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December 2, 2011

Poetry Friday--Poets of World War II

Yesterday I was interviewed by Linda Crotta Brennan at Lupine Seeds primarily on my WW II poems. If you missed it, click here.

Since next Wednesday marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor, and the entrance of the United States into the war, I thought I would mention a book in the "American Poets Project" series, Poets of World War II, edited by Harvey Shapiro (Library of America, 2003). The collection covers 62 American poets, with 120 poems dealing with the war. In honor of Pearl Harbor Day, I'd like to share this poem by Howard Neverov:
The War in the Air

For a saving grace, we didn't see our dead,
Who rarely bothered coming home to die
But simply stayed away out there
In the clean war, the war in the air.

Seldom the ghosts came back bearing their tales
Of hitting the earth, the incompressible sea,

But stayed up there in the relative wind,
Shades fading in the mind,

Who had no graves but only epitaphs
Where never so many spoke for never so few:
Per ardua, said the partisans of Mars,
Per aspera, to the stars.

That was the good war, the war we won
As if there were no death, for goodness' sake,
With the help of the losers we left out there
In the air, in the empty air.
(Note: the Latin phrases can be translated as "through adversity" and "through hardship." The motto of the RAF was Per ardua ad astra. "Through adversity to the stars.")

This week's Poetry Friday Round-Up is found at Carol's Corner.

Pearl Harbor photos courtesy Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.


  1. This poem means much to me; my father was a pilot & was killed in combat during WWII. I also read your interview; what a fascinating challenge for you. I am too young to remember any of the war, but know lots of stories from my mother, aunts & uncles, & grandparents. I have visited the archives & had students research there too. Amazing that it so available, & wonderful too. Interesting that Neverov called it the 'clean' war.

  2. It was only "clean" in that many of the pilots' remains were never recovered--there was nothing to "clean up." The seas swallowed up the refuse. A horrible bit of irony.

    I am so sorry that you grew up without your father...


  3. I'm listening to the Monsters of Men trilogy by Patrick Ness. I'm past halfway through the last book, and it hasn't been easy. The whole trilogy is a meditation on war/peace, power/cooperation, native peoples/invaders.

    Have you read this trilogy? I'd be interested to hear what you thought/think of it.

  4. Sorry, I haven't read Monsters of Men, and I probably won't due to its size. Out of necessity, I only read books 350 pages or fewer. I'm on a committee that reads recently published books for inclusion in book discussion group kits. (Visit our blog!) I'm a slow reader and thus, if I'm to make it through, I never start something long. Limiting, yes, but it works for me. Between reading books and listening to audios, I manage to get through a large number. (Too much information, right?)

  5. I just visited Pearl Harbor the week before Thanksgiving. What a moving experience. There were so many tourists from Japan ther, too. I wondered what their history books had taught and what it must feel like to those tourists. Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Diane,
    The Reads-to-Go blog will be a great resource for my book club! I can totally understand your need to limit your reading in order to do your committee work.

  7. Doraine, your comment led me to look for Japanese casualties at Pearl Harbor. There were 65 Japanese killed or wounded, so it is possible that some tourists are there to remember their dead. Or perhaps, they go to remember how war is hell and to promise the dead that we all need to work for peace.