Tag Archives: war

My Father Moved through Dooms of War

My father’s recollections of the D Day beaches influenced his poetry.

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He Sleeps Less Cold Than We Who Wake

Wilfred Owen’s “Asleep” looks with sorrow at the death of a comrade.

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Speak Now for Peace

Obama, take note: Vachel Lindsay in 1915 counseled against going to war even after the sinking of the Lusitania.

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Lesson of War: Fear + Fear = Hate

Two Scott Bates poems get at the dark days in America following World War II.

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Hagel: “No Glory, Only Suffering in War”

Some of Chuck Hagel’s statements about war are reminiscent of the anti-war poetry of Wilfred Owen.

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Sweethearts Now Cleared for Combat

Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam War story about a woman who goes rogue has things to teach us about the recent suspension of the Pentagon ban on women in combat.

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Respect Soldiers, Keep Them Safe

In a number of his poems, Kipling honors the common soldier by giving us his perspective.

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Be Wide as the Air to Learn a Secret

Rumi honors the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, which centers on the story of Abraham and Isaac.

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Author PTSD Led to Billy Pilgrim, Holden

It can be argued that “Slaughterhouse Five” and “Catcher in the Rye” were both shaped by their authors suffering from PTSD.

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Memorializing Our Lost Innocence

Wilfred Owen’s “Strange Meeting” is not only about the soldiers who have died but how their death taints the living.

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War’s Human Costs (So Rethink Iran)

Levertov’s “What Were They Like” gives us a poem that may help dampen hysteria about going to war with Iran.

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A “Greatest Generation” Vet Reflects

World War II vet Scott Bates remembers the war far differently from the images we have of it–not as heroic but as “people surrounded by dying men.”

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Pakistan’s Secret Service as Minderbinder

The crazy logic of Milo Minderbinder in Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22″ shows up in Pakistan’s Secret Service using funds donated by the U.S. to hire terrorists to attack the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

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Weep, For You May Touch Them Not

In his poem “Greater Love,” Owen describes two deaths. One is the physical death of soldiers, which is tragic enough. But the other death is also heartbreaking: the death of innocence that occurs when people become intimately acquainted with war.

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Libya: Gargoyle Laughing, Fist Pounding

First Muammar Gaddafi, Guernica-like, bombed his people.  Now the United States and several western countries are bombing Gaddafi. As this Carl Sandburg poem makes clear, the nightmare has no end: Gaddafi jeering and Allied responding go on and on (if not in Libya, then elsewhere) as America enters its third war in ten years. Gargoyle […]

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Brother Fire Unleashed in Libya

As I watch Muammar Qaddafi turn his air force against his own people, I am trying to imagine conditions on the ground. I asked my father for literature describing the experience, he having once undergone a bombing himself. It occurred in 1944, a couple of weeks after the D Day invasion of Normandy, when the […]

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Strangelove Somewhat Dated (Thank God!)

Film Friday Recently, maybe on National Public Radio, I heard a story that struck me as marvelous: an American tourist was visiting underground Russian bomb shelters. What with improving relations, apparently the Russians no longer feel they need a place where their government officials can hide out for two weeks following a nuclear attack. The […]

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Reading Literature under the Gun

This evening I will be moderating a Leonardtown Library conversation about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  It’s an enjoyable novel that is perfect for book discussion groups since it’s about a book discussion group. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is set up during […]

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How to Tell a True War Story

Two weeks ago I was honored to participate in two conversations with high school classes about the Tim O’Brien Vietnam War novel The Things They Carried.  Carl Rosin, an English high school teacher and regular reader of this blog, set up the occasion. I have taught O’Brien’s marvelous work in our College’s 20th century English-Language […]

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The Grand Illusion that We Fight Over

Boeldieu and Rauffenstein in La Grande Illusion          Film Friday I wrote Tuesday and Wednesday about Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” and the fences that divide us, both externally and internally.  Today I write about one of the great humanistic films about dividing lines: Jean Renoir’s 1937 classic La Grande Illusion. The final scene of the film […]

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Young People Fighting Old People’s Wars

Memorial Day Today we honor our soldiers killed in the line of duty.  Many of them were idealistic, most of them were young.  I offer up today an enigmatic poem by A.E. Housman that captures, in an understated way, the tragedy of their deaths.  The poem is unusual in that it talks about soldiers having a choice. […]

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A Physicist and a Metaphysical Poet

The gifted nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer knew that his brilliance was not leading him to inner peace. Perhaps he appreciated George Herbert’s poem “The Pulley” for voicing his condition and was soothed by the poet’s vision of final rest.

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Fiery Speech in a World of Shadows

Film Friday I owe my love of film to my father, who for years ran the “Cinema Guild” at the University of the South/Sewanee. When I wrote two weeks ago about Meet Me in St. Louis, my father talked about seeing the film as a G. I. in Europe.  “We saw the film as directed […]

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Hurt Locker and Confused Young Men

Jeremy Renner  Film Friday I taught Kathryn Bigelow’s Hurt Locker in my film genre course earlier this week. The film both impressed and depressed me. I have been teaching action adventure films and how our culture uses this genre to sort through male identity issues. Drawing on a very useful book by Susan Jeffords, Hard […]

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The Birds of War-Torn Afghanistan

Steppe Eagle  I share today a poem by my father Scott Bates, who is an ardent birdwatcher as well as poet. The poem reminds us of an ongoing war that too often we want to push out of our minds. Through contrasting the natural world with the disasters created by humans, my father expresses his […]

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Telling the Truth about War

As the president addressed the nation Tuesday night about his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, I found myself impressed with his seriousness and depressed over the situation. I know that he has no good options.  I can’t tell whether his decision is the right one. Literature, as I’ve periodically noted on this blog, […]

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Finding Peace for War’s Wandering Souls

Wayne Karlin  In honor of Veterans Day, I attended a fascinating talk by novelist Wayne Karlin on his new book Wandering Souls: Journeys with the Dead the Living in Viet Nam (Nation Books, 2009). In addition to being a top-flight writer, Wayne, a neighbor and friend, is a Vietnam vet who regularly journeys to Vietnam […]

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Fantasy As a Roundabout Road to Truth

Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn  I didn’t do entire justice in Monday’s post to the Tolkien essay of my son Toby. In correcting that here, I also open up a more complicated vision of fantasy in general, as well as Tolkien’s fantasy specifically. I was wondering if Tolkien had retreated into fantasy as a refuge from […]

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Tolkien’s Ring and World War I

 Otto Dix, Trench Warfare (1932) I have gained some new insights into The Lord of the Rings since my son Toby wrote an essay about it for the University of Pittsburgh’s graduate English program.  Toby informs me that there are a number of debates around the book, especially whether it should be considered great literature. The […]

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