Occasion: Patriotism

Memorial Day and Flag Day are commemorative occasions just ripe for a poet.  While many are addicted to Open Mic nights, these public ceremonies will stretch any writer’s abilities.

The 5/5 blog presents the 2 Chief Reasons to write and perform occasional poetry:

  1. adhere to audience requirements.
  2. keep to the 4 Requirements of Song.

Now let me add a 3rd:

3] manipulate structure to stand out.  Poets who do so can provide copies of their poems to participants.  It’s like free publicity.  “All politics is local”, 1930’s newspapermen said, and word-of-mouth is the best marketing.

Also in the 5/5 blog, is a brief mention of the inaugural poems of Maya Angelou and Robert Frost.  She gives us a poem as sprawling as American cities while his “The Gift Outright” is tightly focused and structured.  For the audience, this is the difference between a 30-minute speech and a 5-minute one.

It’s the Gettysburg Address that we know and love, not the hour-long speech that preceded it.

Craft the poem well, and it gains power to reach into the ages.

3 Poems for a Patriotic Occasion

Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier”

Memorial Day is when we recognize and thank the sacrifice of those who died for the freedoms we may not deserve.Brooke gives us a sonnet unannounced.

The opening octet presents to us the loss, ending with the sadly ironic “suns of home” for England’s dead sons buried away from home.

The sestet presents the gain and the reason for the sacrifice.

Death arouses emotion, but Brooke asks us to THINK.  In each stanza, he reminds us of the purpose.

Brooke himself died in WWI.  The Great War to end all wars, they called it.  And it was not and never will be, as long as human nature is what it is.

Gwendolyn Brooks’ “the sonnet-ballad”

Like Brooke, Brooks writes another sonnet, yet hers is also a ballad.  The ballad has the three subject matters of love, betrayal, and death.  What is more appropriate for a poem exhibiting the grief of those on the homefront?

As the speaker mourns her soldier gone, she reminds of the sacrifices of those on the home front, feeling betrayed by the death of their beloved.

Particular phrases that haunt us, as the speaker is haunted by her loss, are “my lover’s tallness” and “an empty heart-cup”, the knowledge that her lover had to “court / Coquettish death”, and the powerful opening and closing with the same line, an obsessive repetition of grief.

Carl Sandburg’s “Grass”

With “Grass”, Sandburg is experimenting with poetic line.

Austerlitz, Waterloo, Gettysburg, Ypres, and Verdun:: important battlefields of the past.  Ground on which lay slaughtered soldiers.  Carcasses piled high until burial.  Death strips away humanity, and the very indifference of the grass only increases the horror.

Just as the veterans who survive are horrified by those of us who do not understand the sacrifices that freedom requires.

Of these three poems, “Grass” reads the most naturally.  Standing at a podium, the natural flow of words is extremely important.

We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda;  it is a form of truth. ~` John F. Kennedy.

Wrapping Up

On the 15th of June we look at poems for the occasion of Father’s Day.  Join us.