American War Poetry, Part VII

Today, Memorial Day, I’m featuring a poem composed for a memorial service. The year was 1921 and the service was held in memory of William Earl Covey, who died of pneumonia while serving in France in World War I.

William Covey was the son and grandson of noted naturalists in the Adirondacks. His father, Earl Covey, built Covewood Lodge, a wonderful place you can still visit today. “Willie,” as he was known, hiked and camped in those mountains with two childhood friends who also served in World War I but were lucky enough to return. The friends decided there should be a memorial bridge at Twitchell Lake, and a couple years later the bridge was dedicated. Read the rest of this entry »

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American War Poetry, Part VI

In light of the near-universal consensus about the justice of the Allies’ cause in “The Good War,” I’m a little surprised at the tone of the World War II poetry I found. Is there, for instance, no poem that triumphantly celebrates the achievement at Normandy despite the horrific loss of life? Has no poet dared to attempt in words what the famous photo on Iwo Jima captured for the world? Read the rest of this entry »

American War Poetry, Part V

Jumping forward to World War I, we have two poems that once again present differing views of war, and with this pairing we have the coincidence that both poets died in the war about which they wrote. Alan Seeger (1888-1916) graduated from Harvard in 1910 but then enlisted in the French Foreign Legion and was killed before the U.S. even entered World War I. Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) was an aspiring poet who was working as a tutor in the French Pyrenees when war broke out. He eventually enlisted back in England and saw combat for the last two years of the war. He was shot and killed on November 4, 1918, and news of his death reached his parents in England on November 11, as armistice bells were ringing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Does He Read Our Blog?

American War Poetry, Part IV

More great Civil War poetry today, and it’s only fitting that these poems should come in pairs. John Greenleaf Whittier (1809-1892) and Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907) both invoke Nature, with a capital N, and both suggest that Nature may be telling us something about what God thinks of war.  But if Nature was indeed carrying a message to these two poets, they interpreted it rather differently. Read the rest of this entry »

American War Poetry, Part III

For reasons that seem obvious, one can discern a great deal more ambivalence in Civil War poetry than we see, for example, in “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” Today’s poems by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) and Walt Whitman (1819-1892) make the point. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Problem, Writ Small

Since I am, perhaps annoyingly, currently fixated on the problem of religious fundamentalism and its larger impact on our world, I couldn’t help posting this. Read the rest of this entry »

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