In Memoriam: Of War and Poetry

On Memorial Day, we read the poetry of war from the past to the present — from Homer to Iraq War veteran and poet Brian Turner.

U.S. Army 1st Lt. James Rathmann says farewell to his best friend and fellow 1st Lt. Salvatore Corma during a burial in West Point, N.Y., on May 13, 2010. Corma died April 29 in Afghanistan. (AP)

It’s Memorial Day. A day to honor those who have answered their country’s call, have fought and fallen.

Today will mean very personal memories and fresh grief in a country with two ongoing wars. So how do the those who are grieving — how do we all — understand the meaning of war and sacrifice?

From the time of Homer to right now, great and humble poets have tried to make sense of war – or convey its senselessness.

War dismembers. War poetry remembers. And instructs us on what war is, and is not.

This hour, On Point: On Memorial Day – war poetry, from ancient Greece to straight from Iraq, right now. We bring you a special, pre-taped broadcast.


James Winn, professor of English at Boston University and author of “The Poetry of War.”

Brian Turner, poet and war veteran. He was an infantry team leader in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, and served in Bosnia-Herzegovina prior. He’s author of “Here, Bullet” and “Phantom Noise.”

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst and senior editor at The Atlantic.


A big thanks to our Facebook community, which generously contributed suggestions in advance of the taping of this show. You can see the long comment thread on the subject of war and poetry.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
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