Poetry in a Time of War

Poetry is a powerful medium. In its eloquence and concision, poetry can convey shades and depths of meaning unlike any other form of literature. Consider the following poem by Brian Turner, a veteran of the Iraq War:

Ashbah

The ghosts of American soldiers
wander the streets of Balad by night,
unsure of their way home, exhausted,
the desert wind blowing trash
down the narrow alleys as a voice
sounds from the minaret, a soulful call
reminding them how alone they are,
how lost. And the Iraqi dead,
they watch in silence from rooftops
as date palms line the shore in silhouette,
leaning toward Mecca when the dawn wind blows.

It may surprise—and, perhaps, please—you to learn that poetry is taught to the cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point. In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, English professor Elizabeth E. Samet writes of her experiences teaching the work of Shakespeare, Milton, Yeats, et al. to the young men and women who, one day soon, may find themselves half a world away in Baghdad or Fallujah…or “Balad.” The article is entitled “In the Valley of the Shadow,” and I encourage you to read it.

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One response

  1. is Wilfred Owen or Sigfried Sassoon on the list?

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