce imaginings their dark souls lit / Earth! have they gone into you? / Somewhere they must have gone, / And flung on your hard back / Is their souls’ sack, / Emptied of God-ancestralled essences. / Who hurled them out? Who hurled?
None saw their spirits’ shadow shake the grass, / Or stood aside for the half used life to pass / Out of those doomed nostrils and the doomed mouth, / When the swift iron burning bee / Drained the wild honey of their youth.
What of us, who flung on the shrieking pyre, / Walk, our usual thoughts untouched, / Our lucky limbs as on ichor fed, / Immortal seeming ever? / Perhaps when the flames beat loud on us, / A fear may choke in our veins / And the startled blood may stop.
the air is loud with death, / The dark air spurts with fire / The explosions ceaseless are. / Timelessly now, some minutes past, / These dead strode time with vigorous life, / Till the shrapnel called ‘an end!’ / But not to all. In bleeding pangs / Some borne on streatchers dreamed of home, / Dear things, war-blotted from their hearts.

Will they come? Will they ever come? / Even as the mixed hoofs of the mules, / The quivering-bellied mules, / And the rushing wheels all mixed / With his tortured upturned sight. / So we crashed round the bend, / We heard his weak scream, / We heard his very last sound, / And our wheels grazed his dead face.

-Dead Man’s Dump

Compare to Sanburg’s ‘Grass’ and Teasdale’s ‘Ther Will Come Soft Rains’
What is the role of the earth in these war poems?

The darkness crumbles away. / It is the same old druid Time as ever, / Only a live thing leaps my hand, / A queer sardonic rat, / As I pull the parapet’s poppy / To stick behind my ear. / Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew / Your cosmopolitan sympathies. / Now you have touched this English hand / You will do the same to a German / Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure / To cross the sleeping green between. / It seems you inwardly grin as you pass / Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes, / Less chanced than you for life, / Bonds to the whims of murder, / Sprawled in the bowels of the earth, / The torn fields of France. / What do you see in our eyes / At the shrieking iron and flame / Hurled through still heaven? / What quaver- what heart aghast? / Poppies whose roots are in man’s veins / Drop, and are ever dropping; / But mine in my ear is safe- / Just a little white with the dust.

-Break of Day in the Trenches (in whole)

Amy Lowell

October 3, 2006


Amy Lawrence Lowell
Born into a wealthy and prestigious family
Quarreled with Ezra Pound over who should lead the imagist movement: Unlike Pound, Lowell did not think that imagist poetry needed to be obscure: Pound declared her type of poetry “Amygism”
Advocated a clean poetic line, devoid of sentimentality and conventional meter
Composed volumes of translation and creative writing in Orientalism
Received a Pulitzer Prize in 1926, a year after her death
Promoted Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman for their infusion of Asian aesthetics into their poetry
Presented poetry in theatrical readings: created a cult following traveling the country
Open homosexual: wrote many love poems to her partner Ada Dwyer Russell
Wrote the longest sequence of lesbian love poetry in the U.S. before Adrienne Rich: wrote pioneering texts in the lesbian-feminist tradition


Across the newly-plastered wall, / The darting red dragonflies / Is like the shooting / Of blood-tipped arrows.

-In Time of War (in whole)

Translation of a Japanese poem
Completed during major Allied offensives in WWI

This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight; / The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves; / The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves, / And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows. / Under a tree in the park, / Two little boys, lying flat on their faces, / Were carefully gathering red berries / To put in a pasteboard box. / Some day there will be no war, / Then I shall take out this afternoon / And turn it in my fingers, / And remark the sweet taste of it upon my palate, / And note the crisp variety of its flights of leaves. / To-day I can only gather it / And put it into my lunch box, / For I have time for nothing / But the endeavour to balance myself / Upon a broken world.

-September, 1918 (in whole)

September 1918 was an important period for the Allied offensive in WWI
Speaker sees the beauty in the afternoon, but won’t take pleasure in it until the war is over: questions what a poem should be like in a time of war; what is poetry’s role during war

The day is fresh-washed and fair, and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus in the air. / The sunshine pours in at the bath-room window and bores through the water in the bath-tub in lathes and planes of greenish-white. It cleaves the water into flaws like a jewel, and cracks it to bright light. / Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their relfections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my fingers sets them whirring, reeling. I move a foot and the planes of light in the water jar. I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water, the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me. The day is almost too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright day. I will lie here awhile and play with the water and the sun spots. The sky is blue and high. A crow flaps by the window, and there is a whiff of tulips and narcissus in the air.

