Culture Military

Warrior Poets write ‘In Love… & War’

I recently bought “In Love… & War: The Anthology of Poet Warriors,” a compilation of poetry and art from modern-day military veterans. The project — which has 100% of its profits going toward the veteran charity, The Gallant Few — was spearheaded by Leo Jenkins, author and poet who served in the same Ranger Battalion that I did, though a bit earlier.

What happened with my purchase was pretty interesting: I bought the book on Amazon and breezed through the checkout without realizing something else was in my cart. When the package arrived, two books coincidentally came to my house at the exact same time. The second book that I had put in my cart and forgot about? A WWI poetry anthology called “A Treasury of War Poetry: British and American Poems of the World War 1914-1917.”

So there I was, standing in my living room, with two books of poems written by combat veterans 100 years apart in my hands.

I’m a poetry fanatic, especially of WWI poems written in the trenches, and I obviously resonate a great deal with modern war poetry too. Reading “In Love… & War” and then reading the WWI collection breathed a new life into the poets of the early 1900s that I had not felt before. Suddenly I could see them, in the muck and the blood of the war that consumed the entire world, young men in their early stages of life charged with bearing one of the heaviest burdens human beings can give to one another: fighting a war of that magnitude. They scribbled those words either in the field, when they had a moment of reprieve, or maybe long after, safely back home but when the memories were still storming their minds.

The First World War was so much more terrible than the war I experienced, but the same young men fought in both. They aren’t gallant demigods with skin of iron and hearts of lions, they’re just ordinary guys that have taken on extraordinary tasks. They are the same guys with red cheeks who feel like they lived 10 years in the span of two or three. They are the same guys who have trouble talking to girls when they go home, but have held their friends as they bled to death on the rocks.

The connection between the two books was striking, to say the least. The language was a bit different, but they may as well have been the same authors.

Getting both in the same package was pretty cool

As a poet myself (my book of poetry is coming out soon), I’m excited to see war poetry rise in popularity again, as it was popular in the early 1900s. Every medium of art has its purpose — fiction novels, non-fiction historical accounts, memoirs, films, theatrical productions — they all explore the human experience in their own unique ways, and there is a lot of overlap between them. Poetry has a way of describing in words things that cannot be described by words; that’s why we often combine it with music — another raw, emotion-driven medium. It evokes feeling over fact, and when you’re trying to describe something like what it feels like to stand there during a 21-gun-salute, or the crushing sense of purposelessness many veterans feel after their service — those feelings cannot be accurately represented by simply sitting you down and telling you the facts. They need something like poetry to convey those feelings accurately.

I hope war poetry keeps making the comeback it seems to be making.

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2 years ago

Luke, if I told you this didn’t make me cry I would be lying. You are so right, our wars are fought by the same guys. I look forward to your book of poetry.

Susan B
Susan B
2 years ago

Here’s another for your war collection of poetry, Luke. I came across this today. It’s called The Crosses Grow on Anzio ” Oh, gather ’round me, comrades And listen while I weep; Of a war, a war, a war… where hell is six feet deep. Along the shore, the cannons roar. Oh how can a soldier sleep? The going’s slow on Anzio And hell is six feet deep. Praise be to God for this captured sod That’s rich where blood does seep; With yours and mine, like butchered swine; And hell is six feet deep. That death does wait There’s… Read more »

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