Resource Highlight: War Poetry

For war poetry of the First World War (and information about its poets), plus poetry about Iraq, Afghanistan, Falklands, Sierra Leone, Palestine/Israel, the Holocaust and Vietnam go to The War Poetry Website.  It’s British editor David Roberts’ website, and includes poetry submitted by readers as well as collections by well-known published authors.

You’ll find not only poetry, but audio and video readings, author biographies, contextual backgrounders, and footnotes explaining obscure phrases.  For example, Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est is there, and the first footnote reads:

1.  DULCE ET DECORUM EST – the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War. They mean “It is sweet and right.” The full saying ends the poem: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori – it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country.

There’s also an introduction to the type of jingoistic pre-World War I poetry to which this poem directly responds.  Textbooks (even digital textbooks like ours) are great at providing context, but they can only provide so much detail.  This site is a great resource for teaching war through the eyes of poets: small details as well as emotions and sweeping themes.

This Veterans Day marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended “the war to end all wars.”  Hopefully none of your students have experienced war firsthand and hopefully none ever will.

Resource Highlight: PennSound

Looking for audio of contemporary poetry — possibly spoken by the author herself? PennSound at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing is “an ongoing project, committed to producing new audio recordings and preserving existing audio archives.” It is an online archive of poetry audio recordings that makes tens of thousands of digital files available to the public for free. PennSound also has an internet radio station, podcasts, and videos (and a small selection of classics).

PennSound is all about making audio files that can be played universally, with all metadata intact. Its manifesto in short:
1. It must be free and downloadable.
2. It must be MP3 or better.
3. It must be singles.
4. It must be named.
5. It must embed bibliographic information in the file.
6. It must be indexed.

You can use poetry to introduce or summarize a section or topic, or to illustrate a point.  For example, do you have juniors and seniors making plans for life after high school?  Why not play Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and have them dissect its meaning?  Thanks to Penn Sound, they can also ponder the improbable path the recording took to get to them: from aluminum platter to reel tape to digitization!

Screen capture of Robert Frost page on PennSound