Volume 102, Number 1/2
|My subject is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the piety.
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The prosthetics factory pictured on our cover offers a glimpse of what World War I’s Wilfred Owen called “the pity of War.” Ninety years later, as wounded American soldiers returned from Iraq, more than 500 of them amputees, better help awaits; but advances in medicine and technology, however astonishing, can’t begin to restore their losses.
What might poetry have to offer them, or any of us, in the face of so much damage? Is it possible, as Adrienne Rich recently claimed, that “[p]oetry has the capacity to remind us of something we are forbidden to see”—for example, a future in which such horrors will no longer be regarded as necessary and inevitable?
Among the many voices we’re proud to present in this issue are three that speak specifically about the human cost of war and tacitly implore us not to turn away. In Greg McBride’s “Transit,” the marching gait of new recruits passing through LaGuardia conjures up “the Huey rotor’s chop and chop hammering / at our bones,” a sensory memory from Vietnam. Michael Miller’s “Cobra” presents a spare, half-panicked blessing for another day in which “a bomb did not explode / In the city where our son / Is still safe.” And Maxine Clair’s “News”—which opens with the scrolling photos of fallen soldiers on TV—rises into a meditation on “the endless / ways we see ourselves as unlike.”
Maybe these fragments and the poems from which they’re drawn are part of what Walt Whitman referred to as “poetic lore…a conversation overheard in the dusk, from speakers far or hid, of which we get only a few broken murmurs.” This image, as Rich has observed, is suggestive of democracy itself. If we’re lucky, these speakers will continue the conversation with passion and with hope—not only on the page but also in our homes and on the streets, in our meeting halls and schoolrooms, in our legislatures and courtrooms, even in our barracks—as this democracy grows into its promise.
Poems by A. B. Spellman, Maxine Clair, Greg McBride, John Bargowski, Liam Rector, and others.
Poets Introducing Poets
Liam Rector introduces Richard Scheiwe
Blue Front by Martha Collins
The Republic of Poetry by Martin Espada
The Pure Inconstancy of Grace by Richard St. John
Queen of a Rainy Country by Linda Pastan
Wu Wei by Tom Crawford
The Disheveled Bed by Andrea Carter Brown