kellyrfineman (kellyrfineman) wrote,

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America at War - a National Poetry Month book review

Today being the last day of April, it is also the final day of National Poetry Month here in the U.S.A. And speaking of the country, the U.S. is still engaged in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with saber-rattling at various times about other countries as well.

A recent poetic release addresses what it means for America to be at war. The brainchild of one of my favorite poets, the book is entitled America at War: Poems Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. The poems in the anthology are not about war itself, but about the emotions related to warfare. The anthology is focused on the poetry of war, and the 54 poems inside the book are separated into eight sections, beginning with poems related to the Revolutionary War and concluding with poems about the war in Iraq.

Poems include classic poems about war including "War is Kind" by Stephen Crane, "In Flanders Fields" by John McCree, and Eugene McCarthy's poem, "Kilroy". (And yes, it's that Eugene McCarthy - he didn't just run for President, he also wrote poetry.) Some classic poems are used in unexpected ways, including a portion of Sir Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake and Langston Hughes's poem, "Dreams." More than half of the poems were commissioned for the book and are by contemporary poets.

The illustrations by Stephen Alcorn add tremendous impact to the poems, resembling, as they do, stylized poster or mural art.

Oddly enough, the copy I purchased at Borders was not found in the poetry section, but in the nonfiction/history section. It makes sense, in that it discusses the losses and horrors of war, but it's really about the feelings that go with war, rather than the facts. Wherever you track it down, it's decidedly worth a look. But be forwarned: you should buy a box of tissues as well, because some of these poems will seriously affect you.

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Tags: anthologies, hopkins, national poetry month, poetry, war poems

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