Conundrum Press

“In Defense of War Poetry”

April 11th, 2014  |  Published in Blog

by Debbie Vance

The Curator posted a wonderful essay today: “In Defense of War Poetry” by Brett Beasley.

The article was instigated by the current Crimean Conflict (See “Turning Crimea into “Putinland’?” by Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov.) and how news articles have started to use typically poetic language to talk about the conflict. Which, he says, shouldn’t be that surprising.

“In the Crimean War, just 160 years ago, poetry still played an important public role, perhaps even more central than the role of news outlets. In fact, William Howard Russell, who relayed his eyewitness accounts of battles to the Times of London by telegraph, was England’s first ever war correspondent. But even as Britons developed an appetite for new stories from the front, many still saw poetry as the main way to shape public ideas and sentiments about the war.”

He goes on to explain that poetry used to be pivotal in how we talked and thought about war. Poetry “rescued names from the waters of oblivion and placed them on the mountaintop of immortality. In other words, facts are good, and good facts are better, but facts don’t tell or remember themselves.” It wasn’t until the wars of the 20th century–that “taught us to be deeply suspicious of any attempt to glorify war or aestheticize violence”–that poets started to shy away from writing about political conflict.

Now, when all the information we receive is objective fact filtered through news sources, perhaps it’s time for poets to rise again to promote dialogue and help us think more thoroughly about the complex issues of our world. 

“The poems we need today…will challenge us to abide with the contradictions, at least for a moment, before we make a decision. By providing a complex response to a complex situation, they will help us think together better, and that is surely the first step toward living together more abundantly.”

Many thanks to The Curator for providing such a thought-provoking article on the socio-political benefits of poetry.

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