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The Poetry of War Paperback – March 3, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0521710220 ISBN-10: 0521710227 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews


"The Poetry of War offers compelling evidence that poetry has played an important role in shaping how both soldiers and civilians have viewed war for thousands years...Winn is writing not only for his fellow literary scholars but also for anyone who cares about war and truth"
-David Rachels, Virginia Military Institute, The Journal of Military History

"...a lucid, elegantly reasoned analysis of war poetry...A necessary resource for those interested in war poetry, this book deserves a broad audience." --CHOICE

Book Description

The Poetry of War shows how poets have shaped and questioned our basic ideas about warfare. Readers will learn how soldiers in past wars felt about their experiences, and why poets in many periods and cultures have embraced war as a grand and challenging subject.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (March 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521710227
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521710220
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #681,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Clifford on April 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
War brings out the best in us--heroism, nobility, and sacrifice--and the worst in us--hatred, savagery, and vengefulness.

From ancient times to the present, poets have explored the experience of war. War is a subject of most of the great western epics--the Iliad, Aeneid, Beowulf, Chanson de Roland, Paradise Lost, etc. War is the subject for modern day popular poet such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

To better understand the relationship between war and poetry, I read The Poetry of War, by James Winn. Though a professor of English at Boston University, Winn writes in a clear compelling a clear and avoids academic jargon.

What is like to face death or to kill another man? Perhaps only a poet can convey a sense of the emotions of men at war. Winn shows how poets from Homer to Randall Jarrell have praised heroes while raising questions about the basic nature of heroism, celebrated victors but wondered about the ultimate bitter fruits of victory, and found the passion and energy of war both enthralling and repulsive.

While awaiting the poet who can explain what we are doing in Iraq, I recommend that you read The Poetry of War.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul Seaman on November 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read many books about war and I have read many books of and about poetry and this book is one of the best of either, all the more remarkable for its unusual joining of the two. Thankfully, and to my surprise and delight, this is not just another survey of war poetry. It is a series of essays ABOUT war poetry and the author analyzes the values implied by the way each poem is written, as well as the cultural context that no doubt influenced the poems' authors. This is one of the most stimulating and (dare I say it?) inspiring books I have ever read. It is rare indeed that a book causes everything I have taken for granted about a given subject and persuasively asks me to look again. What I like best about this book is the author's moral passion, his guiding motivation and perspective that poetry should not and cannot be separated from authentic reality--or else it is false, no matter how beautifully written.

As with any other kind of writing, we should judge poetry not merely by its eloquence or its claims, but by its truth and the consequences of its influence. Thank you, James Winn, for your clarity and for the great treasure of your book.

The first two chapters on Honor, Shame, and Slaughter that reexamine the romanticization of Medieval war images by the poets of World War I and the sanitization of Homer's Iliad to serve the needs of English gentlemen are a revelation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Vitek on July 2, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book after hearing its author, James Winn, reading some of it on National Public Radio on Memorial Day. The author wisely explained how invaluable poetry is in describing the human condition, our pain and suffering, our joys and sorrows. Just as art and music define us, so do our words. This book, brief though it is, speaks to my heart. The knowledge that many of the poets died during battle and their poetry lived after them makes it all the more poignant. Thank you for gathering these pieces of young men's souls to share with us, Dr Winn.
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