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Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Home Front since 1941 (Contemp North American Poetry) Hardcover – May 1, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Metres offers a strong riposte to cultural critics who dismiss poetry as monologic and ahistorical; it shows the abiding critical function of the genre by poets who have not only thematized the horrors of war but participated actively in its opposition. At a moment when narrative has become the generic default for cultural criticism, Behind the Lines restores poetry to its important function as a socially symbolic form.”—Michael Davidson, University of California, San Diego

About the Author

Philip Metres is an assistant professor in the Department of English at John Carroll University. He holds a BA in English and peace studies from Holy Cross and a PhD in English and an MFA in poetry from Indiana University. Author of two chapbooks—Instants and Primer for Non-Native Speakers—and two books of poetry in translation, he has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in creative writing and translation.
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Product Details

  • Series: Contemp North American Poetry
  • Hardcover: 298 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Iowa Press; 1 edition (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877459983
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877459989
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,290,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
I liked the last review here from the Feminist Review blog because it gave me a different perspective on this book. However, I felt Behind the Lines was a much easier read than most poetry-related books nowadays. I would say it's harder to read than a Mystery novel or something like that but, in contrast to its last reviewer, I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had reading it.

Behind the Lines is a book of literary criticism, meaning it discusses certain poems in depth and helps the reader understand them. Like the last reviewer, I didn't realize this at first. We both must have thought Behind the Lines was an anthology of war poetry from the title. Fortunately, there's no disappointment because not only does the author list every war (or "war resistance") poetry anthology that came out over nearly the last century but, he also dives much deeper into war resistance poems than any anthology would be able to. It was academic, but only in ways that I feel are really important, like in the way the author tried to never show bias towards one side of an argument or another and instead just let the reader think for herself. It did have some words I didn't know in it, but not enough to make it hard to read (and I like learning new words anyways). As far as literary criticism goes, this is one of the most readable books I've ever bought (it was one of the few literary criticism books I was actually able to finish!).

Obviously, the best thing about this book is the poetry and the in depth explanations that help a reader understand it. However, a really cool thing I didn't expect was how many historical facts I learned from this book. Not your typical classroom stuff--we're talking about things the history books may very well hide on purpose.
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Format: Hardcover
This is not an easy read; it is a book that uses phrases like "intertextual passage." In other words, it is book that will help the writer get tenure. That is not to say it is not well written. Philip Metres has some sentences that sing, especially considering the academic style that he is required to use. The problem is that Behind the Lines is simply not written for the average reader. And since I finished my master's degree last year, I have quickly reverted back to being an average reader.

I was attracted to this book by the title, as a person who enjoys reading poetry. I wanted to learn more about poetry in America, particularly war poetry since we are in the middle (or is the end?) of a war in Iraq, yet this book was more than I was counting on. There wasn't a lot of poetry inside it. Metres traces the history of war poetry and cites the works of poets from Robert Lowell and William Stafford to June Jordan and online group Poets Against the War, but you don't get to experience the poems as poems because they are excerpted and then scrutinized.

If you want to learn about the limits of current lyric and autobiographical in the contemporary peace movement, this may be a book you want to read, but, personally, I have trouble even getting that sentence out. It brings back memories of being a graduate student, reading on Saturday nights in my pajamas and eating frozen dinners, and that's a place I'd rather not go back to.
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