– Bath (in whole)

An example of what Lowell called ‘polyphonic prose’: described as a form that makes use of all the voices of poetry (free verse, meter, assonance, conosance, alliteration, rhyme, and circular return)

I put your leaves aside, / One by one: / The stiff, broad outer leaves; / The smaller ones, / Pleasant to touch, veined with purple; / The glazed inner leaves. / One by one. / I parted you from your leaves, / Until you stood up like a white flower / Swaying slightly in the evening wind.
White flower, / Flower of wax, of jade, of unstreaked agate; / Flower with surfaces of ice, / With shadows faintly crimson. / Where in all the garden is there such a flower? / The stars crowd through the lilac leaves / To look at you. / The low moon brightens you with silver. / The bud is more than calyx. / There is nothing to equal a white bud, / Of no colour, and of all; / Burnished by moonlight, / Thrust upon by a softly-swinging wind.

-The Weathervane Points South (in whole)

An example of Lowell’s term ‘cadenced verse’: which encompassed Asian and French poetic forms
First published in Vanity Fair
Comparable to Georgia O’Keeffe’s representation of the white flower in her artwork: both women were influenced by the “Boston Orientalists” of the late 19th century

“The poets in this volume do not represent a clique. Several of them are personally unknown to the others, but they are united by certain common principles arrived at independently. These principles are not new; they have fallen into desuetude. They are the essentials of all great poetry, indeed of all great literature, and they are simple these:-
1.  To use the language of common speech, but to employ always the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.
2.  To create new rhythms- as the expression of new moods- and not to copy old rhythms, which merely echo old moods. We do not insist upon ‘free-verse’ as the only method of writing poetry. We fight for it as for a principle of liberty. We believe that the individuality of a poet may often be better expressed in free-verse than in conventional forms. In poetry, a new cadence means a new idea.
3.  To allow absolute freedom in the choice of subject. It is not good art to write badly about aeroplanes and automobiles; nor is it necessarily bad art to write well about the past. We believe passionately in the artistic value of modern life, but we wish to point out that there is nothing so uninspiring nor so old-fashioned as an aeroplane of the year 1911.
4.  To present an image (hence the name: ‘Imagist’). We are not a school of painters, but we believe that poetry should render particulars exactly and not deal in vague generalities, however magnificent and sonorous. It is for this reason that we oppose the cosmic poet, who seems to us to shirk the real difficulties of his art.
5.  To produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.
6.  Finally, most of us believe that concentration is of the very essence of poetry.”

-Some Imagist Poets, Preface

Wilfred Owen

September 26, 2006


Leading poet of WWI
Began writing poetry at 17
Taught at the Berlitz School of English until he enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles in 1915
Was caught in a shell-explosion for 3 days in 1917 and was soon after diagnosed with shell-shock
Met Siegfried Sassoon at Craiglockhart War Hospital who encouraged Owen to continue with his poetry: surviving letters show that Owen was in love with Sassoon (who was primarily homosexual)
Homoeroticism is a central element in poetry
Owen’s sexuality was obscured by his brother by his removal of passages in letters and diaries
In June 1918 he rejoined his regiment and was killed on November 4th while attempting to lead his men across the Sambre canal
Posthumously awarded the Military Cross
Never saw his own work published


Move him into the sun –/ Gently its touch awoke him once, / At home, whispering of fields unsown. / Always it woke him, even in France, / Until this morning and this snow. / If anything might rouse him now / The kind old sun will know. Think how it wakes the seeds — / Woke, once, the clays of a cold star. / Are limbs so dear-achieved, are sides / Full-nerved, — still warm, — too hard to stir? / Was it for this the clay grew tall? / — O what made fatuous sunbeams toil / To break earth’s sleep at all?

-Futility (in whole)

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, / Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, / Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs, / And towards our distant rest began to trudge. / Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, / But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind; / Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots / Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!- An ecstasy of fumbling / Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, / But someone still was yelling out and stumbling / And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.- / Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, / As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight / He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace / Behind the wagon that we flung him in, / And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, / His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin, / If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood / Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs / Bitter as the cud / Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,- / My friend, you would not tell with such high zest / To children ardent for some desperate glory, / The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori.

-Dulce et Decorum est (in whole)

Most important poem of WWI
“How sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country”