War

First March by Ivor Gurney

‘First March,’ written by one of the lesser known First World War poets, Ivor Bertie Gurney, is about a soldier’s emotional state while returning to his home.

First March by Ivor Gurney

A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map by Stephen Spender

‘A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map’ by Stephen Spender explores the Spanish Civil War through the lyrical depiction of one man’s death. It is marked by a stopwatch, the olive trees, and the continued conflict around him. 

A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map by Stephen Spender

The Lyric in a Time of War by Eloise Klein Healy

‘The Lyric in a Time of War’ by Eloise Klein Healy is a poem about war, writing, and artistic cconnection throughout time. The poem is dedicated to how writing can create a connection between two people over time and space. 

The Lyric in a Time of War by Eloise Klein Healy

Who in One Lifetime by Muriel Rukeyser

‘Who in One Lifetime’ by Muriel Rukeyser is a poem about resistance in the face of war and suffering. The speaker asserts that a woman referred to only as “she” is standing strong despite what she’s seen. 

Who in One Lifetime by Muriel Rukeyser

Patterns by Amy Lowell

‘Patterns’ by Amy Lowell is an unforgettable poem about a woman’s loss during World War I. It describes the “patterns” of a speaker’s life and how, with the knowledge that her fiancé has died in the War, she’s doing to be confined to a far more sorrowful one. 

Patterns by Amy Lowell

Old Timers by Carl Sandburg

‘Old Timers’ by Carl Sandburg speaks on the nature of war. Sandburg alludes to the ways in which history repeats itself no matter which country or time period one is in. 

Old Timers by Carl Sandburg

Mementos, 1 by W. D. Snodgrass

William DeWitt (W. D.) Snodgrass’s personal piece ‘Mementos, 1’ is about the discovery of an old photograph of the speaker’s divorced wife and the stream of memories that came with it.

Mementos, 1 by W. D. Snodgrass

Here by R.S. Thomas

‘Here’ by R.S. Thomas is delivered from the perspective of a man who, while looking back on his life, finds himself self regretting acts of violence he committed.

Here by R.S. Thomas

Politics by William Butler Yeats

‘Politics’ by William Butler Yeats is the last lyric poem Yeats wrote. It alludes to wars around the world including World War II which was to begin the year after this poem was written. 

Politics by William Butler Yeats

Once More Unto The Breach (Henry V) by William Shakespeare

From Henry V, ‘Once More Unto The Breach,’ without doubt, one of Shakespeare’s most rousing and iconic speeches. It has inspired motivational speeches from everywhere from Independence Day and Star Trek and remains a masterclass in rhetoric language to this day.

Once More Unto The Breach (Henry V) by William Shakespeare

Everyone Sang by Siegfried Sassoon

‘Everyone Sang’ by Siegfried Sassoon is a moving poem about the joy experienced at the end of World War I. Knowing that the horrors of the war are over, the world sang out with the joy of a newly uncaged bird.

Everyone Sang by Siegfried Sassoon

On Getting Out of Vietnam by Howard Nemerov

‘On Getting Out of Vietnam’, written by American poet Howard Nemerov, is a symbolic poem based on the US’s involvement in Vietnam War (1955-1975). It alludes to the Greek legend of Theseus and the Minotaur.

On Getting Out of Vietnam by Howard Nemerov

The Great Society by Robert Bly

Published in Robert Bly’s award-winning collection, The Light Around the Body (1967), ‘The Great Society’ satirizes the set of domestic programs launched by Democratic President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964-65 by presenting contrasting imagery from contemporary American society.

The Great Society by Robert Bly

Animals Are Passing From Our Lives by Philip Levine

‘Animals Are Passing From Our Lives’ by Philip Levine is a thoughtful piece about the treatment of all living things. It was written in the mid-1960s during protests over the Vietnam War in the United States. 

Animals Are Passing From Our Lives by Philip Levine

A Subaltern by Siegfried Sassoon

In ‘A Subaltern’ the speaker catches a glimpse of the innocence and hope he thought the war had erased in a conversation with a junior military officer.

A Subaltern by Siegfried Sassoon

Air Raid by Chinua Achebe

‘Air Raid’ by Chinua Achebe is a poem that provides a glimpse into the Nigerian/Biafran Civil War using symbolism and dark humor.

Air Raid by Chinua Achebe

Ultima Ratio Regum by Stephen Spender

‘Ultima Ratio Regum’ translates to English as “the last (ultimate) argument of kings,” which is an insinuation of war. In this poem, Spender portrays the effect of war on innocent, insignificant lives.

Ultima Ratio Regum by Stephen Spender

An Army Corps on the March by Walt Whitman

Whitman’s ‘An Army Corps on the March’ is a moving depiction of soldiers marching forward tirelessly during the Civil War. No matter how exhausted they were, they had a goal to fulfill and a dream to achieve!

An Army Corps on the March by Walt Whitman

Glory of Women by Siegfried Sassoon

In ‘Glory of Women,’ Siegfried Sassoon attacks the role of women in wartime and makes them complicit in the deaths of the men they claim to “worship”.

Glory of Women by Siegfried Sassoon

To a Locomotive in Winter by Walt Whitman

‘To a Locomotive in Winter’ by Walt Whitman is a memorable poem written in Whitman’s skilled free verse. It addresses a train and celebrates its sounds, images, and strength.

To a Locomotive in Winter by Walt Whitman

1861 by Walt Whitman

‘1861’ by Walt Whitman is a moving Civil War poem written from the perspective of a soldier. He details the difficulty of a particular year. 

1861 by Walt Whitman

The Lost Pilot by James Tate

‘The Lost Pilot’ is dedicated to James Tate’s father, who died on a bombing mission in World War II in 1944. He was a co-pilot of a B-17.

The Lost Pilot by James Tate

Cuba, 1962 by Ai

Ai’s poem ‘Cuba, 1962’ appears in her poetry collection Vice: New and Selected Poems (1999), winner of the National Book Award for Poetry. This piece is written in the context of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Cuba, 1962 by Ai

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