Today in class we talked a lot about the dichotomies in the poem August 1914. It made me think about discussions we’ve had in the past about the mechanization of human beings in war, and the way this hurts people. Does Cannan’s poem show this theme as well through her juxtapositions? Do any of the other poems we read for today share this theme, or common war trope? What do these poems share with the novels we’ve read so far? I wonder what Paul or Nellie would think of some of the more patriotic pieces… I can almost see Tosh fist-fighting Kipling in my mind…
Something we touched on in class that interested me was Dr. Scanlon’s discussion of the government recruiting poets to write patriotic work, and the Hardy poem addressing the role of poetry and the role of the poet in wartime and in general. I was wondering what everyone thought of this. Do you think writing is an adequate way to fight, whether for or against war? Is writing a form of resistance at all, or as the speaker in the Hardy poem is, something to be shamed for, an idleness when action is needed?
I would argue that ideology is important in war and poets/writers can help to shape a public ideology. The more the public supports a war, the longer the government can perpetrate it (think Vietnam). However in this day and age where poetry is read less and less often, does the poet have an impact on influencing current events and wars? Is a writer who encourages war and colonialism (I’m looking at you Kipling) just as culpable as the politician who declares war, or the soldier who kills, or the colonizer?
After I read each poem we were assigned I asked a simple question, that I think might be interesting to think about. Was this poem for or against the war? Does the poem support it in a wholehearted, jingoistic fashion? Does the poem show the war as a necessary evil? Does the poem denounce the war? What is the purpose of the poem? Poems don’t exist in a vacuum. Words don’t exist in a vacuum. They have a cause and effect. Did these poems have a political purpose, a financial purpose, a patriotic one, etc.?
I know I threw a lot of questions out at once, but there’s a lot to think about with our latest bundle of readings!