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Unread 02-17-2003, 08:13 AM
Paul Lake Paul Lake is offline
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Russellville, AR
Posts: 1,004

Forgive my ignorance, but what is "The Gazebo" and how would one access the recent discussion of Sam Gwynn's supposed political views?

Sounds like Nigel Hold is writing fiction, from the discussion here. Tim Murphey once described Sam Gwynn to me as the last Southern Democrat, so how he's come to be a Repubican baffles me. Besides, last time I checked, Republicans were American citizens, too, with a right to self expression. Though an Independent myself, I think members of both major parties deserve a fair hearing.
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Unread 02-17-2003, 08:59 AM
Richard Wakefield Richard Wakefield is offline
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Federal Way, Washington, USA
Posts: 1,664

In 1965 or '66 my brother, stationed at Travis, had the job of unloading coffins coming back from the war (and stacking them by rank, if I remember correctly, but that's another issue). What was striking was the anonymity of those containers, the uniformity. What is striking about this sequence is the specificity: real people. Most of the time even when a "war" poem is about an individual, the poem comes closer to hagiography than to honest portrayal. Not these. To me, seeing real people evoked so deftly (or, maybe, a real person's recollection of them) carries more weight than any abstraction could. Each character's connection with war is unique, as is each demise... And that image of dust!

[This message has been edited by Richard Wakefield (edited February 17, 2003).]
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Unread 02-17-2003, 09:40 AM
A. E. Stallings A. E. Stallings is offline
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Athens, Greece
Posts: 3,205

(Let's please not bring discussions and from other boards into this. It is distracting and I think does a disservice to the poems at hand.)

Thanks Richard for your remarks. Yes, it is the specificity that is so moving--especially in conjunction with such an anonymous and dehumanizing term as "body bags."
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Unread 02-17-2003, 06:48 PM
R. S. Gwynn's Avatar
R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Beaumont, TX
Posts: 4,693

Thanks to all for the comments. Some of us are probably old enough to remember the famous issue of Life that simply ran photos of one week's dead from the Vietnam War. It was, I think, the one anti-war statement that really hit home with what was then called "middle America."


Soldiers are citizens of death's grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time's tomorrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.

Soldiers are sworn to action: they must win
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers, when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds, and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

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Unread 02-18-2003, 07:33 AM
Don Kimball Don Kimball is offline
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Concord, NH, USA
Posts: 354

Thanks, Sam, for posting the Sassoon poem - a new one to me.
And for writing three of the best poems I've ever read about Vietnam. The specificity of details, the vernacular, the down-home names, the tone, the rhyme - in all three sonnets capture what I remember, all-too-well, about this era.

Yes, I certainly do remember those photos from Life as well as the TV coverage, day after day.
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Unread 02-19-2003, 02:07 AM
Robert J. Clawson Robert J. Clawson is offline
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 3,401

Sam's superb work, and some of its echoes, has me wondering if Edwin Arlington Robinson wrote any poems about war or its social consequences.

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Unread 02-19-2003, 07:08 AM
Don Kimball Don Kimball is offline
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Concord, NH, USA
Posts: 354

The only one by Robinson that I can think of right off the bat is this lovely little lyric:


Dark hills at evening in the west,
Where sunset hovers like a sound
Of golden horns that sang to rest
Old bones of warriors under ground,
Far now all the bannered ways
Where flash the legions of the sun,
You fade - as if the last of days
Were fading, and all wars were done.
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Unread 02-20-2003, 06:11 PM
Rhina P. Espaillat Rhina P. Espaillat is offline
Honorary Poet Lariat
Join Date: Jan 2001
Posts: 1,008

These poems of Sam's are good, not only because of their specific attention to lives that feel real and valuable, but becuase they're like all Sam's poems: authentic. They come out of genuine feeling, not feeling that "should" be expressed because it's "right" for the occasion or the subject. His autobiographical poems have the same kind of authenticity, including the so-called "light" ones, which are not so much light as possessed of a different kind of gravity.
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Unread 02-20-2003, 09:38 PM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Beaumont, TX
Posts: 4,693

While Rhina and I both doubtless feel like spooks attending our own funerals in this section, I do appreciate her comments.
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Unread 03-08-2003, 08:33 PM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Fargo ND, USA
Posts: 13,816

I would be remiss if I did not call to our members' attention this very big, ambitious poem from No Word Of Farewell.

Randolph Field, 1938

"Hands of men blasted the world asunder;
How they lived God only knew!
If you'd live to be a gray haired wonder,
Keep the nose out of the blue!"

Framed by the open window, a lone Stearman
Wobbles, dips right, dips left, then dives and banks
For touch-and-go, seeming barely to miss
The sunlit "Taj Mahal" and a stray egret
That has mistaken grass and shimmering concrete
For salt marsh. Two flies on the windowsill
Wait for their chance. The wind-sock hangs limply
In the thick heat, and lunch is still uncleared.

Indeed, the messtray resting on the nightstand
Has not been touched, or hardly--half a wiener,
Succotash and boiled carrots stirred around,
Even the tea and gingerbread just tasted,
And the young man there who has no appetite
Has raised himself up from the sweaty pillow
To watch some fledgling's first attempt, as stirring
As a scene from The West Point of the Air.

It slips from sight. He leans his head back, dizzy
From the slight effort, shuddering against
The squeal of tires, the buzz-saw radial engine
Over-throttled, straining up to a stall,
And then, the day's sole miracle, the steady
Hum of the prop--somebody else's luck.
For now the chills have come to spike his fever,
Everything holding true to course but him.

The skinny nurse who takes his temperature
Charts the latest, 102.8,
And then connects the dots with a red line
That climbs and plummets like a rookie's struggle
To keep the nose cowl flush with the horizon.
It would be funny, but it simply isn't,
Even when Szulic and Rosenthal, his buddies,
Saunter in after class with cokes and Luckies.

He'll envy them that night when, after supper,
He lies in bed and smokes. It isn't easy
To think of them with girls along the River--
Dancehalls, music, beer, all with such sweetness
In the mild evening air he'd like to cry.
He has missed the chance, like Aaron Rosenthal,
To burn above Berlin; like Thomas Szulic,
To spin in wingless somewhere over France.

A decade and a war still to be crossed
Before he is my father, he is only
One of the Dodos, barely voting age,
Washed out a week before he gets his wings.
A radio is playing now. Kay Kyser.
. . . To be in Carolina in the mornin' . . .
It's hard to think of what he must go back to.
He banked on everything but going back.

Off to the southeast, thunderheads are building--
Heat lightning flashing like imagined guns,
Faint thunder and a breeze that brings the Gulf
Into this place of starched white sheets and Lysol
Where he lies watching three red points of light,
A late flight coming in for night approach.
He shuts his eyes and tries to think of nothing
Before he sideslips into dreams of fire.

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