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Poem Sampler

Veterans Day Poems

Classic and contemporary poems that explore the meaning of Veterans Day.

In poems, podcasts, articles, and more, writers measure the human effects of war.  As they present the realities of life for soldiers returning home, the poets here refrain from depicting popular images of veterans. Still, there are familiar places: the veterans’ hospitals visited by Ben Belitt, Elizabeth Bishop, Etheridge Knight, and W.D. Snodgrass; the minds struggling with post-traumatic stress in Stephen Vincent Benét’s and Bruce Weigl’s poems. Other poets salute particular soldiers, from those who went AWOL (Marvin Bell) to Congressional Medal of Honor winners (Michael S. Harper). Poet-veterans Karl Shapiro, Randall Jarrell, and Siegfried Sassoon reflect on service (“I did as these have done, but did not die”) and everyday life (“Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats”). Sophie Jewett pauses to question “the fickle flag of truce.” Sabrina Orah Mark’s soldier fable is as funny as it is heartbreaking—reminding us, as we remember our nation’s veterans, that the questions we ask of war yield no simple answers.

POEMS

Veteran’s Hospital” by Ben Belitt

Veterans of the Seventies” by Marvin Bell

Minor Litany” by Stephen Vincent Benét

Visits to St. Elizabeths” by Elizabeth Bishop

The City’s Oldest Known Survivor of the Great War” by James Doyle

Debridement” by Michael S. Harper

Eight Air Force” by Randall Jarrell

Armistice” by Sophie Jewett

At a VA Hospital in the Middle of the United States of America: An Act in a Play” by Etheridge Knight

The Traitor” by Sabrina Orah Mark

Dreamers” by Siegfried Sassoon

Troop Train” by Karl Shapiro

Pacemaker” by W. D. Snodgrass

Song of Napalm” by Bruce Weigl

 

ARTICLES

 Poetry, Wartime, and Unwieldy Metaphors” by Cliff Doerksen
Jorie Graham, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Gary Snyder participate in a panel.

When Yellow Ribbons and Flag-Waving Aren’t Enough” by Nathaniel Fick
An ex-soldier’s take on recent war poetry.

War-Torn Congregation” by Emory Gillespie
When war quarantines the visionary portions of the Bible, an Iowa minister turns to poetry and gets in trouble.

Poetry and the Pentagon: Unholy Alliance?” by Eleanor Wilner

Letter to the Editor” by Yusef Komunyakaa

 

AUDIO

Poems of Peace and War: Chicago Humanities Festival Panel, 2006
Introduction: Philip Metres
Panelist: Yusef Komunyakaa

Concrete Poetry
Hear Yusef Komunyakaa read and reflect on the history of war, from the Roman era to Vietnam.

Battle of the Bards
Hear Denise Levertov’s scathing Vietnam poem “Life at War,” and find out why it made her friend Robert Duncan declare war on her.

During the War
A poem by Philip Levine.

 

VIDEO

The Warrior” by Frances Richey
Richey and her son talk about the collection and their unique perspectives on the war.

 

POEM GUIDE

Robin Ekiss on Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Facing It”
What happens when metaphor meets a monument?

 

FORUM

Can Poetry Console a Grieving Public?
Sandra M. Gilbert introduces a selection of responses from Eavan Boland, Rafael Campo, Mark Doty, Martín Espada, Marilyn Hacker, Alicia Ostriker, Gail Holst-Warhaft, Jahan Ramazani, and James Tatum.

 

  • Becca Klaver is the author of the poetry collection LA Liminal (Kore Press, 2010) and the chapbook Inside a Red Corvette: A 90s Mix Tape (greying ghost press, 2009). A founding editor of the feminist poetry press Switchback Books, she holds an MFA in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago and...

Poem Sampler

Veterans Day Poems

Classic and contemporary poems that explore the meaning of Veterans Day.
  • Becca Klaver is the author of the poetry collection LA Liminal (Kore Press, 2010) and the chapbook Inside a Red Corvette: A 90s Mix Tape (greying ghost press, 2009). A founding editor of the feminist poetry press Switchback Books, she holds an MFA in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago and...

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