Thursday, March 19, 2015

Poetry Spotlight (2) Two War Poems

In my second year of college I took an Introduction to Poetry class and I fell in love with reading poetry. Before then, poetry was always a little intimidating and a medium that I didn't have much experience with. But after that class, I became addicted to reading poetry, and during the class I actually found myself thinking in and expressing myself in poetry- which I never would have guessed would happen in a million years. So, with this series I'm here to share some of my favorite poems in a way that I'm sure will turn out rambley and unorganized.

Some of the most powerful poetry I have ever read has been about war. An excellent war poem that builds real but disturbing imagery has an exceptionally large emotional impact on me. I have a lot of amazing war poems I would like to share, but today I'm going to start with just two. As always, I would love it if you left me some of your favorite poems (war related or not) in the comments.  

Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen Read the poem here and Hear the 9th Doctor read it here

This poem leaves me speechless and with goosebumps every time I read it, and it is especially powerful to hear aloud. 

The first thing you need to know about this poem is the translation of the last line which is written in Latin: "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country." Now go reread the poem with that knowledge and I promise goosebumps with ensue. 

The second thing you should know is about the author Wilfred Owen. Now I don't usually like to bring author's biography into my interpretation of the poem, but his biography paired with this poem, and his other poems as well, is extremely powerful. Owens fought and was wounded in WWI. While in the hospital recovering from his wounds and shell-shock he wrote many of his most well known poems, including this one. After he healed he returned to war and was killed in action in 1918 at the age of twenty-five. Owen's poetry contains many graphic and all-to-real images of war, which were absent from earlier war poetry that was full of patriotism and images of strength and pride in fighting for your country. 

This poem is full of imagery and sound. The poem is paced out perfectly so the images come quickly, and the powerful lines punch you in the gut slowly. The images haunt your mind just as they do the speaker's mind, and the mention of children in the last few lines is a jarring reminder of how young many of these soldiers were when they entered the battle fields.   

Calvary Crossing a Ford by Walt Whitman Read the poem here  

This poem is quite a startling contrast to the above poem. I love placing two poems side-by-side that contrast each other so very much, just like these two. 

Wrote during the Civil War, this poem is obviously painting the patriotic and honorable portrait of war that was briefly discussed above. This poem is full of imagery too, but this imagery is calm, Romantic, and honorable. There is no death or suffering in this poem. It's possible that the speaker of this poem is an onlooker, not a solider in the midst of the battle field like the speaker in Owen's poem.  

It is interesting to note that his poem is seven lines and one sentence- perhaps connecting to the lines of men that make up one unit in the cavalry. This poem is also interesting in regards to the tendency to Romanticize the American South before and during the Civil War.    

Which poem did you like best? What is one of your favorite war (or not war related) poems?  

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